Scary times we’re living in.
In Santa Clara County we’ve been put under a Shelter-in-Place, a semi-lockdown to hopefully slow the spread of COVID-19. Events across the city have been postponed or cancelled, people have lost their jobs, and with the weather outside, the storm that’s approaching feels both literal and metaphorical.
I can’t bring you an exhibit to go to, as we’re not really supposed to be going anywhere (non-essential) right now, but I still want to share with you some art. So I’m taking this unusual time to showcase creators that you can find online at no cost. Sure, you can spend your time obsessively following the news and washing your hands (which you should definitely keep doing), but why not spend some time falling down a spiral staircase of Internet neo-surrealism?
I first encountered Alan Resnick through his series alantutorial, a Youtube channel that, as of this writing, operated from 2011-2014. It was a parody the tutorial trend that was dominating most online content at the time, but produced clumsy shorts with the exaggerated “Alan” persona on such subjects as How to Pick Up a Blue Chair Off the Ground and How to Take a Bunch of Pills. I loved the satire from the first video I saw, and even more than that I loved the narrative that was formed as the series continued.
Because this was no longer a basic premise. After some time “Alan” was thrown from his one ramshackle room into the world, into chaos, and into ever-grotesque danger. That’s what Resnick, and his colleagues at AB Video are so good at, taking a relatively simple idea and stretching and warping it until it’s horrifying and nearly indecipherable. And there’s an immense level of detail put into his work, especially in his short films created for Adult Swim. He adapts well to the standards of successful modern content, which requires a level of immersion beyond what previous iterations could ever hope for.
Take This House Has People In It, a piece that originally aired on Adult Swim during their 4am Infomercial block. It starts as a basic story as seen through surveillance cameras in a seemingly normal family home. There’s a grandmother watching TV, a little boy waiting for his birthday party to start, and two parents bickering over the body of their angsty teen daughter lying on the floor, apparently in the middle of some kind of tantrum. But something is off. There’s a figure skulking around outside, and their daughter is slowly sinking into the ground. On its own it’s a solid short film that leaves you with a lot of questions, but while it might only make things more perturbing there is more to the story – all it takes is a little bit of digging online.
For instance – that TV show we hear snippets of throughout the film? That’s season five, episode nine of The Sculptor’s Clayground, a Bob Ross-style art show hosted by Alan Resnick. There’s also a website for AB Surveillance Solutions, the fictional company that provides surveillance for the family in the short. If you pull it up you might notice that there’s a location in the upper right corner where you can enter a username and password. There are layers here, and a tremendous amount of work putting into creating a world you can dive into.
It seems to me that that’s massively important in times like these. We’re stuck in our houses in a time of great tension all across the globe, so it makes sense that there’d be a desire for distraction. What can we do? I know I personally could drink to excess, or take advantage of the many dispensaries still open in my area (“It’s medicine,” an earnest budtender insisted to my mom). What I’d rather do, though, is lose time in a well-constructed world. And movies provide that, sure, but what Resnick does is called an Alternate Reality Game for a reason.
All of his shorts are on YouTube or Adult Swim – his newest work, May I Please Enter?, is probably my favorite. But if you have a few hours to kill, watch This House Has People In It, and then go to the website for AB Video Solutions. The username is 00437, and the password is bedsheets.
See where you can go from there.