We were packing for Paris together via facetime. Ciaffy arranged her silk slips and full fishnet body suit carefully around her “new” VHS camera. She had been testing shots with it for weeks before, making short films for her video class at NYU and was now hauling it out of the country to document our week long french fantasy. On the plane ride back, we took turns reading each other passages from our journals, and she read me the voiceover for her would be video. In a dark plane on a red eye flight, I was suddenly sobbing. She looks at current moments retrospectively, which brings a certain pain to her creations.
So here I am, bragging about my best friend and asking her a few questions about her process, art, and how to find and follow your passions.
What sort of adjectives would you use to describe your videos?
Nostalgic, bittersweet, unsettling, soft
What do you want your viewer to feel?
When I was 14 I went on a camping trip, canoeing down the Colorado river. Our sleeping bags were wedged in between two orange glacier-looking rocks and the night sky was black with millions of falling stars. Someone’s voice told a riddle but it was far more than a riddle to me- it’s something I think about everyday now.
It goes: “There is a king who is looking for a wife, so he poses a challenge to the women who swoon over him. Dressed in crimson silk and powdered velvet, the women were ready to compete for his love. He stated “my birthday is coming up. I want you to get me a gift that makes me elated, but simultaneously gives me a gut wrenching pain and sadness.”
The women thought for weeks and weeks, presenting him with puppies and golden goods, but no one could quite figure out what gift would make him both happy and sad. One woman had figured it out. She was so beautiful and lived amongst her books. She presented to him a small box. He smiled thinking whatever was inside would be another failure to go sit with the other hundreds of gifts he had received. He opened the box and his face lit up, but shortly after it crumpled in pain. She had won.
What did she get him?” The answer: a beautiful gold ring, with the words ‘this too shall pass’ engraved on it. In the worst of times he can look to the ring and know that this ‘too shall pass,’ providing him with hope and happiness for the future. But he will also look to the ring in moments of great happiness and read ‘this too shall pass’ and think of how his precious time is slipping away from him. He will not have this happiness forever.
Nothing is permanent which is beautiful but horrible. I want people to feel the harsh duality of this when they see my videos. Pure beauty with extreme sadness.
Recently you have told me that after college you want to continue making films, it seems like you have really fallen in love with this art form. What drew you to it? What do you like about film?
Film has always been a pretty big part of my life. My mom is a screenwriter and I grew up watching multiple movies every week, being transported to different worlds and feeling what characters felt. Film is the only medium where words and visuals collide. Where emotion can be felt through screens and people can be moved to different places. Viewers can feel things they’ve never felt before. They can empathize with situations they’ve never experienced. That is so powerful to me and I hope to create films like that one day.
What advice would you give to someone to find their passions?
Try everything. I still have no idea what my “passion” is. I don’t know if I’ll ever truly have just one. That’s why exploring everything is important. You are multidimensional and powerful in so many ways. Why not try everything to see what feels best? What feels right and what feels natural? What makes you get lost in time when you’re doing it?
Why go through all the trouble of filming on VHS?
VHS has a quality that automatically evokes emotion and nostalgia because it’s not from this era. I want to take the viewer back. VHS allows the viewer to reflect on the past and allows the viewer to see more than what’s there. The quality is shit. And I love it. When the quality of something isn’t great it makes you see things you might not before. It makes you interpret things differently and it makes you focus on the meaning behind the words and the actions.
You always dive deeper and go to uncomfortable, almost intrusive places with your clips and audio. There’s footage of you in the bathtub, crying, nipples, and other nakedness in the audio in the way that the subject exposes their thoughts, feelings, and memories. What is so attractive to you about vulnerability through video?
We are living in a society where people are closed off. We have been taught not to cry, to bottle things up and to be silent. Vulnerability is the act of showing who you are. I don’t want to portray anything but truth.
What has been the response to your films so far?
Overall people have been incredibly kind and I’ve gotten messages from old friends, close friends and complete strangers essentially all saying the same thing, “this made me feel something I couldn’t describe before.” The fact that so many people have the same reaction makes me feel very humbled and pleased. Knowing people got what I was trying to say makes me feel like people are all connected and we all have these emotions. Human connection is what I think makes art and film so powerful and it’s very wonderful to feel connection through your own creation.
To me a lot of your videos trace that line of duality in femininity, with sweetness and pain and vulnerability and strength. What about the feminine inspires you?
The feminine is truly divine. There’s nothing that quite defines it. As you said it’s a duality. It’s a power yet weakness. Showing something so unique and indescribable is important to me and is rarely done. The feminine is a topic that can never truly be explained and so I’ve enjoyed scratching the surface.
What would be your dream movie/film/video to shoot?
I hope to one day create documentaries. I like exposing a truth. I want to bring awareness to certain issues and I want people to feel through the screen. However, If I could have made any existing film it would hands down be the virgin suicides. The softness and femininity, the heartbreak, the quintessential portrayal of teenage years, the oppression and the taste of freedom. It’s all so beautiful and every time I watch it I want to rewatch it.
Any last words?
Thank you for watching and supporting. It means a lot.