A collaboration with filmmaker Ben Williams that sees the artist and performer channeling the dark spirit of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker.

The inspiration for Aether, a collaboration between visual artist and performer Jamal Sterrett Phoenix, filmmaker Ben Williams and producer and composer Torben Lars Sylvest, came in the form of Joaquin Phoenix’s bleak portrayal of the Joker in the 2019 film of the same name. “The film came about after speaking to Jamal, he wanted to make his own interpretation  of the Joker dance scene performed by Joaquin Phoenix,” explains Williams. “The process was all about improvisation and seeing where the movement led. Jamal’s fluidity of his body captured the mood perfectly.”

“Teaming up with Ben to capture this feeling was such a cathartic experience for me, as I was going through my first heartbreak. I was in a place of melancholic thoughts, victimised mentality. I was in a dark space and watching that film resonated with me, sparking the idea.” Taking place in a dingy public bathroom, Sterrett Phoenix translates the Joker’s skeletal movements into a writhing improvisational performance piece. “My process is to be as open as possible in mind, body and spirit,” he says. “I try to let the dancing say what’s needed to be said or done in that moment. It’s all improvisational you know, like jazz. Once you know the scales it’s like breathing, movement with emotion, it just flies out of you; like a diary in some sense.”

“We were then fortunate enough to have the piece underscored by Torben’s music,” continues Williams. “We wanted to create something that felt trapped and claustrophobic both in sound and movement. The film is about the pain people carry below the surface that they are never able to let out.” Torben Lars Sylvest atmospheric score that imbues the piece with a chilly undercurrent of dread using only a few elements: choppy sirens, guttural bass and dark synthesis. “When Ben showed me the first shots from the film I knew immediately the kind of sonic world I wanted to create for it, says Sylvest. “Dingy, organic, digital and broken. I wanted the music to match the hypocrisy of Jamal’s movement; jagged, yet fluid; heavy, yet delicate.”

For more information about Ben Williams and his work you can visit his website and follow him on Instagram. For more information about Torben Lars Sylvest and his music, you can visit his website and follow him on Instagram. You can find Jamal Sterrett Phoenix on Instagram.

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