Date of Submission

Spring 2015

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Film and Electronic Arts

Project Advisor 1

Pacho Velez

Project Advisor 2

Ed Halter

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Michael Ipsen


Descending Night Artist’s Statement

My senior project was the unexpected result of a moment of failure. Initially, my project centered around the idea of documenting subjects on the outskirts of society, progressing north geographically from New York to Bard. I had completed a number of segments for the film, but as the Fall semester wore on, I hit a string of bad luck and lost access to one subject after another. Disheartened and feeling like I did not have enough material to go forward, I started a new project over Winter break. I was by the idea of making a film that was human-free, and therefore immune to sudden changes of mood or cancellations. My interest in art history led me to a biography on the nude sculptor’s model Audrey Munson, who had posed for a number of monuments around the country New York City and led an intriguing and tragic life. I was doubly excited to find out how relatively unknown my subject was, and quickly began working on a new film.

“Descending Night,” which is composed largely of static shots of statues, tells the story of the rise and fall of Audrey Munson, once known as “Mrs. Manhattan” and “The Queen of the Artists’ Studios,” who rose to fame as a model and movie star in the late Teens and early Twenties before a series of events led to her being institutionalized. She was also the first nude woman to appear in a non-pornographic film, and recreating scenes from these lost silent movies became an intriguing exercise in cinematic falsification. These scenes had a tendency to fool viewers into believing they were genuine, raising interesting questions about the intersection of fact and fiction in documentary film. What are the potential repercussions of passing off the fake as real in a genre that defines itself as antipodal to fiction? This sentiment pervades the film, which eschews traditional documentary tropes such as talking heads and interviews, leaving little to connect the viewer to the unseen and solitary narrator. The film’s sound mix is also layered with numerous field recordings I made throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, which constantly play through the film at varying levels of volume. This “noise bleed” is meant to create an aural sensation similar to what the statues themselves might experience: a constant, unceasing mechanical and human noise that eventually dissolves into a constant but ever changing hum. This relates to the film’s larger theme of considering the lives of the largely unsung flesh and blood humans who posed for all our works of sculpture.

As I began to work on the project, I soon found that I was most comfortable when I was the singular creator behind every aspect of the work. In this way, I began unconsciously mimicking a style of creative expression more closely resembling writing than filmmaking. As a result, I consider “Descending Night” to be both an essay film not only in style and form, but also in every other aspect of cinema. The film is entirely shot by me on location, was usually reached on foot. I created every picture, sound, and word in the film. It is a work that I will remain extremely attached to thanks to the extremely no matter its reception

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