Joaquin Barlow turned a dream about his death into a film project of Russian ants, steak and sugar water.
He said the Russian ants were just figments of his imagination conjured up in a dream, and his daydreams are just one of his many sources of inspiration.
“They come from random places and very specific obsessions,” said the fourth-year media arts student in design.
The project, “Ant Study,” is a manifestation of Barlow’s interest in the experimental, cutting-edge art style, which draws from his background in film and graphic design, he said.
After his ant dream, Barlow built a cardboard box that blocked out all light except for a single spotlight. He then placed a steak covered in sugar water in the box and created a trail of sugar water down to the meat, waiting for an opportunity to film ants attacking the food..
Barlow began studying videography and filmmaking through a high school program his friend had recommended to him. He focused a lot on the craft in high school and applied almost exclusively to film schools. However, he decided to go to UCLA – just not as a film student.
“Design media arts fully integrates video with design and every digital art in between,” he said. “I had a background before that, working in graphic design and more mixed media, so I thought it would be a more interesting major to pursue than strictly cinematography.”
Barlow’s favorite movie project so far, it’s a music video he’s shot for UCLA-based band Apollo Soul. The group gave Barlow and his girlfriend, Cindy Lin, a 2015 alumnus, $1,000 to make a video for their song “Boys Night.”
The music video follows an old man waking up and performing mundane activities as part of his daily routine, like shaving and eating an apple. As the day progresses, quirky elements like holographic effects and a dancing animal begin to appear. appear until the video turns into a surreal dreamscape. Then, with the switch of a light, the video ends with a young boy waking up scared in his bed, and his mother coming to calm him back to sleep.
“It was a pretty ridiculous concept, but it was really fun to shoot,” Barlow said. “We had an actor who played the old man who was great in it. He was also good at improvisation.
Apollo Soul keyboardist and fourth-year musicology and religious studies student Jack Bastian said the music video excelled in its narrative rather than abstract style. Bastian said he viewed Apollo Soul as a retro band with modern and psychedelic influences, and Barlow’s editing skills helped the video fit the band’s style.
“(Barlow) has a really good understanding of design and what looks good on a practical level. … It’s a bit dark and humorous and a bit enigmatic at times, but also has a really good flow,” said he declared.
Lin said her creative relationship with Barlow worked because they brought out the best in each other artistically.
“He’s really innovative when it comes to concept ideas,” she said. “We have a good creative dialogue – his ideas stimulate my ideas, and vice versa.”
She said their collaborative process also stemmed from random inspiration. Something as simple as driving past an object or person on the way home from work can become the basis of a project – which they both then explore until the concept comes to fruition.
“It’s very easy to create things with him,” Lin said. “We support each other in the work and we just think the same – he’s like me in boy form when it comes to creating.
Barlow said he hopes to continue creating new concept projects after graduation.
“I’m looking for real directors, cinematographers and other professional artists who do creative and experimental things that I (can) latch onto and get the practical knowledge that you could pick up in (grad) school,” a- he declared.