Narcissus' Kaleidoscope4 minutes  ©2007
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Imagine you picked up a kaleidoscope belonging to Narcissus. What would you see if you looked inside? This video is Christopher Westfall's visualization of such a sight. Visually dazzling, disorienting, and even a little disquieting, it is difficult to describe in words.
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Film Festival Screenings
2007Nov16 MIX NYC
Back Story

Warning - may contain spoilers

After the shining success of Pee Wee's Sodomy House, I wound up on somewhat of an extended hiatus. I had a project in the works that was very ambitious with respect to assembling and editing content. I was still only beginning it the next year when the MIX deadline came looming, so I submitted something I had prepared for a previous year's Gong Show but didn't get shown. To my surprise, it was accepted, and was a big hit! Then the next year I still wasn't ready because I was exceeding the software limitations again, and had actually corrupted the entire video file, and had to start all over from scratch. This was when I figured out the import/export functionality that would let me split the project up into manageable pieces. But without a proper submission, I sent in another unseen Gong Show submission, and that too was accepted! I think that says something for how much thought I put into these Gong Show thow-away pieces.

The third year my big piece was finally ready. It had taken years to complete, but I was really happy with it. I thought it said a lot, and was poignant, and how the same issues had been poignant since the invention of the medium of television. I sent it in to MIX, and started packing my bags. Then I got the rejection note. I was shocked. Part of it was that I just expected to be accepted. I mean, I had been accepted 4 out of 4 times, and had taken 3rd place in the Gong Show 3 times. People at MIX would routinely come up to me and say they knew me and had been anticipating my new work that year. I knew how the film festival system worked. It wasn't so much that your submission was rejected as much as no one picked it up for their program. And while by day I'm a big nobody, at MIX I had become known, and I just assumed that they'd find a place in their festival for me somewhere. But no such luck. I just got a form letter and that was that.

From there my personal life took me in a direction that was supposed to foster my creative process, but in the end disabled it. At the same time, I lost command of the equipment. I got a new computer, and didn't take well to the new generation of iMovie software that came on it. Where I used to do things in minutes, I now found myself struggling to get the software do the very same things. Rather than calm down and sincerely learn how the new software works, I got grumpy about it. I used to look forward to the editing process, but it had become something I wanted to avoid. At the same time, my old camera finally gave up on me. It was a problem with the tape drive. I actually got on eBay and got another copy of the exact same camera, but after a short time it started to fail in the exact same way. I went out and got a new expensive camera, the kind that didn't need tapes anymore, but I didn't take to the whole memory card thing. You would think I would rejoice that I never had to deal with tapes again, and that imports would take a fraction of the time, but there was more to it than that. As a hoarder, I've saved every inch of video tape I've ever shot going back to the very beginning. I could go to a box in my hoard closet and set my hand right on the video tape. Well with memory cards, I hoard all my video on disk drives. If the disk fails, I could lose everything. Backups are no guarantee you'll be able to recover everything back to the way it was, and I don't have the discipline to execute a robust backup strategy in the first place. All of these factors conspired to turn the whole craft from something I couldn't wait to do, to something that inspired dread. And beyond that, I wasn't having any inspiration. I used to have so many ideas I had to prioritize which ones to do first. But I just didn't feel like I was in a creative place anymore.

I tried to not let a year go by without at least scraping together some kind of submission to MIX, but there wasn't much there. By now there was a whole new crew in there, and nobody knew who I was anymore. But then one year I came at it a little fresh. I was climbing out of my creative doldrums. At the very least, I wanted to create again. The spirit was there. But I didn't know what to do. I went through a lot of my back catalog of incomplete projects and scraps. There I found a little gem. It was a visual trick that I got from one of those Ithaca College undergrads years ago. I pulled it up into the old iMovie software that I loved so much. By using a video effect that I'd never employed before, I could compound the visual trick, and came up with something that really grabs you.

Once I made that discovery, I was on a mission. I dusted off my old digital video camera that recorded to tape. It was finicky, but it would still work. And I set out to tape all kinds of random shit using this video effect. I felt like my old self again. I loaded it all up on the old computer and got to work. I thought it would come together more quickly than it did, but it took a lot of pounding and molding to get it where I wanted it.

By this time I didn't give a shit about using copyrighted music anymore. Back in the early days when I harbored some hope that there might be commercial value in this kind of work, I wanted to keep every last bit of the production original. But now, frankly, I was just whipping up tapes for film festivals, and to share with my friends and anyone else who would sit still long enough to watch it. Of all things I found a Beasty Boys tune in my iTunes library that resonated with me. It fit perfectly with the visual composition.

The end product was something I called Narcissus' Kaleidoscope, because of the kaleidoscopic visual effect, and the fact that it's of, by, and about my body. It was the best work that I had done in a long time. It was the only thing I'd done in a while, at least the only thing of film festival quality. And I knew that I had something special with it. I knew it was a keeper. I knew it was A-List material.

I wrapped it up and submitted it to MIX with low expectations. But to my delight, they accepted it. It had been six long years since I had last exhibited Pee Wee's Sodomy House at the MIX NYC Gay/Lesbian Film/Video Festival. And now I was coming back. But not only that, with strong material. And a whole new attitude. While that strange life journey took me away from my video production, it taught me a lot about presenting oneself to the world. Where I used to go to MIX excited to have a good time, this time I went there ready to tear the fucking place down. I put on a whole persona, and I put it in everyone's face. And they ate it up. Anyone at MIX who didn't know the name Christopher Westfall certainly knew it now.

As far as screenings go, that was the only time that Narcissus' Kaleidoscope was ever seen. I didn't submit it to any other festivals, and none ever requested it. I've only shown it in private screenings to individuals or small groups. But it still out among my work. People have said that for art video, Narcissus' Kaleidoscope is far and away the most artistic. I value it because it came from nothing. I started with no ideas and no inspiration, and yet I was able to come up with this.

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