Explored deeply throughout experimental filmmaking, though particularly through experimental animation, is the intricate functioning of the internal mind. To externalise the internal conscious is no easy feat, with no real direct method. It’s so vague, so sprawling and so extraordinary that the freedom of the animation genre is perhaps the best vehicle to express this idea within.
In her 1979 film Asparagus, Suzan Pitt attempts to do just this, traversing her own mental environment, expressing the intricacies of the creative process through a stream of psychedelic consciousness. An inherent exploration also of sexuality, the title itself is a reference to the androgynous nature of the asparagus plant; phallic in its infancy before flourishing into feminine bloom.
Vibrantly hand-painted, cell-by-cell onto 35mm film, the celluloid stutters and shakes with an ethereal soul, as if projected from the innards of the mind and out of the back of the head. Completed over the course of four years it recalls the work of Ron Campbell’s iconic Yellow Submarine, with Leonora Carrington’s otherworldly surrealism also being a named inspiration.
In its deeply personal externalisation of the internal mind, it’s no wonder that Asparagus was later paired with David Lynch’s Eraserhead, a film similarly obsessed with the surreal psychology of the everyday mind. The red velvet curtains that inhabit the room in Asparagus even recall the dark theatricality of the Black Lodge in Lynch’s Twin Peaks, a depraved plain of dreamlike consciousness.
Pitt wanted the film to unfold like a daydream, a ‘pregnant’ continuation of scenes. Describing the film on her own website she comments: “The film is a circle more than a straight-ahead experience – you could enter at any point and the meaning would be the same. The taking in and spewing out, the searching and the discovering, the desire and the contact, the ever-evolving acts of nature.”
Watch the film in full, below.