Play Misty for Me, Siri (2021)
Manipulated iPhone video | 2.35:1 aspect ratio | colour | stereo sound | duration 3''11" | First shown via QR code image displayed on [MARS] Gallery website during Melbourne Lockdown No.6. At other times via A0 posters, chromaluxe aluminium panels and screenings events including Berlin Flash Film Festival, August 2021 [Outstanding Achievement Award]
This work was made and released during a COVID19 lockdown in Melbourne. After 262 days of isolation, it had become the world's most locked down city. At this point all my past journeys had become more and more unreal—the unsubstantiated stuff of fiction.
In August 2017, I drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles with the voice of Siri guiding my every move. I would have been lost without her. As I approached the small but affluent town of Carmel by the Sea I said, “Play Misty for me, Siri”. My request echoed the fictional character of Evelyn who was in the habit of ringing the radio DJ within the film, Play Misty for Me (1971) to request Misty, Erroll Garner's 1954 jazz standard. “Which one?” Siri had replied, “I found five.” Siri took me to a house perched on a cliff above the ocean at 162 Spindrift Road. The film directed by and starring Clint Eastwood as Dave Garver, the DJ at the local radio station KRML, opens with a helicopter shot that takes us along the coastline to the rear of that address—where Clint Eastwood gazes past his own reflection in a window towards an unfinished oil painting of himself.
In the penultimate scene, Evelyn criticises the painting before slashing it repeatedly with a kitchen knife. The eyes are wrong, she says. They aren’t cold enough. Very soon afterwards, her lifeless body will lay on the rocky shoreline below. Had the hyper masculine voice carried by radio waves each night driven her mad before she had even laid eyes on DJ Dave? Discovering Clint Eastwood recites the Greek alphabet to calm his nerves seemed to give some credence to the spurious associations with ancient Greek myth I had developed—in this instance, a gender reversal of Ulysses and the sirens.
Lucio Fontana’s slashings had also sprung to mind; his manifestos repudiating the illusory or "virtual" space of painting, along with his disavowal of the enduring physical work of art in favour of a performative gesture of violence. I recalled the miraculous reversal of the moral and physical decay that was wirelessly transmitted to the picture of Dorian Gray—a reversal that occurred only when its subject had attempted to slash it—an act that coincided with his long overdue death.
I tuned into KRML while I was there but heard only a sea of static. Perhaps the Pythagorean veil of radio had held some subconscious lesson reserved for the initiated. A couple of days later I was staying in Death Valley with Justin, a former theatre director. He’d sent me long winded instructions on how to find his place, featuring numerous descriptions of landmarks and signs to look out for. I was warned about using Siri or any other sat nav system in the desert on account of the scarcity of mobile towers within the barren landscape. I couldn’t resist the temptation to check in with her a couple of times out of curiosity. He was right. Siri was a siren that would have led me to oblivion.
Kieran Boland [2021-07-19 *23:42:36 Latitude -37.786948 Longitude 144.940960]
Special Thanks Brie Trenerry, Adele Varcoe, Andy Dinan, Liss Fenwick & Ian Haig