Snacks: A Suspension of Belief

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Snacks, a duo composed of Tim Boram and Dan Breen, is an experimental music and filmmaking group based out of Baltimore. The group, whose curious name comes from its use of extended-food metaphors and experience-deepening scents released during live performances, started out in the music world producing zany, glitched out tracks featuring the sounds of everything from synthesizers, to guitars, to homemade noise-makers created with metal springs and stress balls.

When Boram and Breen decided they wanted visuals to accompany their live performances, they branched out to film production, and not surprisingly, their video productions since have followed an equally experimental and crazy methodology.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCErtgmNc9Q

One project, a feature film titled “GASA: Memory Overload” has been in the works for two and a half years. On their blog, Boram and Breen describe the film as

a “silent movie” with faux fu, doppelgangers, anti-erotic food fetishes, metallic forests, the directors in xxxxxxl worksuits, “wrong foley”, actually erotic food fetishes, pink kitty clarinet, dog food torture, cheese ball toilets, body snatching, tasteful montage sequences, 8 minute elevator rides and more more more.[1]

I had the privilege of seeing a part of this unfinished masterpiece with creators Boram and Breen. One of the scenes featured a white-walled futuristic lab in which scientists use teleportation machines on Boram and Breen’s characters, who comically disappear and reappear or have their outfits and appearances instantaneously transformed.

The scene was both hilarious and brilliant. The acting was amusingly caricatured, the visual effects were simple, yet effective, and the sound design was wonderfully creative. When talking about inspiration for the performances, Snacks cited the energy of gestures and expressions in silent film. The sound in the scene, as well as the sound in the rest of the film, was created entirely in post-production. This led to some surprising combinations of visuals and audio. Boram and Breen take as creative an approach to crafting the film’s sound as they do making their music, utilizing a menagerie of weird sound-makers and mixing and combining the sounds extensively before pairing them with the visuals. What’s more, the scene’s physical location was equally fantastic. The duo created a lab to fit the film’s absurd logic by rigging up a kitchen with painted styrofoam, wires, pieces of metal, and other household or scrapyard items, all with virtually no budget.

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In discussing their artistic philosophy, Snacks explained their attraction to the charm of low-budget movies’ relationship with reality. Rather than ask the viewer to suspend disbelief and become immersed in a film, low-budget productions can actually ask a viewer to “suspend belief, [2]” and embrace the lack of reality of a film. Snacks definitely play with this lack of reality and push it to awe-inspiring new heights. The notion of “reality not being real, [3]” is a major part of their work, especially in one scene Snacks described featuring a number of characters (many in animal-suits) at a party whose drunken dopplegangers end up having more fun than they do.

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In general, Snacks go against expectation and normality in their work. When discussing his musical interests, Boram explained, “I would say my main interest in avant-garde music or free music or out jazz was just reactionary – just to see what it was that upset people or overturned convention. And it turned out that I liked it. [4]” The same certainly seems to apply to the group’s video work. In fact, Boram and Breen’s creative process is so different that they don’t even create storyboards and scripts for their shoots, as these would be too limiting. Instead they rely on intricate flow-charts and improvisation. Although they note of their work, “it’s just not going to be palatable to a lot of people, [5]” there is certainly a lot to be learned from this duo’s ferocious creativity and working process for artists and non-artists alike.

-Victor Fink

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[1] Visiting Artist Talk with Snacks, Johns Hopkins University, 03/07/12

[2] Visiting Artist Talk with Snacks, Johns Hopkins University, 03/07/12

[3] Visiting Artist Talk with Snacks, Johns Hopkins University, 03/07/12

[4] Boram, Tim. “Q&A With Tom Boram.” City Paper. Interview by Lee Gardner . 22 003 2006. Web. <http://www2.citypaper.com/arts/review.asp?rid=10075&gt;.

[5] Visiting Artist Talk with Snacks, Johns Hopkins University, 03/07/12

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