“Alfred Eaker’s Fringe Cinema” is a column published on Thursdays covering truly independent cinema: the stuff that’s so far under the public radar it may as well be underground. The folks making these films may be starving artists today, but they may be recognized as geniuses tomorrow. We hope to look like geniuses ourselves by being the first to cover them.
“When I don’t think about film, I think about sex. Every 10 seconds. I have the sense that my head is very close to my genitals.” So speaks Latvian animator Signe Baumane in the documentary Signe and…. It’s part of an indispensable and unique collection of Baumane’s animated shorts called Ten Animated Films by Signe Baumane.
True to her word, there is sex aplenty in most of the films in this collection, including her recent Teat Beat of Sex, and Baumane goes a long way to prove obsession in art is indeed a good thing.
In Natasha, a lonely housewife finds a vacuum cleaner is just as effective as any man. In Five F___king Fables the head of a decapitated princess gives a man oral while a dog performs cunnilingus on her, penises do indeed come in every shape, size, color and form, and Georgia O’Keefe’s erotic flowers are taken to a whole new level. These are just a few of the repeated erotic images and themes that make up Baumane’s world.
Baumane is refreshingly open and candid in the documentary Signe and… Her sexuality is naturally frank, while never being worn on sleeve. Her work never condescends to the level of shock for the sake of shock art, as a few critics have claimed, because feminine sexuality is but one of several recurring obsessive themes.
Baumane’s horror of the dentist chair is visited repeatedly. The Dentist and Five Infomercials for Dentists amusingly call to mind W.C. Fields’ take on the subject matter.
Baumane is most compelling in allegorical territory. Tiny Shoes visits a theme often repeated in classic literature such as “Hymn of the Pearl.” A girl is given specific instructions from her dying father and, after his death, she embarks upon a journey, during which she forgets her promise and ignores all of her father’s instructions. Naturally, her foolishness will cost her plenty, but this is served up Signe Baumane style, so she is not only seduced by the shallow prince, but also by the far more interesting dragon.
The Gold of the Tiger is an early Baumane work that is replete with metaphorical, allegorical imagery. A sea of tigers forming a golden labyrinth is attacked by a pack of pale skinned dogs, tigers eyes adorn a tower like sparkling jewels, and a newly formed king of the dogs, wearing a tiger’s skin, proclaims a “new order in this devastated, blood soaked land.” This is one of Baumane’s most hypnotic , ambitious, and enchanting works.
In The Threatened One Baumane visually interprets a J.L. Borges’ poem, a tiny witch encounters a giant cow in The Witch and the Cow, and Love Story goes about as far away from the saccharine Ryan O’ Neal/Ali MacGraw film as can be imagined (Director Arthur Hiller certainly would never have included crocodile penises in his little opus).
But, it is back in the allegorical territory of Woman that Signe Baumane’s art has evolved from wonderfully quirky to extraordinarily sublime and masterful.
Sige Baumane on Woman:
Woman is intended to be like a dream — full of symbolic archetypical images — the meaning of which you can’t quite grasp while experiencing the dream. These images are intended to affect your subconscious rather than consciousness.
With the help of Carl Jung I’ll try to interpret the symbols.
The woman is poured out of Moon — no coincidence in this — the parallel relationship between the Moon and the Woman has been established in many cultures throughout times. After finishing the pouring, the Moon changes from Full (round) to New Moon (with horns). The Moon is never constant, it’s form is always changing, like the mood of a woman.
The woman has the shape of a cocoon — a transitory form, not an ultimate shape, this suggests a journey towards completion. Cocoon is a symbol of her potential.
She is then surrounded by four red wingless birds. Four is the number of unity of Self. A bird usually is a symbol for spirituality, because it connects Earth and Sky by flying high but nesting on ground. The birds surrounding the woman have no wings — they represent female spirituality which is rather practical, earthy, grounded. Red is the color of passion, of Love.
A wind blows a butterfly (that itself has come from a cocoon) into woman’s face and sets her in motion, it’s a signal to move and fulfill her potential.
The Moon follows her.
The birds carry and leave the woman on a red bull’s back. The bull is a symbol of male power. It possess earthiness, the red of passion, horns just like the New Moon.
The bull runs into Tower, which is Goblet of Life.
The water is woman’s element. Is symbolizes fluidity of emotions, the bottomless depths of woman’s subconscious. No man should ever walk in there. The first encounter: a man with a bear inside throws stones into water. Woman, whose shape has totally changed — she has acquired the red of the birds and the bull, and the horns of the bull and the New Moon — appears from the water and lures the man to come to her.
The bear, the animal side of man, the LUST, loses control of himself and walks straight into water where he drowns both himself and the man. The dangers of pure physical lust.
The second encounter: a bear with a man inside. The man is able to establish an eye contact with the woman. A spark of Love flies between them.
He is able to get the woman out of water and touch her. It is the beginning of Love.
The Potential of the Woman — cocoon in the beginning — has been realized — she has done harm (unwillingly) and she has brought good. Other bulls keep running into the Tower. Potential collides with Life.
The story of Life is a story of Love and Death, and it endlessly repeats itself with each new generation with each individual.
Baumane’s work should be viewed as a whole, rather than individually, so her Ten Animated Shorts collection is the best place to start and to soak in the uniqueness of her vision. Her immediately identifiable personality is stamped upon every frame and her world is one that anyone,with even a casual love of animation, should get to know.
Signe Baumane’s work can also be purchased directly from the author at: