Joaquin Barlow turned a dream about his death into a film project that consisted of Russian ants, steak and sugar water.
He said the Russian ants were just figments of his imagination conjured up in a dream, and his reveries serve as just one of his many sources of inspiration.
“They come from random places and very specific obsessions,” said the fourth-year design media arts student.
The project, “Ant Study,” is one manifestation of Barlow’s interest in experimental and cutting-edge artistic style, which draws from his background in film and graphic design, he said.
After his ant dream, Barlow constructed a cardboard box that blocked out all light except for a single spotlight. He then placed a steak covered in sugar water in the box and created a sugar water trail to the meat, waiting for the chance to film ants attacking the food.
Barlow began studying videography and film during a high school program that his friend had recommended to him. He focused on the craft extensively in high school and applied almost exclusively to film schools. However, he decided to go to UCLA – but not as a film student.
“Design media arts fully incorporates video with design and every single digital art in between,” he said. “I had a history before that, working in graphic design and more mixed media, so I thought it would be a more interesting major to pursue than strictly cinematography.”
Barlow’s favorite film project so far is a music video he shot for the UCLA-based band, Apollo Soul. The band gave Barlow and his girlfriend, Cindy Lin, a 2015 alumna, $1,000 to make a video for its song “Boys Night.”
The music video follows an old man waking up and performing mundane activities as part of his daily routine, such as shaving and eating an apple. As the day progresses, eccentric elements, like holographic effects and a dancing animal, begin to appear until the video turns into a surreal dreamscape. Then with the switch of a light, the video ends with a young boy waking up scared in his bed, and his mother coming in to soothe him back to sleep.
“It was a pretty ridiculous concept, but it was really fun to shoot,” Barlow said. “We had an actor that played the old man who was super into it. He was great at improvising too.”
Jack Bastian, the keyboardist of Apollo Soul and a fourth-year musicology and religious studies student, said the music video excels in its narrative rather than just its abstract style. Bastian said he considers Apollo Soul to be a retro band with some modern and psychedelic influences, and Barlow’s editing skills helped the video fit with the band’s style.
“(Barlow) has a really good understanding of design and what looks good on a practical level. … It’s sort of dark and humorous and sort of cryptic at times, but also has a really good flow,” he said.
Lin said her creative relationship with Barlow works because they bring the best out in each other artistically.
“He’s really innovative when it comes to conceptual ideas,” she said. “We have a good creative dialogue – his ideas stimulate my ideas, and vice versa.”
She said their collaboration process also stems from random inspiration. Something as simple as driving by an object or person on the way home from work can become the basis of a project – which they then both explore until the concept comes together.
“It’s very easy to create stuff with him,” Lin said. “We’re very supportive of each other’s work and we just think the same way – he’s just like me in boy form when it comes to creating.”
Barlow said he hopes to continue creating new conceptual projects after graduation.
“I’m looking for real, professional directors, cinematographers and other artists who are doing creative and experimental things that I (can) latch onto and get that practical knowledge you could get in (graduate) school,” he said.