February 2021 saw the release of the music video for Chelsea Wolfe‘s Anhedonia, directed by Cressa Maeve Beer. The track, which speaks to grief and rebirth, is accompanied by a poignant set of visuals from Beer. Her skill for communicating powerful emotions was on full display in her 2020 short film, Coming Out, and returns with quiet melancholy for Anhedonia.
In her artist’s statement, Cressa said,
“The core idea of the video came from an artist Chelsea and I both love – Jess Schnabel from Bloodmilk – who created a “grief moth” inspired by real moths that drink the tears of sleeping birds. It’s an idea I’ve wanted to animate for a while. So that become the backbone: the lifecycle of a moth literally born from overwhelming sadness. During quarantine, I found myself confronting my own grief and deeply rooted trauma. I suffer from PTSD that envelops me like a black void. I wanted to visually articulate how that feels, as well as feelings like disassociation and loneliness; the way that trauma can physically alter your body and mentally reshape the world around you. But still, the moth can fight its way out, can fly, can follow the light; just like the comfort in the final verse of the song, I wanted to still show that healing is possible.“
Last year, Our Culture had the pleasure of interviewing Cressa about Coming Out, and we’re delighted to talk with her again about how she approached Wolfe’s track.
Thank you so much for talking with us again, Cressa. How have you been?
I’m always unsure how to answer that question without oversharing or sounding forced, ha!
Your new music video for Chelsea Wolfe is remarkable. How did you get involved?
Thank you! I’d had the pleasure of briefly working with Chelsea some years ago, and stayed in contact with her as well as her bandmate Ben Chisholm, and Cathy Pellow who runs Sargent House. They are all incredibly sweet people who actually paid attention to my stop motion when I would post it on my social media. I’ve been a big fan of Chelsea’s music probably for a good decade now, so I took a chance and reached out to them to see if they would be open to a music video pitch. I’m grateful for where that ended up leading.
The song is moving and poignant, and that’s communicated beautifully in your video. How did you approach it?
I hoped I would do the song justice. When Chelsea first sent it to me, I cried – it really struck a nerve, and I think part of what makes her so special is her ability to really transmute emotions into her music. I honestly try really hard to do the same thing with my art; I want to be less about ‘getting it’ and more about ‘feeling it.’ And what I heard in this song was that special mixture of ache and hope, it’s so hard to put into words what that specific feeling is. I love moths, and have wanted to animate a moth life cycle after I was inspired by Bloodmilk Jewel’s “grief moth” which is based on real moths that drink tears of sleeping birds. So before I’d even heard Anhedonia I’d sent this idea to Chelsea, and it ended up blossoming into what we have now. Some kind of cosmic timing. The rest of the visuals are expressions of my relationship with my own grief and trauma; things I have trouble articulating in any other form, I try to purge through art.
From your statement, much of the song’s themes echo your own experience. That idea of trauma enveloping you like a black void is brilliantly depicted in the amorphous clay surrounding the figure. Was there a catharsis in making this?
When I watched the finished cut for the first time, I felt a sort of release, like letting go of a breath you’ve been holding for a long time.
Obviously, you’re no stranger to stop motion. What made you want to use it for this video?
Stop motion is my chosen medium for all work. The look for Anhedonia was very much inspired by Allison Schulnik’s stop motion.
The animation of the moths is just gorgeous. Did you construct the models as well as animating them?
I wish I had the craft skills for that. I had the basis for what I wanted, but my dearest friend and collaborator, Phoebe Jane Hart, who also has made most of the sets and props you may have seen in my Godzilla videos, took my very vague outline and ran with it really beautifully to design the moth and chrysalis. She made a handful of them, different sizes even. My other fabricating partner in crime is Megan Barbour, who’s also been making sets and characters for recent and upcoming commissioned work I’m doing. She did the final moth construction based on Phoebe’s design, and that’s the moth you see in the video.
If you were to direct another music video (and we hope you do!), are there any artists or genres you’d like to work with?
I’ve done a couple stop motion music videos now but the two artists I would die to make a stop motion video for would be FKA Twigs and Arca. I would love to make something really experimental and challenging (both to make and to watch). I like getting outside my comfort zone with each new project.
Finally, what’s next for you?
I’m in the planning stages of a very personal short film that will be a mixture of different animation styles (stop motion, papercraft, 2D, etc). Hopefully by writing it down here and putting it out into the universe, I can hold myself to this plan.
We can’t thank Cressa enough for this latest interview. You can keep up to date with her latest work on Twitter.
This interview’s header image was taken by Julia Durr.