Ship of FooLs

Year of Production: 1998
Duration: 26 minutes (excerpt: 3:16)
CAST & CREW:Tony Allard, performer, Ezra Darwin Allard, the paper doll.
Camera: Tony Allard, Kristine Diekman
Editing: Tony Allard
Sound Design/music: Tony Allard (San Diego), Reverend Dwight Frizzell (Kansas City), Eric George (Chicago)

“Ship of FooLs” is an experimental narrative that examines, from a personal and sociological perspective, the 15th century practice in northern Europe of placing the insane citizenry on ships, or floating asylums, and banishing them from “normal” societies to the unreason of the sea. Ship of FooLs is a highly imaginary and poetic recreation of a ship of folly. Passengers in include myself and my father and the journey moves from the Harbor in Amsterdam to New York City.

SENARIO for VIDEO At the end of my last video, Corpse and Mirror, I am seen giving my father, Ezra the Paper doll, a ride on the handlebars of my bicycle. As we ride, I promise to tell Ezra “a little story”, which I never get around to doing. This video, Ship of Fools, is the telling of that story to Ezra. As was the case with Corpse and Mirror, the Ship of Fools will also be presented in the form of a performance monologue.

The time structure for this video chronicals the chaotic yet fantasmagorical journey of an imaginary ship loaded with fools, I.E. the insane somewhere in northern Europe, near Amsterdam. Unlike typical journies taken on ships, this one has no definate beginning or ending destination. The ship arrives and departs willy nilly in and from ports both imaginary and real. The ship’s passengers, myself and my father included, consist of multiple personalities who have ended up on the ship because of their trecherous and wayward slip from “normal” behavior. A brief synopsis/chronology is as follows:The last sequence of Corpse and Mirror begins the Ship of Fools.

I am riding my bicycle and talking to Ezra, the paper doll, who sits on the handlebars. I am heard saying “Now as we go, I’m gonna tell you a little story”, which I proceed to do. It is the story of the Ship of Fools, a very bent and dreamy bedtime story for adults and children alike. Ezra and Tony are seen on shore, waiting for the ship of fools to come in. The ship is a metamorphic craft–in other words, it changes identity contsantly. One moment it might be a small model boat, the next it might be a picture of a large 14th century sailing vessel, the next moment it might be my bicycle or a video still of a human brain. The voices and sounds that are heard are metamorphs as well. The dialogue, given by the poly-voiced narrator, suggests that these voices “you are now hearing” are actually the voices inside your (the viewer) own head. It’s your call, in other words.

Ezra and Tony are seen getting on the ship with several other passengers. The scene is roucus, bizzarr, chaotic,compelling and appauling all at once. The loading of the ship’s passengers is the moment when the majority of the imaginary or hallucinated personalities are introduced. Like the ship they are boarding, these charactors are metamorphic, unstable and have strong affinities with the ways of water. The guest list is loosely modeled after the guest list of Noah’s ark–a kind of twitsted two-by-two bestiary of mental aberations: a schizophrenic talking horse may be escorted by a catatonic radio announcer followed by Dorothy from the Wizard of OZ who is escorted by loquacious fork, fork, knife and spoon followed by a man dressed as an owl, etc. The video treatment of this “scene” is anything but linear and consistant with the form of a normal narrative flow. Again, putting a logical narration together is your call.

Once the ship is loaded, it sets sail from an indeterminant port, somewhere on the east coast of Europe. The ship’s progress is marked with a wandering line superimposed on top of images of the ship sailing willy nilly on indeterminant bodies of water. Daily life is depicted as a non-stop tmultuous roiling together of personalities, bodies, animals, the ship’s crew and the sea. As is noted in literary and historical accounts of these ships of folly, they sailed randomly from port to port, picking up and letting off the fools. During one long rough tack far far out to sea, the ship encounters an apocolyptic storm that throws the craft into the hands of the fates. This storm and the ensuing psychological malstrum is synonimous with a psychotic breakdown with reality and is depicted as such. It is during this storm that the dualities of Western civilization have it out: the rational and irrational, the logical and the illogical, the sane and the insane, happyness and sadness all mix together in a kind primal multch of negative and positive potentials. The ship is blown far far off its general course of Eastern Europe’s port city around the Zoider Zee, the Netherlands. The storm blows for weeks, finally letting loose the shattered ship. The “drunken boat” has been blown all the way to the East coast of America and lands on Mahatten Island, New York City. The date is October 31st, 1999, Halloween night. The shatterd ship is seen sailing by the Statue of Liberty , up the East River and finally coming into port at about Midtown. Ezra and Tony and all the foolish passengers are seen disembarking.

Ezra and Tony begin wandering the streets of New York City. They eventually end up in the West Village and become part of the Halloween parade that is put on by the gay community there. The video ends with no one being saved, redeemed, cured, delivered. Instead, Ezra and Tony “get lost” completely lost and the voice inside Tony’s head (the poly-vocal narrator) breaks apart uttering pure nonsense.