Although endlessly scrolling through the internet is usually a knowingly wasteful use of time, recently stumbling across the collaborative work of illustrator Dylan Jones and wordsmith Payne Fulcher has only confirmed the opposite. Their animations are pure nightmare fuel, with gruesome characters getting up to questionable things accompanied by artificially pitched poetic ramblings, yet we can’t stop watching. We caught up with the duo to rattle their brains around their thought processes and inspirations.

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How did you two end up collaborating?

Dylan: I was a fan of Payne's writing and I thought we would have chemistry --- I approached him about it at work one afternoon. I also needed sound for an animation that I didn't have a title for yet and Payne had emailed me a long free-form spoken word piece that he called "Beach Bodies" and that became the title of our first collaboration. There was so much left to work with after the first video was done that I decided to cut the rest up and see if I could come up with anything in response.

Payne: I’m always happiest making things when I’m collaborating with someone.

Dylan and I have been friends for a while. We met in Portland about six years ago and then I moved away and lived some other places, and when I moved back to Portland, we started talking again and things started happening without much pressure.

I remember when I started to seriously think about writing fiction, trying to figure out how it should be, questioning if there was any way, or even reason, to do something that was new, or at least appropriate to the present, I took a lot of inspiration from Dylan’s illustration work. There’s an irreducible quality to what he does that opened up another way of looking at things for me. I wanted to take what he was doing with visuals and find an analogue in words. His images have a pureness that draws you, an undistorted quality that, like the best kinds of poetry, you hear with something other than your thinking head.

It’s a deepening process, going into the underworld, what the poet John Keats called having a ‘negative capability’. The idea of “I don’t cast my shadow, my shadow casts me.” I wanted to write in a way that was as irreducible as the images Dylan was making. There’s an idea in Hindu thought of names appearing in dreams as things representing only themselves. A combination of words like, “I don’t want to hear about your puppy neck.”—It’s hard to break it down into its component parts and yet it has a power to it, because of that irreducible quality, especially when combined with what Dylan is doing.

How do you come up with the visuals and what inspires your work? And has anyone likened your animations to David Firth?

Dylan: Inspiration just comes from working a while and also just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. Nobody has mentioned David Firth to me but I have gotten Amy Lockhart and Martha Colburn once or twice in the past.

Payne: I’m a big fan of Samuel Beckett, especially the Malloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable trilogy.

I think that what he did with that stuff presages a lot of the current climate of communication. People say a lot while managing to say nothing.

How long does it take to make a video and what’s the process behind it?

Dylan: Each video has taken a week give or take. Once I get the sound from Payne the process goes very quickly, his writing is so evocative for me-- it makes it very easy to come up with something to go along with the words.

Payne: Not too long. Once we get into a rhythm, we can really cook. The trick is to keep going.

Does each video exist in a vacuum or are they part of a weird wider world? Are there any recurring characters?

Dylan: They come from a similar universe which only exists when Payne and I put our heads together. I haven't used any recurring characters yet but I think in the audio there are definitely recurring themes and moods.

Payne: I think it’s inevitable that some things recur. I’m always repeating themes, phrases and ideas in writing and I think given that we live in a culture where there’s an expectation, almost a compulsive need for one to be prolific and for there to be constant output, there’s interesting ground to explore in terms of how can you keep saying the same things in different ways, how much is it okay for something to be reused, if you say something too much will you jade all the meaning from it. It’s kind of like that ‘try again, fail again, fail better’ sort of thing to me. If you look at a lot of art now it seems to exist in an almost half-finished, liminal state and I don’t view that as a bad thing. I think it’s just the way people work. There’s always the impulse to do something new, even in the midst of the thing you’re working on.

I do appreciate the idea that we’re creating a world, or world-building in a sense, but I don’t think we’re doing any of that consciously. It’s not being meticulously mapped out, or anything. There’s not a conversation where we say we need to bring the shirtless dog back into the picture.

I like the feeling that the work never ends though, that it’s part of something larger—that the world keeps on going and could presumably expand without limit, even without us.

How would you describe your work to someone that has never seen it before?

Dylan: I'm very bad and misleading at describing things to people - maybe it's just my own subjective view that colours things but I feel like if I tried to describe it to someone they would end up feeling disappointed afterwards. I generally don't talk about art much in daily life.

Payne: I don’t know how much the work speaks outside of itself, so it’s hard for me to place descriptors on it.

I like to think there’s a fair amount of humour at play. That it can be weird and creepy, somewhat perverted in that the unconscious is being put on display, but that it’s also concerned with the condition of being a human amongst other humans and the complexities that arise from that. I think there’s a lot to do with guilt—the shadows within us that judge our attempts at heroic action. The hero archetype is something I learned about from psychologist James Hillman and it’s really fascinating to me. Heroic action, when you break it down, is actually psychopathic in a lot of ways, especially in myths like Hercules. It seems I’m writing from the viewpoints of these psychotic heroes sometimes.

I’ve been reading a book on dream interpretation called The Dream and the Underworld, and in it James Hillman speaks of dreams as existing in their own irreducible language (going back to before) that is untroubled by the concerns of our conscious minds—that dreams belong to a psychic underworld and that this underworld (when taken in a mythological sense) is cold and lightless, unchanging, and psychotic in that it never alters (but that it is also the foundation of our minds and is where our dreams exist). He has a great quote where he says, “Hatred, like Love, is necessary to the universal order.” Not in the sense of hatred as it appears in the world, but capital h Hatred, the Hatred that undergirds the heroic—

Hatred being this cold, and unmoving state that has its own particular beauty. He puts forth the view that it’s folly to take the stuff of the dream and try to force it into the language of your day-to-day reality. I like to think that the work we’re doing reverberates strongly with this psychic underworld, as if we’re taking people into a place they may not expect, or imagine, or be initially comfortable with, but that it's still speaking to something that's within us all.

Asides from making animations, what are you guys up to?

Dylan: I try to draw as much as I can when I'm not animating it's so easy to fall out of practice.

Payne: I make music under the name Luis Fripa with my sometimes collaborator Colin Wohlarb.

I also try to write everyday and would like to put out a book at some point.