Princess Dies (2010-ongoing), is a multimedia, collaborative project conceived of by Portland-native Ashby Lee Collinson for broadcast on community access television. Involving such collaborators as artist Midori Hirose, musician Pulse Emitter, virtual reality pioneer Jan Northoff, and comedian Fred Armisen, the four episodes chart Collinson’s ongoing examinations of identity and representation from within the controlled studio environment to the isolated dune environments of Wonder Valley, CA and Coos Bay, OR. Combining performative and documentary processes, Collinson develops a unique ecological system wherein the individual and culture, the virtual and the real, constantly meld.
Princess Dies assumes many forms, including, but not limited to, endurance-based performance, documentary video, sketch comedy, and active sculpture. The project has been exhibited in such various guises at Public Fiction, Los Angeles, PDX Contemporary Art, Time Based Arts Festival, Rocksbox Fine Art, Disjecta, and the IFC television series Portlandia.
Princess Dies: Episode I
Running time: 12 minutes, 32 seconds
Situated in front of a studio green-screen of shifting lo-fi videos, Princess Dies screams, moans, and dances with increasing energy to Bruno Coviello from Light Asylum’s pulsating synths. This spectacle fades, however, as she eventually tires and condenses into a fetal position, symbolic of infantile comfort and blissful submission. A wild horse gallops underneath while the princess slowly rocks from side to side. She finally sits up and stares intently at the camera, softly addressing her admirers until dissolving herself under a glittering blanket.
Princess Dies: Episode II: The Crowning
Running time: 29 minutes, 56 seconds
After a congratulatory introduction by Collinson’s mother to her “sweet, precious, darling, angel, baby girl,” “The Crowning” situates Princess Dies and the musician Pulse Emitter in an absurdly oversized cement room. Wearing a tie-dyed blue dress and white, patent oxfords, she attempts to ground herself as her blonde, braided hair is pulled upwards by a white balloon. A giant, colored inflatable ball soon rolls into the room, prompting a drawn-out battle of deflation that evokes such materialist performances as Kazuo Shiraga’s Challenging Mud (1955). Masked in black paint, Portland-based artist Midori Hirose then regales the princess’ success via a messy, durational ritual involving multi-colored slime, googly eyes, flowers, and a rhinestone tiara.
Princess Dies: Episode III
Running time: 15 minutes, 32 seconds
Escaping the studio’s confines in search of new, tangible sites of self-enlightenment, Princess Dies sails over the lively forests, mountains, rivers, and sandy coastlines of Coos Bay, OR. “Dad?” she shouts into nature’s abyss, echoing a longing for connection lacking in her previous, isolated identity as muse. However, after invoking and communing with her father’s apparition, a string of encounters then shockingly cement her desired placement within the real. A sinister male figure dressed in a detective’s trench coat and fedora (played by Fred Armisen) creeps upon Princess Dies during a private meditation session. Pocketknife in hand, he cuts the white balloon from her hair, severing her umbilical-like tie to her once-virtual existence. Childlike laughing is heard off-screen as her face appears, frozen in terror.
Princess Dies: Episode IV
Part I: Running time: 10 minutes, 52 seconds
Part II: Running time: 11 minutes, 22 seconds
Part III: Running time: 12 minutes, 48 seconds
Thrown from her previous abodes of the television studio and the Pacific Northwest, Princess Dies tumbles into the wild desert terrain of Wonder Valley, CA.
Surrendering herself to the unknown, she strips herself of her ego in order to live collectively amidst newfound friends and the occasional reptilian pest. The anthropomorphic features of the surrounding barren landscape ultimately assume her discarded objectivity, enabling the princess to move further into the periphery.
Wonder Valley Preview for the Vice interview Princess Dies: The Last Woman on Earth. http://www.vice.com/read/princess-dies-is-last-woman-on-earth
Art directed, performed, filmed, and edited this sneak peek for the interview.
Produced successful Kickstarter campaign edited by Rebecca Carlisle-Healy. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2020037145/princess-dies-residency-at-wonder-valley-land-art