‘Edward Gordon Craig, the first modern theater artist, wished he could replace all actors with puppets. Never mind the divas, he said. Forget Stanislavski. Craig wanted actors to leave their feelings at home. They only got in the way of art.
Cut to Laurie Simmons’s first film, The Music of Regret, 2006. All of the characters are puppets. Some are played by humans, Meryl Streep among them, but most are either vintage rubber hand puppets or male ventriloquist dummies from Simmons’s 1994 series of photographs, also titled The Music of Regret.
In three acts, ambition, jealousy, and desire all lead to a different sense of sorrow. In other words, this movie is about nothing but feelings.
Puppets are useful vehicles for circumventing the distorting influence of a human ego. In this way, they function as masks, subjugating the artist’s identity to the revelation of a larger truth. In art we talk of external and internal vision, of what there is in the world to see and what lives independently in the mind’s eye. As John Cage demonstrated, the mind has an ear as well. It listens to the way we think. Perhaps Simmons’s film is a picture of the mind’s ear, and the music of regret is silence.’
(Excerpt from an essay by Linda Yablonsky,
in Artforum, May 2006)