Pigs, Pancakes and Passion Plays- The one that went away

So, most Norwegians are familiar with the fairytale about the pancake who ran away from a hungry family, and after rolling past a few animals that wanted to eat him got eaten by a pig that offered to help the pancake cross a creek. (Why the pancake would be so stupid after dodging so many bullets is beyond me, but then again fairytale logic does not necessarily follow any common logic at all.  (Does it?) Others might be familiar with a similar story about a Gingerbread man?

Anyway, if you’re unfamiliar with this story you can find it (and read it, in Norwegian) here: http://runeberg.org/folkeven/005.html

For some time I’ve had the idea of making an image based on this fairytale. But being me, and being forever in love with things strange and somewhat gory, it was never intended to be a straight up illustration of the story. Things I do rarely are “straight up”.  Contradiction, the mixture of horror and humour, and “all things strange” are strong features in most, if not all, of my work. This one being no different.

The essence of modern urban reality […] is its “incompatibility”, its blunt juxtaposition of conflicting cultural traditions. One obvious purpose of a hybrid art […] is to provide the symbolic strategies necessary for coping with such a world, to create the languages of paradox or contradiction that might enable us to be “borne across” from our old inadequate or outmoded identities into new ones. [1]

So… I’d had this pig’s head in my freezer for longer than I cared to remember.  I’d bought some sausages to act like intestines (let’s face it, that’s partly what they are anyway, and that’s what makes using them hilarious), some trotters and some pig bones.  I spent the day before and the day of the shoot frying up more pancakes than I care to remember, as well as quite a few waffles. Norwegian style waffles, not Belgian. These were easier to stack and were used to make the mouth of my evil pancake stack. I’d made two different kinds of fake blood. One thick and cloggy (thanks to crunchy peanut butter and whole heap of other grossly combined things) and one kind that was thin enough to make splatter and to be poured into a spray bottle. I had bought gumboots as I intended to shoot in a small creek and I’d scouted the location. I guess you can say I was well prepared. Or so I thought.

On the night of the shoot an extra pair of assisting hands cancelled. But as I said, I was somewhat well prepared. I’d packed most of my things in a suitcase with wheels and the rest was carried by hand, by myself and my loving partner who kindly came with me despite not feeling well at all.  (I guess it goes with the story that I was also 5,5 months pregnant at the time and already rather large.)

Anyways, well down at the creek, the first thing to fail was my set up light. As I’m used to working in the dark, this was no big deal. I carried my carcass bits across the creek and started setting up the revenge of the pancake. After getting it all done and splattered with blood, I was ready to finalize my framing and shoot it. As I went back across the creek to get the camera we noticed some splashing sounds around where we were. A small search with the torchlight later and what to we see? Water rats the size of Chihuahuas. And they’re real keen to get at my set up. (Can you blame them? Seriously? And how did this not occur to me that might happen? This was Norwegian small town naivety at it’s best.)  At this point I started to get somewhat stressed.  I decided the camera needed to be set up in the middle of the creek, which just added to the stress. I made compromises on my framing to just get it done, locked my focus and started lighting as fast as I could. I hardly stopped to even look at what I was doing as I was more concerned with shining my light on the rats between shots as they kept coming closer to me, the camera and the set up. (Keep in mind I’m standing in the water with them at this time.)  I was freaked out and approaching exhausted. My intention was to light various things in the background of the pig and pancakes, but I was too afraid to leave the camera.  Some frantic shots later and I decided to wrap it up.

The test shot (notice how I never got to the background…amongst other things):

Revenge of the Pancake -Test shoot

As I started to pack up the camera I noticed it had come a bit loose somehow on the tripod plate, but thought no more of it.  Fast forward through frenzied packing (I did leave some sausages for the rats) and we were on our way home.  “Oh well, it didn’t turn out the way I intended at all, but at least the set up looked good.”

Well home I picked up the camera and looked at a few shots. And they were all out of focus. I somehow must have bumped the camera after locking down the focus
in my frenzy . I usually check these things several times as I go, but this time most of my routine went out the window. And I was left with nothing except knowing what needed to be done differently and a few test shots of the set up. Disappointment and frustration does not cover how I felt as I collapsed exhausted that night.  I knew doing shoots pregnant would be hard, but I had no idea of how hard or that these horrible creatures would come out to eat my set up. (After all, I managed to do Hanging Rock pregnant, and that probably made me tad bit cocky.) In hindsight, it’s feels obvious, and thankfully, funny. But I still don’t have my pancake image.

Before re-shooting it (which I won’t do in a creek when a puddle will do just fine) I’m thinking of making some teeth for the pancakes. Hopefully, the pancakes will have their revenge before Christmas. And hopefully the rats had full bellies when they went to sleep. And hopefully the little boy in my belly will some day appreciate the stories of what his mother tried to do while carrying him.


[1] Cook, R., The Art of Uncertainty: Cultural Displacement and the Devaluation of the World, Critique; Spring 2000; 41, 3; p. 229

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About Dida

Visual artist, light painter and mother.
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