LA Alfonso is a Peterborough-based filmmaker and media artist who often blends together narrative storytelling, art and autobiography to create works of creative non-fiction. And that’s true of his latest project Agent Sunless, a series of online live performances that Alfonso describes as “the real-time edit of a documentary.”
Each Monday at 11:11 p.m., Alfonso broadcasts a live audiovisual show to a select audience, exploring the archive of an alter-ego: Agent Sunless. The show is an artful mix of archival video, audio and photography with narration by Alfonso, plus original music scored by Jared Bremner.
During one recent Agent Sunless performance, Alfonso blended clips from black and white movies, archival video of his grandfather, quotes from the writer Alberto Manguel and audience participation through Zoom’s chat feature.
The show was ambient and thought-provoking, and it struck me as a fascinating exercise… to invite the audience to ponder the questions of your art at the same time as you. By being in the audience for Agent Sunless I was also involved in creation and research for the final piece.
“It’s a memory excavation brought to life by various media from a time capsule,” says Alfonso.
Alfonso is creating Agent Sunless as part of his Master’s degree in Public Texts at Trent University, where he is also writing a book.
I spoke with Alfonso last week, after I tuned into one of his Monday night Agent Sunless sessions.
Peterborough Currents: How did the idea for Agent Sunless come together?
LA Alfonso: Agent Sunless was a persona I created for myself inspired by the 1983 film Sans Soleil by Chris Marker. I want to focus on a forensic investigation of a dead alter-ego, and to make a twist on autobiographical filmmaking by piecing together a life from a box of evidence that seems to belong to someone else.
PC: What is that box of evidence? Where does that come from?
LA: I’m not gonna be able to make it clear for the reader. The work is precisely about questioning what type of materials are in the “box,” if it is a box. A box full of dreams, regrets… secrets. I don’t know. Your questions are precisely my questions.
PC: Will Agent Sunless become a film?
LA: Agent Sunless was always meant to be a film. But I didn’t think it would come about this way. I would never have imagined it would be a private link to a Zoom webinar, closer to seeing television put together in real-time.
It’s kind of like Sesame Street as if directed by David Lynch. It’s like you’re receiving a video call from a place you can’t find on a map, the signal is coming in but it’s getting interference from a sleeper’s nightmare next door.
I can’t really predict where it’s going from here because it’s evolving every week.
PC: What is it about Zoom that inspires you to use it for art?
LA: I’ve been using Zoom for school for many months and I started wondering about its possibilities for approximating presence, intimacy, and immersion — all terms that have become complicated in digital environments. I have gotten to know and meet new friends through Zoom for classes and informal meetings so I knew something real was possible.
PC: Why does autobiography interest you?
LA: I can really only be an expert on myself. And even then, I’m always changing so I always have to keep up. Any other story I could tell outside of my own experience would be “false.”
I like the creative nonfiction style of autobiography. I extend that creativity to the nonfiction of the archive. If I don’t like the story of my own life, the fastest way to change it is to hear it for myself to recognize which parts of the script I need to change.
LA Alfonso’s answers have been edited for length and clarity. You can find more on Agent Sunless at https://agentsunless.space/