Abattoir, U.S.A.! surveys the interior of an empty slaughterhouse. The slaughterhouse is animated using Unreal Engine, a 3D computer graphics tool used to create real-time environments for a wide range of platforms. In Dean’s film, the viewer follows a linear path through an impossible architecture—a seamless combination of 19th, 20th, and 21st-century design elements and non-Euclidean spaces rather than a direct model of an existing building. The film is accompanied by an immersive eight-channel score by composer Evan Zierk, which weaves together field recordings, samples, pop melodies, and algorithmically generated sequences. Influenced by Romantic-era classical composition and Hollywood melodrama, this multidimensional score plays a vital role in developing the film’s affective landscape and its experimentation with the construction and limitations of narrative.
Dean was initially inspired by philosophers Georges Bataille and Frank Wilderson, each of whom addresses the slaughterhouse in their writings—whether as a metaphor or paradigm—as crucial to the constitution of civil society. Abattoir, U.S.A.! builds on Dean’s own research into the slaughterhouse and industrial architecture, and the ways they reveal modernism’s intimacy with death on conceptual, political, and material levels. The film ruminates on this through the slaughterhouse’s presence as both an allegorical structure and a literal place where the boundary between human, animal, and machine is produced and reproduced. As it takes the slaughterhouse as its subject and projects its forms into a virtual space, Abattoir, U.S.A.! ultimately explores how meaning is produced through moving images, working across material, symbolic, and technological registers.