From experimental cinema to fashion videography, ten artists breaking the boundaries Since its foundation, Stigmart10 has encouraged a conception of art based on a dynamic dialogue between artists and audience, reflecting the interactive nature of the creative act itself. A winning formula, according to the doubled number of submissions - more than 3000 applicants have sumitted their video works and CV in 2014 - and the increasing popularity of our project. We are glad to present this year's edition of Videofocus, our special Stigmart10 review focused on experimental cinema, original fashion videography and corageous documentary. Stigmart10 Team
"Continental Drift blends landscape and myth to depict the earth in its primordial state when the forces of nature caused a rift in pangea and the tectonic plates began to shift."
"Most of my work comes out of the desire to challenge accepted constructions of visual meaning-making and to create a space for critical, active reflection. "
Wesley Trung Nguyáť…n
"With scenes composed of quiet atmospheres, Nguyáť…n's work is described as meditative and reflective. Audiences leave with a sensation of an uncanny though serene experience, a state of emotions in which they themselves cannot fully comprehend. "
"Objects carry a great deal of meaning for us. They often tie us to place or time, and can even bring us back to very specific memories. In my work, I largely leave the spaces devoid of humans."
"In my work, I refer to Y2k as a catalyst of change for economies, politics, and culture. Though most would concern Y2k as an anti-climactic disaster, it created a market of fear that still resonates in our digital culture "
"I keep wondering whether a cinema still exists. As I look through my window at night, my retina imprints an image, my brain processes it into what I suspect is the reality."
"My desire - what I’d like the film to provoke if I had the choice - is to create a fractured viewing experience that encourages careful looking and is perhaps more thought-provoking than simply encountering the picture that reveals all at a single glance."
"The message is that the world is multi-cultural, and peace and love between people of diverse backgrounds cannot be achieved unless we start a one on one relationship with strangers. "
"The work shows male themes of hierarchy, strength and competition in our culture – men trapped operating under the constant weight of political guilt trying to find a balance that works."
A Treaty is a darkly humorous interpretation of a 19th century battle in the American Southwest addressing ideas of aggression, power and conquest.
"Kerry, Imprecion, Sam is a video installation that centers on projected, recorded performances. The content of the project externalizes the multiplicity of self-identity and how it exists in the conscious formed through human interaction and relationships."
"Blacklight Lighthouse make music and videos. Loops and samples are layered using acoustic and electronic instrumentation to create sound-collage/noise-music.
"I think that push and pull between being legible and the video work as relic along a winding, self directed road of aesthetic and narrative exploration is what might come across as the current style, but I hope it's headed somewhere. "
Joy Mckinney “Touch Me” is a complementary document to “The Guardian” photographic series. “Touch Me” began as a way to further explore how people responded to touch outside of their controlled environment.
A still from Continental Drift
Katie Urban An artist's statement
Continental Drift blends landscape and myth to depict the earth in its primordial state when the forces of nature caused a rift in pangea and the tectonic plates began to shift.
natural phenomena. The soundtrack reflects the mixture of quietude and cataclysm that marked this epoch. An ethereal female voice initiates the rupturing of the supercontinent and moments of dissonance reflect the violent upheaval as the land is stretched and pulled apart.
The piece opens at the moment just before the shift with a still shot of a glacial landscape. The planet begins to heat up and the serenity of the land is disrupted by increasingly powerful
Eventually a stasis is reached and the continental drift comes to a halt. The piece closes with still shots of a flock of birds in the sky. So begins the proliferation of life.
A still from Continental Drift
Continental Drift is composed of footage shot at popular tourist locations in Argentina and Iceland such as IguazĂş Falls and the Golden Circle. It transforms these breathtaking yet touristy settings into signifiers of primal power and mysticism. Much of my work explores the interchange between the prosaic and the otherworldly, revealing the emotions, tensions and mysteries that exist beneath the surface of everyday experience. I use mundane objects, settings and situations to create allegories that address
larger questions such as our relationship to the past and the connection between the material and spiritual. I seek to communicate these metaphysical complexities in a way that is visceral and immediate. I use image, atmosphere and metaphor to bypass the rationality of language, tap into our collective unconscious and evoke sensation in the viewer. Through this intuitive approach, I invite the viewer to feel the work directly, thereby experiencing an innate connection to the abstractions I am exploring.
An interview with
Katie Urban How did you come up with the idea for Continental Drift? In 2009, I spent three months traveling in Argentina followed by a three month residency in Iceland. I visited some amazing places- Iguazú Falls, the Patagonia Lakes District, Los Glaciares National Park, the Golden Circle and the volcano Eyjafjallajökull as it was erupting. I shot a lot of video in these places, but only a tourist memorializing my travels. At this point, I wasn’t even working in video. I was making figurative drawings inspired by world mythologies and the writings of Joseph Campbell. I was feeling restless, though. I felt that I had taken that project as far as I could, but wasn’t sure where to go next. In Iceland, I started working in digital media and installation and my practice shifted to something that felt more alive and relevant. Fast forward to 2012… the idea for Continental Drift came to me slowly. I was watching a lot of Kenneth Anger at the time and was taken by the opening shots of Lucifer Rising. It shows an erupting volcano paired with a foreboding soundtrack by Bobby Beausoleil. It then cuts to ancient Egypt and the goddess Isis watching a baby crocodile hatch. I loved how he connected powerful natural phenomena with ancient spirituality and mythology and I started thinking back to my footage of volcanoes, geysers, glaciers and waterfalls. I felt there was potential there, but didn’t have a clear direction yet and so I didn’t pursue it. Over the next few months, I started thinking more and more about that footage and knew I had to figure out what to do with it. Inspiration came when I started thinking about my own travel experiences. In Iceland, I visited a place called Thingvellir, an area where the continental drift is visible. It’s a deep fissure in the rock with Europe on one side and North America on the other. I had a pretty powerful experience there even though it was overrun by tourists. The same goes for the other places I visited. They were all incredible, but too crowded. I remember standing at Iguazú, feeling totally intimidated by the power of the falls and trying to block out all of the other tourists
some of who were not very respectful of the experience. I tried to imagine what it must have been like to be the first person to discover the falls and felt sad that I would never have a truly solitary, introspective experience at any of these sites. Part of making Continental Drift was realizing that fantasy and creating a picture of these places before humans existed. Once I tapped into my own experiences, I had the clarity of vision that I needed to get started. Let's speak about your creative process: you were using older footage for Continental Drift and so didn’t pre-plan any shots or use storyboards. It was only in the editing process that you felt the work beginning to form. This reminds us of Alberto Giacometti's vision of artmaking: the artist does not represent what he sees, but the act of creation is a continuous process of discovering the Self. Do you always work this way? Could you introduce our readers to your particular creative process? I do work this way, even on new material. My process is very intuitive and open. When I start a video project, I have a strong vision of the piece, but no idea what it will actually look like
A still from Continental Drift
in the end. This vision is hard to explain - it’s a sense of the overall atmosphere and feeling of the work, but it’s more complex and intangible than saying to myself: “I want this to be scary” or “I want this to feel sad.” It’s pretty non-verbal and in some ways hazy, but it’s complete and I absolutely know what I’m after. This is my guiding light through the whole process. The vision that I had for Continental Drift was one of primal power. I wanted to hint at the presence of a creative force beyond human morality and the feelings of fear that are evoked when one is faced with the omnipotent. I also wanted to capture a sense of the unknown and mysterious. To get clarity on these feelings, I thought about the awe and overwhelm I felt standing next to that waterfall at Iguazú. I felt small and like I was in the presence of a force that wasn’t necessarily immoral, but was without a human sense of right and wrong. I remember
thinking, ‘This waterfall could destroy me and it wouldn’t care at all.’ That’s a humbling thing. When it comes time to shoot, I don’t use storyboards or pre-plan my shots. I prefer to keep things flexible and follow my instincts, but I do sometimes have ideas beforehand. For instance, the imagery for my video Within Skin was inspired by a series of recurring dreams I was having at the time. I knew that I wanted to use images of hallways, stairs, eels and close ups of skin, so I went out and shot those things. Often, I would see something interesting along the way or one idea would lead to another and I would shoot that as well. I also knew that I wanted Within Skin to feel dream-like and have a very smooth flow. Early on, I had the idea that the video should have “directionality.” By that, I mean that I wanted all of the shots to move in one direction and blend
A still from Continental Drift
into one another to create the feeling of it being one continuous shot. I was conscious of this as I was shooting and was sure to get lots of slow pans. I shot for four months before I started edited and even then I kept shooting because I would have new ideas or the piece would need something else. In the end, I amassed a good amount of footage that I had no idea how to put together. It all happened during editing.
of clips. It can completely change the feeling of the work. As with Within Skin, I’m usually shooting new footage at the same time as I’m editing, looking for the right shots to fill in gaps or bring the piece together. Then it’s a matter of refining and adjusting until I have a piece that fulfills my vision. To get there, I rely on intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, I work on it until it does.
For me, the editing process is long and arduous. I start by looking at the footage I have and laying down a very basic skeleton to get a sense of the pacing and trajectory. From there I re-arrange the clips until I start to see my vision take shape. It’s trial and error, taking what I have and seeing how I can piece it together into something greater than the sum of its parts. It’s amazing what a difference seemingly small things can make- trimming or adding half a second here and there, switching the positioning
It usually takes months of tinkering for me to figure out how to make something work. With Continental Drift, the piece just didn’t feel right for a long time and I wasn’t sure what to do to about it. Eventually I started experimenting with split screen mirroring as a way to add visual interest and to reflect the way the earth was split and pulled apart during the continental drift. I also added coinciding bursts of color and noise to evoke an unknown and powerful spiritual presence. Then I went back and fine-tuned
A still from Continental Drift
it until it flowed and all the edits were smooth. Honestly, the whole process can be tedious and frustrating, but it’s what works for me. Coming at it in a predetermined way, like rigidly following a script or storyboards, would feel like putting on blinders. I’d have the sense that I was ignoring all the chance occurrences and spontaneous moments of inspiration that fill a piece with life. For me, it needs to grow organically and I need to discover what the piece is, not work off of fixed ideas that may or may not fit anymore. Audio plays a big role in your works. Not by chance, you compose the music for all of your videos. Your use of sound is nondiegetical and tends to sabotage common perception mechanisms. It also conveys a particular and often ambiguous atmosphere, like the stunning mix of quietude and
cataclysm in Continental Drift. Could you introduce our readers to this aspect of your filmmaking? Music is such a powerful way to evoke emotion and establish mood so I knew from the start that sound would be a key element in my work. I felt hesitant to use another artist’s music both for copyright reasons and because I couldn’t find anything that fit perfectly- there was always something a little off that didn’t capture the right atmosphere. When I start editing, I have a general idea of the type of sound I want. Often I’ll define it by thinking about the music of others- like for Continental Drift, I wanted the music to be a cross between Throbbing Gristle’s ambient work and Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. At the early stages of editing, I was listening to Throbbing Gristle and that helped me set the
pace of the piece and lay down the general framework. As the video started taking shape and the edits became more fine-tuned, it no longer fit with Throbbing Gristle so I started my own composition. I use freesound.org to find sound clips that I use as building blocks. The way I find sounds is a little random. I’ll search for general words like “ambient”, “buzz” or “wind.” Sometimes I have an idea for the kind of sound I need and will look up words that are more suggestive like “knives” or “flourish” or “oooh” (these are actual terms I’ve searched for). It’s a very inexact science. Sometimes I can use the sounds as is, but often I go into Audacity and manipulate them to better fit my ideas. Then I lay them into GarageBand to create the final composition. Similarly to my editing process, this is also trial and error. I always watch the piece while I’m working on the music to make sure they fit together. Sometimes I need to change the music to fit the video and other times it’s vice versa. When I’m in the process it always feels like chaos and like it’ll never come together, but so far it always has. A recurrent characteristic of many of your artworks is experience as a starting point for artistic production: in your opinion, is experience an absolutely necessary part of the creative process? For me, it is. I process my emotions and experiences through my work, so for me they’re inseparable. It wasn’t always like that though. In 2010 at the residency in Iceland, my work shifted from being inspired by something outside myself to being driven by my own life experiences. Before that, I had been hesitant to make work that was too personal because I thought it would come across as over emotional, sentimental or unintelligent. Now I realize that a work can be smart and convey feeling without veering into sentimentality. I think this combination makes the best art. One of the first pieces that came out of my own experiences was an installation I did in Iceland called No One Receiving, which I later I turned into a two-channel video. I had the opportunity to use an amazing space, a scientific research lab that was formerly a fish processing plant, overlooking the harbor. At the time, I was going through some romantic struggles and feeling pretty heartbroken. It was a sad time for me. I was thinking a lot about communication and the difficulty of expressing strong emotions through words.
A still from Continental Drift
I had the idea to represent that by using morse code, something that also related to the maritime site. I ended up creating two light based morse code transmissions which I projected out to sea. One was a direct transcription of a love letter that I had written and the other was a traditional Icelandic love saga with roots in the town. The piece could be viewed from inside or outside the space and was visible from the harbor. I hoped that lovelorn sailors would see these stories and sit up on the deck watching into the night. A year or so later, I decided to weave together documentary footage of the piece with video that I had taken around Iceland. I wanted to create an overall portrait of my state of mind as well as the place. We are impressed by the powerful interchange between the prosaic and the spiritual in your work, a mythopoetic method similar to that of T.S. Eliot. Can you tell us
your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? Well, I do love Eliot. Every April, I re-read The Waste Land. I’m always amazed by the way he brings together different cultures and myths into an overarching consciousness. Generally, the artists I like have a mythopoetic bent, but not always. I’ve been interested in mythology and the occult since I was a kid, but felt insecure about making work about those things because I worried that it wouldn’t be taken seriously. I mentioned Kenneth Anger earlier and he’s a huge influence. Also, Alejandro Jodorowsky. The way they work with the “new age” without it being airy or touchy-feely gave me the confidence to embrace those kinds of influences in my own work. Francis Bacon has been a long-time favorite of mine. The fact that he doesn’t shy away from things that are dark and grotesque has taught me to let go of some of the self-imposed restraints I put on my own work. His embrace of
those darker realities captures something very real about being human, something primal. His work is emotional, but not gentle. In western culture, it seems like being emotional is synonymous with being weak. I don’t agree with this at all and I think Bacon’s work is one of the strongest refutations of this. It’s visceral, raw and powerful. I’ve only recently become familiar with Camille Henrot’s work, but I think she’s amazing. Her work is beautiful, intelligent and intuitive- all qualities that I admire and aspire to in my own work. I feel like she’s a kindred spirit in some ways. We have similar interests- anthropology and other cultures, religion, philosophy, Jungian psychology, nature- and I think there are certain parallels between our work. When I saw her video The Strife of Love in a Dream, I actually became uncomfortable because it felt so similar to Within Skin. There are many differences of course, but they both work with fear as a subject matter, use serpent imagery and weave together loosely connected imagery into a dream-like flow. The way she uses the serpent as a cross-cul-
A still from Continental Drift
tural symbol of fear reminds me of some of the ideas I was working with in an earlier project of mine, Sign Stimuli. I was taking archetypical elements from world creation myths and using them to tap into the collective emotions that those symbols evoke. This was the drawing project inspired by the writings of Joseph Campbell that I mentioned earlier. Campbell is another huge influence as well as Alan Watts. Their explanations of and insights into different forms of spirituality have been the starting point for many of my projects. I also admire the way they use simple language to explain complex ideas. Their writings have an unpretentious yet intelligent quality, which I hope my work has as well. There are so many others I could talk about, but lastly I’ll mention Stanley Kubrick. I saw 2001 when I was seventeen and it completely freaked me out. I don’t think any film before (and very
few since) had evoked such a strong emotional reaction in me. I watched it with a friend and afterwards had to drive home alone down all these dark and deserted roads. I was completely terrified and didn’t know why. I’ve thought a lot over the years about what it was that created such a rise in me. I think it was the fact that so much was left unexplained. It taught me that you could make a much more powerful statement by being suggestive rather than explicit. In these last years we have seen the frontier between Video Art and Cinema growing more and more vague: do you think that this "frontier" will continue to exist? I’m not a scholar on either subject so am probably not the best person to answer this, but yes, in my opinion this boundary will continue to exist. Even though there’s some crossover, I think that
A still from Continental Drift
the audience for cinema is different than for film/ video art. Cinematic films need to appeal to a wider audience to justify their existence. Since most people don’t have the desire to watch something purely experimental, mainstream movies need to focus on a story. Part of the reason people go to the cinema is to be entertained, which is less of a factor with an art piece where the audience is self-selecting. Film and video art doesn’t need to follow a traditional narrative arc where things are nicely resolved and everyone goes home satisfied. It doesn’t even need to tell a story. It can be completely abstract in a way that cinema can’t. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts with us, Katie. What's next for Katie Urban? Are there any new projects on the horizon? I have a couple of things in the works now. I’m in a landscape themed show opening next month and will be making a site-specific
photograph/ installation. I’m going to place a one-way mirror in front of a composite image made up of photographs taken around the site. The mirror creates a complex viewing surface, allowing the viewer to see a reflection of him or herself and his or her surroundings as well as the image behind it. The image is abstract and meant to suggest both a physical and an emotional landscape. I want to bring the viewer and the outside environment into the piece and create a metaphor for our own emotional landscapes- the things that are hidden beneath surface ap-pearances. After that, I’m hoping to start a new video. In March, I was in South Africa participating in an art festival. I also went on a one week safari and took a ton of video of wildlife and the surrounding landscape. I haven’t even looked at most of it, but from what I’ve seen, I think it has potential. In my typical fashion, I have no idea what it will become, but I’m excited to find out.
Jonathan Rattner An artist's statement
My artwork is about identity construction and meaning-making.Â€ Iâ€™m interested in how we organize and make sense of our lives through stories, objects, and places. I think a lot
about how definitions of our surroundings and lives can give us structure, but they can also create emotional and intellectual barriers. Most of my work comes out of the desire to challenge accepted constructions of visual meaning-making and to create a space for critical, active reflection.
traditional non-linear structure. Cinematic essays contain qualities of wandering and weaving, having a sense of lightness, and being indirect, all of which enable access to a deeper layer of truth. In production of these films, I worked very much like a photojournalist. I traveled to locations, wandered, observed, and gathered material without a plan beforehand. While I recorded sounds or images, I tried to take in all of the sensory information around me; feel my body, listen to sounds, and look for visual patterns and rhythms in the environment. I was interested in stripping the original context and meaning from the situation, and experiencing elements I may have ignored without my camera. In post-production, my approach was very much akin to a collage artist, juxtaposing images and sounds from different places, and waiting for a concept or story to arise. My editing decisions were not preplanned, and most of the works took months to complete. In these ways, the process of production and post-production became very much like ritualistic, meditative acts.
A still from End, End, End
End, End, End is part of a series of short films in which the process - the action of constructing - is evident in the final product. I consider these works cinematic essays: pieces that mix nonfiction and fiction techniques, express everyday experiences that elude clear-cut definitions, and avoid
In End, End, End, I combined found recordings of a man marking the beginning and end of analog audio tapes with a collage of images of the natural world (cows, ocean, slugs, road in front of a moving automobile), and excerpts from journal entries I wrote while I was editing. The work weaves in and out of the past and present, mimicking the fragmentary nature of thoughts and emotions, stopping along the way to reflect on death, love, and the appropriate way to make a cup of coffee. Conceptually, I was striving to make something meaningful out of a jumble of images, words, and sounds that are - on their own - (arguably) meaningless. As in the other pieces in this series, my goal was to create an elastic aesthetic experience, providing an opportunity to feel, see, hear, and think in new ways.
A still from End, End, End
An interview with
Jonathan Rattner End, End, End is a stunning reflection on the nature of memory and perception: through an elegant visual approach you explore the blurry boundaries between past and present, imagination and emotion. Jonathan, how did you come up with the idea for this video? The desire to use art as a way to get access to a reflective and emotional space is nothing new – it’s a rabbit that a lot of artists have tried to catch (some successfully) for a long time. In “End, End, End,” I was interested in how to enter this space in the most minimalistic and subtle way, which is not the easiest thing to do in film/video. Could I interact with emotions
and ideas without being direct? Could I express a poignant thought with few images or sounds? Could I convey humor, absurdity, fear, and sadness concurrently without being overwrought? When I found the audio recording of a man repeating the word “end” over and over to mark the conclusion of his analog tape, it seemed like an ideal way to help answer these questions. The word “end” is a homonym, so the repetition of the word allows listeners to experience it as either “end” or “and.” These words have opposing meanings (conclusion and continuation), so if used together, they act as a cyclical unit: “end,” “and,” “end.” I was excited
A still from End, End, End
how these words together have a sonic Zen spirit, mirroring how I philosophically understand (or strive to understand) most things. At the same time, “end” and “and” suggest a rich assortment of analogies and metaphors. The simple repetition of these words allowed me to talk about the beginning and end of things in a poetic way. These words allowed me move around in both the past and present, interacting with the great seriousness and silliness of the beginning, the continuation and finality of things. What is the role of words in your filmmaking? I’ve been using words in my work more and more. Specifically, I’ve been incorporating my own journal entries. I’m interested in having the words act as another layer, in addition to the images and sound design. Ideally, each of these layers act as counterpoints, weaving in and out of one another - independent and interdependent. This type of filmmaking has been happening for a long time, but it is in opposition to most commercial nonfiction and
fiction films, in which sounds simply enhance what is expressed visually, or vice versa. Incorporating text has been difficult. I want all the elements in my works to have meaning, to have a place. I want the sounds, text, and images to constantly have a conversation with each other, but words can easily dominate. Words on a screen are concrete, don’t move in time, and therefore can narratively push the visuals and sound design into the background. I strive to balance every aspect of my work, and with text you risk too much weight in one area. This is a problem that a lot of films have with music (it does too much work), and it’s arguably why a lot of filmmakers don’t include text in their work. I think text and words work well in “End, End, End” because I’m dealing with a homonym, which creates an uncertain elasticity. This balancing act with each filmic element is exciting to me, so I hope to continue using text and words in different ways in the future. Your fragmented style, as well as the use of a destabilizing text before each shot reminds us of Godard's experimental films.
A still from End, End, End
Your filmmaking is rich of references; can you tell us your biggest influences and how they have affected your cinema? I grew up in a house where art was very important. Going to museums and galleries was a weekly routine. Over the years, I accumulated influences from artist who work in a lot of different mediums. I love the theater and concepts of Bertolt Brecht, Jerzy Grotowski, Samuel Beckett, and Augusto Boal; the art of Yoko Ono, Dick Higgins, Joseph Beuys, Hans Richter, Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, and Nam June Paik; the music of John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Sun Ra, Yusef Lateef, and Pharaoh Sanders; and the writings on art and cinema by Alexandre Astruc, Italio Calvino, Jean Rouch, Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Andre Bazin, John Cage, Guy Debord, and Jill Godmilow.As a filmmaker, my influences are also all over the map. I love the work of Jean-Luc Godard but also Agnes Varda, Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, Werner Herzog, Seijun Suzuki, Wong Kar Wai, Frederick Wiseman, Chris Marker, James Benning, Leighton Pierce, Hollis Frampton, Marlon Riggs, Deborah Stratman, Naomi Uman,
Ross McEllwee, Kevin J. Everson, and Apichitpong Weershal. And the list goes on. All these filmmakers, artists, and theorists are all quite different, but they all suggest what I care about as a film artist. In their own way, each of these producers treat/treated their mediums as living things, or as Eisenstein would say, organisms, where the boundaries and rules of art are not only to be understood, but also questioned, pushed, tested, challenged, jumped over, broken, and - at times - destroyed. As for filmmaking, most of these film makers in this list relate to how I make my art in one way or another – most work alone or in small crews, their work is reflective and reflexive, and most importantly, in my opinion, they ask their audiences to be active participants in the film experience. End, End, End is divided into chapters. Why have you chosen this rigorous structure? I generally go into the post-production phase without a detailed plan of what I’m going to do.
A still from End, End, End
I may have a general concept, but beyond that, I want editing to be a meditative, stream of consciousness, automatic kind of experience. Before I began this work, I knew that I wanted to interact with the words “end” and “and,” and move quickly between the opposing ideas that these words suggest. I also wanted weave in and out of the past and present. Dividing the work into chapters gave order to my editing practice, which allowed for a smooth transition into these different narrative places. I’ve heard the argument that experimental film can be exclusive, that filmmakers who work in this style can come across as condescending. I don’t agree with that assessment; I think artists experimenting with their mediums are the ones who most earnestly care about their audience, and care about the form. However, I do understand how people can feel guarded when they see mediums treated differently. So in addition to helping me with structure, my hope for these chapters was to communicate, to whoever is watching the work, to trust me. If viewers recognize an organizational system, then they will be more willing to join me on the visual and sonic ride - no matter how insane or
absurd - and will more ideally interact with the work after it’s concluded. You have used found recordings in End, End, End: a recurrent characteristic of many of your artworks is experience as starting point of artistic production: in your opinion, is experience an absolutely necessary part of creative process? For me, experience is absolutely a necessary part of the process. I believe that cinema can be used to gain access to new ways of experiencing and comprehending the world. The filmmaker Jean Rouch spoke about the cineeye and the cine-trance. He’s not the first to talk about cinema in this way, but his theoretical descriptions are some of my favorites. He believed that turning on a camera changes reality, if only slightly, and that if it’s used thoughtfully, a camera lets you see and hear things that you don’t normally pay attention to, which can provoke new ways of thinking. For me, this happens in both the production and post-production processes. This is why, for example, I shoot long durational shots and edit more like a collage artist.
I may begin a project with concepts and goals, but something seems missing if I don’t allow the experience of making the work help shape the story, content, and final cut of the video or film.
In these last years we have seen that the frontier between Video Art and Cinema is growing more and more vague: End, End, End seems to confirm this trend no doubt. Do you think that this "frontier" will exist longer? I hope not. I believe artists should understand the history and traditions that they come from, but I also believe that we should avoid letting traditions block growth and change. The definitions and beliefs we use to delineate genre boundaries can be damaging. Video art and cinema have two distinct traditions, but visual media (movies, TV, time based art) mean something quite different now than they did in 1887 when Marey first filmed birds, and in 1965 when Paik filmed the Pope. There will always be differences between the work that reacts and interacts with culture and work that is made for commercial purposes, but to be constrained by definitions and boundaries beyond that, you risk limiting creative expression. All artists working with lenses should know their genres, but they should hopefully also know that those genres are and have always been bendable. Where I find this division (or breakdown of division) between video art and cinema most apparent relates to where artists show their work. In the past, experimental filmmakers screened their work in festivals. However, in the U.S., fewer festivals are offering experimental/new media/avant-garde blocks. The venues that most willingly show “art films” tend to be galleries, and increasingly, the galleries screening current practices in video and film are nonprofit, community-based galleries. Screening a work in a gallery, rather than in a theater, does change the overall presentation and viewing experience. But whether my work is considered video art or cinema doesn’t concern me. I think these traditions have been merging for a long time and continue to do so, so it’s an exciting creative place to be. Thanks for sharing your time and with us.
A still from End, End, End
What's next for Jonathan Rattner? Are there any new projects on the horizon? All of my work has to with how we define and make sense of our lives, in relation to place, memory, our relationships, and how these constructions can be both limiting and can give
us strength.Â€ Over the years, Iâ€™ve moved back and forth between making work about and with other people (social practice) and making work that is about myself (diaristic). I have always kept these practices separate, but Iâ€™d like to bring these two sides of my work together. In my next
project, I am planning to do a series of short films about a specific place, and how individuals of all different ages and backgrounds, including myself, experience that place.
Wesley Trung NguyĂŠn An artist's statement Wesley Trung Nguyáť…n is a film maker and visual artist based in California. He has created several short experimental films developing non-narra-
tive themes on isolation, time, memory, and death. Influenced by the surreal and the abstract nature of dreams, he creates otherworldly scenes grounded in reality; a magic realism in which a blurred definition of what is fantasy and
what is actuality is left to contemplation. With scenes composed of quiet atmospheres, his work is described as meditative and reflective. Audiences leave with a sensation of an uncanny though serene experience, a state of emotions in
which they themselves cannot fully comprehend
Wesley Trung Nguyáť…n
Wesley uses text to bring the audience into the nonverbal dialogue.
An interview with
Wesley Trung Nguyễn Wesley Trung Nguyễn's experimental cinema is unique in the contemporary panorama: the magic realism of his films is very far from the Eastern Europe sensibility. The balance between the meditativeness of long shots and the surreal atmospheres of his non narrative works like A Dialogue with Cinema is simply stunning. Wesley, where do you get the ideas for your work? From people watching; observing life — or so I’d like to say more often than not. However, with the internet progressing each day I feel it is hard not to, for any artist in this day and age, to draw in ideas from the world wide web. I am fed tons of information from countless hours in front of my computer. From there I let my imagination run free with juxtaposition.
We have selected your recent film A Dialogue with Cinema for this Videofocus Biennial Edition. Could you introduce our readers to this work? How did you come up with the idea for A Dialogue with Cinema? The magic for this film actually came together in the editing room. To quote Michelangelo Antoini, as he expresses this better than I can, “I never discuss the plots of my film, I never release a synopsis before I begin shooting. How could I? Until the film is edited, I have no idea myself what it will be about. And perhaps not even then. Perhaps the film will only be a mood, or a statement about a style of life. Perhaps it has no plot at all, in the way you use the word." Because of Experimental Cinema’s nature, I can play around with so many elements. My ideas are always
Wesley creates his own mythology of a Cinema God and his disciple
changing. The back bone is there but it is never set in stone. When I first set out to make this film, I knew that I wanted to reflect back on all the previous short films I’ve made during my school career. This film was my last effort in university and at the time my prompt was simply to make an experimental film about who I was. I thought hard about an aspect of my life. Using a projector, I cast my films onto me. The films play back to back in a duration of what felt like hours as my eyes are closed; the camera shooting its one long take. The shooting process was almost a performance piece in itself as I sit there in fear of moving as to not lose the lens’s focus, lights and sounds resonating through my dark room. After all was said and done, I had the footage but did not know my next step until I laid it
out in editing. Playing with the idea that Cinema is a personified God, I created my own mythology. At heart, A Dialogue with Cinema is purely a self reflection of my life as a filmmaker. Through you use a non-narrative storytelling in your cinema, we have found that many of your works present a remarkable cinematographic touch: for example, the use of long shots with isolated characters reminds us of the early films by Tsai Ming Liang (The Hole, The River). Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? My work has been compared to Tsai Ming Liang on more than one occasion. I’ve seen four of his ten feature films so I am sure his work has influenced me in some way. There is
A Dialogue with Cinema is shot and edited in meditative long takes.
a scene in What Time Is It There? (2001) that really struck a chord with me. This was maybe four years ago before I made any of my own films. The moment is when the main character’s deceased father ends up in paris with the lead actress. We don’t understand it or why. It was bizarre. There was no dialogue to explain it. But this surreal scene would take me in the direction I am now. I bought a used copy of Goodbye, Dragon Inn two years ago and also had a natural affinity for it. When it comes to making my own work though, I’ve never consciously came back to him for inspiration. I guess he just lurks in the back of my head. My influences in art include Stan Brakhage, Maya Deren, Jean Cocteau, Giorgio de Chirico, Duane Michals. These artists have shown me an inviting path and I am set to follow it. I feel
my visual style is created from a combination of their visions. A main theme that ties a lot of my work together is the fear of the unknown. I thrive on it. I want to show audience things but never give them answers. I feel in the end, this is what ultimately influences my work. What do you think about the contemporary underground cinema scene in California, from a filmmaker's point of view? To be honest, I have no thoughts on the contemporary underground cinema scene in California. I have yet to be part of it and as of now I am completely in the dark. Whether I decide to explore it depends on where my path as a filmmaker takes me. In thought, I see this
Throughout the film, Wesley's other films can be seen and works as the visual background to the Dialogue.
unfamiliarity as both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that I am not influenced by the contemporaries. A curse in that I am not influenced by the contemporaries. In these last years we have seen that the frontier between Video Art and Cinema is growing more and more vague: A Dialogue with Cinema seems to confirm this trend. Do you think that this "frontier" will exists longer? Yes, I do believe this vague separation will continue to exist. Modern Cinema is created using the medium of video after all. And where there is Cinema, there is art, but now also video. The two are bound to merge but I donâ€™t think completely. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts with us, Wesley. What's next for
you? Have you a particular project in mind ? You are very welcome. Thanks for selecting me to be part a part of Stigmart. Currently, I am working on a concept for a music video. There is a long journey from directing my own feature film but I am nonetheless working towards this goal. In the mean time I find outlets to refine my voice as an artist.
Adam Lenz An artist's statement
A native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Adam Lenz is an American composer and media artist currently pursuing a MM in Composition from the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut. Here he studies composition with Ken Steen and serves as the Graduate Fellow in
Electronic Music Composition. Adam also holds a BM in Music Composition (2012) and a MA in Music Research (2013) from Western Michigan University. Adamâ€™s work explores the intersections of concert music, installation art, performance art, and visual mediums. His works have been presented at international venues including the Watermill Center (New York), the International Streaming Festival for Audio
A still from Sloth (2012)
Visual Art (The Hague/online), the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (Germany), the Toride Railway Station (Japan), the Conser– vatorio de Música de Chihuahua (Mexico), and the Badisches Staatstheater (Germany). In 2013, Adam was a participant in the Watermill International Summer Program. Here he worked with avant-garde theater director and designer Robert Wilson. This led to a collaboration with
Wilson and UK composer Dom Bouffard on Wilson’s first radio drama ‘Monsters of Grace II.’ Currently, Adam is collaborating with Wilson on a production of Eugene Ionesco’s ‘Rhinoceros’ at the Teatrul National “Marin Sorescu” in Craiova, Romania.
An interview with
Adam Lenz Sloth is part of Wheel of Sins, a project spearheaded by the Abderrahman Anzaldua, Mexican violinist. Could you introduce our readers to this project? In the summer of 2011, I spent the month of June traveling in southern Mexico with my friend Abderrahman. While we were there, he began talking with me about a project that would bring together composers/multimedia artists around the idea of sin. To date, the project has included Christopher Biggs (USA), Valeria Jonard (Mexico), and Ivan Naranjo (Mexico), in addition to my work. Each of us have created works for Abderrahman that incorporate some sort of visual element and electronics alongside the solo violin. Three more works will be created to finish out the cycle. Synesthesia is a fundamental aspect of your art practise: you have formal training in sound, and no doubt the starting point of your research is not music itself, but musical thinking, which is at the same time philosophical and gestural. Could you explain this aspect of your art? My formal training is in music, but I have also completed coursework in film music history, ceramics, glassblowing, sculpture, and painting outside of the university curriculum. I have also worked in theater and have been an amateur photographer since I was a child. I think I draw upon all of these mediums. I get a little bored otherwise. For me, I can draw upon visual form, color, texture, gesture, and even conceptual idea to approach the materials I choose to work with sonically. In the same way though, a sound or collection of sounds might give way to a style of motion or a series of images. Although we like to separate art forms into different departments, you can’t deny the direct connection that all of the arts have. I think it is important that a work like this is
development in a manner that all of the fields of art that are employed are conceived together. You get a more powerful effect with this sort of holistic approach. When I write an essay, I approach it in the same way that I write music. And, similarly, I approach film, assemblage art, and even photography in a very similar manner. It’s adding, subtracting, shifting, reorienting, and even repurposing until everything feels right. We find that your art is rich of references: for example, the shot connecting between the fan and the panorama reminds us of the beninning shots of L'Eclisse by Michelangelo Antonioni. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? Objects carry a great deal of meaning for us. They often tie us to place or time, and can even bring us back to very specific memories. In my work, I largely leave the spaces devoid of humans. The objects themselves are left to paint a scenario for us. While each object referenced in a scene carries a very specific meaning for me, the audience is invited to recall their own connections to these objects and explore the memories that they associate with them. I grew up looking through my father’s books on Max Ernst, Man Ray, and Bob Rauschenberg. I am sure that their work opened my mind to the avant-garde and led me to incorporate a lot of referential images in my own work. I also think I have drawn a lot of inspiration from artists
A still from Sloth (2012)
like Mark Rothko, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and even the Finnish designer Timo Sarpaneva. Rothko taught me about emptiness. He asks you to step into a world devoid of everything except color and light. In being alone in his work, it is amazing the level of detail and energy that you can find in a world that seemingly has nothing in it. Felix’s work is so successful in capturing very complex emotions and memories and conveying them through a really simple set of objects: be it sheets of paper, light bulbs, wrapped candies, etc. His work is quiet, yet terrifically profound when you take a step inside. I see this same sort of economy of materials in Sarpaneva’s work. He used the materials around him to create pieces that are not only extremely beautiful, they are highly functional and engage a really tactile response. All of these artist reduce their materials to the essentials to pass on a message without impeding on the recipients space to form their own relationship with the work. This is something that I’m constantly struggling with in my work: learning how to say something without saying too much. The concepts of memory and identity are
fundamental for your art research. Do you aim to create a sort of "micropolitical" artistic act reawaking in the spectator the awareness of his perception mechanisms and models? I never want to force anyone with my work. I look at my pieces like invitations. I present people with cryptic fragments of my own experience in hopes that they will have some time to reflect on their experience. The aim is always directed at a greater sense of awareness of self, but, in the end, the viewer takes control. They decide if they will watch. They decide what to allow themselves to think about. I’m only there to provide the prompt. We have really appreciated your refined black and white cinematography: how did you develop your style? Color is such an important factor in the way that we view the world. It caries a meaning that shapes the way we feel about an image or a space. Rich saturated colors might provide us with a warning or create a feeling of seduction. Soft, muted colors may make us feel nostalgic or
A still from Sloth (2012)
A still from Sloth (2012)
suggest a state of realism. Paul Schrader really capitalizes on this in his film Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985). Here he is using hypersaturated colors, muted colors, and black and white to help provide structure, emotion, concepts of time, and even ideas about reality and fantasy. It's really remarkable how much information we get just from the color. In some cases though, I think color gives us too much information. Black and White are the total absence of light and the equal combination of all colors of light in the visible spectrum: the juxtaposition of
complete nothingness and totality. There’s something really rich about this. In black and white film there is also a complete absence of reality and yet also an absolution of reality. Without color, we are immediately stripped of a connection to what we live in our everyday lives. But, we are still seeing everything. What changes is the way in which we are forced to interact with what’s in front of us. We don’t have color to feed us an emotion or to provide us with the extra details about an image. We are forced to look at what’s in front of us and see it for what it is. I guess it’s stripping away a layer of emotion and detail so that we can find
source for your works. Where do you get the ideas for your work? Ever since I was very young, I have remembered situations in great detail. These moments get replayed in my head over and over again and I have a very difficult time erasing them. Making art has become a way for me to come to terms with memory and to put it to good use. As I work, I am able to take images that have a very powerful meaning to me and isolate them. Then I am able to simplify them down to the important parts. When these images are taken out of the context of the greater narrative, their meaning becomes more fluid. Some people might see this as problematic, but I really like it. A silver vase on a nightstand, for instance, is going to mean something quite different to each person that looks at it. But that meaning is going to be very personal for them. And maybe that’s better than if I just tell them what it makes me feel like. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts with us, Adam. What's next for Adam Lenz? Are there any projects on the horizon? Thank you for your interest in my work and for inviting to present it here.
our own relationships with the objects and connect to our own stories. There isn’t color to make the images real for us, so we have to dig deeper to make it real. For this piece, it was really important that I turn to black and white. Sloth is a portrait, but there are no people. The portrait is internal. I have selected images that come from my past to shape the portrait, but it should also be a portrait of the viewer. And to achieve this I needed them to dig a little harder and just focus on the essentials. Defining your artistic vision, we daresay that your personal experience is your main
I am currently finishing a new video installation titled Shifts. Like Sloth, I’m interested in exploring ideas of memory and identity. In Shifts though, I’m also interested in how our perspectives change on these memories as we looking at them over time. This time I’m trying out the polar opposite approach and employing completely unnatural colors and often unidentifiable images. I want to invite the viewer to get lost in a dream and give them a chance to latch onto the glimmers of reality that they can identify and relate to. Over the last year I been working in the theatre with the avant-garde American director Robert Wilson. Bob places a really strong emphasis on the idea of structure. He even establishes a structure before any content is decided. I’m working in a very similar way with Shifts. There is no linear narrative and no real starting and ending point. The piece is like a collection of fragmented memories that are held together by a classical structure that keeps spiraling back into itself. It should be completed sometime this fall.
Christopher Thomps An artist's statement
In Ralph Fiennes (1995), a torrent of a Hollywood blockbuster adapts a futurist narrative for the advancement of moist reality, in which the hierarchy between “real life” and “virtual reality” becomes
obscured and or irrelevant. The video is comprised of footage of the 1995 Kathryn Bigelow film Strange Days, which creates a sense of impending societal disintegration and disarray. Based in LA at the turn of the new millennium, the world is consumed by anarchic crime and environmental decay, there is no where to
In the video, time has collapsed into a perpetual nonlinear Hollywood trailer. The incessant drone builds to an elusive climax while the original dialogue from the film Strange Days is replaced by exchanges of apocalyptic revelations. Melodramatic and superficial, the subtitles borrow from various prophetic texts and blockbuster films, which in turn foreshadow the Fin de siècle.
Ralph Fiennes (1995) 2014, 9:30 minutes, color, stereo, 16:9, NTSC English/subtitles, single channel video
on turn but to the artificial sensations of the new virtual world. In Ralph Fiennes (1995), VR functions not only as an escape, but as a rapturous resolution for the new millennium, a means to an end for a world always on the brink of collapse.
Fiennes’ ecstatic visions of the digital avatar foretell of the inevitable upgrade and of the growing superiority of VR. Every form of human development has been met with dire consequences for our environment. To produce a world for us, by us, we are to dictate our own rules and disregard the restrictions of the “natural” world. In Ralph Fiennes (1995) production isn’t merely process, but a kind of futurist ideology of convenience. Digital formats allow us to design new environments unbound by the physical world’s ecology, allowing capitalism and commerce to reach their ultimate forms. The hypercapitalist nature of the web and other virtual environments in turn, aids our upgrade into digital beings, allowing us to immigrate from the wasteland of our physical reality to the sterile virtual realm. As Fiennes pushes his virtual product from buyer to buyer, his revelations grow stronger, and the distinction between the real and the virtual become less apparent. His constitution drifts from profound coolness to acute violence, as the schizophrenic narrative progresses through various clips in the film. Interjected by a strobing green screen, their reality is in between production; a neverending state of rendering.
An interview with
Christopher Thompson In your work Ralph Fiennes 1995 the linear narration continuously collapses, sabotaging the common perception mechanism like in the films of the French director Alain-Robbe Grillet. We have found fascinating your concept of time: could you introduce our readers to this aspect of your filmmaking? In Ralph Fiennes (1995), time collapses into a perpetual non-linear Hollywood trailer. The video only hints at a central narrative, which in turn gives way to a montage of footage of the Katherine Bigelow film Strange Days and various computer-generated imagery. The traileresque editing gives structure to the pacing of the video but also conceptually supports the schizophrenic narrative that is instituted by Fiennes’ prophetic visions of virtual reality. Though the structure of my videos create nonlinear narratives similar to Grillet’s work, I’ve become less interested in art house cinema, and more engaged in the trailers for Hollywood blockbusters, like Prometheus (2012), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), and The Dark Knight (2008), which edits the films into more action-packed, dramatic, shallow versions of themselves. My superficialization of narrative through the use of non-linear editing serves as a form of compression, editing video to its most garish shots. The Fin de siècle theme is ironically faced in Ralph Fiennes. How did you come up with the idea for this work? In my work, I refer to Y2k as a catalyst of change for economies, politics, and culture. Though most would concern Y2k as an anticlimactic disaster, it created a market of fear that still resonates in our digital culture (via I Love You and Heartbleed viruses). The hysteria that surrounded its hold on the decade was not just based on our paranoia of a digitally reliant civilization, but also the cultural, political, and
religious uncertainty in a new millennium. I remember sitting around the lunch table with friends in elementary school in December ’99, discussing all the paranoia surrounding the new millennium and the Y2k bug. While none of us really had a coherent understanding of the siutation, we thought something big was going to happen. Some of us thought it had something to do with a computer virus. I recall a kid across the table from us warning us of the impending rapture, heralding the news of a new era of man. What still astounds me about the countdown to Y2k is the diversity of the paranoia and the marketability of its mania. Throughout the decade, Y2k operated as the most successful brand of the 90s. Everyone was talking about it, and some were hoarding in preparation, while others were celebrating it. As a consumer of the
A Still from Ralph Fiennes (1995)
brand in my Y2k t-shirt and cap, I too watched the crystal ball drop in Times Square, awaiting a new era.
globalized world have left our governments, markets, and politics predestined to failure; convenience triumphs over survival.
In Ralph Fiennes (1995), there is a scene taken from the 1995 film Strange Days, in which Tom Sizemore’s character Max toasts to the end of the world,
We would like to know more about your found footage manipulation: how did you develop this personal style?
“You know how I know it’s the end of the world? Everything’s already been done. Every kind of music’s been tried, every kind of government’s been tried, every fucking hairstyle, bubble gum flavors, you know, breakfast cereal...What are we going to do? How are we going to make another thousand years? I’m telling you, man, it’s over. We used it all up.” Max’s nihilistic attitude is a crass but realistic sentiment not only for Y2k, but also for 2014. Y2k exists for every generation as a metaphorical disaster waiting to test our willingness to adapt, prepare, and progress. With the overwhelming threat of rising of sea levels, wealth disparity, and economic unrest, why even bother resisting? The conditions of our post-
The use of found footage in my practice is dictated by the politics of convenience, through the use of illegal torrents and unauthorized screencaps. My work is based on the accessibility of information and commerce, where online streaming and torrented films disregard cinema for the laptop. For myself, using torrented footage is a political choice, which in turn influences every aspect of my practice, from my process to distribution. Torrenting and filesharing represent the old utopian vision of the web that died in the late 90s – early 2000s, giving way to corporatization and surveillance. I don’t villainies the web 2.0, but rather endorse its capitalist modes of operation. This conflict of principles shapes the aesthetics of the work through its depiction of ideology and the stylistic embrace of corporate logotypes.
A Still from Ralph Fiennes (1995)
A Still from Ralph Fiennes (1995)
My use of found footage miniaturizes and compresses the cinema in favor for the netâ€™s accessibility and ease. The finished video is uploaded online, where it can be viewed at 1080 HD resolution on a bright LED monitor in the comfort of your home as you shop Amazon for Prada sunglasses. We have previously quoted the French
director Alain Robbe Grillet, but we have found in your work references to Alberto Grifi's cinema too. Apart from these films, can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? I started working with video as an MFA candidate and primarily looked at video artists that used found footage, like Michael Robinson
Though both of Grillet and Grifi’s work are influences that circulate throughout my own work, I find myself increasingly interested in big budget Hollywood blockbusters, as well as directors and artists who willingly cross into the commercial market. A few years ago, I visited the N°5 Culture Chanel exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo, which was a sort of retrospective of the brand’s modern advertisement campaigns. The black box housed in the exhibition played key commercials throughout the brand’s modern history, including Ridley Scott’s directorial helm of their ’80 and ’84 television commercials. Scott’s take on the commercials is not just interesting to me for their stunning direction, but also because of his own willingness to “sell-out” for something as superficial as a perfume advertisement. I appreciate when an artist can sincerely endorse products without irony or cynicism and cross the boundaries into the commercial realm. David Lynch’s commercials for Calvin Klein’s Obsession in the late 80, and Jonathan Glazer’s commercial for Nike’s 2014 World Cup campaign are also successful examples of this exchange between highbrow cinema and commercialism. I’m tired of seeing the old left hypocritically represented in the art world by artists who profit by pointing at all the problems plaguing the world. Rather, I’d prefer artists sincerely represent the hyper-capitalist society we live in by producing work about Adidas, Rolex, Samsung and the brands we encounter and desire on and offline. What is the role of the trobing green screen?
and Gretchen Bender. At the same time, I was also heavily invested in the curation of my artwork and online identity, shaping my practice around my online environment. Studying the work of artists and writers like Hito Steryl, Ryan Trecartin, Simon Denny, and Jon Rafman helped shape the visual aesthetic of my video, and influenced the source material for my body of work.
As an element of production, it is a direct reference to digital media and post-production, referencing the rendering process in software like Final Cut Pro an Adobe Premiere Pro. In Ralph Fiennes (1995), the strobing green screen acts as a transitory state between the apocalyptic climate of the impending millennium and the future virtual landscape to come. It is a buffer between the realms, providing the profit Ralph Fiennes with rapturous visions of a new reality, always in between production in a never-ending state of rendering. Personally, I see the green screen as a tool of
progress that allows us to weave “real life” within the virtual landscape. It liberates us from the constructs of reality or daily life and places real individuals or objects in an “artificial” environment, as used in typical blockbuster films like The Avengers or The Hobbit. With the popularization of digital media over the past 10-15 years, the green screen has become a rather banal fixture of not only the cinematic experience, but also amateur video (ex. YouTube channels, Apple Photobooth, Adobe AfterEffects and Photoshop). As the populace becomes more engaged with digital video and the more banal the green screen and highresolution codecs become, the less profound our physical world appears. Everything is brighter on an LED retina display, and with the seamless quality of the green screen today, digital video truly is now more mimetically beautiful than IRL. The natural world simply pales in comparison to the 4k resolution of a Samsung smart TV. In these last years we have seen that the frontier between Video Art and Cinema is growing more and more vague: Ralph Fiennes 1995 seems to confirm this trend. Do you think that this "frontier" will exist longer? There seems to be a mutual exchange of mechanisms between cinema and video happening at the moment. Obviously, it’s become increasingly easy to create cinematic films with the help of digital media with little cost or effort. Though as a result of digital media’s popularity and the simplicity of online distribution, cinema has begun to mimic video. Direct examples of this are Cloverfield (2008), Chronicle (2012), and most famously The Blair Witch Project (1999), whose POV style is a direct reference to the medium of video. Though my work makes direct references to cinematic films, I’m not concerned with the cinematic experience or its history. I am, however, very interested in the miniaturization of the cinematic experience, and the culture of online streaming and file sharing. Online streaming allows me to stay at home, undressed, and comfortable for a more intimate experience in front of my laptop. It’s not that the romantic cinematic experience is dead (there will always be a cinema); it just isn’t convenient.
A Still from Ralph Fiennes (1995)
There are more video artists that are a part of my generation, who were born in the 90s and grew up with the emergence of the internet, that are more interested in the language of the net than the language of cinema. My art practice is dictated by the convenience of my online experience: what I torrent from The Pirate Bay, what I buy from Amazon, and the curation of my art and identity on social networks like Facebook,
Tumblr, and Instagram. It has less to do with the directors I follow or the films I watch at the cinema. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Chris. What's next for you? Have you a particular film project in mind? I recently completed a series of videos that act as companion videos to Ralph Fiennes (1995). The
last video of the series A Crown for Every Achievement treats economic ideology as product placement, alternating between quotes of Marx and corporate slogans. Iâ€™m also currently working on a collaborative installation with Stephanie Kang called, Life In The Woods, which loosely depicts Thoreauâ€™s Walden as a digital search for enlightenment.
Bruno Vianna An artist's statement
I keep wondering whether a cinema still exists. As I look through my window at night, my retina imprints an image, my brain processes it into what I suspect is the
reality. I refuse this assumption. There is no real in what see, much less in any of the images I have ever produced. Time, though, was always able to infiltrate these flat pictures through small cracks, building surfaces, carving reliefs. It spreads out quietly and subtly takes complete control,
Dwarf Planet is a social observation in time and image making. As many (or most) image makers, I negotiate time by taking pictures, shooting frames. This has led me to photograph and videotape different types of decay, including demolitions, ruins and mold growth. In this video, I put together a few different experiments. I like the way some inexpensive video equipment looks. Cheap webcams can get very noisy in low light conditions. This noise can create an atmosphere that relates to the pointillist style, but when pointed to a downtown neighborhood of Rio, evokes expressionist sensations. I highly refuse definitions and resolutions â€“ lower will be better, lower will be more accurate, more impressionist, more touchable. This was a timelapse of a whole night, with many passing clouds that helped compose a dynamic landscape. After combining the pictures into the animation, I used some open source filters from a package that is almost forgotten, named freeframe. These effects deal with expansion and repetition of time, as well as image decomposition and deconstruction. The music was a leftover from a feature film I made in 2008.
driving glances into hidden corners and imperceptible events. It slowly stitches the pieces of my being. It exasperates me as it flows through my fingers. It exists there; time is the reality.
Remixing, digging old and underrated technologies, compressing and stretching time, are some of my dearest methods in image making. In this video, these methods blend into a feeling of a desultory fragility, of hundreds of subjectivities entangled in an ephemeral night. Dwarf Planet is a visual sketch about what the world I can see from my window. Its fuzziness is a charm that protects me from the years, a vaccine made from slow microbes found in minutes, seconds, instants.
An interview with
Bruno Vianna Live editing is a fundamental aspect of your filmmaking practice: in your hands footage is never a static "materia", we daresay that interaction is a trademark of you style. In your early feature film Cafuné you stimulated downloaders to modify the edit. Could you introduce our readers to your revolutionary vision of live cinema? I think my vision relates more to a research than a revolution; in fact, I believe revolutions happen in timeframes much longer than we are used to think. So my vision of live cinema reflects my curiosity for the classic cinema apparatus – the dark theater, big screen, comfortable chair, and storytelling. I wanted to understand whether it was possible to combine the immersion of the movie experience with some level of interactivity. The problem is, every time we propose some level of agency for the moviegoer – such as deciding the fate of a character – the unwritten contract of the cinema is broken. That would mean removing the audience from its state of enchantment, and thus disrupting the pleasant flow of the story. At the same time, I was fascinated with the idea of a storytelling that wouldn't be linear. As I was editing Cafuné, my first feature, I realized that the fiction I created would work even if I permuted the order of scenes or removed some of them. In fact, the multiplicity of possibilities was creating a richer piece. How could I ever come up with a final cut for this film, with so many interesting possible cuts? So I started to dig into non-linear literature experiments – Perec, Borges, but specially Cortazar and the interactive structure he proposed for the Hopscotch novel. Books, though, are different: the turning of pages gives already some level of agency though which the reader will control the speed of reading, may jump boring parts or return to re-read something. And movies are expected to be watched without breaks: TV commercials are considered a major annoyance. I ended up with two different versions for Ca-
Bruno Vianna (photo by Betãnia Dutra)
funé. Both of them were released simultaneously on movie theaters; you could watch one or another depending on the movie theater you went to. It was the best that the distribution technology in 2006 could offer. But at the same time, I was writing this screenplay about a teenager who was living the years of the re-democratization process in Brazil: a decade with every conceivable plague such as hyperinflation, impeachment, deceased presidents. And I realized that the memory of that time is pretty much non-linear: most people don't remember exactly, for instance, which currency preceded another. So it made even more sense to propose some new kind of cinema that embraced a combinatory narrative: not a narrative of bisecting paths like Borges, but a Cortazarean narrative landscape offering many entangled roads. And I had to build the exhibition system to go with it: not one where the audience would be
Warping the architecture
called upon every 5 minutes, but one where I, as the storyteller, would be able to be constantly recreating the fiction, based on subjective events such as my mood, the public's reaction, or even performing mistakes. That is how Ressaca was born. How did you get started in filmmaking in Rio ? That is somewhat easier to tell: I went to film school. The only curious fact is that in the middle of film studies I decided to start computer engineering – I always had an interest in technology. And it was only at the engineering school that I started to make my own movies – Geraldo Voador was the first. Until then I though of myself as some sound technician, producer or screenwriter. For this year's Videofocus Edition we have
selected your film"Planeta anão", a work revealing a refined minimalist approach. How did you come up with the idea for Planeta anão? I'm very interested in the relation between images and time – which is, at first sight, a way of seeing what cinema is. But I think time expresses itself in images in a number of ways, and therefore I'm investigating images where time has left some kind of mark, or building new devices for capturing light in different timeframes. I did Planeta Anão when I was playing with time lapse captures and time based filters. The video depicts the view from my window in Lapa, a neighborhood known for its night life, from sunset until the dawn. I used a cheap lowres webcam because I like the grainy aspect of it. When I put all photographs together, I really enjoyed the overall look.
At the same time, I was playing with a open source video filter set called freeframe, which has some very interesting effects dealing with time â€“ it blends the frames back and forth, bending the seconds to achieve this beautiful weaving of time waves. And as a finale I used another effect that messes up the architecture in the frame, bending the city itself. So I guess it was not a preconceived idea, but a result of several little experiments that by chance and effort resulted in something interesting. Your video production is very miscellanous: how has your production processes changed over the years? I gradually and constantly have made the move from classic film making â€“ both production wise and content wise - to a freer, more open image creation method. It used to be that my short films would be produced in a very formal way: I would write the script and either apply for grants or just shoot them with friends. The process now happens in a much lonelier way: I'm basically collecting images all the time, storing them in my computer, and editing and treating them with software, sometimes written by myself. When they reach a point that I think is interesting enough, I'll just add a title and send it off to some festivals and publish it on the web. Defining your artistic vision, we daresay that your personal experience is your main source for your works, even when they face sociological themes. Where do you get the ideas for your work? When I do narrative works, they are always based on experiences I'm living at that moment. When I shot Little Ball Satellite, I was doing a lot of satellite monitoring, and ended up doing an installation that was a water fountain that listened to satellites. Planeta AnĂŁo is the view from my window. I was very close to the squatting movement and that inspired to write a feature screenplay about the landless movement in Brazil. But the fact is that besides my own lesser interest in classic storytelling, film incentives in my country in the last 10 years have been devoted almost entirely to commercial movies, which actually translates into comedies with soap opera actors. This feature project, which is a very political story, has been rejected constantly since 2008, even though the screenplay won
two development awards. Ressaca (Hangover) is a feature narrative film that is edited live, a titanic effort. Could you describe this experience? There were many fascinating things about the live editing experience. The act of re-editing the same material over and over ended working as a ritual. Every time I did it, I would find more possibilities of connections, more meanings that were created as tried different juxtapositions and combinations. And then there was all this plethora of information that I realized I could obtain from watching the audience â€“ being in a session facing the seats, under the screen, is a radical change of paradigm for a filmmaker. We are used to follow the screening from some seat, when we do follow â€“ most of the times, the film is presented without our presence. But what fascinated me the most was the chance of error. Mentally, editing was a daunting task already, and adding to that, the interface was somewhat hard to maneuver. So I made mistakes every now and then, like starting a scene in the middle of another, or skipping some dialog. But these errors just opened new layers of possibilities, they reconfigured the history in ways totally unexpected to me. Sometimes I would be a bit sloppy just for the expectation of what the mistakes would cause. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Bruno. What's next for Bruno Vianna? Are there any film projects on the horizon? Besides the projects eternally applying for funding, I have a few on going research lines. For instance, I have been obsessed with computer vision. This is the field of computer science that creates programs to analyse and interpret video, looking for information such as faces, objects, movement. I'm playing with these software libraries, writing algorithms to create visuals and filters from captured images. I have been using it for some street art videos I'm shooting and other footage. I'm also developing gadgets to capture images. This is an investigation that started at the LABMIS/La Chambre Blanche/Avatar residency in Canada last year. I was able to build two or three devices there, and I have a few more planned â€“ just need the time to get them off the paper.
Warping light (research image)
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Claire Manning An artist's statement To accrete n.05 movie stills transmutes a physically collaged picture I’ve made into a series of filmic moments. It fractures the experience of viewing into small slices that gradually reveal a whole, an exercise both in giving and in withholding. The approach awards a kind of halflife incapable of animating the dead image in any way but able to communicate my viewing perspective to a willing spectator. It’s an exploration of control; I cannot dictate how someone looks at my collaged picture on a wall, but films fix frame, order, and duration. The viewer may choose not to look at all but if they do they are subject to my rules. The piece originally began life as two disparate
images; an actresses’ twentieth century black and white publicity postcard paired with a ‘twin’ sourced from a contemporary fashion magazine, resulting in a collaged collaboration. Animating the results through film is yet another form of collage; a thing born from disparate fragments repositioned to create something new. The entire experience shifts itself across mediums - photographic, digital, collaged physical object, filmic stills - and there is no reason the dislocation should stop here for it could continue endlessly. My desire - what I’d like the film to provoke if I had the choice - is to create a fractured viewing experience that encourages careful looking and is perhaps more thought-provoking than simply encountering the picture that reveals all at a single glance.
An interview with
Claire Manning "I can’t control how someone looks at a picture on a wall, but a filmic approach fixes frame, order, and duration." Claire Manning 's approach to videomaking forces the rules of perception, exploring media photography, digital, collaged physical object, filmic still. Claire, how did you come up with the idea for To accrete n.05 movie stills? I’ve been experiencing an obsession with collage for about four years but traditional approaches didn’t feel right for me. An opportunity came up last year to make a piece of work responding to the phrase object abuse. Seemingly innocuous at the time, it’s proved to be one of those pivotal moments that shift one’s thinking in a significant way. Collage already misuses its raw materials so the provocation to take this further was interesting and it resulted in the collage abuse series where I set myself an action - to erode, to slice, to excavate, to fold - and used it to make a piece of work. Each resulting collage is quite unique in appearance, and they feel as if they push the boundaries of the collaging process. It left me pretty open-minded about the possibilities of making and something made me consider how I could fracture a collage still further into a series of small instances. At the time I’d never made a film before but I knew it was the perfect medium for the exercise. It allowed me to show small, insignificant, but beautiful details that build towards a gradual reveal of something of the whole. It’s an approach that gives the gift of my own vision as I interact with the picture whilst, at the same time, withholding (denying) an offering of the complete image. The collage used for the film, To accrete n.05, began life as two disparate images linked by similarities in expression and posture. I find photographs fascinating; one perspective is they trap death as they record an instant that is gone; lost. Using a filmic approach disrupts this, awarding a kind of half-life to the picture. It’s not capable of animating the dead figures in any way but is able to communicate a new mes-
sage in the form of my personal viewing perspective to a willing spectator. I’m also interested in how lines of power and control play out in society and I realised that shifting a collaged picture to film places it in a far more dictatorial territory where I set frame, order, and duration. Yes, I accept the viewer may choose not to look at all, but if they do they are subject to my rules. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? What draws you to a particular subject? Subject wise, I think I’m somewhat stuck, revolving around the same topic until perhaps something truly becomes solved! Looking back, even seven year ago on Art Foundation the work was positioned within similar subject matter. At the heart of it lies a fascination with the uncertain, unstable and shifting nature of the gaze. The approaches I use explore how I can disrupt physical and psychological perspectives as well as interrupt and subvert lines of control. Ulti-
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mately, my drive is to locate the human body in time, place and psychological space – to comprehend what we do and the motivations behind it that I might understand it (and by extension, myself) better. So it’s a selfish quest, but hopefully one which resonates with others.If my overall subject matter is largely static, it does subtly evolve. A question will raise its head and this triggers my next series of work. Sometimes I set the provocation myself and other times I allow an external opportunity to snag my interest. For example, I have the chance to show a piece of work in November that reflects my response to an object I’ve chosen from the collection of Maidstone Museum. I found myself drawn to a vanitas painting by Petrus Schotanus ‘Vanitas, Still Life with a Globe’ that the museum had on display and have decided to explore what a modern-day vanitas piece might like. We have been really impressed with the way you reinvent the definition itself of moving images, reminding us of Muybridge's
pionieristic studies. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? The artist who has inspired me most is Annette Messager. I was lucky enough to see her retrospective at the Hayward Gallery a few years ago and was so blown away by the variety, depth, and ingenuity of her work that I had to see the exhibition twice! There’s a lovely partial quote from her that hovers at the back of my mind continually: I cut I reduce things to bits and pieces choice bits and nasty pieces I dismember I split up (1) I like how visceral these words feel; the notion that things are made up of both the seductive and the unpleasant at the same time. They also acknowledge the inherent violence within the process of fracturing something; in the same
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"I can’t control how someone looks at a picture on a wall, but a filmic approach fixes frame, order, and duration." Claire Manning 's approach to videomaking forces the rules of perception, exploring media photography, digital, collaged physical object, filmic still. Claire, how did you come up with the idea for To accrete n.05 movie stills? I’ve been experiencing an obsession with collage for about four years but traditional approaches didn’t feel right for me. An opportunity came up last year to make a piece of work responding to the phrase object abuse. Seemingly innocuous at the time, it’s proved to be one of those pivotal moments that shift one’s thinking in a significant way. Collage already misuses its raw materials so the provocation to take this further was interesting and it resulted in the collage abuse series where I set myself an action - to erode, to slice, to exca-
vate, to fold - and used it to make a piece of work. Each resulting collage is quite unique in appearance, and they feel as if they push the boundaries of the collaging process. It left me pretty open-minded about the possibilities of making and something made me consider how I could fracture a collage still further into a series of small instances. At the time I’d never made a film before but I knew it was the perfect medium for the exercise. It allowed me to show small, insignificant, but beautiful details that build towards a gradual reveal of something of the whole. It’s an approach that gives the gift of my own vision as I interact with the picture whilst, at the same time, withholding (denying) an offering of the complete image. The collage used for the film, To accrete n.05, began life as two disparate images linked by similarities in expression and posture. I find photographs fascinating; one perspective is they trap death as they record an instant that is gone; lost. Using a filmic approach disrupts this,
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breath both a destructive action and the opportunity to remake something anew. Messager’s works My Wishes 1988 – 1991 and Pikes 1992 have been particularly influential in terms of the way they pile individual images and objects obsessively upon each other until individual detail is subsumed, lost in the mass. My fascination with using appropriated photographic material has been strengthened by Geoffrey Batchen who talks about photographs as places where ‘objects have reached out and touched the surface of a photograph, leaving their own traces’, ‘proof of that thing’s being, even if not of its truth’. (2) Photographs and film have similarities in this respect; a fascinating juncture of truth, fantasy and lies responsible for my enduring fascination with them, prompting a whole swathe of research and investigation into the subject throughout my recent Masters course. At the moment, the thing most preoccupying
me is the thoughts of Helene Cixous and Catherine Clement regarding the power structures that endure within our society. These are ordered around the certainty of stereotype and conformity where one either wields aggressive power or must submit to its authority by suffering a certain loss of self. However, Cixous and Clement propose a fascinating alternative where this single discourse is supplanted by thousands of different kinds of voices, open, questioning, embracing of difference, exchange and change. What interests me is how such a perspective might influence what I make and the way I talk about my work (3) In To accrete n.05 movie stills you use miscellaneous sources, like fashion magazines: where do your materials come from, and how do you go about putting them together? The original collage that this film shows is made from two appropriated images. The older
black and white one is an actress’s publicity postcard from the twentieth century sourced on EBay. The modern full-colour picture she’s paired with comes from a contemporary massmedia magazine. I’m an avid reader of Vogue so many materials originate from this resource. The older image is the trigger so always comes first. Superficially, she’s passive and perfect but I glimpse a hint of resistance in either her eyes or the angle of her body. Finding an interesting and effective contemporary match is simply a process of patience, trial and error. Both images are scanned into the computer and scaled up or down to match the irises of the eyes, leaving everything else pretty much unaltered. Some pairs match perfectly and others don’t but I’m becoming more relaxed about embracing the disjuncture. Once an image is ready, I print it myself using a professional printer onto materials such as heavy Somerset or fine Japanese papers. De-
pending on the effect, this can mean many layers of printing. I mount the final images myself as this is an integral part of the process and often involves unorthodox methods developed to deliver specific results. For example, the collage To fold n.02 has one base layer fixed onto Dibond and the remaining layers are held only by clips. This was tricky and frustrating to do but I like the thought little is permanent and the piece is at risk of becoming undone. You are a founder member and Secretary for Making Art Work: could you introduce our readers to this artist's collective? Making Art Work started in 2011 thanks to the vision of artist Cathy Rogers. We’re a group of 30 artists and creative people (at current count) working co-operatively to collaborate on projects and to share our practices, skills and knowledge with each other. We’re all serious about developing our professional practices and sustaining a career in the creative arts and we offer a wel-
coming and supportive community to help each other achieve this. It’s amazing to look back and see what we’ve managed to do so far although it can involve a lot of hard work! In 2013 we took on the lease of an unoccupied building in Maidstone town centre for three months and delivered an Art’s Council funded series of workshops, talks, and exhibitions. This November we’ll be inhabiting the galleries in Maidstone Museum for a month to exhibit new work created by our members in response to the Museum’s wide and varied collection. This is our most major project with the Museum so far but hopefully it’s only the start of a long and fruitful working relationship! What aspect of your work do you enjoy the most? What gives you the biggest satisfaction? Making a successful new piece of work - that joyous, rare feeling when ideas and materials come together in perfect harmony to deliver something that works and, ideally, isn’t quite what you were expecting! Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Claire. What's next for Claire Manning? Are there any film projects on the horizon? I’m re-making To accrete n.05 movie stills to improve the suspense between concealing the whole image to offer tantalising glimpses of its details and revealing it in its entirety. I’d also like to add a simple sound track to the piece to see how this changes it. If all goes well with its making, this new work will be unveiled at 51zero voyager, a film, video and digital arts festival on the 10th, 11th and 12th October in Medway, Kent. As I mentioned earlier, I’m making a piece inspired by vanitas paintings for an exhibition with Making Art Work in November in Maidstone Museum. This combines a new form of collaged image for me together with painting, a medium I haven’t worked with for five years. It’s too early to say if the piece will be successful but if it is it will likely trigger a new series of work!
Annette Messager, Annette Messager: Les Messagers, trans. Simon Pleasance and Fronza Woods, (Munich: Prestel Verlag, 2007), pp. 314-315.
Geoffrey Batchen, Burning with Desire: the Conception of Photography, (USA: MIT Press, 1999), Batchen, pp. 212-3.
Helene Cixous and Catherine Clement, The Newly Born Woman, trans. Betsey Wing, (Minneapolis: the University of Minnesota, 1986).
Links 51zero voyager - http://www.51zero.org/ Making art Work - http://makingart-work.co.uk/
The I Love You Project: Vollem un Barri Digne (March 2011)
Debbie Davies The I Love You Project ® is a global interactive social art project which celebrates diversity and uses video, photography, and sound to create installations. A digital microscope camera is used to videotape participants saying “I Love You” in their native language. The voices are recorded separately, combined with original music and videotaped images to create a multimedia exhibition. Portraits of participants are also part of the exhibition creating a mosaic of human faces. The microscope camera creates unexpected portraits that play with skin tone, contrast, and light. The goal of the project is to explore cultures and bring people of different backgrounds together through art and love.
This project has been conducted in Spain and Germany and Ukraine. It is a collaborative effort between a photographer, sound artist, and video editor. It is a traveling exhibit and the intention is to reproduce it in many countries. We hope to create a cross cultural visual dialog by exhibiting the project conducted in one country at a location in a different country. The message is that the world is multi-cultural, and peace and love between people of diverse backgrounds cannot be achieved unless we start a one on one relationship with strangers. New York-based photographer Debbie T. Davies uses a digital microscope camera – actually a
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The I Love You Project: Hessen (August 2012)
child’s toy – to record silent video of participants and shoots portraits. During the shoot she interviews the participants to understand their backgrounds, and what brought them to the country they currently live in. Germany-based Sound artist Julius Schön records the participants’ voices saying “I Love You” along with snippets of conversation and laughter, and composes a soundtrack that uses these voices and sounds combined with original music for the video. He also shoots some video and portraits using a different camera. The experience of videotaping people is part of the project. Subjects have their own emotional experience saying these three words to a stranger, at times in the presence of other people at the shoot location. Neighbors who never met come into the shoot location as strangers and depart as friends. We conducted the first The I Love You Project ® in Barcelona, Spain in the neighborhood of Raval in March 2011. The exhibition was an immersive experience sharing the multi-cultural faces and voices of the people who live and work there. Participants represented eighteen diffe-rent languages reflecting the diversity of Raval. This community experiences tension due to intolerance and crime, houses a large popula-tion of immigrants, and is predominantly work-ing class. Through this project, we hoped to unite the members of the
community, and show that change is accomplished through love. The result was a festive opening reception where many of the participants were reunited with each other, or met for the first time. We recorded 18 languages and 80 participants. New relationships were forged within the community. The exhibition helped become part of a catalyst for change within the community, as people began to connect and thus become a more united front. In August 2012 we commenced The I Love You Project ® in Germany. We shot subjects in Bockenheim (Frankfurt) and Giessen. This time we recorded 32 languages and 82 participants. The project continued in Berlin where there is a large immigrant community in Neukölln. During the annual 48-Hour- Neukölln festival in June 2013, over 120 participants were recorded. Videos from the projects have been exhibited in Spain, Germany, Italy, and Poland. In subsequent conversations with participants, we learned that the impact of the project was more far reaching than anticipating. The effects of saying “I Love You” during the recording sessions, peripheral conversations regarding love, and changes in the participants’ attitude and how they interact with others are a testament to the power of project. It created a domino-effect of love.
An interview with
Debbie Davies Debbie Davies' artistic research ranges from multi-media to experimental photography. Since the first time we have watched her works, we have been impressed with her unique approach to photography, using unusual tools in the manner of Paolo Gioli. We are glad to present her multimedia exhibition The I Love You Project we have selected for this year's Videofocus Issue. Debbie, how did you come up with the idea for The I Love You Project? I’ve been experimenting with digital microscope photography since 2005, but my focus was on erotic imagery and still life. When I was asked to exhibit my work in Barcelona, I wanted to do something less personal and more relevant for the community where the exhibit would occur. Galeria aDa’s director Isabella Capdevilla Sabanes gave me complete autonomy over the exhibit. The gallery is located in Raval, and Isa explained the social and economic problems residents experienced there. I also met Julius Schön there, who would become my collaborator, and he introduced me to a vibrant community of creative people. He explained the purpose of some signs residents hung from their balconies with “Vollem un barri digne” written in large letters. The English translation is, loosely “We want a dignified community”. Oddly, the origin of that movement was not about inclusion, but rather exclusion. Someone in the area didn’t want more immigrants moving into Raval. This angered me deeply. Some of the early videos I shot in 2005 were clips of myself mouthing the words “I Love You” into the microscope camera. While sitting in the Barcelona airport returning to New York, I was wrestling with concepts for the exhibit. This is when I decided I would try to bring the community of Raval together by allowing them to express a very basic emotion - love. I would visually record them saying these words in all the languages represented in that community, to celebrate diversity, and turn the tables on those
Debbie Davies, a photo by Chloe Locarro
who were against such diversity in Raval. It was then that the “exhibit” became a “project”. It was Isa who actually labeled it as “your love project” during a conversation. You have conducted The I Love You Project in Spain and Germany. How was the audience feedback in these countries? Highly emotional. Since the project is actually two parts - the recording sessions, then the exhibition - the participants who later visit the exhibition experience the project fully. Those who see only the exhibition need a little more guidance to understand what they are seeing in the videos and photos, and the voices they hear in the music. When a participant sits down to be recorded, the reactions can be amusing or tearful. Mostly we have a lot of fun laughing. After all, these strangers are saying “I Love You” into a piece of plastic with me on the other side; someone they just met minutes before.
The I Love You Project: Hessen (August 2012)
Later when they see their image added to the existing participant photos, and see themselves in the videos and their voices blended with others - celebrating the diversity of languages and ethnicities - the purpose of the project becomes more apparent.
I recently conducted the project in Kiev, Ukraine just over a week before the Malaysia Air incident. The reaction in Kiev was incredible. People hugged me. They were so happy someone from the USA came to their city to do something like this. I shot the project in an actual bunker which was converted into a gallery, and then I recorded on Independence Square (a.k.a. the Maidan) where protesters had violent clashes with the government early this year, with many people killed. People were still occupying the square living in tents and other structures, and remained in control of a government building.
The Congress of Cultural Activists - a really motivated group of artists who champion various social causes there - helped me find willing participants on the Maidan. This was the first time I shot outdoors, and the results were amazing and completely surprising. I think however, that my own reaction to the experience of shooting in a place where conflict and death occurred was not something I expected. It was sobering, and I really connected to Ukraine on a visceral level. I acquired many friends there, and in the aftermath of the Malaysia Air catastrophe, those personal bridges became really important to me, and I think to them. Every time I do the project, I am asked â€œwhen are you coming back?â€? This is because of the catharsis people experience talking to a stranger and expressing love to the world through a lens and a voice recorder.
The I Love You Project: Hessen (August 2012)
A small digital microscope become in your hands become a powerful tool, a kind of anthropological and at the same time personal kino-eye. Could you introduce our readers to this peculiar technique you use in your works? I bought the first C2D digital microscope camera for my son when he was a boy. It’s a toy, and I still use that first camera. I have managed to find another one but the manufacturer does not make this particular model anymore. I’ve purchase some other microscope cameras, each one results in a different image look and feel. But my favorite is still the C2D. The microscope is attached by USB to a laptop. But I removed the actual recording device, which records both still and video images, and use that as a handheld camcorder. I capture portraits of participants, and then short videos. It takes maybe 2 or 3 minutes for each session. Since it doesn’t record sound, I use a voice recorder separately. Some people ask why I don’t use a modern camera. The fact that this is a tool for science - it transforms skin, hair and eyes - is part of the message I want to send with this project. We are all the same, when you dispose of skin color, eye color, and hair color. The resulting images are washed out and blurry. I loved it from the moment I took my first photo with it. The use of the digital microscope often add an element of unpredictability to your art. Could you explain this aspect of your creative process? People who know me will say I am a control freak! My educational background was engineering and medicine, two fields that require great precision. The paintings that I created before I began working in digital media, are all quite structural with mosaics and spirals. And I actually own a small finance business working with artists. So “drawing outside the lines” has not been my way! However, because the microscope cameras - as well as the participants - are unpredictable, I learned how to give up control and let the devices control the outcome. Sometimes the images reflect random colors based on available light, or the color of clothes someone is wearing. I usually don’t retouch the images for the portrait part of the exhibition. The project has become an exercise in losing control, for me. It’s spread into other parts of my life. Also, in this project I have collaborators who help with video editing,
The I Love You Project: Hessen (August 2012)
sound recording, and music. Kendall Smith and Santina Amato have edited videos, Alex Tkachenko and Julius Schön recorded sound , and Schön composed all music weaving the voices together. In the past I have not been keen on working with other artists. Now I enjoy it immensely and it brings unexpected dimensions to the work. And I have learned to love that. We find that your art is rich of references too: for example , the use of a digital
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microscope camera reminds us of "Cesare", an experimental theatre piece by Romeo Castellucci, Italian director, even though in your art the use of technology is very far from Castellucci's idea, since The I Love You Project® aims at bringing people of different worlds and sensibilities together. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? The type of art I like personally is quite dark. I was always enthralled with Anselm Kiefer and
Jean Dubuffet. I literally cried outside of Gagosian watching Kiefer’s “Next Year in Jerusalem” crated for return to France. I am intrigued by photographs using collodion process. I’m not into color, and my wardrobe reflects that. Muted colors or monochromatic art attracts me. I recently purchased a Swoon artwork that’s mostly brown and black. I am a Butoh fan, and have taken movement classes with Japanese master Katsura Kan and a pantomime class with Matilda Marina in Kiev. The slow manipulation of the body, and the overall darkness of Butoh,
speaks to me. It’s clear to see the Butoh influence when you watch my videos. But the effect is purely the camera’s doing. The first video of Barcelona participants doesn’t have a lot of texture, but several of the images there are on screen for a long time; some would say past the comfort level of our quick-edit society. The second video of German participants moves faster, but there are more layers with text and foliage. My future videos will become more dense this way incorporating landscape and architecture of the cities I shoot in, blending with the portraits, to become more painterly. You are a multidisciplinary artist: in what manner your work as painter influences your videomaking? When I paint I usually begin with a basic idea of how I want the piece to look. But this changes as I work on the painting, and I allow the materials to dictate the ultimate result. Other things going on while I am painting influence me; maybe I am listening to a disturbing news report, or a beautiful piece of music. This ability to allow the work to speak to me instead of me dictating the outcome is reflected in my video work. I would love to control the participants so that they stay in frame, sit still, mouth the words just right. But that will never happen. So as I have learned to let go with my abstract paintings, I have let go of intention with my video work. Also, as I mentioned, the future video works will become more layered. I have plans to incorporate street art, photos of conflict, and traditional costumes into the videos to reflect the flavors of each city. This will add more dimension to the videos. My paintings are quite textured and rough, almost bas relief. And I’d like to dabble with that kind of texturing in the videos. What aspect of your work do you enjoy the most? What gives you the biggest satisfaction? Bringing people together! I enjoy meeting strangers and making a difference in what was going to be another ordinary day for them. Some participants happen upon the project by chance, and to see their eyes light up when I explain the project and what they have to do, is always such fun. We talk before and after the recording session, discussing the word “love” and it’s different meanings in different languages. Sometimes people hang around afterwards, drinking wine and meeting other participants. All of a sudden, you have community. Participants return dragging their friends with them to have a turn.
The I Love You Project: Hessen (August 2012)
When I return to the cities we conducted the projects in, I have all these people who I now know, who have been communicating with me and each other through social media. And I love hearing their stories of what the project did for them and their neighborhoods. People who lived near each other, and never spoke, are now familiar. We like to say people come into the project as strangers and leave as friends. I have stumbled upon a method to contribute towards peace in the world.
Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts with us, Debbie . What's next for Debbie Davies? What are your next projects? Firstly, I have to finish editing the Berlin and Kiev videos! Then I plan to do the project in Brooklyn, Reykjavik, London, and Sweden. Those are the cities next in line. But on a bigger scale I want to create a version of the project that takes place in three countries at the same time with live streaming in the three locations. This concept will require more elaborate coordination and technology I am currently working on. It’s challenging because of limited funds, of course,
but we hope to get contributions from the public and some Euro-zone grants to accomplish it. Further, I am collaborating with two other artists on the theme of Migration which will add more dimension to what I’ve been doing and include sculptural installation, photo-journalism, and sound art. We’re actively working on this and hope to bring that project to fruition in 2015. I also have a dream of bringing together the various “I Love You” projects I have come across by other artists, to create a festival where people can wander from one project to the next and see how different artists and groups have created projects to celebrate love.
Julia Riddiough Something for the Weekend, Sir? An Artist Statement A Brooks Art is delighted to present an exhi-
bition that brings together solo exhibitions by two artists in conversation, Sadie Hennessy and Julia Riddiough. While the exhibitions are to be viewed and understood as
contradictory state this project explores masculinity from a range of perspectives. Sadie Hennessy presents both existing work and new pieces and continues to deliver her humorous, wry feminist manifesto. Her hybrid collages create unsettlingly surreal combinations, delivered with a wicked sense of humour aiming to unsettle its audience, whilst eliciting a jolt of recognition in them. Hennessy explores themes of identity and personal representation investigating the role of men in society and how this is reflected in our every day. The work shows male themes of hierarchy, strength and competition in our culture â€“ men trapped operating under the constant weight of political guilt trying to find a balance that works. Julia Riddiough creates vivid film & photographic essays that combine fact & fiction using found imagery. Encompassing photography, video and printed material Clip Cut Gel includes the exhibition of three works that address male grooming, masculinity, the gaze and the painful compulsions of male sexuality. These include: the photographic series; Toy Boy, Rough Trade & Play Boy; the artist film Clip Cut Gel and the limited edition artist book Barber Shop. Clip Cut Gel reveals amplified masculine characteristics; drawn from male stereotypes that we see in the visual language and plays with the way the male is looked at and builds this into a spectacle itself. Something for the Weekend, Sir? (left) Sadie Hennessy 'Are We Not Men Series?' (Roses) (right) Julia Riddiough 'Clip Cut Gel' (Rough Trade)
separate entities, they also interweave and are in dialogue with one another. Something for the Weekend, Sir? considers what it means to be a man today; caught in an undefined and
An interview with
Julia Riddiough In Clip Cut Gel you explore the way the male is looked at, deconstructing male stereotypes. Could you tell us a particular episode that has helped this project? The Clip Cut Gel project includes four works: the photographic series; 'Toy Boy', 'Rough Trade' & 'Play Boy': the artist film 'Clip Cut Gel' and the artist’s book ‘Barber Shop’. These new works consider what it means to be a man today; often caught in an undefined and contradictory state the work investigates masculinity from a range of perspectives. For this project I also participated in informal artist residencies in high street barber shops screening the film where I had the opportunity to encounter camaraderie and banter in what has been seen to date as a male space; catching up with men as they were groomed, transformed and socialised together. Here the project expanded and informed my understanding of the reality that some men face everyday. When asked ‘’what are the pleasures of being a man today?’’ an emphatic reply came across ‘’not being a woman!” or another question “if you ruled the world what would it look like?” the quiet response from the gentleman in the corner was ‘Fluffy’! We find that your art is rich of references; in particular your late works reminds us of Cindy Sherman's imagery. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? My heart belongs to photography and film but really I am an omnivore and relish all art disciplines. - I suppose any one who tears up the rulebook and explodes what we might have been thinking before. I find inspiration daily in the world all around us and how we respond to it. Also going to the theatre for a direct visceral experience and favourites are David Mamet, Beckett and Pinter. Visual artists might include filmmaker Sarah Morris, photographer Thomas Demand, sculptor Sarah Lucas, and Barbara
Julia Riddiough Artist and Founder of A Brooks Art
Kruger the list is endless! Somehow all these filters permeate my work whether conscious or subconscious. There is always something new to see, try and learn that informs my practice. In Clip Cut Gel you have used images from magazines of the 80s. Why have you used found images for this project? Is there a particular reason linked to the ephemeral qualities of these old-fashioned images today? I use a lot of found imagery in my practice, looking to find new ways and narratives to reframe the image. I try to layer the work from different perspectives so that there are many entry levels. The images must have ‘legs’ in the first place so that they can be considered. The images in Clip Cut Gel although from the 80’s seemed to me to be stereotypes that we see the visual language that surrounds us everyday and I wanted to reflect that back. Plus ça Change! More than 50 years have passed since the International "Situationist" pamphlet by Guy Debord: the manipulation of
Julia Riddiough Artist Logo in Neon
Julia Riddiough 'Clip Cut Gel' (Toy Boy)
Julia Riddiough 'Clip Cut Gel' (Play Boy)
mainstream moving-images and photos had a remarkable political aim for the French philosopher, while nowadays artists seem to be attracted by found footage manipulation in order to explore deep psychological issues, whether the footage has a "private" source (old super8 home movies) or not (fragments from mainstream films). In Clip Cut Gel, you succeed in mixing these two aspects, creating a sort of "Micro Politics of desire". How do you achieve this balance between "political" and "private"? One of my aims was to present the males in Clip Cut Gel as passive to the active male/female gaze referencing Laura Mulvey in her 1975 essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” whilst exploring the gendered hierarchy of looking. The male portraits in the film reveal amplified masculine characteristics; drawn from male stereotypes; 'Clip Cut Gel' plays with the way the male is looked at and builds it into a spectacle itself by utilising close up and panning with a script that draws us into intimate and confessional moments. The image of the man is seen as compliant and raw material for the active gaze of the spectator presenting an alternative structure of representation. The work hopefully suggests male identity as role-play and how we subsume ourselves from the world of images we are fed. Our engagement with culture is often rendered as a form of mirroring and that transaction can be read as metamorphosis: when we identify with an idea or character, we often adopt their vocabulary or physical characteristics becoming the spectacle and then the object of desire itself. In Clip Cut Gel we can see that the media forms whilst forming meanwhile we consume and reflect these images back. This world of male poses and self-as-image is explored in a continual circle of transference and transformation and can be mapped back to the ‘Society of the Spectacle’ "The spectacle is not a collection of images," Debord writes, "rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images” You are a multidisciplinary artist: in what manner your work as photographer influences your video making? I mainly use stills in making my videos creating an illusion of movement with various different techniques so the starting point is always the still image and the context and frame it has
been derived from. It is from that context the narrative and meaning starts to develop helping the work unfold and make the final work. Watching your video art we had the impression that your subtle irony is a fundamental component of your creative practice: in your opinion is this just an impression? It’s a definite creative decision to infuse irony into this film. It was my intention to invert male anxiety by injecting humour and anecdote. Humour is a way of connecting and communicating and can help get your ideas easily across and is one of entry levels that most people could identify and feel confortable with. It can create an emotional pull that might lead someone in deeper. Irony adds an unexpected viewpoint that in turn offers another dimension to work. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Julia. What's next for Julia Riddiough? Are there any film projects on the horizon? Two new exciting events in London and New York participating in October in Art Licks Weekend and Exchange Rates festival 2014 in Bushwick Brooklyn. The Clip Cut Gel Project and film will be shown alongside another British artist Sadie Hennessy creating a dialogue between the two artists. The project is called ‘Something for The Weekend, Sir?’ and explores the lives of men in society today. I also have a film project in the can and this work will explore the borders of art, gender, voyeurism and photography and it has a working title ‘Techniques of Photographing Girls’ due in 2015. http://abrooksart.com/portfolio/clip-cutgel-julia-riddiough/ http://abrooksart.com/portfolio/something-forthe-weekend-sir/
Julia Riddiough 'Clip Cut Gel' (Rough Trade)
Still from A Treaty, 2013, 11:38 min, HD Video
Justin Mata A Treaty is an experimental animation inspired by the Western film genre and The Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. The video opens onto a scene of devastation from a recent battle. Bodies are strewn across the rocky landscape, buildings lay in pieces, fires blaze and plumes of smoke stretch into the sky. As the camera pans over the landscape, the viewer can see that the bodies are crumpled pieces of paper: photos of horses ripped in half, cutout pictures of Native Americans twisted into flimsy scraps of paper and reproductions of soldiers stacked neatly on top of each other. The first scene closes with the camera lingering on a torn picture of a cowboy. Scene two fades in and introduces us to the players . . A Treaty uses cutout pictures collected from publications, movies and the web to create a collage of a possible historical event. Images of
cowboys, Mexicans and Native Americans become awkward characters in a display of ostentatious violence. The video is a darkly humorous interpretation of a 19th century battle in the American Southwest addressing ideas of aggression, power and conquest. Justin Mata is an artist, curator and writer living in San Francisco (USA). His artworks and videos have been shown nationally and internationally at such venues as El Museo del Barrio (NYC), NURTUREart (Brooklyn), Center on Contemporary Art (Seattle), Northwest Film Forum (Seattle), Adobe Books Backroom Gallery (SF) and Brain Factory (Seoul). He received his BFA from California College of the Arts (SF) and his MFA from the School of Visual Arts (NYC). www.justinmata.com
An interview with
Justin Mata Your animation "A Treaty" is inspired by McCarthy's masterpiece The Blood Meridian. When did you get in contact with this book for the first time? Some time ago a friend had recommended it to me. We were in Strand Bookstore in NYC wandering through the aisles and she was pulling books left and right, compiling her stacks of must-reads. I bought half a dozen books that day and years later this book has resonated with me the most. The story takes place in the mid 1800’s. A group of American soldiers are hired to capture or kill tribes of Apaches that have been raiding villages in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. McCarthy plays quite a bit with the form of the text. A single paragraph could last multiple pages and dialogue would exist without a clearly identifiable orator or listener, leaving the reader in a state of confusion. Sometimes I had to reread a passage multiple times to understand who were the people in a scene. It had the affect of focusing the attention on the action and conflict rather than the haunting characters McCarthy had created. They were diminished to role players in a grand theater of sensational violence. Years later I was thinking a lot about borders - in geopolitical terms as well as emotional relationships to borders. I started to think about The Blood Meridian again as the book dealt with border towns and ideas of natives, foreigners, and community. I also started to look at the border from another perspective that McCarthy’s work had influenced, now understanding the border as a hyperemotional space of sensationalism. For A Treaty I wanted to explore a narrative structure that did not include a protagonist and antagonist. Based on my reading of McCarthy, I wanted to create characters that were small in comparison to the ostentatious battles they were a part of. As I developed the animation, I focused on scenes depicting conflict that lacked an apparent cause or motive.
While the final video has all of the elements of a recognizable Western movie such as cowboys, Native Americans and Mexicans, in the place of a backstory or motivation there are only tension and combat. We have been impressed with stunning surreal vein of "A Treaty". How did you develop your style? About four years ago I started using a computer scanner and images I found on the web to make short animations. I taught myself a very rudimentary process for making the videos which resulted in them all having awkward movements and uncomfortable frame rates. This became part of my style. I wasn’t interested in making them look like they were made in a professional studio and my lack of formal animation training became an advantage in making the kinds of videos I wanted to see. There was more meaning for me in a rough, unpolished work. At some point I found that the scanner could produce amazing color and focal distortions depending on how I arranged the cutouts and how much light was let in. By the time I started A Treaty, I was building small dioramas out of cardboard and inserting the cutout characters into these “sets.” These dioramas were then scanned into the computer producing a hazy, shallow depth of field and drastically altering the colors (some examples of the process can be
Still from A Treaty, 2013, 11:38 min, HD Video
Still from A Treaty, 2013, 11:38 min, HD Video
found here: http://atreaty.com/?page_id=10). The distortions were really what gave the video its feel – I got better at understanding how the scanner would alter an image but I never gained complete control of it. In some instances I’d spend hours recreating a single frame to get an image I could use. What I loved most about the process was letting go of my control and seeing where the material and technology could take me. You have selected different materials for "A Treaty": photographs from historical sources and cinema publication. Where do your materials come from, and how do you go about putting them together? It took about a year to research all the images that I used in A Treaty. I collected them from libraries, magazines, video screen shots and different web sources. I decided early on in the project that I wanted the video to have an anachronistic feel, a sense that things were out of place or didn’t quite go together. I purposefully chose pictures that were from a broad time range and many different locations in the United States.
The video loosely references the Apache Wars that mostly took place in the southwest of the United States in the late 19th century but the images in A Treaty are from many different landscapes and times. In one scene you’ll see images from border towns between the US and Mexico, in the next you’ll find a landscape from the Great Plains a thousand miles away from where the historical fighting occurred. The characters were chosen with the same idea in mind. 19th century pictures of cowboys will appear in the same scene as cowboys from cigarette advertisements or other contemporary images. I wanted to create what I considered to be a collage of history. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? I usually have an idea that I’ve been thinking about for a while and I’d like to investigate. From the conceptual perspective the content must feel relevant to our time and will continue to be worth thinking about. When I made A Treaty there was a heated debate taking place in the United States about immigration, the border and national security in a post 9/11 world. The video was a way for me to explore these issues through a his-
Still from A Treaty, 2013, 11:38 min, HD Video
torical lens. These specific debates constantly resurface at both national and international levels proving, at least to me, that these ideas will continue to resonate. Once I’ve committed to a concept, I decide on the form the piece will take. For A Treaty I knew that it could only be realized as a video. The initial stages of any project (whether painting, sculpture or video) follow a very recognizable and traditional development involving research, sketches, color and material studies. At this point I have a very clear picture of how the final work will live in the world. Then I forget all of it. Or, more appropriately, I allow myself freedom. I approach the process in much the same way a painter would, even in my video works. I try new materials, play with color, make mistakes and subtract elements; basically just let it grow organically. As I am making the work I am constantly adapting to discover the formal qualities. Often times that will take me away from that clear picture I initially had in mind. That is where the poetics come from.
Artists are often asked about the inspiration for their work... For me the idea of inspiration relates to my previous answer. The point at which I let go and explore materiality in the studio is the time that I am most engaged with the work. In a lot of ways it feels like I am just playing in the studio – discovering what the materials can do for me. My inspiration is just the need to play, to return to that state of engagement. That’s why A Treaty still has a visceral, crafted feel to it. It’s a bit of a romantic notion, this idea of curiosity as the artist’s innate state of being, but it is where the work finds meaning. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts with us, Justin. What's next for Justin Mata? What are your next projects on the horizon? My working process that I developed in A Treaty has found its way into many other facets of my art making. My paintings have become almost completely collages and the sculptures have also changed quite a bit. There’s something really interesting to me about the handled, even aggres-
Still from A Treaty, 2013, 11:38 min, HD Video
sive way I went about creating this video. The bends, folds and tears of the characters in A Treaty were and continue to be an attractive way to generate meaning. I’ve started a new series of 2D works and I’m looking forward to
seeing how the video affects it conceptually and formally. I’ve also been developing a new video. After making A Treaty I found that allowing time for reflection on the work is a necessity in my process.
A good idea continues to be so even as time passes and bad ideas can reveal themselves pretty quickly. I’ve let the new video develop gradually in my mind both conceptually and
formally. It’s about a visit to the doctor’s office. I haven’t decided if it’s a good idea yet.
Rita Zambori Kerry, Imprecion, Sam is a video installation that centers on projected, recorded performances. The content of the project externalizes the multiplicity of self-identity and how it exists in the conscious formed through human interaction and relationships.
segment focuses on my own relationships with one of three people. The three people are my mother, my significant other, and a friend. Each character in the video simulates gestures from memories I have of them, gestures symbolic of them, and of my relationship with them. I perform to embody the ephemeral energy in those gestures.
I appear in the videos as three characters, each of the characters a reflection of myself. Each video
The installation exists in its own dark, quiet space with a soundtrack heard through speakers.
An artist's statement
In that space, three single-channels run on a loop. Two channels are projected onto gauze screens that are suspended from the ceiling at staggered depths and the third is projected onto the wall behind the screens. The screens are approximately 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide. They are positioned in a way where a viewer has the opportunity to see all three screens at once, or in fragments as she or he might move around the space.
Kerry, Imprecion, Sam finds balance between a physical structure and the moving image through an installation that explores content and form in a way that parallels the intricate and delicate nature of human thought and understanding; to engage the viewer, through a visual, spatial, and auditory system of moving imagery, light, sound, and voice.
An interview with
Rita Zambori In your videoinstallation you appear as three characters in order to explore the multiplicity of self-identity, reminding us of Chiara Guidi's work of selfmultiplication. Kerry, Imprecion, Sam reveals a deep introspection and at the same time an incredible effort to experiment new form of story telling. How has your history influenced the way you produce art? Having always been an introspective person has always affected the way I produce and think about my art. I also think that my relationships, like any person, have always been evolving and while in graduate school, I was reflecting a lot on past and current relationships that have shaped who I am as an individual. For me, I know that there are gestures from moments in each relationship that have been quite impressionable. And while just brushing the surface of psychoanalytic theory in one of my classes, I grew more curious about certain specifics about the functioning of the mind so much that it became motivation for Kerry, Imprecion, Sam. My background is also in makeup artistry. Makeup is transformative and I knew that I wanted to develop the physical identity of each character through not only makeup, but also self-crafted costumes. It was in fact how I came to figure the performance, then the text and sound. Could you tell us a particular episode who has helped the birth of this project,
Rita Zambori (photo by Jesse Chun)
or simply an epiphany, a sudden illumination? I feel like this project has been full of mini illuminations. Throughout, I realized a lot of ideas that define me as an artist were coming full circle within this work that havenâ€™t before. I was excited and I trusted that to motivate me until the completion of the piece. A sort of edipic triangle in the Deleuzian sense is projected on the relationships between your mother, your significant Other, and a friend. How did you develop the identity of your characters Kerry, Imprecion and Sam? Kerry, Imprecion, and Sam are the people I chose as motivation to develop the characters. I think of the characters you see in the video as more of separate energies possessing different traits. I knew that choosing a friend, my mother, and my significant other would help me build multi-dimensional characters because the relationships I have with those people are so broad in experiences and emotions.
Through the removal of everything but the woman in the frame, you are constantly spot lit on a dark stage. Could you explain this aspect of this work? As I was conceiving how each character would be recorded, I knew that I wanted to somehow highlight certain movements without any surrounding environment. My reference was how I recall dreams, perceive memories, and moments. My mind only allows me to grasp certain aspects and I wanted to translate that into my video making. Plus, I wanted the spotlight to lend itself to the mood I was creating for that particular character. The background audio is not conceived as a has a huge importance in your
works. the use of soundtrack has not only a diegethical aims, but tend to add a sense of fragmentation. Could you introduce our readers to this aspect of your filmmaking? For a while I was fascinated with minimal sound, but working on Kerry, Imprecion, Sam has taught me the importance of sound whether it is present or not. There are definitely moments in my works especially in Kerry, Imprecion, Sam where the sound moves from diegetic sound, sound tied to the source seen in the video to nondiegetic, which is the exact opposite. I try to weave in and out of both treatments to create a sense of fragmentation, displacement, and illusion.
In these last years we have seen that the frontier between Video Art and Cinema is growing more and more vague: do you think that this "frontier" will exists longer? Having only practiced photography since 2005, I have gained a world of knowledge and history just over the past few years about Video Art and Cinema. There is still so much for me to learn and see, but from what I do know of the two, this “frontier” will exist longer and evolve. I believe that blurring the lines between Video Art and Cinema will bring new avenues of perception, therefore, knowledge. I think it’s only human to seek out knowledge and as an artist, to challenge how we perceive it. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Rita. What’s next for Rita Zambori? Are there any new projects on the horizon? The momentum from creating and executing a major video installation has helped me realize the beginnings of a new project. I am interested in how image and sound information from commercials is understood by people and in turn, defining our identity. I am conceptualizing the project right now as a video installation where I can continue to work with material as well as video again. Thank you so much for having this platform for video artists to express themselves openly. I’m honored.
Hannah Epstein Hannah Epstein AKA hanski is a super fox who learned to use a camera.
artist to the stars. She shoots it all! You name it, she'll point a camera at it.
Now she fancies herself some kind of a scam
Have you ever heard the myth of the buffoon?
Didn't think so. It's never heard of you either.
"hahaha", the textual form of laughter.
Hannah Epstein has grown up fascinated that the first two letters of her name spell "Ha" as in
Probably doesn't matter though. And that's what she's all about.
An interview with
Hannah Epstein You have been inspired by informal storytelling traditions: this is particularly evident in That's Good Scrap, where you show an incredible balance between ironical and surreal imagery. How did you develop your style, Hannah? Whatever you might be perceiving as style is entirely accidental. It's the result of a process build around chaos brought about in editing. I often don't shoot footage with a story in mind, I shoot to document the banalities and the personal and the day to day passing of time, which for those around me is something of an annoying reflex, then I sit down with the undifferentiated mass of images and hack at it until a storyline begins to emerge. It's a crude process that treats film and video as solid masses that can be formed and reformed like a kinetic sculpture or collage. It just so happens that I have been trying to mould meaning out of seemingly random images for so long that certain directions have proven fruitful in the past and I tend to repeat what has worked, trying to go deeper into those successful editing rabbit holes, which are infinite and multiply every time a decision is made. I think that push and pull between being legible and the video work as relic along a winding, self directed road of aesthetic and narrative exploration is what might come across as the current style, but I hope it's headed somewhere. So, yeah, for now what I think you're seeing is a lot of rejected and failed glimmers of a working ideal. Could you tell us a particular episode who has helped the birth of this project, or simply an epiphany, a sudden illumination? I grew up in Halifax, a small city on Canada's eastern coastline where I spent my adolescence and early adulthood being a smalltime badass
and hanging out with bigger badasses, drinking, drugs, crime, the usual stuff that comes with being an overly energetic teenager in a conservative environment. Going through it I remember having the sense that I was slightly outside of everything, documenting various adventures for future projects, so none of it felt like a waste, it felt like I was stewing myself in good material. So time goes on and here I am, almost thirty, living in Toronto, pursuing some kind of art career, meanwhile most of my best friends from those earlier days are still in Halifax. For those friends who never really left, various indulgences have blossomed into full blown addictions and choices they have made; to get married, to have kids or do certain kinds of work are all things that now define the shape of their lives. For one such friend, Geoff Harrison, who we knew growing up as 'Lil Geoff or Punk Geoff, he now supports a wife and two kids by collecting and exchanging scrap metal for cash. When I learned that this was Geoff's new line of work and saw photographs of his van and the type of things he was collecting as well as the scrap yard itself, I contacted him to make sure that the next time I visited Halifax I could go with him. Early in the morning of May 26, 2014 I jumped into the cab of Geoff's truck to join him and another friend, Rob Munro, as they went about the rounds, targeting the areas scheduled for garbage collection.
So that's a bit of a picture of how "That's Good Scrap" was started, though I feel I have to add that Geoff and I had a fascinating conversation during the shooting process, as he was clearly aware that he and his work were subjects of interest to me, he didn't want me to have the impression that he was somehow a victim of society to be doing this work. Geoff is a proud and thoughtful man who I respect, I tried to treat him like that during the making of the piece and I hope that comes across. We find that your art is rich of ironical references. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? Well first of all, thanks. As for influences, I think I should say that being a repeat-outsider enough times can lead to create a solid yet difficult to name influence. In Halifax, I found myself as an outsider, tall, skinny, half-Latvian,
half-Jewish, that kind of combination was maybe too cosmopolitan for the city that not long ago stopped having a Catholic/Protestant division in the public school system. Then university in Newfoundland, studying Folklore? Like, what was that? I was an outsider in a place that considers itself to be the land of outsiders, the rejected bastard cousin of Canada and academia all in one. I have been drawn to these people and places who stand a step apart and have then aimed to step out further, the observer of the observed. I think this lends itself to creating an eye that sees the absurdity in what others may take as deep and serious. It is simultaneously encouraged by the attitude of rejection shared among these outsiders, one that doesn't give a fuck about official values and seeks for value in the singular pursuit of what is unique and sets them apart as good and worthy of celebration rather than quieting.
What aspect of your work do you enjoy the most? What gives you the biggest satisfaction? Shared joy, which I know sounds like something off a Hallmark card, but it's true. The most fun I have had outside of sex is the few moments which can be achieved when a small group of people work together on something and laugh about it while making it and then watch themselves on screen and laugh even harder and then time goes on and they watch it again and they laugh the hardest of all. There is something about making video work that is like creating a time capsule to be revisited over and over. The closer the subject matter is to my heart then the closer it becomes as it goes on screen. In the moving images is the coded language of the deeply personal. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? A former mentor once described my process as a great sucking in of everything around and digesting it internally then shitting out a piece. I think this is accurate. I am constantly engaged with collecting material and playing with it to see where it fits in amongst the other collected ideas and experiences then condensing it into a visible artifact. As such I am always watching and watching myself watch and making notes of this. I send myself a million text messages with key words of what I am seeing so I can be reminded of imagery when I sit down to compile the seemingly endless nonsense into gibberish. - Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts with us, Hannah. What's next for you? What are your next projects on the horizons? Hey, no problem. Entirely my pleasure. As for the future, I am moving to Pittsburgh at the end of July to start my MFA at Carnegie Mellon. This is nerve wracking since I have no arts education to date and am sort of jumping into the deep end of things, but because of this new high bar that's being set I have been focusing on developing ideas to take into the program. I am more and more interested all the time in combining video and games and then extending that into installations, so I will likely be playing with concepts of how to combine these things. Look out for some super weirdness.