Hilary Basing - PREVIEW

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revision scheduled for publication December 2014

Hilary Basing

Hilary Basing An artist's statement My work is an exploration of identity, an investigation into how socio-cultural categories such as race and gender are informed by

popular culture. I highlight the oversimplified portrayal of women in pop culture using music videos as a vehicle to explore gender roles and sexism. Cultural critique is employed not only to highlight the power dynamics between

Triple Exposures 35mm photos, 2006, 2008

different groups, but to disassemble them and

the body and how gesture creates meaning through

reconfigure them again in my image of how the


world could be. My interest in relations between people leads me to an awareness of

Hilary Basing www.hilarybasing.com

An interview with

Meditation Mediation, video still, 2013

Hilary Basing Hilary Basing's experimental cinema presents a remarkable performative nature very rare to find among contemporary artists and filmmakers of the last decade: for this Videofocus Biennial Edition we have selected Meditation Mediation, 2-channel video. Hilary, could you introduce our readers to this amazing work? Meditation Mediation presents myself as a protagonist who is struggling to reconcile dichotomies of analog and digital technology and the hyper-kinetic presence of the media with a spiritual need for calm. The work is presented as a 2-channel piece in order to

emphasize the influence the left channel of media (including digital pixelation) and memory (including home movies) have on the right channel of meditation and the search for selfhood. There is a gradual breakdown in my character’s achieved serenity throughout the 14 and a half minute running time. Initially, gunshots and snippets of TV interrupt my breathing. Throughout the piece I try on several different identities, refuting my own in the process. The first is a male hip hop character influenced by rap and r&b videos. The swagger of male braggadocio is intoxicating, but a feeling of anxiety caused by media over-stimulation and confusion of identity pervades the mood nonetheless.

Meditation Mediation, video still, 2013

From there, the tone changes as I contemplate the passing of time with bittersweet nostalgia. My 2004 self sings Culture Club’s Time (The Clock of the Heart) to my 2013 self who echoes it back. We see into a lens of my rapidfire thoughts-contemplating race, wiping on different skin tones, struggling to keep up, running on an outdoor track, images of files being transcoded and altered. The viewer alternately sees into my eyes or, in this case, a camera lens. At other times, my point-of-view is shown through chaotic shots of the media I am consuming. There is a Balinese character in a gold costume that appears throughout as a reference to spiritual enlightenment. She sings

‘Heart Murmur,’ a love song about breaking free of isolation. The digital pixilation or glitch that exists as a constant persistent presence throughout starts to invade the right channel. As the meditator, I succumb to the insistent demands and lure of the media on my sense of self and wipe the pixelation onto my skin like an addict. In the end, I am completely overtaken and become a pixelated body, merging with the media glitch. My symbolic death is signified by a version of the Balinese character wearing a flowered shirt and gold mask. I cross over from the right to the left channel, presumably remaining forever in the world of media escape.

Meditation Mediation, video still, 2013

Meditation Mediation, video still, 2013

The figure of the meditator in your work is not merely ironic: do you think that nowadays there still exists a dichotomy between art and technology?

and interacting with computers and devices that they become a part of our aesthetic experience. Now, more than ever, art and technology are intertwined.

I don't employ a great deal of irony in my work. I also don't find that there is a dichotomy between art and technology at all. Maybe before 1960, there was more of a divide between the two. With the advent of analog video, artists began to use video technology as a tool to comment on the presence of media in everyday life. Since I grew up in the 80's and 90's with a strong media presence in my life, I do feel the need to analyze and recontextualize it through my work. The rise of Internet culture has only intensified that need. So much time is spent, as a culture, looking at

You are not only a video artist, your 35mm photo series, characterized by multipleexposure images, presents painterly qualities. In what manner does your work as photographer influence your video making? Like any child, I grew up painting and drawing. Though my parents are not artists, I was raised with an exposure to and appreciation for art. My dad gave me an Argus 120 film camera when I was 10 and I've been looking at life through a lens ever since. Our family got a VHS video camera when I was 12 and I continued to shoot

Meditation Mediation, video still, 2013

various forms of analog video and 35mm film right up until I entered grad school in 2011. My earlier photography work was mostly documentary or note-taking images of my life. After studying film in school, my photography took on a time-based element. I found that I could create a narrative out of layering images in a single roll of film. Often my photography is executed concurrently with my shooting video so I don't see it as an influence on my video work, but yet another way of expressing an idea visually. If anything, the photography is actually influenced by the video work for me. As for painterly qualities, I grew up with an appreciation of painting. Studying painting and art history in art school further deepened my appreciation of formal aspects of a

composition. This is something I consider when making my photography and video work as well. The influence of the American artist and film director Cindy Sherman on your art practice and vision is remarkable, no doubt. When did you come across Sherman's photo works? I admire Cindy Sherman for her singular use of herself as a subject and her treatment of herself as a blank slate onto which to protect different identities. I approach my work in a similar way when performing different characters. I was probably first exposed to her work in college though I don't remember for sure. I've never thought of her as a primary

Meditation Mediation, video still, 2013

Meditation Mediation, Installation View, 2013

Meditation Mediation, Installation View, 2013

influence though I do admire her very much. I am glad that her work exists because it legitimizes what I do. I did take it upon myself to deliberately study her work more recently in grad school. I was pleased to find her book, A Play of Selves, which offers an insightful look into her early working process- playfully dressing up as different characters and exploring different sides of herself. Even the title alone is very insightful. In Everything She Wants: My Money, My Body, you isolate a minimal gesture: at second sight your refined black and white cinematography reveals an uncanny Keatonesque feel. How did you come up with the idea for this work?

Everything She Wants: My Money, My Body isolates a symbolic gesture from the Wham! Everything She Wants video from 1986. As a huge Wham! fan, this gesture has replayed in my head for years so much that I felt that I had to make a piece about it in order to unpack it’s meaning. What I realized is that the female character in the video is completely disembodied. She only appears as a slender arm with manicured nails reaching possessively over George Michael’s body in bed and grabbing for money in another shot. I think this portrayal of a disembodied, possessive woman points to a trend present in many 80’s videos as well as the portrayal of women in the media in general as diminutive, decorative, and obsessed with marriage and children. I also read this in relation to George Michael’s budding queer sexuality at

Everything She Wants, My Money, My Body, video still, 2012

the time. One could infer that he’s turned off by women sexually since, even though he dated women at the time, he now identifies as gay. Since I play both roles, my version also takes on an autoerotic quality which points further to unfixed, ambiguous sexuality. There is no consideration of Buster Keaton in this work since I am not terribly familiar with him. I also think of him as more of a physical comedian. I would love to hear more about your interpretation of this though‌ We find that your art is rich of references. Apart from Cindy Sherman, who we have mentioned in our interview, can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work?

I have definitely been influenced by everyone from painters, photographers, and video artists to filmmakers and rock and pop stars. When I was younger and figuring out what I had to say as an artist, it was affirming and inspiring to discover certain work. In terms of expressing shifting identities and personas, David Bowie, Madonna, and Michael Jackson have been big influences. I first learned about performance through icons of pop and rock music. Music videos have been a big influence on me as well particularly the quirky, child-like animations of Michel Gondry. In film, I always cite Gondry and Wong Kar Wai as favorite directors. They both employ bold colors, unconventional cinematography, and strong musical sense in their work.

Meditation Mediation, video still, 2013

I studied tap and jazz dancing as a kid. Fred Astaire was my idol. As a child of MTV culture, I do find myself prone to idol worship. That’s why I often imitate, interact with and reference rock and pop stars in my work. Fine

artists that have had an impact on me include Rene Magritte, Tony Oursler, Matthew Barney, Leigh Bowery, Carolee Schneemann, Martha Wilson, Adrian Piper, Hannah Wilke, Yvonne Rainer. Once I studied performance art, I came

put my work and a history to refer back to. The Brooklyn scene is often underrated; nonetheless we have found it very interesting and rich of young experimental filmmakers, often working with no budget, but with great results. What do you think of the Brooklyn artistic scene, from a filmmaker's point of view? From my perspective, as someone who has lived in Brooklyn for many years, the Brooklyn scene is a bit overrated. There are a lot of talented artists living in Brooklyn who seem to gravitate here from all over the world. That does create a vibrant scene and I guess, because I live in it, I am a Brooklyn artist by default. I don’t consider myself a filmmaker per se and I don’t think of myself in relation to a scene when I’m making work. I think about my work more often inter-generationally than locally. I see many artists my age using their work to process their own nostalgia; recontextualizing media they grew up watching. I am a part of this, possibly very American trait, as much as anything else. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Hilary. What's next for Hilary Basing? Are there any projects on the horizon?

to understand how gesture and the body can be used deliberately to create meaning. That was a revelation to me in many ways, partly because it gave me a context within which to

I have a lot of ideas in mind and am always working on a few projects. I am thinking a lot about how we interface with computers and screens in our everyday lives-how this forms the basis for aesthetic experience. Besides looking at the formal properties of all the screenshots I’m collecting, I am also analyzing a cultural zeitgeist. I plan to incorporate these images into gifs and video work as well. Though I recognize appropriation as an effective tool for social commentary, I am always challenging myself to not rely on it too much. I am focusing on making more of my own music. My mind is having to adapt to different ways of thinking in terms of dividing my creative attention between music and visuals. I’m also one of those people for whom making art is a private, almost secretive process. I cannot share too many details about a project until it’s near completion. Somehow telling people always seem to ruin my drive for making it. I will say, I am making a piece that relates to drag and another piece that relates to Michael Jackson. So hopefully I will finish them soon and put them out into the world!

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