w o m e n HSUAN-KUANG HSIEH LOU WATSON RENEE SILLS DANIELLE LANGDON JENNY PAUL LEYLA RODRIGUEZ DENYS BLACKER YAEL AZOULAY LILY LEVIN DIANA RONNBERG
WOMENâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S CINEMA VOL IX
cINEMAKERS W O M E N
��� VI | S�������� 2017 W����C��������� ������ ��� ���� 300’000 ������� ������� ���� ��� ���� �� �������� ��������� �� ��� ����� ���� ��� ������������ ������ ��������. W���� P��������, W������, ��� D�������� ���� ������ ��� ����� ���� ��� ����������� �� ������� ����� ����� �� ��� ���� ��������� �� ��� E������������� ��������. S���� 2012 W����C��������� ��� ���� ��������� ��� ����������� �� �������� ��� ������� N��� N�� W���� F��������� ���� ������ ������ ��� ��� ���������� �����. W��� � ������� �� A�� R����� R������� T��: ������� �� �������, ���� ��, U������ P�����������, ����� ����� ��������
COVER: NAJAT ALSHERIDAH)
© 2012 - 2016
��������� ��� ����������� ���������, ��� ������ ��������� ��� �������� ���� ���� 100 �������, ���� ���� �� ���� ��������� �� ������������� ���� ��������� ��������� ��� C����� F�������, B����� I������������ F��� F�������, ��� ��� V����� B�������. F��� ��������� ���� �� ��������� ���� �� ����������� ��� �� ��� ��������� ��� ��� ����� ������ ��. G����� �� ��� ����������� �������. T�� ����� ����� ��� �������� ������ ��� ������ �� �����. J��� W����C���������.
Contents 04 Diana Ronnberg Stories from the forest, records from the city
26 Lily Levin Grampy
116 Jenny Paul Idle Worship
134 Danielle Langdon New Pedestrians
Please Break My Heart
We Are All Leaving
The Noble Gases
Section of I-705, on a Wednesday
The Separation Loop
Diana Ronnberg The main core of my artistic activities derives from the matrimony between word and image, which for me is synonymous with the Ancient Greek term for poetry: p o i e i s i s (ποιέω), which means "to make”. The artist is almost like a magician: s/he brings to life things that exceed themselves and the process of creating art is almost alchemical: to give base materials a noble and powerful meaning. My double cultural background has given me almost aerophyte roots. When home is more of a feeling than space, I take roots in the world through poetic mood. These are my songs on the border between forest and city, between one language and another, expressed in the third one, which holds them together, between solitude and being a part of a society. I maintain a dialogue between living and dead poets. From other people’s words, I carve the rosary of my own prayers and incantations to cross subsequent thresholds of the world.
Diana Ronnberg An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant
Hello Diana and welcome to : you have a solid formal training and after having degreed with a M.F.A of Photography from the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan, you nurtured your education with a PhD of Intermedia, that you received from the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk. How did these experiences along with your life between Sweden and Poland influence the way you currently conceive and produce your works? Hi and thank you for inviting me and giving me a voice! My nomadic life has influenced me on many levels during these past few years. I have shed my skin so many times, stripping of layers and layers with existential matters,
anxiety, excitement and loss. When I moved to Sweden as a child it was very important for me to become as Swedish as possible. I learned to speak Swedish fluently almost immediately and even though I didn't have any accent at all, event though I was one of the best students in school, I was writing stories, essays, poetry, I was thinking and dreaming in Swedish; I was still marked by my foreign origin and there was always this argument that others could suddenly slap me in the face with: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Go back to Poland! What are you doing here!â&#x20AC;? As a child I was therefor ashamed of my roots and Polish became synonymous with everything that was bad, ugly, wrong and non-progressive. It wasn't until high-school and the art program that I attended, that I set my radar to the East and discovered that there are a lot of philosophers, classical musicians, writers and of course foremost movie directors that were from Poland. I learned of a totally different culture than the one seen on TV and like a trickster in paradise I became fascinated with the dirt, unconventional beauty and the dark side of human nature, a yearning for a reality that was agonizing, straightforward and romantic. Taking my first step as an adult in Poland was chaotic and emotional. I was about 20 years old when I started to study photography in Poznan and I was very naive, very passionate and vulnerable. I stumbled on my own mother tongue and had to learn the culture IRL again, confronting it with the stories told by my mother and grandmother. I believe that storytelling is connected to nomadism and movement. As a migrant you build up your whole existence through stories of your past, of landscapes that you have taken in with your mother's milk, of songs and memories. Stories of your
homeland become like an oasis, a safe place that oscillates between reality and fantasy. So by moving back and forth, something that was natural for me to come back to, my thematic trail of breadcrumbs have become registrating changes in my family. My sisters and mother have participated in many video works and photographs. I like to observe how different we are because my sisters were born in a western, well-fair kingdom and I was born in an eastern, communist republic. Me and my mother can communicate in a language totally unknown for half of our family. That creates unconventional bonds and I believe that the process of growing up took longer for me then for others, even my art have matured longer than for other artists, because I couldn't just fully focus on the creative process, I was always involved in existential matters, with analyzing myself,
which prolonged everything in my life. I had leave artworks that were to heavy or that required space and focus more on art that can move with me. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit in order to get a synoptic view of your work: while walking us through your process, would you like to tell to our readers something about the evolution of your style? In particular, do you think that there is that connect all your works? The evolution of my style is quite chaotic at a first glance and I think that the idea of liminality is a thread that can
bind it all together! I am a very liminal being. I live on the edge, on the verge, on the brink. I am here and there. I tink in three different languages. I express myself through sound, words and image. What is so special with the concept of liminality is that it includes so many ideas. It basically concernes everything that is in-between. From Arnold van Genneps analyses of rites of passage to Victor Turners focus on the state of limbo and ambiguity. You can interlace Bakhtins texts on the carnevalesque through liminality, which expresses a state that is being perceived inward (individually) and then you have the idea of the more expressive and social carnevale, (socially) that engages a whole society in a in-between state where everything becomes possible, where there is potential and
anonymity at the same time. You can go thorugh this state either stripped of your clothes or by wearing masks and becoming somebody else. Liminality is part of the nature: dusk, dawn, eclipse. It's inherited by tricksters such as Hermes or the Norse god Oden, who provided humankind with the gift of runes; a magical alphabet that learned humans the power of pronounced letters. Words married to rhythm can bring to life anything you want. The main idea behind magic is a belief in the power of words. All trickster characters have an innovative approach, they are very fruitful, fantastic and ingenious but there is a prize for their creativity. That's the dark side of liminality; you cannot stay in that state too long. You have to change all the time.
For this special edition of we have selected , an extremely interesting video installation that was part of your PhD work and that can be viewed at
. What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into is the way you have provided the visual results of your analysis with coherent combination between and . While walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us how did you developed the initial idea?
In 2016 I finalized my idea on writing a book about how the forest have affected Swedish culture, language and society. I wrote the book in Polish and it was a comparative perspective between Northern and Southern approach to nature. I was studying swedish words, names and sayings that originated from birds or nature and translated them into Polish so that the reader could have an idea about how it would feel to use them in their own mother-tongue. A lot of them have of course a hidden erotic meaning. For instance lovemaking can be called “cuckoo ” or “birdi ” in Swedish. Female masturbation is called “rubbing the berry” and a beuatiful idiom for menstruation is “lingonberry week.” My surname Rönnberg, means in Swedish Rowan Mountain. Analyzing those cultural differences made me aware about how cruciaul the language is.
How the things we give name to and express ourself visualizes our worldview and roots. Working on my book made me dig deeper into the history and origin of my both homecountries. I found out how the pagan and natureworshipping ideas was still practised subconsciously in Sweden, on the contrary to the Polish and Christian view. At some point I found and decided to translate a short story called by one of the most important writers in Swedish litterature, Sara Lidman. The story is very poetic, almost absurd and allegorical. Lidman remembers and descibes how the first love of her life was not a boy, but a tree. Before she attended school, she fell in love with a single spruce, that was growing in a forest near by her house. She visited the tree, and she prayed for it in the night, but as she started attending school
and became fascinated with words she understood that if she wanted to become human, she had to breakup the relationship with the tree, by doing so she fell in love with language instead, and all the possibilities of expression it gave her. As a contrast to this story my research made me discover a Polish magazine for teenagers from 1938. It was a very unstable time in Polish history, between two World Wars. The -T was issued by magazine entitled the Eucharistic Crusade in Cracow and used the concept of the forest as a patriotic propaganda. In a very ardent preface to the magazine, Polish youth could read that they are like trees, and their country is like a forest that is in threat of the foreign â&#x20AC;&#x17E;downpourâ&#x20AC;? and just like a single, lonely tree is incapable of stopping the heavly rains, a forest full of trees is strong. I
became very inspired in analyzing how we humans use nature in different contexts that adapt different philosophical approaches. And I became aware about the contradictions inside of me. That as a person I am built up with contrasting stories like that. Just by using a specific language you can actually move through space and time, language has the power to include and exclude creating both borders and bridges. I felt that I wanted to play with these ideas and dig deeper into the state of in-betweenness. provides the viewers with an immersive experience and brings the notion of landscape to a new level of significance, evoking an atmosphere elaborated by French that reminds us of the idea of anthropologis Marc AugĂŠ. How would you describe in your work? And in particular, how did you select the location for the initial sequences of ? Well you know, Dante starts his journey through the archtecture of Inferno with these famous words: Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost. The entrance to hell which has become an allegory for crisis and loss of faith is portrayed as a dark forest, where a soul can be lost. I think that we humans, especially in west, have a dichotomous approach to nature. We are aware that we originate from it and feel a primeval connection to it, but at the same time, the development of our species and technology, all this that is part of our culture have made us cordoned off the natural world. Humans no longer live in the forest, it has just become a place we visit sometimes or that we travel through to get to another destination. Therefor you can say that the forest is also a liminal space, a non-place, a no-man's land, a place of its own that doesn't belong to anyone, even if it has a name, a spot on the map, a story. What happens in the woods, stays in the woods. Humans are always intruders there. I don't believe it's a coinsidence that the english word forest sounds familiar to the word foreigner. A foreigner is somebody coming from outside of the boundaries, somebody who have travelled the forest to come â&#x20AC;&#x17E;hereâ&#x20AC;?. When you read and analyze old fairy-tales or stories, like the collecion
Your exploration of the the border between forest and city seems to be very analytical, yet
of Grimm Brothers or Charles Perrault, it becomes very clear that the forest, as a symbol in our consciousness, have become a territory where the transformation of the main character in a story takes place. Everybody has a reason for going into the woods. Sometimes they have to run away and find shelter, in other cases they go there in search for adventure and sometimes they become abandoned or banished by the closest people. Either way, the hero of the story always comes back to civilization changed: stronger, wealthier or selfaware. The forest is like a rite of passage in the storyline, which makes me think of Clarissa Pinkola Estes final words from the book Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Go out in the woods, go out. If you don't go out in the woods nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.â&#x20AC;? Perhaps James Lapine and Steven Sondheim exploatied this idea the most in their musical Into the Woods from 1986, where they entwined all of the most famous stories together and all of them have reasons for going into the forest. Nature has had a great impact on my visual work throughout years, not only because Sweden as a country is covered in 57 % by forests and it is the landscape of my childhood and youth but while in Poland, as a contrast I have always been iving in big cities so for my videowork I wanted to entwine my two homecountries together, join together the opposites. I travel from south to north, from west to east and the landscape is juxtaposing my existance between those states, between the loneliness that a human can feel in nature and the togetherness experianced in a city. I chose places that are known but not intimate. I filmed the sunrise from a blurry airplane window flying from Sweden over Poland at the dawn. I registered the sunset standing on two different lookout positions: on a hill in my hometown Kungsbacka and on a famous viewpoint where you can see whole Gdansk. My western hometown is small and cozy, not many lights penetrate the night, not many people breaks the silence. My eastern city where I spent four years working on my PhD is full of human activities that mark their presence in the atmoshpere. Sweden is order, Poland is chaos. I also juggle with the idea of the screen as one fixed format. The borders become moveable leaving the viewer once with a diptych, a narrow panorama or a full frame single screen.
strives to be full of emotion: how would you consider the relationship between analysis and spontaneity within your work? In particular, do you like spontaneity or do you prefer to meticolously schedule every details of your works? how much importance does serendipity play in your process? I always dream about the idea of full controll, which I almost miracuosly never can obtain. I film a lot of sequences that I never use in the end and sometimes I just happen to be at the right place, at the right time and register something that I could never plan but just fits perfectly. That happened for example with one of the last scenes in this work, when I am lying on a bed in a room with a giant window. I was trying to figure out how to record the scene with the molting process
of a Atlas Moth (Attacus Atlas) through the television noises and nothing I came up with was good enough. Then I was invited to La Paz in Bolivia where I showed my works on the Art Biennale there and I just felt that this hotelroom was so poetic and so right, so after a little bit of rearrangement I finally found what I was looking for. But I deffinetly think there is a strong connection between analyze and spontaneity. In 1926 Graham Wallas wrote and proposed a model of the creative process in his book which is still much valid today. He wrote that the creative process consists off : preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification, basically it means that if you want to create something you start by preparing, reading, gathering information, working etc then comes a period of time when the ideas are incubating
and at some point subconscious takes over and starts finding solutions to our ideas and projects. As you have remarked in your artist's statement, you maintain : how would you consider the relationship between past and contemporariness in our unstable, everchanging age? Right now, we are basically drowning in culture. So many people are creative, so many people CAN be creative because technology and equipment for making anything from music to movies has become so accessible and cheep. Nicolas Bourriaud writes about deejeing as a symbol for contemporary art in his work from 2001. There is a lot of recycling going on everywhere. When Julia
Kristeva coined the term intertextuality which is closely linked to postmodernism it wasn't any coincident that she was responsible for introducing the works by Mikhail Bakhtin to the west. In the from 1940 Bakhtin was writing about the idea that the words that we use aren't fully ours. We are using a language and words that have been used by those before us. There are also archetypal symbols. We all have the same ancestors so its nothing strange that in so many ways we feel and express ourself in similar ways. But today, one of the most important questions remain, what is a dialogue? And where is the line between inspiration and copy? Between referring to and stealing from? All of our tools for registrating cultural activities are
The sound of whispered spoken words provides with such dreamlike and at the same time : according to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a 'sense bias' that affects Western societies favoring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of the alphabet as the eye became more essential than ear. How do you see the relationship between sound and moving images? When I hear the sentence „relationship between sound and moving images” I think about Songlines or dream tracks. The indigenous Australians could navigate across geography of their home by memorizing and repeating the words of a song that descibed the track in which they were living and walking. Their map was oral and invisible to the untrained eye that could only see miles and miles of pure, vast and lifeless materia. For Aboriginal people the desert was full of life and every shape that marked is existanse on their „map” had its reflecion in the rhythm of a song. The philosophy behind it says that the earth must be sung into existanse, because nature is holy, so yes I will go so far as to say that the western eye is more trained to be more prudent than the ear. I mean that we are all much more sensitive when analyzing images than sounds. Maybe that is a bold theory but I find that I meet people from all groups of society that can say much more about moving images then they can say about music. I tend to hear more often opinions like: „This is a good/bad song” then within other fields where people can express more why they find some piece of art „good” or „bad”. But for me sound is moving images. There is a bond between the two of them. Sounds can evoke images and vice versa. That's why I think there are so strong theories about pilgrim writers. There is something primordial in the pilgr-image
providing us with that somebody has done something before us, which have affected the rules for quoting other artists. When you for example analyze old classical music pieces, you can see a lot of referrences entwined into the compositions, but they always had a sense; it could be an act of admiration to sneak in a small piece of melody from your favorite compositor in your music, or a sarcastic way of mock at someone's music that you didn't like, in a clever way. So in that case you can say that people have always been copying and creating dialogues with other artists but what's going on right now especially within the pop-music industry have . risen to a
with all the moving images that flicker in front of the eye that provokes a stream of words that eagers to be sound. You are a versatile and your practice ranges from visual poetry and music to installation: what draws you to such captivating multidisciplinary approach? And in particular, when do you recognize to self? that a technique has exhausted I have been thinking about this a lot and I am not quite sure. Maybe I am restless. But in the Renaissance artists were engaged in many different practices, from science to art and now people tend to specialize in just one field and artists have become more of producers who outsource their projects to other specialists. I am all about scattered fragments and I try to find an adequate form for each problem I face. That can be very developing but stressful because you are never quite sure what the outcome will bring and that affects also your artistic self-esteem. We want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in Art. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing art, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in artistic productions? I think that what we see now is a rise of female presence in all artistic fields. It is very much in line with Hélène Cixous thoughts „Write yourself. Your body from 1975. Women must be heard” expressed in had to write them self into his-story creating her-story. When all the patriarchal systems and mythologies have failed, women have to re-create, rediscover their own narratives and share them with the world. All the archaic patrons of western Songlines are figures like Moses, David, Peter and Paul, Odysseus or Plato. It's all men who have been creating narratives about men for men. As an antidote, women must write themself, because if they don't, they will be inscribed into the wor(l)d of men. And that's what's happening now; women are very engaged in the creative process in almost every artistic field and in the future I hope that we can all share the creative space together regardless of sex, orientation or ethnicity. We need different narratives and alternative points of view! Over the years your works have been showcased in more than 80 individual and group shows around the world: one of the hallmarks of
That's a very interesting question because the concept of the audience has developed and changed a lot throughout history. From art that used to be a result of spiritual journeys, to art that became conceptual. From the artist who was eager to impress the audience and did everything to be loved by spectators, to the artist who hates the public and does art for arts sake and is not even interested in the opinion of others. It is a balance but I can only say that being a nomad and moving back and forth makes you realize how important it is to take roots somewhere. I started to take photographs as a teenager because for me it felt like an escape from (oral) language. That I could create something that could be understood regardless of geography, but since I have a soul of a poet I couldn't stop writing. When I lived in Sweden I wrote in Swedish, then when I moved to Poland I started in writing in Polish, but then when I published my book Polish I became so sad that nobody from my Swedish family and close friends could understand it. That's why I am working more in English and that is a choice that came naturally for me due to traveling, direct involvement, reception of audience etc. English has become a little bit of no-mans and every-bodys language. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Diana. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Well thank you for inviting me! It has been a pleasure! I am dreaming about working more with the idea of a spatial non-linear musical that can combine both static and moving images and I think that sound will even have a greater influense on my visual works in the future. I am also thinking more about performance poetry....and of course music! I would like to work more with music!
your work is the capability to create with the viewers, who are provided with the opportunity to become active participants and are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context?
Lily Levin Lives and works in London, United Kingdom
A documentary filmmaker follows her grandfather to Liverpool as he re-discovers his tragic post-war childhood. Grampy finally reveals secrets kept since childhood - a series of unfortunate events peppered with physical, emotional and sexual abuse. 'A lot of people have no idea what goes on behind closed doors...' 'Grampy' depicts a fight for normality which seems other worldly, yet starkly relate-able by many even today. Grampy, (Eric Galvani) was evacuated from Liverpool at the age of 5 during WW2. Having already lost his mother, he was taken from the rest of his family and moved around the countryside. However, the worst was yet to come. A poverty-stricken post war Liverpool was waiting for him at the end of the war, and so were his bitter stepmother and volatile father. The youngest of 8 children, Eric faced a hungry childhood which might take his whole life to come to terms with. 'The adults who were supposed to act in my interest... I would say to them, Look at me and speak to me, as if I'm a fellow human being...not turn your back and ignore me as you might do a dog that's running round on the floor.'
Lily Levin An interview by Francis Quettier
writers and creators, including myself, spend a lot of
and Dora Tennant
time looking for inspiration, and trying to find amazing ways to represent the message they want to
is a captivating work by documentary filmmaker Lily Levin that initiates the audience into the dramatic experience that her grandfather experienced during his childhood, accomplishing such insightful inquiry into the space between interiority and exteriority: we are pleased to introduce our readers to her captivating production. Hello Lily and welcome to : to get started, would you mind telling us a little bit about your background and how did it influence the way you currently produce your works? In particularly, what did draw you to center your production to documentary filmmaking?
send, and that is a longer road with fiction, because you are almost adding another layer. If you go to a writing class, you will be taught how to create a good protagonist and make them relatable and likeable and get the audience to care about them. Well I think I looked at my Grampy and saw a readymade protagonist, a sort of underdog who has somehow come through some appalling experiences and lived to tell the tale. I thought, this man is a lot of things - he is old, he is mischievous, he is fed up, he is funny, he is outspoken and cantankerous, but he is very caring and much, much more intelligent than he was ever allowed to be. And as for the story - he had been trying to tell us for years, but never quite had the right platform. The
I had never made any kind of film before I made
long and short - why obsess over realism when you
Grampy. So in that spirit, I would reply that
can just use the real?
documentary filmmaking was my first choice. I think I trained at East 15 Acting School in London on the BA HONS Contemporary Theatre course, one of the only courses in the country that allows you to train in
the producer, the musician etc. So before I made this film I had been directing theatre and found that I enjoyed it more than acting. As for how I moved on to film - I simply got tired trying to convince my Grampy to chronicle his life in writing, but seeing as he was happy talking about it, I told him I would bring a camera on my next visit. I would not have known where to begin had it not been for my dear friend, DOP and Editor, Tristan Bell, already talented cinematographer and director himself, who had also trained at East 15 on the Filmmaking course. we For this special edition of have selected , and we would invite to our readers to visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3XCh9SMKbM, a documentary that follows Eric Galvani to Liverpool as he re-discovers his tragic post-war childhood. It's important to remark that Eric Galvani is your grandfather: when walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us if was it important for you to make a personal film, that touched your familiary sphere, something you knew a lot about? I think Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m obsessed with understanding human behaviour. To me, understanding human behaviour is one of the most powerful tools you can want because it can keep you from losing the people you love, so long as they are alive, that is. Throughout my 20s I have had to
different roles - the performer, the director, the writer,
is not a classical talking heads documentary and manages to capture extraordinary moments of genuine emotion as well as references to historical situations. We appreciated the way delicately weaves past and present, finding between personal pain and public anguish: How did you conceive the balance between
do a lot of work to understand my own behavior, and the behavior of those that I love in order to make peace with it all and move forward. The other thing I have done a lot of in my 20s is working with children. More recently, particularly children and teenagers who have emotional and behavioural difficulties because they have suffered abuse, neglect, abandonment and rejection, much like my Grampy experienced, except back then they were just called naughty. I have also worked with the very elderly during my time at drama school - I worked as a care assistant in an old peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s home. One of the conclusions I have taken from these polarised experiences is that they are not polarised at all, in fact they are incredibly similar. We are all children, and we are all elderly, just at different times. We are not separate in the way it would appear. For example, I see in my Grampy the frightened, motherless 5 year old he must have been at some stage. He says that he does not see that child as himself, rather someone vulnerable that he wishes he could have protected, which makes sense, but that child is certainly part of him and the way he views the world today. It is also part of his relationships - so yes, I wanted it to touch my family sphere, I wanted them to see the other parts of him they hadnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t met, and how brave he could be to show them.
Grampy himself helped us find a balance. I think that side of my family are very british and do the ‘stiff upper lip’, but not in the traditional sense - it is softer and they do it with humour, often a dark humour, which my Grampy is not short of. For example; ‘Even though the Germans were bombing the shit out of us, we still enjoyed ourselves as children.’ If by ‘personal pain’ we mean specific things that happened to Grampy, and by ‘public anguish’ we mean the war itself and the state of Liverpool, then I would say the balance is struck by the two being mutually inclusive. This does not necessarily read as a political film, but it does not need to deliberately be that to have a political message. The depravity of my Grampy’s childhood was a direct result of capitalism, war, and class divide. He was born the youngest of 9 children into to a poverty stricken family and lost his mother to an unidentified cause at the age of 3, only to be presided over by his evil stepmother - it’s positively draconian. Perhaps his personal pain is a representation of public anguish - many working class war children would have suffered in similar ways. I think that by telling one story truthfully enough, you can often represent a whole generation and highlight the human suffering that was caused by the situation at the time. Elegantly structured, alternates historical footage and intimate situations: what were your when shooting? I was deliberately unconcerned with things looking ‘perfect’ or ‘beautiful’, because it was simply besides the
the emotional level of your narrative and the real situation you described?
A particular aspect of focus on is the way you
we would like to .
The relationship between personal memory and human behavior is a fundamental point of your research: when introducing our readers to this concept, would you tell us how would you consider in your work as a filmmaker documentarist?
point of the film. However, working with a talented cinematographer like Tristan Bell had it’s perks - we were able to paint my Grandparents’ modern day house as a safe and warm sanctuary. Using the good light, warm colours and b-footage of different details of the house, we hopefully put across a strong sense of home and family. My Grandparents have lived in that house since the 70s and have put their roots down firmly and securely, so I wanted the intimate scenes of Grampy sitting in his chair to somewhat show that. He’s telling a frightening story, and we can see the footage of bomb damage, but he’s telling it safely from his chair. For the same reason, I was not concerned with my Grandma walking into shot because her presence shows a stark contrast with the absence of an important female figure in Grampy’s childhood. I am also not worried about my work having a homemade look. Between Tristan and myself, we have 6 jobs just to pay the rent and this film was not funded. We worked on it in evenings and weekends for 18 months to get it done, and I don’t mind that showing through a bit, because it’s part of the spirit of the film.
ceaselessly interweaves Just as Bellocchioâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s films, the personal and the political: Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, " ". Not to mention that almost everything, ranging from Caravaggio's Inspiration of Saint Matthew to Joep van Lieshout's works, could be considered , do you think that could be considered a political work? Moreover, what could be in your opinion the role of filmmakers in our unstable contemporary age? Certainly I think Grampy could be considered a political film. I think any filmmaker who tries to stay as true as possible to reality is automatically making political comment. In my mind, political comment is simply a side effect of the exposing truth. I think the role of filmmakers in our unstable contemporary age is to balance out media propaganda with an alternative perspective. We should constantly be trying to expose the truth, whether it be through Documentary or fiction. There are a lot of angry, disenfranchised people out there who feel failed by the system - we should be providing them with an alternative Ideology and validating their dissatisfaction before we lose them to extremism. Your exploration of such dramatic series of unfortunate events seems to be very analytical, yet strives to
My Grampyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s memory of what happened is his story, and indeed the story of the film, but I suppose we see two stories the story of his childhood, and the story of the man now coming to terms with that story. Ericâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s memory is our window into another world and another time. There is no better way to learn about the past than from someone who was there.
Spontaneity was absolutely key in this process - The only thing that was planned was a list of questions for the interview at my Grampy’s house. Originally we planned to make a short 10 minute ‘during the war,’ anecdote-lead type piece, but on the first day of filming, my Grampy dropped a bit of a bombshell. He casually disclosed to us that had been sexually abused, and suddenly it became a different film. It was only going to be him in his chair until halfway through editing when we realised we needed more movement - we decided to write to the addresses of the places he lived on the off-chance that they would allow us into their houses with a camera, and astonishingly, I got excited phone calls from both! So the Liverpool trip was somewhat spontaneous, as were quite a few scenes throughout. For example, the gargoyle scene - as part of our bfootage, we asked Eric to take us on a tour of his house and garden, and the Gargoyle was part of that. It was totally lead by him and narrated in his own words, which shows more truth than anything scripted could. We also decided to interview him at the services when we were halfway to Liverpool, another spontaneous decision, because the journey so far had been quite fraught with a lot of bickering between him, my mother and my grandma - a widely relatable situation. What a perfect opportunity to get him to speak frankly about
be full of emotion: how would you consider the relationship between within your work? In particular, do you like spontaneity or do you prefer to meticulously schedule every detail of your works? How much importance did play improvisation in your process?
With documentary, you can plan as much as you like, but when it comes down to it, you are working with human beings, not actors, and you are asking them to reveal a lot to you. You have to be flexible and accommodate the person who is letting you into their life. If you make them feel comfortable and in control, you can get a lot more out of them, and that means not being too much of a Nazi about schedule and working conditions. For example, when shooting, I wanted to show Grampy as the protagonist, the leader, I wanted him to drive us to Liverpool, show us round his houses, give us a tour of the docks. This was his territory, and not only did I want him to feel comfortable in what was quite an emotional situation, I wanted him to have agency, to be in control, the storyteller as he always was at the dinner table - but this time we are going to listen. Unfortunately this was sometimes to the detriment of the shoot, as being a Liverpudlian to the core, he couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t help but stop and put the world to rights with any interesting stranger. Yes, it does mean that you have to do more work in post production, but it can be worth it if you catch the real human moments you were looking for. I feel that the analytical side perhaps comes from my obsession with understanding human behaviour and helping others understand it - I think I needed the film to not just show a sad story, but to think about it, think about the reality of it and how it could possibly happen, and how Eric could possibly have got through it. I think the main question in my head throughout was - â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;How did this man achieve his
his experience so far! As a result, he spoke with immediacy about his anxieties of going to his old houses and we saw another side of his humanity.
We want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in cinema. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? I feel that women have a lot to say, and a lot to work from. We also feel as though we have a lot to prove, and I think those things in combination can help you force your voice through. I think we also have a duty be persistent and set an example for the next generation. In short, I think women have a huge future presence in cinema, both on and off screen. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m thinking about Wonder Woman (which has a long way to go, I had some problems with it, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a step in the right direction.) Also Game of Thrones which seemed to start off as one of the most objectifying TV shows I had ever seen, but has blossomed into what can only be described as a powerful and positively formidable matriarchy. These two examples are very mainstream, of course, but I think the onscreen changes reflect what is happening off-screen with directors, casting directors and writers. Women are getting more involved and demanding characters with more substance and more power.
normal life/family after that childhood?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; I wanted to investigate that, but at the same time, show the emotional journey he would go on retracing his steps, something more immediate, in the present, not just talking about the past.
I would hope Grampy will make a young audience think of their own Grandparents, and the stories they might not have told them. I hope that an audience closer to Grampy’s generation would feel represented and feel some affinity with his journey. I hope that an audience can stop for a second and appreciate the idea that a functional life with functional relationships might be a humongous achievement for some, maybe even themselves. I want people to ask themselves ‘what does it mean to ‘make it’?’ What is going to make me happy, really? I want people to be open to the idea that there is more than one way to be successful. Is it really about being ‘the best’? Or is it about simply improving upon your own situation and dealing with your own demons? Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Lily. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? In the future, I expect to continue using very personal subject matter in order to maintain utmost honesty and truth, and make my films increasingly more relatable. I like the Idea of there being a strong personal relationship between myself as the filmmaker and the subject, so that the film is not about a stand alone character, but a heavily contextualised relationship with that character, hopefully adding audience investment from the start. For example I
Grampy has recently won its 3rd Award at the Humanitarian Honourable Mention from Best Shorts: before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. What are you hoping will trigger in the audience?
would like to make more short films about different members of my family, and the workings of my family relationships. Perhaps there is something in using film as a therapy, and a medium through which to express the mundane joys and sufferings of family life. Why should we keep our dysfunctionalities a secret? Everyone has them, and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what makes us human. The Project I am currently producing (With Tristan Bell as Director this time) is a short documentary called TITS. Through a process of interviews from people with a range of bodily experiences, TITS explores the trials and tribulations of owning a set of mammaries. The aim of the project is to celebrate difference, analyse differences between cultures or experiences, and combat the idea that breasts are taboo or only used within a sexual context. Instead of filming the faces of participants, we film their bare breasts, and in so doing, show the naked form in a non-sexualised context, and present another way to look at breasts and nudity. Issues covered will include breast cancer, reduction surgery, enhancement surgery, transgender issues, sexuality issues, gender stereotyping issues, cultural issues, sexual abuse, general LGBTQ and feminist issues. You can get more information about the project, see trailers and clips, and subscribe to our weekly newsletter at www.titsdocumentary.com also follow us on instagram, tits_documentary and Facebook, TITS - documentary.
An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant
Yael Azoulay Lives and works in New York City, USA
I constantly desire for more, while never really reaching the point of satisfaction or comfort. It is a never-ending, self-generating longing that completely takes over me, with a burning sensation at the pit of the stomach, until it leaves my body and surrounds me without a way out of that entanglement; Being in one place and dreaming of another, then arriving at that destination and romanticizing over what has been lost. I examine this in my work through creating tension by both identifying and criticizing an idea, and thus my power acts also as a point of weakness. It is like picking at a scab while wanting it to heal. In Please Break My Heart I set to examine the line between fiction and reality â&#x20AC;&#x201C; if there is such a thing â&#x20AC;&#x201C; through creating an image that is not entirely false, but is deceptive. I wanted my heartbreaker to bring me closer to my own desire. I find the motif of heartbreak to be the ultimate fantasy; getting a taste of love that could be amazing then having it taken away, leaves you forever in love, in a constant state of yearning. This requires suspension of disbelief; the camera was present at all times, until we managed to forget it was there; the fact that I am paying my actor was also present, hoping to be forgotten at times so that both I and he may fall into escapism, love and narcissism. Being at peace with the ambivalence of situations allows me to thoroughly examine a thought or idea, while presenting the viewer with no definitive answer, only more questions. This allows me to be "normal" and perverse, dominant and submissive, perfect and broken â&#x20AC;&#x201C; all at the same time.
Yael Azoulay An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant
Captivating and provocative is a stimulating video by Yael Azoulay: in February 2016 she auditioned and hired an actor to break her heart. They entered a relationship in which the camera was present at all times to examine the line between fiction and reality through creating an image that is not entirely false, but is deceptive. We are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to Azoulay's multifaceted work. Hello Yael and welcome to this special : before edition of starting to elaborate about your artistic production would you like to tell us something about your background? Are there any experiences that did influence
your evolution as a filmmaker and a creative? Hello, and thank you very much for this interview. I was born and raised in Israel and my education in art started when I moved to the United States and studied photography in the Community College of Philadelphia. I studied Photography a bit randomly, due to late enrollment and limited options, but that random choice opened the door to the artworld for me and taught me how to look at the world. Later I came back to Israel and studied art and art education at HaMidrasha School of Art and there I learned the language of art and how to speak it. In 2014 I moved to NYC and received my MFA at School of Visual Arts. I think that having the option to study art both in the US and in Israel has greatly influenced my creative process. The educational approach in Israel is straightforward, and sometimes even rough, meaning that your professor doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t like your work, you know immediately. I think it has toughened me and made me more
Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production would you like to tell to our readers something about your ? My process is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. I am a conceptual artist, and I work mainly in video but am open to whatever media my idea leads me to. This process could be somewhat frustrating sometimes, because once I am done with a project I typically donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know what will be my next move. A colleague of mine, who has a similar work process, once told me that every time it feels as if he is a computer that has been restored to company settings, or moreover - a whole new computer. Of course the next idea\project always comes after a while, but the situation of not knowing is very stressful and a lot of the times I have to remind myself - like a mantra - that it will happen. Please Break My Heart was unusual in that sense because I came up with the idea while working on another project. This situation gave me a good amount of
independent. I was always drawn to video, from my very first year in undergrad, and I think it has a lot to do with my professor at the time, Boaz Arad, who I still come to for advice every so often. In class Arad showed us an amazing selection of works from all over the world, and spoke of it with true love and appreciation.
For this special edition of we have selected the , an interesting video that our readers have already started to admire in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our
time to let the idea simmer, write about it and research it. Thus, when I actually started the project I felt very prepared and I knew more or less what I was getting myself into. I did a lot of groundwork I spoke to a lot of colleagues, actors and directors. I needed to audition and hire an actor for this project, and this actor had to be an open-minded person, due to the nature of the project. My colleagues and actor friends helped me a lot with finding the right websites to post open calls on, and also with drafting a project description that wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be too long and exhausting and yet will truly convey the nature of the project. By the way, even with all of my research and preparation, about half of the actors who made the final cut did not understand that they actually had to date me. While working on the open call, I have drafted a contract and researched cameras to find out what will be the best choice - not too big so we wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t notice it constantly, has a long battery life, can be charged while filming, had satisfying quality footage. I did a lot of planning and research so that I wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to think about anything once the project starts and I could let go and fall in love.
I was drawn to the notion of heartbreak from two angles - one is personal and the other theoretical. In my creative process I became quite interested in the effect that movies have on the viewerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s perception of reality and in generating emotions. I had just moved to New York City and I felt like someone turned up the volume on this inquiry of mine. I noticed that people in the city talked to themselves more than Israelis do - not out of insanity, but as a way of narrating their life story. I have been thinking about the authenticity of feelings for many years now and the connection between that notion, and cinema seemed natural. So I started a series of works called that dealt mainly with those questions. Meanwhile, in my personal life I went through a breakup that left me feeling mostly melancholic. I started longing for a true heartbreak - a catharsis that leaves no room for doubt regarding the authenticity of feelings. I felt that being heartbroken will generate something new in my studio work, and that it was crucial for my career that I will get
attention of your insightful inquiry into is the way you provided the visual results of your analysis with : while walking our readers through of , would you tell us what did draw you to explore the notion of heartbreak ?
Diciamo che -parlo per me- certe cose avrei potuto gestire in maniera
Escaping from traditional narrative form, features a brilliant storytelling: while mixing reality and fiction you accomplishes the difficult task of address the viewers to a multilayered journey through the liminal area where perceptual reality and imagination find unexpected point of convergence. How would you consider within your artistic practice? The fantasy and the imagined has been on my mind for a few years now. Growing up in a culture so full of still and moving images, I find fantasy to be an easy answer. We are constantly asked to imagine - in movies for example, we are not shown the whole
heartbroken. I know it sounds a bit crazy but this is usually how I work - by having a strong desire to do something and then trying to break it down and understand why and how it is important to me. Of course I wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t able to predict when or how I will fall in love and even less, if I will be heartbroken. With those ideas in mind I have decided to mix fiction and reality in the hope that by auditioning an actor for the job, I will find a person that will be able to say the right words and use the right gestures, in order to ignite feelings within me. By being interested in the notion of heartbreak on a personal level, I was able to explore ideas such as control, desire, authenticity of emotions and more.
journey of a character from one location to the next, but see a few cuts from the road and imagine the rest. And we are imagining that without giving it a second thought. So the constant flow of images creates certain associations within us, and we are constantly imagining. In this situation it is difficult to experience the real. As reality clashes with our cinematic fantasy, it leaves us in a state of everpining. This is a longing that could never be satisfied - its subject, an actor or a certain image of ourselves, is an image that has been edited and refined so many times, that all we can possibly do in light of that is dwell on our own imperfection. I encounter this feeling on a daily basis. There is no escape and even if there was, I’m not sure I would want to escape it. But it is a duality that I had to address somehow. I believe my work displays this duality by taking the fantasy a step further. If I leave a movie theater smitten with the protagonist, looking up the images of the actor and consequently becoming a fan, is this not mixing the real and the imagined? People do that all the time. I do that all the time. In my work I take actions like this and make them more apparent by exaggerating or making small changes that make some of those notions very obvious. The fact that Alfredo Guanzani was paid to date me, is in itself mixing the real and the imagined. Even if Guanzani’s feelings turned out to be “real” there was still an element of the imagined present simply because he is an actor. Furthermore, this suspension of disbelief works both ways - my way to eliminate some
of the actors who applied for my open call, was by asking them if they found me attractive and if they were romantically involved with someone. In order for me to be able to fall in love with someone, I needed to have some sort of illusion that this was actually possible in real life. I find the motif of heartbreak to be the ultimate fantasy – getting a taste of love that could be amazing then having it taken away, leaves you forever in love, in a constant state of yearning. This yearning is a result of imagination - we imagine what being with this person would be like based on a short-lived romantic experience. In short, I think the relationship between the real and the imagined in my work is mainly a magnified reflection of this relationship in my life. you have combined clever In attention to details: what were your main in terms of composition and shooting? The aesthetic decisions of Please Break My Heart were greatly influenced by the circumstances in which the project was made. When preparing for the project I had two important considerations - the first was the visibility of the camera. I wanted my heartbreaker and I to be able to forget about the camera’s presence. This eliminated the option of having a cinematographer accompany us. The other factor to be considered was quality of the footage. I didn’t want the video to look “trashy” or cheap. I ended up going with a Go-Pro camera. It was small and affordable and produced good footage. Looking back, I think having a better quality footage, i.e. a
Using a Go-Pro camera, as well as trying to focus on the experience rather than the production, created a situation in which I didn’t always knew what the frame looked like. This again touched on the element of control, and also allowed for some interesting glitches to happen which I later used to my benefit in the editing. A good example for that is the vertical shots. Those happened at a point when we were too absorbed in the project, and also quite familiar with the range of the frame of the go-pro, that we stopped checking the frame on the app before hitting record. And so it happened that Alfredo’s camera was put back into the case on its side, and we didn’t notice because the camera is a little square box. When I started editing I have decided to use those vertical frames to make a point - when I am telling Alfredo about how I felt jealous when thinking he had spent the night with someone else, I cut back and forth from his camera, which he was holding and was on its side, to my camera, which was set upright and was shooting from within the restaurant. This
cinematographer with a professional camera, would not only make the chances slimmer for “real” feelings to accrue between my actor and myself, it would make the whole video seem less believable. It is the roughness of the video - the night shots which weren’t great, the rigid camera movement - that gives out a feeling of humanity in the project.
allowed me to juxtapose two conceptual points of view his and mine. We like the way also urges the viewers to elaborate : as you have remarked in your artist's statement,
: would you tell us how much important is for you that the spectatorship the concepts you explore, elaborating personal meanings? It is highly important to me that spectatorship rethinks my concepts. While my art draws from my personal life and desires, I don’t think I am an important or interesting enough subject to make for good art. I find that only through processing my personal point of interest into a more broad metaphor, I am able to explore a notion in a way which satisfies me. when the experience becomes once or even twice removed from the personal - it allows the spectator to rethink it, projecting his\her own experiences and asking him\herself more questions that will probably be left unanswered but will generate something within them. This project is not nor does it aim to be a perfect illusion. It exists somewhere in the space between the projected movie and the viewer’s eyes – only in that vacant space of liminality can “true love” take place. For me it’s important to make art that is interesting
for me to work on. However, it's just as important to be able to step aside and allow for other things to come up in the process as well. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative process. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once remarked that " ": how would you consider the relation between of the ideas you explore and of producing your artworks? For me the two are inseparable. In the book author Jonah Lehrer brings forth Walt Whitmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s idea that feelings â&#x20AC;&#x153;begin in the fleshâ&#x20AC;? (p. 1). I firmly agree and believe that ideas begin in the flesh as well. I am interested in certain ideas because I can feel them triggering something in my physicality. Anyone who has experienced strong desire knows how physically brutal it can become; how quickly it could escalate to a longing that can never be satisfied. It completely takes you over, with a burning sensation at the pit of the stomach, the heart pounding strongly in the chest until it surrounds your entire body. With this approach in
mind it’s only natural that my work will find manifestation in a physical act. I am a long time Ashtanga Yoga practitioner. Some people have a misconception that yoga is a sport but it’s not. The physical practice of yoga allows for the spiritual practice - the two work together. A lot of the times upon starting a new project, I find that I have some silly, physical need or want. Since art is a way for me to work through issues and conflicts, it almost always satisfies some physical challenge as well, and much like yoga - allows the abstract notions to come through. What is your preparation with actors in terms of rehearsal? How did you work with the rest of the crew? In particular, would you tell us something about of your filmmaking? For the duration of the project there was no cast or crew, aside from the actor - Alfredo Guanzani. In my search I looked for an actor that will know how to handle the situation and will react in the best way possible with the goal of making me fall in love with him. In that sense, Guanzani was the perfect person for the job. I was able to let go and enjoy the process, and even when I brought up the subject of him lying to me his response was smart and accurate - letting
me know that he was feeling insecure because his feelings were starting to get real. This wasn’t the case all along though. After the auditions I spoke to my co-producers, the two guys who sat besides me during the auditions. Even though Guanzani was my first choice, they both said I should go with a different guy, who was my second choice. I casted the other guy and after a few dates we both realized it was a mistake, so we parted ways. Guanzani was amazing and our collaboration felt very natural and innate. He knew exactly what I was looking for and didn’t need me to guide him through it. Those things happen a lot with collaborations. Sometimes you think one person will be a good fit and they don’t. I’m happy I was able to keep an open mind and pay close attention to how I felt in the process and also what the project needed in order to develope into it’s final form. We want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in cinema. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? In particular, do you think that
your being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value?
the world, and I sincerely hope that one day there will be more of that for women’s films.
One of the reasons I found it more comfortable to work with video, rather than painting for example, is because of the history of video-art as a medium that was utilized by women artists from the very beginning. Of course we don’t live in an equal opportunity world yet, but the fact that women artists made videos alongside men, made it more accessible for me - the constant struggle felt not as bad. I believe that this will allow more women in the future to get behind the camera or sit on the director’s chair. I also believe that platforms such as this one, that work hard to give exposure to women in the field, are of great importance. The more women get exposures, the more young girls will have the courage and strength to believe in themselves and follow their dreams. As a woman I experience the world differently for many reasons, some are related to objectification and gender-biases, and some are simply physical. So it is inevitable that this will show up in my work, whether I mean for it to be there or not. I don’t necessarily think it makes it special - the word special to me means that someone else's work is not special. I do however think that it is worthy and deserves it’s place in
Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Yael. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? As I mentioned earlier, I often don’t know what I will be working on next until I actually start a new project, so it’s hard for me to see a future connection, only a retrospect one. I can tell you that the nature of Please Break My Heart left me somewhat traumatized and I realized that only recently, while taking part in an artist residency at the Vermont Studio Center. I have been thinking a lot about the notion of memory and trauma, and during my residency I have decided to recreate a video I shot 6 years ago, that included the Jewish ritual of immersion. This was a way for me to talk about memory and a possibility to revisit life events, in a way of purification. That was a starting point to something new that I am very excited to explore further in the next few months.
An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant
Denys Blacker Lives and works in Catalunya, Spain The Noble Gases is a series of seven performances for camera, based on my investigation into the Periodic Table. In these works I examine the properties of the gases while looking for their relationship to everyday life, subjective reality and our joint experiences. It fascinates me how these building blocks of our material world behave and how easily they abandon their solid, quantifiable forms to enter a stranger world of shapeshifting and magic. At the heart of matter itself lie the most difficult questions about reality and consciousness as well as about time, space and presence.
Denys Blacker An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant is a captivating series of seven performances for camera, based on an investigation into the Periodic Table, by the multidisciplinary artist Denys Blacker. Her research about the properties of the noble gases and their relationship to everyday life, offers an unconventional and multi-layered experience. Blacker's research into the nature of reality encourages a cross-pollination in the mind of the observer and we are particularly pleased to introduce her interesting work to our readers. Hello Denys, welcome to : we would like to start this interview with a couple of questions about your multifaceted background. You have a solid formal training: after completing a BA (Hons) and an MA in Fine Art Sculpture, you have continued your education, years later, with a PhD at Northumbria. How have these experiences, your cultural substratum influenced the way you currently conceive and produce your works?
I finished my MA in Sculpture at Chelsea School of Art in London many years ago and I feel very lucky to have been able to study in the UK when it was free. I am strongly against the current system of student loans which leaves young people with enormous debts, before they even start their professional life as well as having to work while they are studying. Being able to spend those years in the studio, dedicating all my time to what I loved doing was a privilege, but also it was fundamental to my development as an artist. Not only was I able to experiment in a very free way, beyond the limits of the three dimensional and to extend my work in the direction of performance art, but I was also given the time and the critical environment to test out and refine my thinking and making processes. I think that my cultural substratum is based on a very Western view of Art, although, soon after I began my BA in 1981, I became interested in Ancient Chinese thought, when I began practicing Tai Chi, and that definitely drew my roots to the East. My artistic practice was to become more concerned with the act of doing and the process of making, than the material results. At present, back in an institutional environment again after so many years, I have had the opportunity to reassess and contextualise my work in relation to the themes that most interest me.
I have really appreciated being able to develop my thesis under the supervision of dedicated academics and artists such as Dr Sandra Johnston, who have helped me to go even deeper into the thinking behind the work and to not only identify, but to articulate what is important and central to my practice as an artist as well as to develop the performance work in an entirely new direction. Your approach reveals that you are a versatile artist, capable of crossing from one media to another, including performance, sculpture and drawing. We would like to ask you, if such a multidisciplinary approach is the only way to express the ideas that you explore in your work. In particular, how do you recognize when a medium has exhausted it expressive potential? I approach these different mediums in my work from the point of view of their utility in a process of problem solving. If I can think something through, in writing, a drawing or in movement, then I will do whichever seems right to me at that time. I am interested in embodied ways of knowing that are intuitive and spontaneous, that allow for a free exploration of all the possibilities. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not to say Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m without discipline, but that the discipline is not explicit in the work. I can allow myself to become familiar with a medium, in order to be free from it, and for that reason, so far, nothing has ever exhausted its potential for me. For this special edition of we have selected , an extremely interesting series, that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What
inquiry into the relationship between the properties of gases and the notions of reality and consciousness in everyday life, is the way you have presented the visual results of your analysis. There seems to be a coherent combination of
. While walking our readers through the genesis of
, would you tell what
intrigued you about I began making
? as a series of short
performances in relation to my research on The Periodic Table. These were shown at meetings of Corpologia, an artist’s collective in Catalunya, Spain. In the preparation for these works, I study the properties of the elements and allow myself to be drawn, in a series of internet searches, into the uses and misuses, as well as the history of each element. I do this as a kind of stream of associated thoughts, where I allow myself to be guided by the subjects and images that move me in some way from page to page. I develop a text from the information I find, as well as collecting images from the sites I visit. Inevitably, the elements can be employed for both good and bad purposes, and I am interested in both the metaphysical aspects as well as the geo-political implications of matter and material; ‘mater’ or mother being at the root of both words. So, I’m also looking at matter as Mother or Matrix that gives form to our reality. There is a narrative in the material, that is prosaic, but what fascinates me more, is what happens when we look at matter in a quantum state, where all the rules change, and where, deep within matter, there is only vibration, energy and space. There is also the problem of dark matter, never directly
immediately captured our attention in this insightful
observed and that supposedly makes up for over 80% of our universe. So, for example in the exploration of the noble gas xenon, I start with the measurable information; its atomic number, its qualities and how it is formed, then, the etymology of the name which has its roots in meaning foreigner, stranger, or guest. This leads me to the uses of xenon; in anaesthesia or, as a propellant in Three-Ion Propulsion Engines, that are used by NASA space probes in their search for life on other planets (spacemen as foreigners or ). It is used too, in nuclear fission reactors. An unforeseen cause of the Chernobyl disaster was the build-up of xenon or in the reactor. Fukishima too suffered from this so-called . I’m led by intuitive emotion and thought to view websites featuring the resulting deformations of living organisms in the aftermath of both disasters. The downloaded images that I collect, reflect my preoccupations about ; xenophobia, extraterrestrial life, radiation contamination, ecological disaster, deformed children, plants and animals and the freedom of women to abort. The performance itself comes from a lengthy contemplation of all this interconnected information and the internal discussion that it provokes in me. I then allow the performance to appear to me, I wait for it. Usually it comes quite clearly and simply. For xenon, it was an image of many cooking knives, hidden underneath a very ordinary looking suit and pulled out, one by one. The knives are held to my body by sewn elastic strips. Each knife is located and pulled out carefully, the blades sharpened but injury is not my aim, then held up for a moment, to the camera, before being dropped on the ground, unused. The
Your approach is marked by a balance between intention and improvisation: how would you consider the relationship between analysis and spontaneity within your work? Do you like or do you prefer to meticulously schedule every detail of your work? how much importance does play in your process? Improvisation is at the core of my research at present. I am really interested to develop ways of knowing that rely far less on the conscious processes and intentions and allow deeper layers of knowing to emerge. The word improvisation comes from the Latin meaning unforeseen. Yet the kind of improvisation that occurs in performance art is not something that is unforeseen, unplanned or not seen before in a literal sense, rather I see it as an ability to see in the mindâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eye, a kind of clairvoyance or precognition (perceiving or intuiting future events) that can penetrate the apparent barrier between the present and what is unfolding from or into the future. In my approach, I look for a balance between concepts and ideas that may be restrictive or unchangeable with the open process of the actual making of the work. To this end, I construct a clear conceptual scaffolding or framework, that allows the process of construction to be open to spontaneous changes and improvisation. How much importance do
performance often involves other people, but for the video, each performance is distilled down to a single, frontal image of myself, and shot in one take, by the artist Marta VergonyĂłs, with whom I collaborated to make . It was important to have someone filming, who was familiar with the work, and with whom I have a relationship of trust.
Metaphor is intimately linked to our corporeality, our bodily experience of this life and how we connect through it to the greater reality of the world around us. In
attempt to build a connection between the logical and conceptual basis of the work and the intuitive and embodied knowing, that bridges the gap between what things might be and what they might mean. This represents for me the possibility of an intuitive mutation of ideas, a kind of intellectual and physical cross-fertilisation that can happen when we look for meaning in movement. Suggesting a route, while allowing the viewer the freedom to discover their own way is one of the important possibilities of metaphor. Many artists explore ideas through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative process. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once remarked that " ". As a performance artist, how would you consider the relation between of the ideas you explore and
producing your artworks? I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s possible to have an abstract idea. All thought has an effect on the totality of our organism. We cannot separate mind from matter. I think that Richter is speaking here as a painter who prioritises his own viewpoint, his body a mere tool to achieve the acting out of his point of view. In the same interview, he goes on to say, â&#x20AC;&#x153;that it is not a matter of working with your own hands. It is not about being able to do something but that one sees what it is. Seeing is the decisive act that lastly equates the
producer and the viewer.â&#x20AC;? In my own work, I do not see myself as a protagonist, with a privileged view of the world, nor as a â&#x20AC;&#x153;producer with a viewerâ&#x20AC;?. Seeing, for me, is not something limited to the eyes, or a point of view. My interest lies in understanding, how what I do is always in relation to others. I experience ideas and action as inseparable from the environment, from other living beings, animals and objects. I am interested in exploring how this dynamic and interdependent way of knowing can be imagined as an unbounded sense of self, that might help us to achieve a more sustainable and ethical co-habitation in the world. The sound of ambience is particularly important in : according to media theorist Marshall McLuhan, there is a 'sense bias', that affects Western societies favouring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of the alphabet, when the eye became more essential than ear. How do you see the relationship between sound and moving images? In, I am interested in how the sound of actions, like my fingers tapping on the floor, or the snapping of credit cards being taken out of a wallet, can become new and strange. In day-to-day life, we become deaf to the accumulation of sounds in order to save ourselves from the excess of information. In these works, I try to simplify both movement and sound, pare them down to an essential and simple moving image with ambient sound, where the complexity lies not in the amount of information visible or audible but in the underlying layers of meaning and in the connections, that can be drawn from one element to the next. I am not interested at the moment in generating illusions, and so, sound and image are live and relatively
unedited. In video, obviously we prioritise the visual, but in live performance my intention is to awaken a synaesthetic experience, a visceral response that is not limited to the cognitive senses. As you remarked once, you are particularly interested into the ways that contemporary scientific discoveries about the nature of reality and interconnectedness can be explored. Multidisciplinary artist Angela Bulloch once remarked,
". Do you think that the role of the artist has changed these days with the new global communications and the new sensibility created by new media? The internet has changed the way we communicate, and has given us an almost telepathic ability to send and receive information over distances. This is something that is not only changing the way we interact, but also revealing through the application of Artificial Intelligence, the extent to which we are already entangled. The development for example of Synthetic Telepathy by Facebook and Google that hopes to make an interfaced mind-to-mind communication happen in the near future. These advances in technology should be accompanied by ethical discussions and art can contribute a great deal to that. The role of the artist, must change according to the times we live in, but essentially artists are question makers and the internet is an incredible tool for investigation and for revealing connections. Art for me,
has the role of questioning the deep human problems of our time, not by providing answers, but by provoking a deeper questioning, that yes, I think can contain a potential for change or a shift. Technology is just a tool of, and for human consciousness, and as such it can help us to change for the better or for the worse, depending on how itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s used. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s important not to forget how to live without it too, and to this end, the development of inner sensibilities is vital for maintaining an ethical world. In Post-Materialist Science, there is an agreement that any change or shift that happens now, must take into account a "lived transmaterial understanding", or the deep interconnectedness between mind and the physical world. (Beauregard & Miller 2014). This interconnectedness is something that has been explored by many artists, and I see performance art as being a rich area of a lived transmaterial investigation that has much to offer scientific exploration. Over the last twenty years you have been making live art work in Spain and abroad: one of the hallmarks of your approach is the ability to create with the viewers, who are provided with an opportunity to become active participants and are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So, before ending this conversation, we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship in your art with your audience. Do you consider audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of the language used in a particular context? Over the years my relationship with the public has gone from this direct involvement with the viewer, that you mention, to developing works that offer a more proactive collaboration
with the participants. However, currently I am looking at how participants might be empowered to take an equal place in the creation of the work itself. I have been questioning the role of collaborator in participatory performances by developing works that invite people to take part in the work as a “senser”, one who senses, feels and makes sense at the same time, along with all of the people present, including the artists and sometimes including people who are not present. My latest work with the international performance art group Ocells al Cap (Birds in the Head) is an exploration of this entanglement in an oracular performance called, “We Were Waiting For You”. In this work, we let go of the usual control we exercise over our thoughts and actions and allow the less conscious levels of our knowing to come to the surface. In essence, what we explore in these performances is the dynamics of inter-personal relating, communication and cooperation, that enable us to pool our individual skills to the benefit of all those involved, and hopefully without falling into hierarchical relationships of power. I see this not only as a political act but a particularly feminist approach to the body, where inner and outer coexist dynamically and where, a “performative understanding of discursive practices challenges the representationalist belief in the power of words to represent pre-existing things.” (Barad 2007, p.133) we are redefining the twentieth century understanding of audience (which is about audio) or viewer (as visual), to explore the possibilities of a re-entanglement of all the senses including those that might reach beyond the body and that would include the possibility of accessing sensed information from others, as in synchronicity or telepathy.
Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Denys. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Most importantly, I will be finishing writing my thesis for the PhD. I am also working on a short film that I will present for my final show, in which I will investigate the kind of performance art that I am interested in. I have been interviewing performance artists, to discuss the articulation of new subjectivities and also to appreciate the wonderful work that these artists make. I am continuing to work on the Periodic table and will be filming The Halogens, this winter sometime. My performance will continue with the Oracular Works with the group Ocells al Cap and in my ongoing collaboration with the amazing artists who have formed part of it; Helen Collard, Natàlia Espinet, Victoria Gray, Helena Hunter, Núria Iglesias, Sandra Johnson, Juliette Murphy, Nina Orteu, Paloma Orts, Melina Pena. Harriet Plewis, Anita Ponton, Elvira Santamaría, Mar Serinyá, Montse Seró. Holly Slingsby, Anet van de Elzen, Martine Viale, Sabina Vilagut, Ada Vilaró, Marta Vergonyós, Lesley Yendell and Mireia Zantop, Ayako Zushi. And coming up for next year, 2018, I will have an exhibition of my work in Bòlit Contemporary Art Centre in Girona Spain, that will include a programme of performances, workshops and discussions. Bibliography Barad, K., 2007.
, Duke University
Press. Beauregard, M. & Miller, L., 2014. Manifesto for a Post-Materialist Science. , pp.1–4.
Leyla Rodriguez The separation loop: the phrase is neither the only odd thing, nor the only paradox of the film. It is emblematic, since the film overcomes our ways of being, to see, the status of objects and living creatures. It shapes its territory bringing closer landscapes of different spaces or continents, Background? Argentina. An island, big, then islets, a high mountain country and a close-up on a stone, streams and the sea, very close, first over flown then faded in. Planes and shooting axes diverge - as the camera moves back or comes closer, approaching precisely or moving away - from this invention of an earth where to live without more precision. This union of diverse regions concerns animals as well: a lama on a mountainous terrain before a close-up on its moving ears, reindeers running through the steppe, sheep, close, then far, on the rocks. All fitting in this geography, they mingle in the landscape, but a Przewalski horse with its dense mane, its back covered with a tablecloth instead of a saddle, becomes leitmotiv and rapid scansion, as well as a strange character: a young woman, seen once already, emerging from a pile of fabrics to unfurl the strange flag of this non-country, of all the countries. The city and its artifacts are being visited, jumping from one to the other without a logical route, if not the one of this being: walls, workshops with fabric dyeing machines, rolls of fabrics protected if not the one of this being: walls, workshops with fabric dyeing machines, rolls of fabrics protected with plastic or not and a circular slick that keeps coming back. Besides, the color spreads into the grey streets on
heaps of tangled yarns, pillows in letter shapes to rewrite the tag „DreaDreams“, pieces of fabric lying on the floor… and round tablecloths, except, on the last wall, for a rectangular one, but with the same patterns, and that’s where the journey ends up. Moreover, the movement becomes more complex as the circle - the circle of the film - takes possession of the movement as well as of the patterns. A pianistic attitude accentuates the rise to the lights, the one reflected by concentric circles, the one of a huge chandelier under which waves pour in semi-circles, the one of a roundabout… the flicker makes the horse jolt as well as the woman who left the mountain after having strode it, always wearing the same suit - a floral pajamas without a hole for the head. She’s hiding under the rolls in the workshops or moving forward, backward to a tall building. No further explanation than being specific. The tablecloth, which she never takes off, is like a huge sombrero, with or without holes for the eyes or with two strange plastic tubes. They become her extravagant skin, whatever her attitudes, the places, the circumstances in the workshop, in the mountain, indoors like outdoors. Under the apparently happy madness, the impulse of the journeys… alone, she doesn’t meet the others, alone, she spins.
Leyla Rodriguez An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant
Hello Leyla and welcome to Women Cinemakers : we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. Are there any experiences that did particularly influence the way you currently conceive and produce your works? And in particular, how does the relationship between your cultural substratum and your travels inform the way you conceive and create your works? I was born in Buenos Aires Argentina under a dictatorship and the repression that you could feel in everyday situations, sometimes very subtle sometimes very harsh, created a very big longing for being able to hide or wear masks inside of me. And to the second part of your questions, yes I get my intuitive
pictures partly form my travels, my upbringing and from a source I can’t really explain it is just very clear for me that certain objects or fabrics need to be in a certain position or setting. Your approach reveals that you are a versatile artist, capable of crossing from a theme to another and before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit http://blog.leylarodriguez.de in order to get a synoptic view of your work: please tell us about your usual process and setup. Moreover, what about your preferences as far as shooting? Do you go from beginning to end? I have my different projects that are like trains in a big train station, they start on different tracks but along the way these trains are merging and traveling together for a while. They all belong together and interact with of each other, With „Separation Loop“ I used Super 8, HD and Fotos, I really need to work
For this special edition of Women Cinemakers we have selected The Separation Loop, an extremely interesting film that our readers have already staterd to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. While walking our readers through the genesis of The Separation Loop, would you tell us if you how did you developed your initial idea? As „The Separation loop“ is the first film of the series with the title „yesterday, today and tomorrow“ One of my main focuses was to include my family though their music and sound recordings, I haven been separated from my Family since childhood. One of my biggest inspirations is Alejandro Jodorowsky says if art does not heal, it is just a show. For example I used an very old recording that my dad did from me when i was a child. In my family everybody is a musician so it was important for me to mix the visual and soundscapes together. „
” (Louise Bourgeois)
with different Formats in my Films in order to have a non fixed situation that opens a tension level. There is no real End in my Films since they are all parts of a evolving structure.
I have a very clear visual Film in my head, so there is not that much improvisation as far as the final picture goes, but the ways of getting there are usually improvised by daily challenges, disruptions and options around me. For the editing everything starts with the music or the soundscape during the process of editing. The Separation Loop provides the viewers with an immersive and multilayered visual experience: how do you see the relationship between public sphere and the role of art in public space? Moreover, do you think that your being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value? To me the public space is a communication tool, this is essential for me, in Argentina there where the â&#x20AC;&#x17E;Las madras de plaza de mayoâ&#x20AC;&#x153; where they would meet every week in front of the government house. These women had their sons taken away from them and silently walked
Ambitiously constructed and elegantly photographed The Separation Loop shows that observation is very analytical, yet strives to be full of emotion: how much importance has improvisation in your process? In particular, how did you develop your filmmaking style?
in a circle with a bandana of the Head with the name of the missing child. This created such a strong movement inside the society that this helped bring down the government, this was such a strong silent protest and the story was picked up by media worldwide. Bringing to a new level of significance the notions of environment and landscape, The Separation Loop adresses the viewers to a multilayered visual experience: how did you pursued this goal? In particular, how did you select the locations? I did a lot of research on locations and carefully selected the ones that I think would create this final collage of selffullfiling mosaics. My way of doing this is to see the earth as one continent the way it used to be before the land separated and split up in different continents. We want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in cinema. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? more.more.more.more.more.more.more.more.more.m ore.more.more.more.more.more.more. more.more.more.more.more.more.more.more.more.m
nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context? I like tension, I am always in tension. Maybe through the tension I create…I don’t know Since my work is mostly visually and not
Another interesting project that we would like to introduce is entitled "Interior Landscapes" a forensic study of the subconscious: we like the way it allows an open reading, a multiplicity of meanings: you seem to urge the viewers to elaborate personal associations: how much important is for you that the spectatorship rethink the concepts you convey in your pieces, elaborating personal meanings? …still in process. when I am at the end maybe. One of the hallmarks of your work is the capability to create direct involvement with the viewers, who are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the
dealing with words … I think in pictures not in words Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Leyla. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I am now working on the last part of the 6 video art works form „yesterday, today and tomorrow“ Therefor i will be traveling USA, Peru and Argentina.
ore.more.more.more.more.more.more. more.more.more.more.more.more.more.mor e.more.more.more.more.more.more.more.m ore. more.more.more.more.more.more.more.mor e.more.more.more.more.more.more.more.m ore. more.more.more.more.more.more.more.mor e.more.more.more.more.more.more.more.m ore.
Jenny Paul Lives and works in New York City, USA
An interview by Francis Quettier
elements and vision for the film were a true
and Dora Tennant
team collaboration. I see my job as largely an assembly (and sometimes wrangler) of the
Are there any experiences that
right team: one that will have artistic
particularly influence the way you
chemistry, work well together, and have
currently conceive and produce your
passion for the specific project. Once the
hiring/onboarding is done, the team gets
I have a theory. Art is only as good as the chemistry, imagination, and work ethic of the people behind the art. All of my works
down to work and we make it soar together. How does your cultural substratum inform your career?
have a solid foundation in collaboration. As you’ll see when you watch
I believe in people and what people bring to
team is rather large for such a small film—
the table when they’re at their best (and
especially in the writer’s room. The creative
sometimes, worst). All of my work reflects that
Photo Credit by Kim Espinosa Photography
in some way: characters working together to
“We started with the pitch session. It was hot
try (not always successfully) to work toward a
and there were a lot of us. I think we began by
mutual goal or greater good-- usually in
discussing some concepts related to the
ridiculous ways. 90% of my work is ensemble
theme we got from the competition we were
comedy. It’s just more fun.
a part of (it was “Apples and Oranges”). Because we didn't know exactly what the film
Evolution of Style/Is there a central idea
was going to be, we just free associated on
that connects all your work?
concepts. From “Apples and Oranges,” we got to the idea of fertility and spring, and how
I didn’t start out with the idea that my work
back in the old days people used to pray to
would have a style, but hindsight is 20/20. It
gods for a good harvest. And from there we
definitely does. My work centers squarely
came up with the premise of an old god
around ensembles of well-meaning, open
popping her head up in Brooklyn to see
minded characters, and the interaction of
what's changed. Looking at our cast options, I
those characters in unique circumstances. It’s
think we were drawn to Marla as Valpurgia
important to me that very few if any of the
because her natural tone and demeanor are
characters have purely bad intentions. Self
so at odds with the vision most people
serving, almost always, but never evil. It kills
associate with a Pagan moon goddess. Once
we had our deity in mind, we dropped her in with a bunch of normal dweebs, gave them a
How did you develop the script and
problem, and the script evolved from there.”
structure of the film? And the characters? What were your main aesthetic decisions in It was a major collaborative effort— we were
terms of compositing and shooting?
sitting around a table brainstorming ideas-I chose a DP who really enjoys shooting this From Head Writer, Alex Estrada:
particular brand of comedy— he’s my favorite
and our director, Samantha Saltzman, were able to capture a dark comedy/2D comic book feel while still bringing our bright, 3D characters to life. From Director Samantha Saltzman: Most of the decisions were made based on the need for a specific emotional impact within the shot. I knew that when we met the goddess I wanted the 3 friends who conjured her to look small and far away to convey a sense of powerlessness and so that was what we based that moment on. Whereas when you look at the opening sequence, after the establishing shot, we wanted mostly close up individual shots to help us feel close to the characters as we start to develop a sense of who they are. From Director of Photography Kris Colavecchio: Although there was a lot of humor in the script, we really wanted it to still feel like a moody seance. We pulled a lot of source images that both Sami (the director) and I
for projects that favor a flat depth of field. He
from there it was just building out realistic shooting plans for the locations we already had. What focal length did you use throughout your film? What was your approach to lighting? Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll leave this question to the expertâ&#x20AC;Ś From Director of Photography Kris Colavecchio: The majority of the time we stayed around 24mm on the wider end and for the singles we would use a 35mm. For a hand full of really wides we used a 11-16mm zoom. I like to keep the camera in close rather than punching in for close-ups. Instead of just feeling like a voyeur, it puts the viewer right in the scene and feels a lot more personal. Because the project was shot for a 72 hour film festival, the schedule was pretty hectic and our lighting options limited. I focused on fully lighting the areas to allow room for the actors to play within and the ability to turn the scenes around quickly. Do you like spontaneity or do you meticulously schedule every detail?
really liked. After we landed on a style we liked,
Film still from A Line through the Periphery, 2014. Digitally transferred and edited Super 8 film by Dawn Nilo
meticulously and choose the right artists with the right chemistry so that they have the freedom to make the real magic happen in the moment on set. Idle worship is rich with symbolic values – how much importance does the use of metaphors play in our work? I believe that good art is based on tropes and symbols that already exist in the world— they give us a “way in” to understand the expectations in regard to the world of the characters. In contrast to expectation, we create comedy… From Director Samantha Saltzman: In
we mostly thought in terms
of the tropes we were parodying rather than the symbols themselves. We knew we wanted the opening sequence to look like a typical séance, thus the pentagram and candles, which we thought would give a nice contrast to the ridiculousness of the characters and
I plan all of the organizational elements
the situation they’re in. We also knew that we wanted the goddess at first glance to appear angelic and pure. We actually used the actress’s own wedding dress to achieve this look on a low budget. The contrast of expectation vs. reality was really important both in terms of character and plot, but also both in the writing and the aesthetic choices we made. I wanted to put the audience at ease with the tropes visually and musically so they knew what world we were in, and then use the characters and situation to play the contrast. How do you see the relationship between sound and moving images playing within your work? I like to think of comedy as music-- rhythm and intermixed with purposeful changes in rhythm. We create a rhythm and comfort for the viewer and then intentionally break it-- to make you smile. This is why, in my opinion, sound is the most important part of comedy. If we can’t make you comfortable, we can’t make you laugh. It’s that simple. Bad sound mix = uncomfortable audience = not funny. In a comedy, funny is better...
From Sound Designer, Joe Barrucco: The relationship between sound and moving images is one of a very intimate partnership. Every scene in a film has a different combination of sound that helps build the atmosphere for the audience and can even help convey the emotional arc of a story, all which has to be done in a non-distracting way. In the case of
, we needed
to include all of the subtle sound elements to help convey realism of the environment (dialogue, bar sound, city environment when on the roof, etc) but at the same time, the subtle element of magic had to be introduced in a comedic but not over top way. This was a combination of sound elements and the music composition. Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s your view on the future of women in cinema? Do you think that being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value?
We’re starting to see a major upswing in female talent now that networks and studios are starved for great content; they are competing for the largest possible audience in a very saturated consumer market. In order to guarantee viewership, they have to prioritize quality, no matter what the source. We’re in a “golden age” of media, and there’s room for everyone with talent and dedication. We will definitely be seeing more and more women and people of underrepresented and minority groups rise to the occasion. How do you see your work evolving? I am always searching and discovering new ways to make my work better, stronger, funnier… I want to keep moving in that direction with a strong focus on telling stories with characters that people can relate to. That’s what great art is to me: something that leaves you with the feeling that you are not alone in the world—and often, in my case, puts a smile on your face.
Umstulpen, 2016, Performance with Video Installation. Dawn Nilo
future projects? I have three series in development. One called
, a sketch series that spoofs
millennial concepts in the framework of classic television shows, one called – a sitcom about two sisters that land in anger management together, and a third, a short internet talk show called : All the things you need to know about being a real person that you never learned in school. Check out some of Jenny’s other work at www.JennyPaul.info including links to her first series, internationally acclaimed web series She is also the co-owner of a production company called 5lvin Productions (pronounced Fehl-vin) based in New York City focused on “Making Professional Quality Content Affordable.” www.5lvin.com
Would you like to tell readers about your
Danielle Langdon An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant Hello Danielle and welcome to WomenCinemakers: you have a solid formal training and after your studies of Media Communication Studies and Dance you nurtured your education with a MFA with emphasis in Graphic Design and Video Art, that you received from the University of Missouri: how did these experiences along with your current position as Assistant Professor of Art at Columbia College influence the way you currently conceive and produce your works? There have been some pretty significant shifts over the course of my art career. I started taking art more seriously in high school when I thought I wanted to be a landscape architect, so I took architecture and commercial art classes. In college, as you mentioned, I majored in media communications and dance, so during those 4 years I expressed myself largely through movement, writing, and I began to explore video. After college I worked for an architecture firm
doing mostly graphic design projects. My appreciation for visual communication and its broad impact on society developed into a passion for design. It wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t until graduate school when I started to combine all of these experiences into an artistic practice using video as my primary medium. I have continued to this day to explore how my own various interests can be expressed in my artworks. I also apply all of my skills and experiences as an Assistant Professor of Art at Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri. My eclectic and diverse knowledge base has allowed me to provide stimulating lessons in the classroom and relevant work as a designer/artist. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit http://www.daniellelangdon.com in order to get a synoptic view of your work: while walking us through your process, would you like to tell to our readers something about the evolution of your style? In particular, do you think that there is a central idea that connects all your works? I have always been interested in how people move and how society works, so I tend to observe people in their everyday lives to find my next moment of inspiration. I am interested in todays ordinary and habitual aspects of life â&#x20AC;&#x201C; in particular the new habits that relate to
technology, communication, and movement. Body Speaks, a body of work I developed back in 2011, probes the relationship between the moving body and defined, geometric spaces. At the time I was considering perceptions about traditional flow and dynamics in dance, and the implications of placing the body within a certain set of digital guidelines. The New Pedestrians series developed from these early ideas about the body and movement in space. When Repeat Undulation, a video in the Body Speaks series, was projected on to a gallery wall, a vast number of visitors began imitating the movement in front of the projection. This was an exciting outcome that I had not expected. I wanted to explore what would happen if I projected new pedestrian movements that have developed as a result of smart phone technology. Could I again evoke such a visceral response? If I display our new digital gestures in a compelling way, would we recognize ourselves and begin to question our habits? Does it appear like we are controlling our devices, or are they controlling us? By artificially constructing everyday situations and pushing the absurdity of those moments, the work began to highlight new gestures, our relationships, and ideas of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;control.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected New Pedestrians: in a vineyard, an extremely interesting project that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. Inspired by your current solo, your film looks at the bodies response to fear as a infectious malignant: what has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into how we are changed both physically and psychologically as we integrate mobile devices into our
Smart phones are used for nearly everything today. Before I got my own, I did not fully appreciate or understand the hype. I remember laughing at my friends’ willingness to pull out their phones with the first lull in conversation. That all changed however, when I got my first smart phone. I was overcome by its capabilities and at how quickly I adapted to having those features at my fingertips. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but wonder, is this costing me more than my monthly bill? How is this technology really affecting me? Do the positives out way the negatives? How can we have so much control and yet appear controlled by the device? I was certainly not the first person to ask these questions, and that is where this body of research began. The popular reaction to new technology is often fear – a fear that machines are going to change us. Marshal McLuhan is probably one of the most famous theorists who believed that technology “enters society from the outside and impacts social life.” This is what economist and sociologist, Thorstein Veblen, terms “technological determinism.” Veblen believed that technology shapes how we as a society think, feel, act and operate. On the other side of that coin are what theorists Wiebe Bijker and Trevor Pinch call “social construction of technology.” They explain how human beings are actually the agents of change and technological development is a result of our actions and interpretations. Technology does not enter the scene fully developed (for example, radios were originally thought to be useful for one-to-one communication), instead users can influence how new media gets adopted. I believe,
lives is the way you have provided the visual results of your analysis with coherent combination between autonomous aesthetics and visual consistence. While walking our readers through the genesis of New Pedestrians: in a vineyard, would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea?
Smart phone technology is still fairly new and the norms for using them are not fully established, which offers an opportunity for thoughtful consideration about our relationship with these devices and each other. As psychology professor Kenneth Gergen describes, right now we are struggling with the “challenge of absent-presence,” as we engage digitally with others despite being with people in our physical location. We may be physically present, but our thoughts and emotions are often elsewhere. I attempt to portray the concept of “absent-presence” in New Pedestrians: in a vineyard. In this piece, I worked with a group of 5 women wearing patterned dresses and using patterned cell phone cases. They are gathered in an open space where we were mostly secluded and received instructions in text messages from me like, “do a cartwheel” and “laugh as loud as u can, then strop abruptly.” The most interesting moment in this piece for me comes when the group takes pictures with their phones of the camera filming them. This moment evokes a direct interaction between the video and the viewer, which hopefully fosters self-reflection and encourages the questioning of our habits with cell phones. How does your background in dance and research into 1960's pedestrian choreography influenced New Pedestrians: in a vineyard? Early in my research for the New Pedestrians videos I revisited the history of pedestrian movement in choreography, a subject
with regard to new technology, we should focus our attention somewhere between the determinists and the constructivists – the middle ground that Robin Williams and David Edge refer to as the “social shaping of technology.” The relationship between technology and society is one of mutual shaping. Each person will need to do their own examination and find their own balance, but in that search it is important to consider both sides of the coin.
Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative process. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once remarked that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": as a multidisciplinary artist with such background how would you consider the relation between the abstract nature of the ideas you explore and the physical act of producing your artworks? If I distill this question down a bit further, I would say that the relationship between ideas and bodies are inseparable. The infamous mind and body dualism has plagued the Western mindset for centuries. The dichotomization obscures the social impact of new technologies. It is important that we understand the changing landscape of the technological age and maintain an active sense of bodily awareness, or embodiment. I believe it is more important today than ever before to think of the mind
I studied intently as an undergraduate. In the early 1960s the Judson Dance Theatre and choreographers like Steve Paxton and Yvonne Rainer began removing the formality of ballet technique and instead incorporated everyday movements into their dance language. This allowed the audience to better empathize with the work and experience a more kinesthetic response. Ideally the audience could imagine themselves performing the movements. In my research, I first conducted a series of movement studies looking at how people interact with all their digital devices (i.e. laptops, phones, iPads, etc.). This early research grew into a much bigger body of video artworks highlighting new pedestrian movements we have developed with our daily use of smart phone technology specifically. Viewers of the work will hopefully have that same visceral response to the movements that Paxton and Rainer evoked with their pedestrian choreography.
In your current body of video artworks you take a critical, but humorous look at how technology has become a poignant player in our connections and rituals. We are sort of convinced that new media will bridge the apparent dichotomy between art and technology, and we dare to say that Art and Technology are going to assimilate each other. What's your point about this? In particular, how is in your opinion technology affecting the consumption of art? I believe mobile devices can be distracting and disruptive if absent-mindedly used during artistic experiences (think ringing cell phone during a live performance or selfies on a gallery tour). Technology may also create unrealistic expectations for the arts. With shorter attention spans and easy access to free content, the public may expect everything to be free and messages to be evident in 140 characters or less. 3D movies, video games, and augmented reality have begun to contest the allure of live experiences. Nevertheless, new technologies are here to stay, so I believe those of us in the arts need to embrace them, adapt with them, and learn from them. After all, the arts are an expression of society at any given moment – at this moment technology is an important aspect of our society.
and body as one – neither is more important than the other. Steve Dixon explains that, “Bodies embody consciousness; to talk of disembodied consciousness is a contradiction in terms.” In other words, human beings operate as a whole, using both the body and the mind. All actions are expressive and they all correspond with mental processes. Our goal when using new technologies cannot be to overlook engagement in living; it should rather encourage engagement and awareness. There are many fundamental and deeply human questions we are faced with as technology becomes poignant in our lives. It is time to address these questions and preserve the moral values most important to us.
I am an optimistic critic of technology in the arts. Pencils, paint tubes, silkscreen printing, moveable type, the Sony portapak, etc. – truthfully, technology has been providing artists new ways to express their ideas for a long time. However, as you explain in this question, art and technology seem to be increasingly assimilated. Today, I believe the Internet and social media have drastically improved engagement and access to the arts – technology has increasingly diversified audiences and the participatory experience for visitors. The Internet has also broadened what is considered “art,” which is an exciting evolutionary step for creatives. Technology also makes it possible to provide deeper context around exhibits and create communities around a work of art that are uninhibited by geography. I believe those of us in the art world can work to understand new technologies and maximize the capabilities they offer, just as we always have. The soundtrack of New Pedestrians: in a vineyard sometimes provides the film with such uncanny atmosphere: according to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a 'sense bias' that affects Western societies favoring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of the alphabet as the eye became more essential than ear. How do you see the relationship between sound and moving images? Humor plays a significant role in my work. I don’t necessarily make these videos with a deliberately humorous point of view, it happens more serendipitously. In the New Pedestrians video series, I did not want to come across as anti-smart phone. Introducing some humor during the filming process, allows for a more subtle presentation of my analysis. When an artist uses anger or shock-value to convey an opinion, viewers are very conscious of that, which is the whole point. Humor, on the other hand, can help present a point-of-view more subtly while allowing for layered meaning. There are a number of editing techniques used in New Pedestrians: in a vineyard that amplify the conceptual objective and the humor, including the sound. I employ layering and
repetition in order to impose a machine-like regularity to the video to highlight the idea of rituals. The timing of the footage and corresponding audio has also been adjusted; I both slow down and speed up certain moments throughout the piece. With our smart phones in hand, we now have the ability to transcend time. The time alterations made in the video are meant to represent how the participants are feeling about time at any given moment. If they receive instructions to do a strange action like, “push each other as hard as you can,” they may feel like it takes forever before they receive a new instruction. Whereas a simple direction like, “take a selfie,” may feel like it only takes a few seconds to accomplish. By speeding up and slowing down the sound, the hilarity of the whole piece is underlined. It’s hard not to laugh when the 5 women sound like chattering chipmunks. The colorful scenery and musical audio convey a sense of happiness and simplicity – while the questioning of control and solitude is a darker underlying concept. This aspect of New Pedestrians: in a vineyard was influenced by Pipilotti Rist’s early video work. Do you like spontaneity or do you prefer to meticulously schedule every detail of your works? How much importance does play improvisation in your process? I create a “score” for each video performance; this is a term borrowed from my dance improvisation training. Think of it like the framework for a piece; unlike a completely choreographed dance, entering the work with just a “score” allows for play and improvisation as the dance evolves. For example, I will set the “stage” and have my performers stay within that area. I might also decide ahead of time at least 5-10 of the text messages I will send to the performers. Through this process I can plan a certain amount before allowing the performers, my own intuition, and the medium guide the completion of the artwork. Improvisation is vital in
my process as it allows the most room for growth and exploration. If I allow myself to be comfortable with not knowing what comes next, I am more open to possibilities that arise. If I am busy anticipating the next action or outcome, the possibilities of what, where, and how are constrained. Developing a score, or a set of open-ended rules to follow, ahead of time gives me the illusion of knowing what comes next while allowing me to explore the unknown as well. The balance of knowing and not knowing is where I find the most interesting outcomes. Multidisciplinary artist Angela Bulloch once remarked "that works of arts often continue to evolve after they have been realized, simply by the fact that they are conceived with an element of change, or an inherent potential for some kind of shift to occur". Do you think that the role of the artist has changed these days with the new global communications and the new sensibility created by new media? “…an inherent potential for some kind of shift to occur.” I believe that “inherent potential” is often simply the passing of time. Historical works of art evolve over time because people, the interpreters of art, evolve over time. It would be impossible to deny that classic artworks are being revitalized as a result of new media. As I explained in a previous answer, access to the arts has increased and the art world is increasingly engaging the public through social media and participatory experiences. Another point to make here is that art and artists reflect society and shed light on current trends. A number of current artists utilize digital media to critique that very same digital media. One way they do this is through appropriation, which has been done for ages, especially since the mid-20th-century with the rise of consumerism. Nam June Paik was one of the early artists who used electronically manipulated mass-media footage to critique television culture. Artists like Douglas Gordon, Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, Barbara Kruger, and Paul Pfeiffer (among many others) use appropriation
today in their own digital artworks to analyze societal norms. Over the years your works have been showcased in a number of occasions and you participated to lots of show, including your participation to the 12th edition of Filmideo at the Index Art Center, Newark NJ. One of the hallmarks of your work is the capability to create direct involvement with the viewers, who are provided with of the opportunity to become active participants and are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context? I do believe that audience reception is a crucial component in my decision-making process. My goal is to leave my viewers thinking about their bodies and their beings. By leading examined lives with technology and understanding embodied interaction, technology can actually help lead us back to our bodies, politics, communities, and planet. We can influence the development and deployment of technology if we are attentive and aware of what the media has to offer and what the consequences may be. When I consider how quickly people began using smart phones to interact with one another, I am optimistic that we will navigate through all forms of new technology without unweaving the basic structures of society: rituals and connections. I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t expect my viewers to walk away knowing all of my intentions behind the work, but I do hope they will have
some kinesthetic response to seeing the figures move in familiar environments, reading the text messages, and hearing the audio. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Danielle. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I am currently working on a new series of videos called Virtual Pedestrians. A gesture, such as waving goodbye or shrugging your shoulders, is a dynamic movement used to express an idea or meaning. As small as these gestures are, they are undeniably a means of physical engagement. The bodily gestures and postures founded as a result of today’s digital technologies, such as “texting thumbs” or “head down walking,” are often criticized as being physically detrimental. However, as this body of work attempts to examine, digital gestures are just as physical and expressive as waving and shrugging. In a sense, our bodies are adopting new technologies and making the “Network” visible. In moving our hands, fingers, arms, and bodies in new and particular ways, we are outlining the “Network” of which we are so much a part of intellectually and physically. By employing motion capture, I attempt to explain these gestures and movements by mapping out their inherent, mathematical properties in space-time. The movements can then be reactualized across multiple bodies and multiple media without losing the fundamental motions. The pieces in Virtual Pedestrians continue to ask the viewer, just as New Pedestrians did, to develop a more self-aware, examined relationship with technology and their bodies. The motion capture footage was developed at the University of Missouri Immersive Visualization Laboratory in collaboration with Bimal Balakrishnan and Benjamin Schrimpf. The landscape imagery and video editing for Virtual Pedestrians: on Silicon Nanowires was done in collaboration with physicist, Jesse Kremenak.
Renee Sills Lives and works in Portland, OR, USA
Renee Sills is a socially engaged performance artist whose chosen media includes entrepreneurship, expanded therapeutic practices, astrology, pedagogy, ritual, online forums, soundscape, video, dance, and writing. She regularly presents in small workshops and intimate gatherings as well as online. She has performed for the Time Based Arts Festival (Portland OR,) the Body-Mind Centering Association Conference (Portland OR), Mutek (Montreal) and the Elektra Festival (Montreal). Renee is the resident artist at Oregon Museum of Science and Technology from 2015-2017. She is currently an MFA candidate in Art & Social Practice at Portland State University, she holds a BFA in Intermedia and Cyberarts through Concordia University, Montreal and is a graduate of the Somatic Movement Education program at The School for Body-Mind Centering in Berkeley, CA. She is the co-founder and co-director of Sola School of Contemplative Arts.
Renee Sills An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant Author, educator and multidisciplinary artist Renee Sills explores mindfulness, agency and the adaptive processes of the human body in contemporary landscapes. She works primarily with video, sound, dance, writing and collaborative questioning: we are particularly pleased our readers to her multifaceted and stimulating artistic production. Hello Renee and welcome to WomenCinemakers: you have a solid formal training and after having earned your BFA in Intermedia and Cyberarts through Concordia University, Montreal you nurtured your education with a MFA of Art & Social Practice that you re currently pursuing at the Portland State: how do these experiences along with your practice as a teacher and CoFounder and Co-Director of Sola School of Contemplative Arts influence the way you currently conceive and produce your works?
Before I went for a BFA I had a background in somatics and dance. When I studied Intermedia and CyberArt there was always the question for me as to how our bodies and natural/physical environments would be served by emergent technology, rather than destroyed or distracted by it. The work I’ve done with Social Practice and as Co-Director of Sola School was born from this intersection. My research in both spaces focuses on creating contexts for people to connect with their bodies, to introduce or help them remember their sense of belonging in nature and with each other. As an artist and as a teacher I incorporate the use of digital technology as a means to further our human, physical, emotional connections. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit http://www.reneesills.com in order to get a synoptic view of your work: while walking us through your process,would you like to tell to our readers something about the evolution of your style? In particular, do you think that there is a central idea that connect all your works? Yes for sure. I’ll quote from my bio when I say that the throughline, or central idea of my work is an “ongoing investigation of spirituality, mindfulness, creative agency and the adaptive processes of the human body
For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected We Are All Leaving, an extremely interesting project that our readers have already staterd to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into the notions of life as process, and of death as transformation. is the way you have provided the visual results of your analysis with coherent combination between autonomous aesthetics and visual consistence. While walking our readers through the genesis of We Are All Leaving, would you tell us how did you develope the initial idea? I had met Renée Poisson (the other body, the one who has the white hair) about a year and a half earlier. I’m good friends with her niece, who for years had been saying that Renee and Renée had to meet. Renée is also a video and audio artist and when we met there was an immediate rapport that felt very instinctual for both of us. Talking to her I recognized many aspects of myself. My mom died when I was fairly young and so being around her provided me with an opportunity to imagine myself as an older woman in a way I never had been able to before. When we talked I kept imagining karma and timelines and how bodies exist for a moment and then transform into other
in contemporary landscapes.” The evolution of my style has definitely been a process of cognitive development and maturation. My priorities have changed a lot since I started making work. I’m less focused now on trying to draw an audience and more focused on creating to support my own (and others’) health and healing. This means that my work is becoming increasingly more personal and less conceptual… Everything now has to be grounded in authenticity: for my body, brain and heart!
Did you conceived Are All Leaving spontaneosly or did you meticolously scheduled every details of your work? How much importance does play improvisation in your process? Improvisation is a huge part of my process. I usually like to have a score of some kind or a loose structure to start from. But almost always I find that I don’t really know what I want until it’s the moment to create it. As I said above, I had had a vision for the basic premise but I didn’t know which shots I wanted or any of the details. The environment does not play a mere role of background in We Are All Leaving, reminding us of the notion of non lieu elaborated by French anthropologist Marc Augé, communicating a sense of displacement: how would you consider the function of environment and more generally - the exhibition space - in relation to your practice? That’s an interesting question and thanks for asking it. I wasn’t familiar with this concept so I had to research a bit… From my understanding Augé’s theory centers on the spaces which exist in “super modernity” such as places of mass transit or refugee camps – landscapes that are backgrounds for comings and goings, but which aren’t invested in, or available to settle in. My sense of the landscape in We Are All Leaving is basically the opposite. That landscape is our bodies, it is our beings: we as individuals arise from it and return to it. What Augé points to is the displacement we sense when we are disconnected from landscape. The condition of modernity
bodies. I just had a vision of us walking towards each other in some kind of vast landscape and then intersecting and dissolving into each other.
The soundtrack of We Are All Leaving sometimes provides the film with such uncanny atmosphere: according to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a 'sense bias' that affects Western societies favoring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of the alphabet as the eye became more essential than ear. How do you see the relationship between sound and moving images? I love Marshall McLuhon and feel very inspired by his insight! The relationship between sound and moving image is profound. Sound is so visceral. Literally, the resonance of sound moves our bodies. Visual image on the other hand is conceptual, associativeâ&#x20AC;Ś it moves our brains. When they combine we can have experiences that complete a circuit between body and brain, between mind and emotion. The sound in this piece is all composed of field recordings taken from that landscape. But they are cut up, augmented and arranged in such a way that they create their own sensation which is often juxtaposed to the visual image. For me this was a way to provoke a disruption, which could then lead to awareness of the spaces between physical, emotional and mental sensations. have always been fascinated with the potential of the human body, and the ability to express and understand oneself through movement. We Are All Leaving considers the body as temporary material: many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the
that creates experiences of coming and going, but never being a part of, never investing or settling in. For me this piece is about remembering and honoring the connection to land, and deeply involving myself in it.
Diciamo che -parlo per me- certe cose avrei potuto gestire in maniera
This is a very existential question you’ve asked! As far as we know, abstraction and concept only exist within our own minds, and the existence of mind depends upon the existence of body. At least for now, or until AI takes over! But even then, cognition, and therefore abstraction, will depend upon materials (whether the material is flesh or circuitry) to exist. So with that said, purely sensate and materialistic existence is, at least for me, quite a boring idea. I prefer to explore abstraction through deepening my awareness of perceptive ability, which happens through processes of increasingly subtle, yet still sensory experience: feeling the fluctuations of my mind that ripple through my body and into my relationships, feeling the way my body and my environment are never separate. If this could happen consistently, and without distraction, then I think true “seeing” would be possible. As it is I get glimpses, and these glimpses are often allowed to be shared and expanded on through making art. As an environmentalist, and as someone who identifies as passionately spiritual but not religious, I think we have to understand that our physical beings can’t separate themselves from any other physical being or materials. But we also have to understand the spiritual essence, or see the subtle vibrations of creative individuality that are expressed in each moment when physical beings encounter each other, or other bodies, or even their own thoughts. This is what I try for with everything I do. For me everything is contained in this question! My body and its physicality, or the
body and by using their own bodies in their creative process. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once remarked that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": as a multidisciplinary artist involved into performance art, how would you consider the relation between the abstract nature of the ideas you explore and the physical act of producing your artworks?
Your work seeks to engage questions of purpose, power, politics, and the inherent discomfort and contemporary crises of the human body in a technologically dependent world: Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "the artist’s role differs depending on which part of the world you’re in. It depends on the political system you’re living under". How do you consider the relationship between artists and society? Moreover, what could be in your opinion the role of Art in the contemporary age? That’s a great question. I agree with Orozco for sure. I think artists have a crucial place in society. We are here to push into unknown territory, question assumptions, and facilitate engagement with discomfort in order to expand thinking. What each culture or system needs in order to expand or selfreflect is different. It’s hard to make any kind of general statement about the contemporary age on a global scale since we’re all having such different experiences of it based on citizenship, religious and ethnic affiliations, class, gender, race etc. I can only speak from my experience as an American, as a white, middle-class, queer woman, who was born in the 80’s and is now in her 30’s. So really… that’s quite a tiny slice of the possible perspective. But from my perspective as someone who is part of the “bridge generation,” who was born pre-internet, I think that one of the roles of art in the contemporary age is to help us use technology towards creative, innovative means, and to expand our thinking around consumption. These are critical questions right now. Human population is booming rapidly. We have technology to support decent lives and environmental sanity.
materials I work with: other bodies, landscapes. When I invest deeply in them and really explore the intelligence within them, then I feel like I get to “see.”
But we need to be way more creative and get beyond capitalism and competition if we’re going to do that. I think art, and social practice in specific, has some pretty great ideas to move towards this kind of creative necessity. Multidisciplinary artist Angela Bulloch onced remarked "that works of arts often continue to evolve after they have been realised, simply by the fact that they are conceived with an element of change, or an inherent potential for some kind of shift to occur". Do you think that the role of the artist has changed these days with the new global communications and the new sensibility created by new media? Hmmm. I don’t know. I guess the awareness of time has changed a lot. And the issues and ideas of what can or should shift have also changed. Artists definitely have a different perspective now than they did “then.” And of course there are many new platforms and means of creating work now in the Digital Age. But really I think that artists almost always think about the potential of their work to shift and change perspective. I think that’s one of the important elements that makes art art. When there’s a desire to express something there’s an awareness, or at least there probably should be an awareness, of the moment the expression is occurring in, and the possible impact of the expression. Even if it’s just for the artist herself, the knowing that she will be shifted and changed because now she has expressed whatever it was. But to the point of your question – the role of the artist is always to point out the unseen, realize the absurd, etc. The Digital Age is a weird place. I mean there’s so much information! And communications have become really creepy in a lot of ways. Media is psychologically insidious and surveillance is constant. So in some ways I think the role of the artist stays the same in that we are here to point out what becomes normalized or forgotten, and we are
But now the work is different, and just like everyone else our brains have to shift and adjust to accommodate the speed and plurality of now. Artists who work with materials and Earth have maybe an even more important job than before: to keep us tethered in some way to our physicality, and to remember the strength and agency of our bodies when they’re not hooked to wires and screens. Over the years your works have been regularly presented in several occasions, including participations to the Time Based Arts Festival in Portland and to the Elektra Festival in Montreal. One of the hallmarks of your work is the capability to create direct involvement with the viewers, who are provided with of the the opportunity to become active participants and are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context? Yes absolutely. But that said, I’m not attached to any fixed idea of what that language would be. It will always change depending on the context for the piece and what I’m feeling. For me, when I experience art I want to be moved. I want to feel. If I get angry because the piece provoked me, ok! If I feel sad, ok! But I feel bored and unmoved, for me that’s a waste of time. I think that participation can be energetic as well as action-based. As a performer there are times when I simply want to tell a story, or create an experience. But always I want
here to celebrate feelings and ideas that can’t be communicated linearly.
to move my audience, I want to feel them and the feelings that arise because of our relationship in that moment. When I’m making choices as a creator I’m making choices for myself as audience. What would move me? What do I want to feel? What provokes my response? What would actually make me want to get up and literally move? If I try and make choices based on what I think will move my audience, but I’m not feeling what moves me, well then I think I’ve probably already failed. For me as audience I am moved by performers and artists who really give themselves – they give their questions, frustrations, sensations, passion. So when I am the artist I try to do that to. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Renee. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? That’s a great question! I honestly don’t know. The world is changing so fast that I don’t really know what will be available or necessary in the future. I’m very interested in working with, and supporting young people to be creative and engaged with their lives, and to learn to love nature and take care of her. For the time being I’m quite focused on pedagogical projects – experiential learning that takes many forms, some of which look more like participatory art, some of which look like a yoga or dance class, some of which are sponsored by universities. I’d like to work more with interactive technology! I have a lot of interest in collaborating with tech geniuses and supporting innovation that can create more equitable, stable lives for people and animals, and help reduce some of the harm we’ve done to the planet.
An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant
Lou Watson An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant Section of I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano is a captivating video by multidisciplinary artist Lou Watson: inquiring into the relationship between sound and urban landscape she initiates her audience into an unconventional and heightened visual experience capable of triggering the audiences perceptual and cultural parameters. We are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to Watson's multifaceted artistic production. Hello Lou and welcome to WomenCinemakers: you have a solid background and hold a B.F.A in Intermedia, that you received from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon: how did this experience influence the way you currently conceive and produce your works? Louise Bourgeois says that “You are born an artist. You can’t help it. You have no choice.” But without privilege so many artists are not able to follow through with the reality of being an artist. As a woman and mother I had the idea that to “indulge” myself with an art practice
would be totally selfish. It wasn’t until I turned 40, and my kids were growing up that I finally “allowed” myself to claim some space and focus on art making. I think the time at PNCA (Pacific Northwest College of Art) was a step in unlearning some of the bullshit that I’d been carrying around. So when you ask “how does having a degree in Intermedia influence my process today?” I’m not thinking about the techniques I learned, the theory discussed or impactful critiques I had, I’m thinking about why I denied this huge part of myself for 20 plus years. I’m also thinking about why I needed an institutional stamp to give myself license to live as an artist. It is still difficult to call oneself an artist without an art degree and that is a big problem, especially when thinking about the massive part of the population who will never have the break from the grind to be able to study. So I look back on my time before going to art school and I understand I need to make work about that everyday routine life of working jobs and raising children, and also make work with people who are still hoeing the long row. I frame my before-artschool-life fondly but also question the constructs that kept me there. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit http://www.louwatson.net in order to get a synoptic view of your work: while walking us through your process,would you like to tell to our readers something about the evolution of your style? In particular, do you think that there is a central idea that connect all your works? The theme running through my work is the power of giving one’s full attention to the commonplace. I am constantly looking for ways to embrace the mundane. In
the book 24/7, Jonathan Crary calls us “a society of sleepers trapped in a habitual view.” That is a terrible notion. I want to find ways to break us from those sleepy habits—not by dramatic means, but perhaps by just tilting my head to one side and squinting a little. Some things in life don’t need a contrived way to embrace them, as they are already quite wonderful— like the sunrise, or a newborn baby, or a lover’s eyes. But I’m thinking about when one doesn’t want to get up early enough to watch the sunrise (and it’s probably going to be overcast anyway), when the newborn just equates with sleep deprivation, and when a lover’s eyes are full of questions like “When’s dinner?” and “do we have any more toilet paper?” This is the nitty gritty of my life (and many a person’s life), so it’s a gift to look for the beauty in being stuck in a traffic jam, the poetry of having battles over homework, or the daily ritual of emptying the cat’s litter tray. Let’s call it The Art of the HumDrum Routine Existence... For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected Section of I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano, an extremely interesting video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of this project is the way you have provided the visual results of your analysis with coherent combination between autonomous aesthetics and visual consistency. While walking our readers through the genesis of Section of I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano, would you tell what was your initial inspiration? The traffic scoring system itself has a genesis in literally looking outside my front door. I live beside a busy street where there is a constant flow of traffic. My son Finn broke his leg in a bike accident a few years ago and spent several weeks in a wheelchair. In order to alleviate his boredom, I developed a game where he would sit in his wheelchair on our front stoop with a piano keyboard on his lap. We reimagined the lanes of the
road as lines on a music staff so that he could “play” the cars as they passed. It was a form of people-watching meets Rock Band™, with the real-life commuters being completely unaware that they were all vital notes. Each journey they undertook, each trip to the grocery store, or running-late-dash into the office was integral to the emergent, realtime composition being performed. This action was recreated on stage a year later for my show Suite Sandy Boulevard (seen here https://vimeo.com/136569104). Finn (now with fully mended leg) is the pianist on stage. The Section of I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano project began when Rock Hushka and Juan Roselione-Valadez came for a NorthWest Art Now studio visit and subsequently asked if I would be interested in using my scoring system on Interstate 705, a freeway which runs alongside the Tacoma Art Museum in the state of Washington. I filmed the road from the museum roof, then situated the installation in the entrance foyer that leads from the car park (that abuts the I705) into the main building of the museum. Placing the installation in the foyer was exciting because the museum had never positioned any art there, and the foyer is a high-traffic, transitional space, as is Interstate 705. One transitions people from car to art institution, and the other moves traffic from Interstate 5 to the City of Tacoma (Interstate 705 is only 1.5 miles long). The film projects on a wall in the foyer painted “asphalt grey.” A long white graphic runs down the middle of the grey wall, like a dividing line on a road. The graphic is a 25ft length of traditional music score that shows 30 minutes of traffic (specifically on a Wednesday from noon until 12:30pm). From the musical score, it’s possible to read which lane each individual vehicle was traveling in as well as the approximate speed of each vehicle. The music is set in the key of C major, the most basic and neutral of keys, because I wanted the traffic to weave the sounds without personally inserting a more emotive key. C is the elementary key, the key that every piano player first learns, a practical and non-romantic key, perfect for this experiment. For instrumentation I selected the Rhodes Electric Piano; I am a firm believer in the magical potential of words with double-meanings (homophones and homonyms). Wordplay has
often opened investigative doors in my creative practice, and using a Rhodes Piano satisfied my inner pun-maker. The soundtrack of Section of I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano provides the film with such minimalistic atmosphere: according to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a 'sense bias' that affects Western societies favoring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of the alphabet as the eye became more essential than ear. How do you see the relationship between sound and moving images? Even if McLuhan is right and we do have a Western sense bias toward the visual, I think we often still fail to see a lot of what is right in front of us. We see what we are looking for, or what we expect to see and we don’t see the rest. The relationship between sound and moving image in my work is to help the viewer spot something or bring attention to a moment, like the work of a foley artist. Sound can help us understand the whole or change our understanding of it completely. We appreciate the way your video brings the notion of urban landscape to a new level of significance, evoking an atmosphere that reminds us of the idea of non-lieu elaborated by French anthropologis Marc Augé. How would you describe the role of the landscape in your work? And in particular, how did you select the location for the initial sequences of Section of I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano ? The idea of non-place is curious. Augé posits that "...a place can be defined as identity, relational, and historical; a space that can not be defined as identity, relational, or historical defines a non-place.” But I don’t agree with naming somewhere a non-place. Every place has identity if we dig in deep enough to look for it, and
For Section of I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano I looked east from the museum and this view included the Delin Docks, the railway line, Foss Waterway, and several on ramps/off ramps— plus Interstate 705. I wanted to only score the traffic on Interstate 705, but also to show the potential for other songs (that could be either competing or complementary) in the infrastructure around the Interstate. The piece is 30 minutes long, which is time enough for the viewer to become comfortable with the relationship between still, static scene and the motion of the highway and then to start investigating what else is happening, for example what is happening with the container cranes on the left or the apartment buildings on the right; objects and people in rectangle shapes. You are a versatile artist and your practice is marked out with captivating multidisciplinary feature, ranging from painting and performance to video: what does address you to such cross disciplinary practice? And in particular, when do you recognize that a technique or a material has exhausted its expressive potential to self?
surely we cannot possibly know all the relationships, or the personal histories that each place carries. If I trip over my shoelace, fall, and break my ankle on a plain stretch of sidewalk then that place will forever be the “Where-I-BrokeMy-Ankle” place. Endonyms (local nicknames) exist because of local experience and the personal histories of a place. These hyper-local identities may not be found on Wikipedia or Google, but they do exist. Think of all the places that, as of 2016, are remembered as “Where-I-Caught-My-First Pokemon-In-Pokemon-Go.” George Perec talks about The infra-ordinary and what is missed by the traditional notions of significance. I am currently thinking about this in the guise of the Infra-structure-ordinary.
As to whether a technique or material ever really becomes exhausted, I would say that things are cyclical, with tools needing to lay fallow for a while. I’ll give a medium a rest and that also gives my mind a rest from traveling down the well-worn paths, so when I pick it up again a new channel in the medium or technique that has previously been overlooked might pop to the forefront of my thinking. How much important is for you to trigger the viewer's perceptual parameters in order to urge them to elaborate personal meanings and associations? For me, making work with the viewer in mind is extremely important. I am not making work that is abstract or theoretical. Rather, I see my role more as a re-assembler of what already is. My challenge is to
have the viewer see something consciously that was previously just reflexive. I’m not trying to impose myself on the place or rewrite any histories, I’m trying to allow the place or the action to make itself known in an alternate way rather than just be stuck with the one that our daily view has put upon it. I’m presenting realities which an audience can recognise. Situating a lot of my work within the framework of a “score” (musical or performance) means the work can be reinterpreted by the viewer as they see it. It is in a framework which allows the work to morph depending on the perception of the viewer and their relationship with the piece or the place. How would you consider the relationship between analysis and spontaneity within your work? In particular, do you like spontaneity or do you prefer to meticulously schedule every details of your works? how much importance does play improvisation in your process? I have quite a tight grip on the work, but within that, I really like the idea of Controlled Chaos. Chaos is tiny changes that you cannot measure with any defined, discrete measurement; I’d say the most perfect form of chaos is other people, and that by getting out of the known and adding other people to a project you make the project quantum. For example in 1969 Cornelius Cardew founded The Scratch Orchestra. This was an orchestra for both virtuosic players and for people with little to no musical experience, but all members of this new style of orchestra had the desire to make sound. I’m sure that would have been a good example of controlled chaos. Using the same school of thought, when I made the eight-movement Suite Sandy Boulevard I
No place has only one voice, so no one medium can really express all there is to uncover. If I have only used one technique or material in an investigation, then I know that I have much more work to do. Using different mediums allows not-obvious pairings to have interesting and unexpected conversations. I always have to start somewhere and that will often involve video, I just set up a camera on a tripod, hit record, and sit at the space to see what is revealed. Also research, research is where I spend so many of my hours - I want to know as much as I can about everything - the geological make up, the dates infrastructure was implemented, newspaper reports, aerial photos, interviews and conversations, rumours and legends. Denis Wood really knows how to map a place, so if I ever wonder if I have gone down every avenue of research, I stop and think WWDD (What Would Denis Do).
worked with a community performance ensemble. I had set and precise structures, but then asked the ensemble to play around within those parameters.
I am always considering the audience and ways I can
Having a habit of looking, knowing that anything can and will happen right outside your front door, and being ready to act on that awareness skirts the line between analysis and spontaneity. Portland artist Stephen Slappe made an amazing film called OUR PEACE which is created from documentary footage he captured spontaneously from his front porch; it shows a bomb disposal unit exploding a suspect VW Beetle directly opposite his house. He could not have predicted that that would have happened during his morning cup of coffee, but he was aware of what was going on around him and what drama could be unfolding at a moment. Practicing that level of awareness allows me to enfold spontaneity into my practice.
an audience want to come along on the ride with me.
Over the years your works have been showcased in several occasions, including your recent participation with “Live Girls Show” at the Zero to Fierce Festival. One of the hallmarks of your work is the capability to create direct involvement with the viewers, who are provided with of the the opportunity to become active participants and are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decisionmaking process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context?
bring my fondness of whatever it is I am studying to the audience. I want to create the conditions to make For example, during the Zero to Fierce Festival, I debuted a choral score called Inner Dialogue (for Kegel Choir). It was written for a choir and performed through a series of pelvic floor exercises. The choir was silent, and reacted to my conducting (e.g., lift and contract, again, higher). Afterward many audience members gave me feedback that they had found themselves “singing along” internally with the choir. I believe art can change lives, and with Inner Dialogue (for Kegel Choir), that change is stronger orgasms and better continence. I would wish that all my work could be as beneficial to myself and the audience as that. I make work that builds a bridge to the audience, not a clueless maze. I like people, I want them with me. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Lou. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I’m working on a new show which is part musical and part interactive experience. I’m thinking about infrastructure and I’m also thinking about ants. One of the reasons that ants don’t have traffic jams is because they are equally conscious of the space behind as they are the space in front of them; we can learn a lot from ants.
Hsuan-Kuang Hsieh An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant Hello Hsuan-Kuang and welcome to this special edition of Women Cinemakers: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production would you like to tell us something about your background? You have a solid formal training and after having earned your BA of Drama and Theatre, from the National Taiwan University, you moved to the United Stated to nurture your education with a MFA Video For Performance + Integrated Media, that you received from the prestigious California Institute of the Arts: how did these experiences influence your trajectory as an artist? Moreover, how does the relationship between your Taiwanese cultural substratum and you current life into the United States fuel yourself as a creative? My background in theatre deeply influences the way I see structure. The concept of time is essential to my work. For me, the skeleton of the work is not necessary referring to narrative, storytelling nor time-based art;
While at CalArts, I was more exposed to conceptual art and experimental approaches. And the most valuable thing I got from my graduate studies are critical thinking and to never stop questioning why we do the art we do, and what is the role of artist in our day and age. My work is very personal and takes inspiration from my personal life. My transition from Taiwan to America is deeply reflected in my art work. And the experience also becomes the main subject of my practice. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would suggest to our readers to visit http:// hsuankuang.com in order to get a synoptic view of your work. In the meanwhile, would you like to tell to our readers something about your process and set up? In particular, do you think that there is a central idea that connect all your works? To continue my address above, The main focus of my work has been my experience of dislocation from Taiwan to United States. Taiwan is a small country, an island surrounded by an ocean. It has a long history of colonialism, changing hands under five different authorities. Since then, people have been traveling and seeking survival elsewhere, through a better land
instead it is about the transitions between and progression through different phases. While working in theatre, I found myself equally attentive to movement, sound, duration and spectatorship in my artwork. I like the combination of different elements and I think that also influences my multidisciplinary approach toward art.
or a promising dream. In my generation, many of us follow our ancestors, seeking out and pursuing a new life in another land. In modern terms, this could take the shape of studying aboard, obtaining a work holiday or job relocation etc. The history somehow comes full circle in a different way, as the result is that the conflicts of identities and the struggles from diaspora still remain the same. Clearly, the dislocation experience is not only a personal version but a story of my generation and a shadow of history. Another important element in my work is the idea of home. The meaning of home has radically changed in the 21st century. It is not only about geographic location, but is starting to also be affected by many factors, such as capitalism, globalization, technology, immigration policy and politics, even currently the refugee crisis. Through my work, I try to explore different meanings of home and perhaps find different interpretations of feeling home. For this special edition of Women Cinemakers we have selected The Islands, an interesting an experimental documentary that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of your exploration of the notion of island as a state of mind is the way you provided the visual results of your analysis with autonomous aesthetics: while walking our readers through the genesis of The Islands, would you shed light to your main sources of inspiration? In particular, what did address you to the inquiry
The Islands took me one and a half year to plan and another year to test and film. The materials and contents span six years of time and space. The original inspiration is sourced back to my travel to Tsushima Island, Japan in 2012. I was traveling on the island for three days. On the last day, when I got to the port (the only place with mobile reception), I got a text from my family saying that my grandmother had passed away. The feelings of guilt and sadness set against the rainy scenery at the port were all captured in my camera. My grandmother was raised under Japanese colonization. Many of my memories of her are of her singing Japanese songs. For some reasons, I thought my grandmotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ghost was held up in the Tsushima port for a long time. After that day, every time I visit an island or take a ferry, no matter where, I feel my grandmotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ghost is haunting me. What I felt was that I knew I had a home and people waiting for me, but that I was trapped and alone across the ocean. And this conflict is still there in my everyday life in America. From this emotional perspective, I seek out my connection to land, identity and search for the meaning of nation and homeland. On one hand, to understand my personal pain and struggle, on the other, to ask questions and to comfort other similarly dislocated people. The ambience of The Islands provides the viewers with an immersive experience and brings the notion of landscape to a new level of significance, evoking an atmosphere that reminds us of the idea of non-lieu
into your relationship among land, nation and identity?
non place) elaborated by French anthropologis Marc AugĂŠ. How would you describe the role of the landscape in your work? And in particular, how did you select the locations for The Islands? The geographic location and the name of the place is not essential for me, instead landscape and the mindset in the landscape is the most crucial in my work. The physical land is captured through a photographerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s perspective and is then turned into landscape. I believe that at the moment of taking pictures, the landscape belongs to the photographer. Through this action of framing and photographing, we build a special relationship with the anonymous lands. When you look closely at memory or even reality, these can seem dreamlike, full of mystery. After the long journey between different lands and places, the geography starts to make no difference. I think when we start to forget the name of places, forget where we are and why we are where we are, perhaps its the time we are truly live. The sound of spoken words play an important role in The Islands: according to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a 'sense bias' that affects Western societies favoring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of the alphabet as the eye became more essential than ear. How do you see the relationship between sound and moving images? Sound and image are equally important in my work, no matter film, performance or even just still photograph
or sculpture, I always consider sound carefully through my creative process. Image is very direct, usually what you see is what you get; as we juxtapose multiple images, we begin to build structure and logic and tell a story based on these. In my opinion, sound is the opposite. Sound is indirect which creates psychological space for viewers to imagine different images. Sometimes I even think sound brings images to life, it brings motion to images and can help focus our attention within the images. The marriage between sound and image can complete a work of art. I was very lucky to work with my friend Shih-Chieh Lin on the sound for this film. He is also a very talented filmmaker, working on documentaries and experimental film. He understands how sound can strengthen the imagery in films. The sound for The Islands is basically the first version. Your work explores the complexity of multicultural identity from a contemporary perspective: Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "the artistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s role differs depending on which part of the world youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re in. It depends on the political system youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re living under": what could be in your opinion the role of artists in our unstable contemporary age? I think what artists can do is to create pure and honest work that portrays real life. By this I mean must live in the present and must live honestly; for me, that means to live at a human pace. The biggest difference between our generation and the previous generations is that the overwhelming presence of technology controls most of our judgements and gradually dominates the way we perceive the world. It changes the pace of our lives tremendously. We start to ignore the details of life and eventually lose our sense of self.
In my creative process, I don’t really spend too much time thinking about how to connect my work to the ‘big picture’ (even though sometimes such connections might be easily made.) I am more interested in my voice and personal story. And surprisingly, the more personally I communicate the more globally it usually conveys. I believe the artist’s role is often determined by the viewer. It is not something I can plan for or anticipate. An artist could be construed as politician, activist, as a scientist or as nothing at all. I can’t control how people will interpret my work, but I can control the level of honesty in my work. You are a versatile artist and your work integrates emerging media, performance, installation, film, puppetry and hybrid forms of photo sculpture and text: what does draw you to such captivating multidisciplinary approach? And in particular, when do you recognize that a technique has exhausted its expressive potential to self? I usually pick my medium by intuition. If I put too much effort on figuring out my medium and approach, perhaps the work might die in the process. Since the beginning of my artistic career, I’ve told myself not to constrain myself to any genre or medium. I have a background in film photography but am not satisfied with only being a photographer. I believe as an artist, it is important
to free yourself from limitations. There will always be situations where moving images work better than still ones and vice versa. Sometimes, the subject is better presented with performance. What I can consider is how to deliver effectively, honestly and authentically using the tools at my disposal. Multidisciplinary artist Angela Bulloch onced remarked "that works of arts often continue to evolve after they have been realised, simply by the fact that they are conceived with an element of change, or an inherent potential for some kind of shift to occur". Do you think that the role of the artist has changed these days with the new global communications and the new sensibility created by new media? Yes. New media is good in that it allows people to access art more easily without the limitations of time and space. It remains up to the individual, however, how they choose to appreciate and interpret art. I believe art education needs to catch up with the explosive spread of information. I love to see how artists respond to this phenomenon. My video series From X.X. (all shot and exhibited on iphone) reflects this technology and how it transforms the way we view art; it also challenges the way art is made and the quality of art in technology. Over the years your work has been shown in both national and international venues, ranging from theatres and festivals to galleries and museums, including your recent participation to the Syros Int'l Film Festival in Syros, Greece. One of the hallmarks of
your work is the capability to create direct involvement with the viewers, who are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision- making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context? I have always emphasized spectatorship in my work. I come from a theater background. The immersive element of theater is the most magical thing about theatrical art. The way of viewing has been radically changed due to the way we use new media and the evolution of technology. There are many possibilities and potential nowadays. Our relationship between object and body is changing. We no longer deal with what we see but also how we see and how we are seen. I believe as artists, these are the questions we should consider and explore. Viewing is no longer exclusively visual, but requires gesture and movement as part of the engagement. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Hsuan-Kuang. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?
I’m currently planning my next experimental film, Nostalgia for the Future (working title). It, too, explores the relationship between identity, urbanscape and land. The landscape in question this time is Los Angeles, the city where I’ve been living since 2012. When I was five, my family took me to Los Angeles. We visited Disneyland, Universal Studios and other tourist attractions and landmarks. Since I was so little, I can’t recall any of this. However, the memories of this, (me as a kid in the foreground, with Los Angeles as a backdrop), remain well documented by my parents’ camera. Twenty years later, I’m back here as a student and as an immigrant instead of a tourist. The gaps between my memories start to fill in and my relationship with this city begins to transform. I see this film as a continuation of my studies from The Islands. However, this time, it is through an even more intimate and personal perspective that I look at the relationship between land and identity. The figure of artist becomes exposed on the screen. To me, it is quite a challenge. Since I was a child, I have always been uncomfortable in front of the camera. This film is permeated with the idea of “being photographed”, and from there explores how photographs confirm our personal existence and further complete our memories of ourselves.