Marc Lafia is a new media artist interested in systems and events, authoring machines, context and meaning. His work re-writes, re-invents meaning or enunciation through rewriting forms. Marc’s work emerges in the context of net art, in the condition that the... [more]
Marc Lafia is a new media artist interested in systems and events, authoring machines, context and meaning. His work re-writes, re-invents meaning or enunciation through rewriting forms. Marc’s work emerges in the context of net art, in the condition that the network, new technologies and computation bring forward.
He has re-written in software the film projector as a computational engine to examine the still image and its relation to duration and movement, in a series of works entitled, 'Computations' which are each time played, inflected differently and of indefinite duration.
Marc has created a new all-at-once, poly temporal cinema with his whimsical and beautiful ongoing series of over 500 short films called 'Permutations' which allow for a continual resounding of multiple and simultaneous image tracks.
He has also examined the photograph as an index of the performative both in the archive of the web and as an inscription device as the camera has been rewritten by the digital creating a new kind of recording and indexing event. in his works, 'The Event of the Image', 'Memories of Photography', 'American Flags', ‘Still, an Image’ and his recent project, 'F4, The Photography Desktop Collective' he asks us to read the imaging event as much as the image.
For Lafia images are also thoughts as well as they are productions of inscription devices. There are no images per se only image formation. Images becoming. In many of his works he uses computation and the network to create new regimes of the image, to shape new thoughts, new rhythms.
His best known works may be 'This Battle of Algiers' commissioned by the Whitney and Tate Museum's and 'The Memex Engine or Lara Croft shot by her Assasins, even' exhibited at the Walker Art Center's, 'Let's Entertain' and included in the seminal exhibit and publication, 'Net Condition' at ZKM, Germany.
Marc has also made installation films, shorts, features, music videos, commercials and exhibited films in a number of international festivals including Rotterdam, San Francisco and Tokyo. His first feature film, 'Exploding Oedipus' earned much praise described as an 'exquisite, ballsy first feature bursting upon the screen with the dark and ominous beauty of an inky-black sunspot... reminiscent of Mike Leigh’s NAKED, Lafia’s San Francisco is distinctly new: a dreamy, atmospheric mindscape.'
His recent HD feature film, 'Paradise' described in an essay, 'Going with Paradise' Paradise, then, is amateur in the same sense that Godard’s Breathless is amateur, that Cassavetes’ Faces is amateur, that Julien Donkey Boy is amateur and that William Burroughs, Joyce, and Beckett are amateurs. There is no polish of production, no liposuction, only the exquisite experiment of cinema (or literature) and its way of taking up life, of becoming life. (And it is so beautiful I, for one, wanted to scream, to punch myself in the face out of joy).
Marc is also founder of artandculture.com, launched in 1999 which won numerous awards and the present site he has relaunched with Chris Vroom which you see here, which he labors dearly on.
Marc often works as an educator and has taught in the graduate schools of Stanford, the San Francisco Art Institute, Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Pratt, Columbia and most recently at the Berkeley Carroll School.
'Paradise' shot in Brooklyn New York in the Fredric Olmstead designed, Prospect Park was shoot in summer and autumn 08 with a small crew shooting HD video, 720p and the sound recorded with a Sheps stereophonic microphone and is 107 minutes long. The visual style both verite and highly cinematic folds the actuality of the recording environment and the film making into the very fabric and story of the film.
Casting, writing and rehearsal of the project took over a year before shooting. The ensemble of actors prepared with a variety of movement and characterization exercises taking cues from the experimental theatre work of Julian Beck and Joseph Chaikin and their ideas of experimentation, the living body and the immediacy of the senses.
The film starts with Solange, a professor in history and theatre arts at NYU. She brings her class to the park for her closing talk on ‘fiction and the real’. Soon the class is folded into a fiction about life, love, time, politics, mathematics and more, all the while excavating the inner psyche of its characters.
As Solange brings her dream of ‘Paradise’ into being: a deconstruction of the messianic, sugar-coated Matrix fantasy, characters become authors who create characters who become authors: a Hoffmannesque nesting of consciousnesses begins. Solange, a novelist, dreams her family into the future, conjures her characters into the present, and leaves them haunted by an unremembered past. She renames her children Jules and Juliet, makes them lovers, siblings who like to pretend that they are pretending to be sister and brother, and who keep love and memory alive by impersonating each other. Her husband Roman, haunted by a chill presentiment of that first, malevolent thriller, finds himself receding into an infinity of other lives, as if there were no death only dissolving.
Emotions can get really scary, really intense, yet so beautiful, but yeah crazy, scary, how we need others, how we hurt others, how we want to be loved by others, by ourselves, how we don't know how to - these are the wild things, our wild emotions.
Read and had to post this interview with Spike Jones I found here
Spike Jonze by Scott Plagenhoef, posted October 7, 2009
Creating a film adaptation of a beloved work of literature is difficult enough with a novel, even a novella or short story. But how about a 10-line children's book? Spike Jonze took on that challenge in his long battle to bring Maurice Sendak's classic Where the Wild Things Are to the screen. With Sendak's encouragement, Jonze began work on the film in the early part of this decade, with the project then attached to Universal. Many years later, the film-- eventually scripted by Jonze and author/publisher Dave Eggers-- is finally being released in the U.S. via Warner Bros. on October 16.
Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are is not a children's film, which is to say it's not pandering, or cute, or repetitive, or simplistic. This is instead an art film about childhood, about the feelings and fears and needs of being young. In Jonze's hands, the film's young protagonist, Max, is the product of a broken home, with an overstretched mother, an older sister who has her own life, and a social structure that doesn't include him. These evocative early passages hint at the restlessness, the playfulness, the fright, and the untethered anger of being a child-- the needs for safety, belonging, and community, and the consequences of not getting them.
When Max flees to where the wild things are, these sensations become manifest. Already feeling adrift and unloved, he's thrust into a world populated with wild animals, where he is expected to serve as their king. This situation-- a young person being charged with caretaking, without instruction on how to do so-- draws easy parallels to Eggers' life, as detailed in the memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The wild things themselves, rather than created with CGI, are portrayed by two sets of actors-- physical thesps in suits, and well-known actors doing voice work. As Jonze explains, this decision was to ensure that Max felt in the presence of the wild things-- "that they could hug, and yet he could be eaten at any time."
This potentially odd decision leads to a quintessential Jonze move-- Wild Things is a fantastical film shot in the director's now-familiar hyperrealist way-- even though it grew from necessity. Navigating a world in which a child needs the love and support of monsters is all too common for many kids, and Jonze's rendering of these emotional challenges and obstacles may guarantee Wild Things is neither a blockbuster nor Oscar bait but it helps retain a strong connection to Sendak's original vision. Jonze and Eggers had an almost limitless number of ways in which they could fill in this open-ended story, but rather than simply construct a narrative, they instead dig deeply into the scarred psyche of a young boy-- exploring his imagination, tapping into the heart of his anger and insecurities. It's a brave way to film a largely plot-free tale and it's also true to the spirit of the book.
After a recent screening to benefit 826 National, a collection of non-profits "dedicated to helping students, ages 6-18, with expository and creative writing," we had a brief opportunity to speak with Jonze about his new film and the long road it took to completion.
Pitchfork: I'm not sure if you were in the theater tonight. Do you enjoy watching your art with an audience?
Spike Jonze: When we put out a music video DVD [for the Director's Label series], we would do 90-minute screenings, and those were really fun. Normally when you put it out you don't get to watch different people, so that's just really fun.
Pitchfork: I was trying to think of anything in your past that had any connection to this narrative, and the one thing I could think of was your Daft Punk "Da Funk" video, because it's a mirror image opposite of Where the Wild Things Are-- one animal in a world of humans.
SJ: Yeah, I never thought about that.
Pitchfork: Obviously, the story itself comes from Maurice Sendak however: How did you end up hooking up with Maurice?
SJ: I had known him for a number of years, because he was producing another movie that didn't end up happening, but through that I got to see him as someone whose work I liked.
It was a book that he had talked to me about over the years a few times, and it was a book that I loved, and when he brought it up to me I was very excited but also very apprehensive, because it was something that I thought was so great and so perfect in its form-- What am I going to add to that? I was so apprehensive to add something just for the sake of adding it, for the sake of a movie, and not really having a reason to make it, basically. But eventually I came up with the idea that you see what you see there, and Maurice was great, he was insistent upon that taking it there.
Pitchfork: He was very generous about allowing you to create your own film?
SJ: Yeah, I really don't think we could have done it without that. I would have been too nervous to make something he wouldn't like. And I didn't want to do that.
We were really nervous with the first script, because we didn't know what he would think. He read it three times in a row. The first time he read it, he was like, "It's not like my book." And then he said, "Oh wait, I told them not to make it like my book." And then he said, "Let me read it again," and he started to be able to feel it. By the third time, he was totally detached from anything before, and was able to feel it for what it was, and he called us up and told us he wanted to do it.
He had script approval, so if he didn't like it, we just wouldn't have done it. So it was a big call to get that call from him telling us that he liked it, and good luck.
Pitchfork: How long was that gap between those readings?
SJ: He read it three times in one day.
Pitchfork: So he called you after the first reading, and said--
SJ: No, luckily he didn't call us then. He went through that process on his own and called us, and then afterward he told me.
Pitchfork: When you first started to imagine it, did you do so in more cinematic terms or narrative terms? It's virtually a picture book, and some of the power of it is that it's less a book someone would read to you as it is a book that a child can get lost in.
SJ: Well, cinematic terms. I knew I wanted it to be live action; I wanted to build the wild things for real. I wanted to be on location. I wanted it to be a real boy with real creatures, in a dangerous, unpredictable environment, where you're with wild animals. But that wasn't enough to make a movie. It was more the idea that gave me confidence that there was a movie there was that the wild creatures were wild emotions, and Max was trying to understand things that were confusing and frightening, and made him anxious-- things being out of control, and him being sort of emotionally wild himself.
Pitchfork: Did you see it as a childhood thing, in terms of the emotions, or are these more just human emotions to you? The adult relationships in the film have the same needs and fears in some ways.
SJ: The emotions I felt were true to a child, were true to what it feels like to be a kid. What the world is like from a nine-year-old's point of view. Like when you're nine, you haven't figured out how to process all this.
My memory is that nothing is explained to you, you've got to try to figure it out, pick up clues from the people around you, try to figure it out from their reactions. And the things that are out of control are scary-- I mean they still are, to me. But I think even more so at that age, when you really have no sense of control of your life.
And so the things that are really out of control, and scary, are emotions-- of people around you, that are unpredictable, or those in yourself which are unpredictable. Like having a tantrum. The thing I remember most about having a tantrum is not the rage during the tantrum, but the being freaked out afterwards, and embarrassed, and guilty. It's scary, to lose control of yourself. We wanted the movie to feel like it was made by a nine-year-old, on some levels. So like you're in the headspace of a nine-year-old, and you're in the world, you're on the island with Max, trying to understand this foreign place. It kind of feels like being a kid, you've just shown up to this place, and there's no road map to it.
Pitchfork: Were there other examples of children's art that you were looking at? Things that were sort of about childhood, rather than for a child?
SJ: It wasn't so much that we looked at them; there's things that we knew did it right, but we didn't reference them, we went back and watched them. Like The Black Stallion, that I loved, in 1981, it's beautiful. My Life as a Dog. The 400 Blows. there are a couple others, just films that feel like they're from a kid's point of view looking at the world.
Pitchfork: How did you and Dave Eggers end up working together?
SJ: Because I had known him for a few years, and I love his writing, and just like him as a person. It just felt right, it was one of those intuitive things, like, "That's who I want to write this with." Just sensibility-wise, his first book, the way he wrote about a young character. I don't know, just the way he writes, and we're very similar, we're the same age, just the way we grew up influenced and in love with Maurice's work. It wasn't even too thought out, it was just like, "That's right."
Pitchfork: Talking about your ages. Do you think there is something about this story that makes it so beloved with our generation specifically?
SJ: I'm not even sure if it's just our generation. I think it might be that if you're five years old and you read that book, you're like, "I recognize that." It's in the language of a kid, of monsters and of things being giant. And it's like when you're a kid, adults really do feel giant. Monsters are a part of your subconscious. You have even less control of your emotions than you do now. I think it's all in the book. And he is really speaking the language and what it feels like at that age.
Pitchfork: So you guys had almost an open-ended structure to build a narrative. Was all that freedom helpful, or more difficult? Did you go a lot of different routes before you got the script you wanted.
SJ: Not a lot of different routes, but we definitely wrote a lot of different drafts. We shot, and then had the footage... the way I work, I like to constantly evolve, and try to find a better way to do something; searching and seeing what else can be discovered. And so yeah, there were many things where we were like "That's an amazing idea!" and that was it for a week and then "No, no this is a better idea!"
Along the way, the things that stay are the things that really deserve to stay. I love that process, of not feeling overly pressured, "this is the movie," and some people can do that, like the Coen brothers, their movies I think they write, the script they write is very, very close to the movie they put out. And they shoot exactly what they need, you know I probably shoot about four times as much film as them. They're like, "Oh, we got it." And I'm like, "Oh, what else can we do? And what if we try it this way?"
You take that leap and you don't know exactly how it's going to turn out, but you know what it is that you're aiming for. You know your goal.
I recently sat down with the extraordinarily charming writer, artist, essayist and journalist, Trinie Dalton. We talked about her growing up in LA, mushrooms, the short story form, some of her favorite writers, what it is to be a poet, language, sounds, books, monsters, myths, writing and art.
ML: You were brought up in LA and at the same time spent a lot of time communing with nature.
TD: I did most of my early writing stream-side in the local mountains. I got really into Japanese poetry!
ML:You were telling me as a child how you and your brother made books together. You would write a story, he would collage things, sometimes vice versa.
TD: My brother was a talented artist (he still is…Greg Dalton) and so I’d recruit him to illustrate my books or to let me write stories about his drawings. We have several booklets we made with construction paper and crayon about various monsters. He was into the Universal Studios monster icons, while I was more into storybook fantasy.
ML: Your introduction to poetry come in your early years in high school, was it then that you know you wanted to write. Who inspired you?
TD: I was very close to my teachers in school, especially my English and Art teachers. I admired Shakespeare’s sonnets, John Donne, loved the music inherent to the classics. Basically, I was a Sylvia Plath wannabe. But I was rather rebellious and liked psychedelics, so I had a teacher in tenth grade who noted similarities between my poetry and e.e. cummings’ (very polite of her!). She opened up the world of experimental and beat poetry to me. High school was all about Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac… Through them I came to read the 60s and 70s counterculture gurus, like McKenna, Huxley, Kesey, and new Journalists like Tom Wolfe. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest were the texts I cited on my graduation yearbook page! Unfortunately, I was hung up on the retro thing, but it was a good springboard. From the beginning I was into people who studied form enough to break it in interesting ways. I also sought to have that confidence in voice that these famous men had, as a woman.
ML: You also have a good sense of science. What interested you in the sciences? Had you considered being a scientist?
TD: Growing up in the Angeles Crest foothills, I got to know the local mountains well. I signed up to volunteer with the Forest Service, and we’d clear trails, clean up after bears, all that…the ranger I trained with taught me how to ID flowering plants and from there I was hooked on natural sciences. Heading up to Humboldt County for college, I focused on Environmental Science, Astronomy, and Biology, thinking a forestry degree would be cool. But then when I faced Chemistry and Math, I hit the wall and realized I was an artist, not a scientist! I like to make science stories up, how plants came to look the way they look, what medicinal values they may have. It’s a big part of my life but I don’t care to be too accurate. My husband and I hunt all different types of mushrooms, and do work hard to ID them properly. But ultimately, we like fungi because mushrooms are inherently weird, beautiful, and they spark our creativity.
ML: At some point you fell in love with the short story form. When and how did this happen?
TD: After so many years of reading Tom Wolfe, Terry Southern, Joan Didion—writers who have such strong voices in the first person—I suppose I felt I had permission to begin writing in that first-person voice. From there, I started writing stories in “my” voice, and fictionalizing from there. While working as a librarian at Art Center College of Design, I studied short story with Benjamin Weissman, semester after semester. He taught me a lot about writing and exposed me to many contemporary authors who push the story form.
ML: There seems now to be a real interest in the short form with a number of anthologies being published, the short-short form, flash fiction.
TD: Yes, there is real public interest in short fiction right now. If only there would be better ways to support short fiction writing: more grant opportunities, more paying magazines and journals! Another interviewer recently said the same to me about the resurgence of the novella, as if the reading public can’t handle long novels anymore. I think readers will read long works of high quality, and it is less about length than about engagement with the text. Though I do champion any promotion about short fiction, since short story is my favorite prose form. I think we’re finally seeing what the post Gordon Lish generations are making of New York “short short” story styles from the 80s. (Many of those who trained with him, like Amy Hempel and Gary Lutz, developed rigorous rules against wordiness.)
ML: You are also very interested in cultural mythology and oral story telling.
TD: Right now, I am studying African, Asian, and Native American mythologies, in particular those related to the monstrous or abhorrent. I like myths that warn against taboo breaking. That’s when chaos can really ensue and the storyteller’s imagination can run free.
ML: You write about communications between humans and animals, humans from different times, fairy tales, monsters, the abject.
TD: To ignore horror feels a bit escapist to me. The animal-human bonding issue is sort of separate from horror, in that I study it more in regards to shamanism and human relationship to ecosystem. Human connection with non-human beings. Life is much larger than us. But when one gets into fairy tale and the realm of monsters, animal-human overlap can get horrible fast! Going back to the taboo breaking stories, the great mutant monsters are often borne from commingling between human and animals. There is a katsina in Hopi religion that is semi-Frankensteinian, stitched together from many different creatures. To me, that is the scariest kind of monster, one that is not at home anywhere. The monster adrift.
ML: What is your interest in horror? You've talked about Lovecraft's notion of cosmic horror, supernatural horror, tell us about this.
TD: Monsters highlight human fears, and reveal the culture in which they are invented. For MYTHTYM, I got into the uncanny monsters: doppelgangers, evil twins, schizophrenics, the doubling in one self that proves that we are not in control of everything inside our minds. I used mirrors as the symbol for this, and collected a body of work surrounding these topics. Maybe that lack of self-control is one of the scariest notions of all, across the world. Lovecraft, in his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature, writes about a “savage dawn,” a life that includes and maybe even embraces the flip side of mundane reality: the cryptic, occult, extra-terrestrial, the spheres of the unknown. While I’m not very into aliens, I do like his definitions of “weird.”
Lovecraft says that a “weird story whose intent is to teach or produce social effect, or one in which the horrors are finally explained away by natural means, is not a genuine tale of cosmic fear…” He most admires stories that evoke “primal emotion,” that show the abyss and leave one in it, rather than rescue one out. I wholeheartedly dislike moral tales, whereas I love any tale that leaves one wondering about larger mysteries.
ML: In your first book, 'Wide-Eyed', a collection of short stories, you write about many things, one of them is fears revealed through horror in gender stereo types.You have this extraordinary innocence that's always proximate to dreams and death, like in Extreme Sweets how the narrator describes being inside the tornado in Oz in an elevator in the sky but underwater. How do you think of these things, were do they come from?
TD: Sometimes the symbols are crafted from dream imagery, changed and skewed but based on archetypes. The sky elevator, of course, is a dream image that pays homage to Dahl’s Great Glass Elevator, fear of falling, etc. I like symbolic objects that are clichéd to gender, then twisting them, because those stereotypes are obviously imposed on us from the time we’re born. I use color in that way, the blue/pink boy/girl thing…many people are surprised to discover that pink was once considered the “too masculine” color for girls. Anyway, symbols that conjure innocence in girlhood, as in my story about slumber parties, “Chrysalis,” that likens sleeping bags to butterfly cocoons, I love to undercut. I get real joy out of proving that those objects and symbols are not implicitly girly, and that girly, by definition, does not represent some innocent, virginal stage. The virginal innocence in young women is a male fantasy that I’m attracted to and repelled by, therefore I’m interested in exploring it.
ML: You mentioned how Benjamin Weissman was one of your teachers. How was he, Dennis Cooper, Amy Gerstler and other writers involved with Beyond Baroque informative influential inspirational for you? There is humor in the abject that comes from this group. Certainly sex and horror.
TD: They teach me to embrace and exploit embarrassment in fiction. To be an uncompromising artist, to be brave. To accept that humiliation is part of life and can seed great art. To be self-motivated and to persevere. To not be shy about exploring sexual desires through artistic means. Like Dennis always says in interviews: it’s better to write about killing people than to actually do it.
ML: Before I forget what are some of your favorite Lesbian Vampire movies from the 70's.
TD: Vampyros Lesbos, Daughters of Darkness, all of Jean Rollin’s films, Les Vampyres, Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fey…there are so many great ones!
ML: Why do you think we are so obsessed with Vampires? Is it about slavery and control?
TD: I like vampires because they suck blood and they can live for thousands of years. I think vampires are sexy and wise.
ML: How did your interest in monsters come about?
TD: All the mythological creatures I prefer tend to represent some facet of wilderness, fear of the unknown and the power that one can attain when that fear is harnessed.
ML: I am curious, you do so many things, when do you get to write. What is your process of writing? Do you write from dreams, research, keep a journal.
TD: I keep post-its notes in a basket with story titles and sentences that I want to work on later. I make collages and base fiction on them. I do record my dreams when I’m being properly diligent. I keep notebooks, and a file cabinet of art/text reference files for inspiration.
ML: Story structures, story forms, what are some of your compositional strategies?
TD: Currently, I either cut-and-paste paragraphs I write into longer texts, like DIY zine snippets. Or, I write an introduction, then sit on the story beginning while it simmers in my head until I have the whole thing packed in there like a firecracker. At that point, I sit down and write the first draft for several hours straight. Then go back and revise, often several times. Either approach goes for blasts of text, so the energy remains compressed and the text stays dynamic.
ML: You move easily between writing and collage, art criticism, music reviews, catalogue writing, interviews and more. You have two desks, a writing desk and an art desk.
TD: It’s not really that easy for me, all told. I enjoy all of these endeavors, but it does make my brain tired. I like working each day until I feel like my mind has been exercised until it is about to explode. In the workshop I aspire to I will have four or five large desks and some helpers with administrative emailing. I get really tired of the computer and the tactile projects save me from becoming a total word-processing robot.
ML: A lot your art comes out of collage and zines and you have recently published Mythtym which looks beautiful. How did you go about this?
TD: Mythtym is made from three zines, two previously made and one built particularly for the compilation. A Touch Of Class was about unicorns, and accompanied a band I was in called Unicornucopia. Werewolf Express was made for a curated exhibit at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. And Mirror/Horror premiered in Mythtym. Rather than just reprinting the old materials, I renovated each issue, did new type treatments and added in new work. More importantly, I collaborated with this amazing book designer, James Goggin of Practise UK. He did amazing typesetting and layout to tame the crazy DIY aesthetic.
ML: Tell us about Dear New Girl.... and how you went about making it.
TD: I confiscated notes from high schoolers and organized them into binders. Then my friend and co-editors, Lisa Wagner, who is a skilled typographer and book designer, offered to transform these note binders into a printed book. So we farmed out note packets to artists, collected their art, and built the book from there. It’s a tribute to teens, that time in my life, and to improvisation and collaboration.
ML: You recently wrote for art+culture a series of posts on small presses. Maybe you can tell us about a few of them and the kinds of artists books some of them are publishing.
TD: On the blog, I’ve been focusing on publishers who have visual/text overlap. Picturebox, of course, TV Books, the music labels like Drag City who publish books, anyone who mixes medium. I’m a big fan of transgressing one’s practice: musicians making art, writers drawing…I’ve also been writing about artists and authors who are adept visually and textually, as was Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomintroll sagas. She is a hero of mine.
ML: You are now going to be spending some of your time in New Mexico. You'll be able to commune with nature and talk to the spirits. You must be looking forward to it.
TD: I am really excited to start splitting time between wilderness and the city. I love both. I’m also sincerely hoping to get to know the cultures there, and to learn about American history the way it really went down. I love Pueblo Indian pottery and Diné weaving so I’m also excited from the craft perspective.
Aaron Schroeder is a very fine young actor who directs and performs in a theatre art collective called, Unidentified Artist Sightings. He's been very busy organizing for the Dumbo Arts Festival, 'The Map Is Not The Territory', an exhibit that will feature the work of over 30 artists from around the world spanning different artistic disciplines.
ML: Tell us about what you're doing for the dumbo arts festival.
AS: I will be performing a portion of my one-man show "Box Theory" during the festival. The piece itself will be interesting because it is taken completely out of context from the rest of the show (this is the final part in the 5 section work). The reason I chose this work was because in the arch of the piece the character devolves and fragments until he is basically spewing out a kind of post-modern poetry with pointed subconscious resonance. When writing it I gave specific attention to the sound of the words and its musicality. I truly tried to craft a new form of theatrical monologue forcing the audience to negotiate between participation and complete submission. That may be really heady...but basically the final section straddles the line between performance art and theatre in a way I have yet to see, so I thought I'd try it out in a gallery setting. It may still be too "conventional" but we will see. The show is about my involvement with the program, so I think it's a perfect opportunity.
ML: It's a group of artist actors performers you're working with?
AS: I am performing as part of an exhibition called The Map Is Not The Territory. This exhibition is being presented by the group of mentors/mentees involved with the 2009 NYFA Immigrant Mentorship Program. The exhibit will feature the work of over 30 artists from around the world spanning different artistic disciplines. I am a part of the performance component for our Friday night opening.
ML: I'm curious, is their a distinction in performance in work that is performance art or work that is theatre? Is there a distinction there or a different approach for you or does it all blend it? You work in a lot of venues, formats.
AS: As far as the distinction between performance art and theatre I think more and more those lines are blurring. At least for me it has a lot to do with context and maybe the focus of the artist. For instance, out of context my piece could be considered more performance art because it doesn't really tell a story or have a narrative, it is more about witnessing this unraveling. However, there is very little attention in this new context of the gallery to the visual elements which I think often play a large role in performance art. What I will be doing is simply performance. Art or Theatre, Poetry, whatever I'm not sure. I do perform in many types of venues: bars, galleries, theatres, cabaret spaces. I think each space has its own code of conduct in a way that shapes the relationship to the work you're seeing. I think it's in the interest of the performer to think of their work with that fluidity and embrace the distinctions in venues. Unless of course you're making a point about it. But otherwise, art at least in performance is about audience. So you've always got to bring them along.
ML:Tell us about some of your own work and what you've been doing lately.
AS: I have this underground theatre movement called Unidentified Artist Sightings that I am constantly working on. We're sort of a cult, with a cult following, a pledge, a secret website and guerilla advertising. Their is a degree of anarchy to the idea. We basically put up theatre in bars and other unconventional spaces--this theatre however is always created in a 24 hour period and about taking risks, being experimental and exploring impulse. We're trying to bring the hype of a rock concert and the excitement and energy of an improv show together in a true-to-the-form theatre context. The work is scripted, it is crafted and then performed all within 2 days. The rest is the scariest thing you will ever do. But i think it's a great opportunity for actors to go crazy in a safe environment. I think it's working. Audience love it.
Also I'm writing a new solo show that I'm hoping to perform at the end of this year. It's all about quantum mechanics, the internet, religion, Obama, you know...all the big topics. I'm excited by it. I always go after tackling the big questions or at least on a metaphoric level making the big questions the seed of all my work. That's what I love about theatre. I can talk about things I know nothing about and make convincing points without any proof. WAY better than college:) The writing is all most done, so soon I will start putting it on its feet and exploring it physically and with a director.
I guess, other than that, I've been working on this film with you, Marc Lafia, which has been fun. It's always exciting to get the opportunity to explore stuff and craft work with many different eyes and perspectives working at once. Conventional movies are often made in the editing room, but movies with marc are just as much made in the moment of filming, which is EXTREMELY rewarding and exciting. So yeah. I love collaborating and I love self-scripting work and being critical in a philosophical way about life and society and your films are definitely a vessel for that kind of exploration.
ML: Thanks. I love this space between theatre, performance, art, poetry that you're exploring. It's great for me, and I am sure others, to hear what you are doing in a concentrated interview like this. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow night.
The Map Is Not The Territory, 111 Front Street gallery 220 Friday Sept 25 from 6-9pm (opening with performances)
I recently sat down with Caspar Stracke and Gabriela Monroy, both artists, who, as they have for the last 5 years, curated this year’s video_dumbo which opens this Friday, September 25. Here's the schedule. Thanks Gabriela, Caspar for getting together and congratulations.
ML: Gabriela, Caspar what's it like to curate as artists?
CS, GM: I think many artists just slide into this profession, and vice versa, curators become artists. Since the early 90's curatorial work is officially acknowledged as an art discipline on its own (i.e. Jan Hoet, Documenta IV). Quiet a fascinating development. The ever absorbing Fine Art machine started eating itself, declaring even part of its own logistical production process an "artistic value".
As artists who have worked a lot with found footage, programming is like editing — each program becomes a giant found footage film with its own dramatical arc.
ML: There are a lot of things going on, screenings, installations, live performance. Can you tell us how everything gets broken down and why?
CS, GM: You used the right expression. Curating short, time-based work is as much as breaking as it is the attempt to glue different artistic pieces into a bigger one.
So even if we stay quite open with genres and subgenres, we do separate into three major categories. Certain pieces were meant to be shown in a particular way and we respect that. The installation work usually loops and presents a totally different time concept as opposed to pieces made specifically for screening context. Ironically in our case they are not separated spatially.
This year, we return into a 4000+ sq. ft exhibition space where seven video installations are being shown and at the same time we have a cinema, within this space — When the programs are running, the installations stay in (only sound is turned down) Two years ago we tried it for the first time and were unsure because we thought that the light of the other installations would distract the main screen, but it didn't. In this giant gallery we had the luxury to leave a lot of breathing space around the pieces.
ML: What is the average length of the videos and are there certain themes running through the different programs?
CS, GM: I'd say the average length is around 7-9 min. Although, this year, we are showing works that are 8 seconds long and others that last 30 minutes.
We build themes out of all the works we requested or that were sent to us. This is the most exciting moment, when we build the screening programs. The themes range from concrete subjects like war and its distorted media representation to something as abstract as "knowledge" , "solitude" or animal voyeurism paired with robo-technology.
In a program we called Horror Vacui we combined gentrification and community loss. We juxtaposed the Shanghai demolition (by Zhengcheng Liu) of an entire residential neighborhood with the gentrification of Brooklyn's Williamsburg (by Diane Nerwen).
We are happy to be able to curate without any given restrictions. Our mission remains to be a platform for emerging video art from the NYC area, but we deliberately mixed that with international work.
ML: Can you tell us about some of the work you’re most excited about?
CS,GM: We favor conceptual work that pairs thoughtful and elegantly worked out ideas with pleasant aesthetics. Colorful supersmart and sexy. This combination remains relatively rare.
ML: How would contextualize your program in relation to others worldwide. Perhaps you can tell our audience about some other festivals and how you see video_dumbo in this larger context?
CS, GM: This is a question that is difficult to answer. There are too many film, video and media art festivals under this sun, some have just one common denominator (length, format, specialized subjects). In our case we define ourselves more as a festival/exhibition for contemporary video art not a short film / Indie film fest.
ML: If you look 3 or 5 years back, where are the interests of artists today and where were they. What surprises you most about the current moment?
CS, GM: Towards the end of the Bush era, 4 years into the Iraq war, we experienced that there were two camps: one that produced highly political work, very strong reactions on the war, the other completely avoided any confrontation and retracted in dreamland.
ML: How do you think video is perceived and practiced today compared to 20 years ago. CS, GM: The most important aspect is that it totally freed up. In both a technical and aesthetic way. Video production 20 years ago involved a lot of heavy boxes.
Think of the typical video editing studio in the Eighties: Heavy CRT monitors, a stack of clunky 3/4 inch decks and a brutal Grass Valley switcher. Sounds very similar to the changing modalities of music production.
As for perception, it is true, everything (still) accelerates in media, and at the same there is a lot of stagnation. The omnipresent YouTube radar signalizes you: I’ve been there, done that, before a good idea can even progress. On the other hand we do sense a lot of energy out there.
Content and Framework have changed at the same time. The generation of people who started working with digital imagery today embed this medium into a much broader field of art practice. The notion of film or video festival feels a but outdated (“I know, grandpa…”)
ML: Would you be interested in presenting the work as an online festival?
CS, GM: Yes, but we have not really found a good strategy yet for keeping integrity of a carefully curated program.
ML: Tell us about some of your recent work.
CS, GM: What immediately comes to my mind is a project which is still on hold and oddly the fare opposite of an online viewing concept we just discussed: Gabriela and myself started to work on a project called CINEMACITY, designed exclusively for cinema spaces, a film made out a variety of different cinematic components (on and off screen) also including social and spatial concerns, i.e. megaplex cinema culture blending into mall culture, and the dramatic shift /loss of the local one screen cinema social meeting spot.
ML: Do you think curating effects the work you produce?
David Lynch is an audio-visual artist whose primary canvas is celluloid. His enigmatic films are perhaps the closest the American cinema has come to capturing the otherworldly sensation of dreams-and nightmares.
Fritz Lang's 'M' has been called many things: 'frightfully good', 'the predecessor to all serial killer thrillers like Psycho and The Silence Of The Lambs', 'one of the defining movies of European pre-WWII cinema' and much more. 'M' premiered May 11th 1931 in the Ufa-Palast am Zoo in Berlin to the standing ovations of an enthusiastic audience. In my personal opinion it is truly one of the finest movies ever made.