is a New York based media artist
His video “Small Room Tango” is part of
VideoChannel’s “image vs music”
Interview: 10 questions
1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background
When I was seven years old my parents took me to see The Who perform in RFK stadium in Washington DC. I grew up listening to a lot of music, especially classic rock and big band swing music. My dream was to play jazz clarinet. My mother is a painter and children’s art educator. She used to teach children’s art classes at our house and I would participate. Eventually she established her own studio and I began teaching cartooning classes. Drawing has always been one of my primary creative outlets. I studied at several universities, including the University of Maryland (art); the Fachhochschule Schwaebisch Hall (graphic design and electronic music); Bard College (film and video), and the Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe (design, scriptwriting, media theory and video art).
2. When, how and why started you filming?
I started making videos in the fall of 2003 as a video student at Bard College. Up until that point my primary creative output had been drawing and electronic music. When I first approached video, my intention was to see if I could make the medium responsive in the same way that drawing had been for me in the past. At that time, my drawing practice was discovery oriented, based on an intuitive process in which the subject matter of the drawing would emerge from a series of gestures. At first I tried mapping the gestural approach in a literal way, producing some animation and experimental videos involving drawing. When I started editing video I realized how my background in sequencing electronic music figured into the process and it changed my approach completely. The idea of a gesture gave way to the sense that I was sculpting in time. My first piece Small Room Tango was an experiment to try a theory I had about the effects of rhythmic editing. The result of that experiment has set me on a self-defined trajectory as a videomusician.
3. What kind of subjects have your films?
My videos are audiovisual compositions. I’m looking for ways to portray my subject matter in a synaesthetic manner – I prefer depicting things which possess equally compelling visual and sonic properties. This can range from traditional instruments to mundane objects to ambient audiovisual environments. I approach my subject matter as sample material, much in the same way that my electronic music has been based in field recordings and studio recordings. Lately I have been drawn to more universal and ritualistic themes, looking for the musical elements of pattern and repetition hidden in the fabric of the mundane.
4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
Each videomusical composition has different demands which force me to approach the process anew. I make use of storyboards, graphic scores, recordings, and musical analysis to create my works. I have certain self-imposed restrictions and principles regarding what I find audiovisually compelling. Discovering these constraints has been an evolutionary process. Initially when I started composing videomusic, I was under the impression that I was doing something that was chiefly concerned with music. As I have developed my practice over the years, I’ve realized that my basic operating principles are more concerned with manipulating time than they are with music per se – music simply turns out to be my favorite way of organizing time. In terms of the picture frame, I am always trying to create the maximum audiovisual impact. I’m looking for what’s effective for creating a strong sense of synchronization and synaesthesia for the viewer, trying to look to the limits of audiovisual perception for the right cues of what should and shouldn’t work. If it’s done well it creates a very sensorily pleasurable experience for the viewer.
5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
I have recently been working in HD which I find very rewarding for the increased picture resolution. In the future I can foresee developing custom software in order to create more flexibility in my composition process and develop a method for performing my works live. Until then I will continue as I have since the beginning; editing each and every beat and note by hand using non-linear digital video editing tools.
6. The field of “art and moving images” (one may call it videoart or also differently) is is manifesting itself as an important position in contemporary art. Tell me more about your personal position and how you see the future of this field ( your personal future and the future of “art and moving images”)
I consider myself a hypercubist, a theoretical designation I developed in an effort to find a theoretical framework fitting to my own video art practice. Hypercubism is a theory of moving image aesthetics concerned with the unique compositional compromises caused by the dimensional collapse inherent in moving images which contain multiple timelines. Film was a medium in which time was a constant imposed by the frame rate of the physical constraints of celluloid. Although video inherited this celluloid-inspired time paradigm, digital media such as video games, web pages, and operating systems transcend this simplistic time-construct, allowing us to create and navigate multiple timelines within the same “frame”. Video however lacks this sense of simulated depth, forcing video artists to make compromises to achieve the illusion of this dimensional complexity. These set of compromises constitute hypercubist aesthetics.
I have developed a hypercubist manifesto which I delivered at the Pecha Kucha salon in Berlin in 2010 which can be seen here: http://vimeo.com/14604303
In addition to my videomusical work I also create short video essays. My most recent video essay is a video I produced at Transmediale 2011 in Berlin, Germany. My partner Patrizia Kommerell and I produced this video during the festival with the intention to explore questions related to contemporary artistic production. The video is called The Future of Art and features such luminary artists as Aaron Koblin, Vincent Moon and Reynold Reynolds. It can be watched in full for free online: http://vimeo.com/19670849
7. How do you finance your films?
My video works fall into basically three categories; free projects, commissions, collaborative projects. For my free projects I usually finance the work myself. I see the investment in my own ideas a critical part of my artistic development. These personal projects would be less free and unnecessarily constrained if I were to finance them any other way, allowing me to truly experiment. My commissions have been supported by festivals and artist in residence programs as well as cooperations with brands. I think the ability of my work to function in cultural and commercial contexts gives me a valuable chance to increase the “polish” of my finished pieces and refine the results of personal experiments on a larger scale. In the past year I have also been involved in a couple collaborative projects conducted partly online in which a crowdfunding mechanism was employed with modest degrees of success. I find crowdfunding and micropatronage strategies are best suited to collaborative works where the people who contribute funds can also feel a strong connection to the creative output of the process.
8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team? if you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?
My free projects are often created alone or with a very small team. My commissions and and collaborative projects are created with quite a bit of teamwork, usually supported by my production company KS12 which I run together with my partner Patrizia Kommerell. While working in solitude allows me the greatest degree of freedom of expression and risk-taking, I am very happy to continue overseeing larger productions in which an ensemble is needed. As a videomusician, I often gauge my relationship to the process in terms of various musical roles which I am able to play. When entering a new project it helps me to define my position; am I a player, a composer, a conductor, a band leader – or all of the above.
9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
My videomusical practice is informed by various historic movements as well as inspired by key individuals. On the musical side I have been influenced by musique concrete for its reliance on the sounds of non-instruments as well as the graphic scores composed by John Cage. I also listen to a wide variety of popular music – from dubstep to samba, northern soul to glitch hop – and everything in between. Visually I have taken much inspiration from the Cubists for their analytical approach to dealing with time and space, as well as the Surrealists for their connection to dreams and the subconscious. In the realm of moving images, important names for me are Chris Marker, Andrei Tarkovsky, Artavazd Peleshian, and Woody and Steina Vasulka – both of whom were mentors to me during my time at the ZKM | Karlsruhe.
10. What are your plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
I am interesting in working at high frame rates in the future – somewhere in the neighborhood of 240 – 420 frames per second. I have several feature length projects in development at this time, as well as a concept for a live videomusical performing act.
Can works of yours viewed online besides on CologneOFF or VideoChannel? Where?
List some links & resources