Interview: 10 questions
1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background
I am from the USA and I have been living in Oaxaca, Mexico for a little over a year. I have an MFA in Acting from the University of California, Los Angeles and an MFA in Film, Video, New Genres from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. I have been working as a performing artist over the past 10 years and now very recently have turned to video as a means of more intimately examining questions, concerns and obsessions I have about the concept of identity.
2. When, how and why started you filming?
I turned to filming in order to explore aspects of performance that I felt were left unanswered in my life as an actor. I was tired of asking permission in terms of the world of an actor who is constantly seeking a ‘role’ and also eager to really find a way to formally assert my own role in the world as one that is a persistent pursuit of self-definition. Now I understand that I am also seeking a conceptual bridge between live performance and video art. And at the core, I am interested in using the moving image to open up possibilities for more expansive conceptions of the past, present and future.
3. What kinds of topics have your films?
I am haunted by the question of the physical and psychological experience of fragmentation that I live with as a Black citizen of the United States and as a person of the African Diaspora. I am from a country that no longer owns me (as it did my ancestors) yet gives me the great privilege to leave it while it is profiting from having the world’s largest incarceration rate. Wherever I travel or live and even in the place where I was born, there is “always already” this question of “where are you from?” And so I am interested in how to embody this question of being ‘foreign’ and the yearning I have for community that lives at the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality. I have an obsession with the unresolved past and anxiety ridden present.
4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc.?
In short, I begin with my urgent need to perform or embody a particular conflict and then I consider the historical and conceptual ways in which to visually and sonically also address the particular tension I am working on. While working on my first film, Betwixt and Between, I was reading Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks and also very influenced by video artists of the Young British Artist movement of the 1980s as well as queer artists of color like Marlon T. Riggs whose work formally and conceptually pushed notions of representation, sexuality and gender. And then I began building a bridge to consider the historical context of performance work by artists like Valaida Snow whose life, amongst many others, also opens up questions of modernity and migration. Texts such as Jayna Brown’s Babylon Girls: Black Women Performers and the Shaping of the Modern then gave me a framework from which to build out a form for editing and making the piece a kind of hybrid documentary and performance art video.
5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
I use whatever higher end HD camera I can get access to (most recently, art residencies have been a godsend). I have been working in Final Cut Pro for post-production. And now I am considering transition to Adobe Premiere due to my relocation to Mexico.
6. These days digital technology is dominating also video as a medium. In which way the digital aspect is entering the creation of your videos, technologically and/or conceptually?
Living in Mexico, access to certain software is cheaper but access to equipment has been more challenging for me. I am actively dealing with this question right now because I may need to transition from a MAC to PC post production process which looks like a much more affordable option from where I stand these days. So, the question just becomes how to continue making my work with whatever level of access to technology I have at the time.
7. How do you finance your films?
I self-finance my films.
I haven’t been applying for grants for a while because it outrages me to take so much time away
from making work to apply for a grant! I realize this sounds insane to many. But I am at a point in my life where I refuse to have my creative inertia killed by bureaucracy and this notion of being “granted” permission by the powers that be. And yes, perhaps when I have more time, patience, resources and/or objectivity, I will resume applying for grants, fellowships and the like.
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?
Right now, for video work, I work collaboratively usually in production and alone in post-production. My performance art work pieces have more recently been in collaboration. I prefer to work alone in video for post because of the time and detail involved. For me, it is like cooking or shopping at my favorite market. If there is anyone near me, I cannot focus intensely. I need privacy and solitude in order to connect with the image and the sound.
9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
Landscape, trauma, migration, loss and desire. James Baldwin, Shirin Neshat, Julie Dash, Afrofuturism, Octavia Butler, Ana Mendieta and Lucrecia Martel.
10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
To “keep making” as a friend once insisted and build a prolific body of artistic work as a video and performance artist. To stay inspired, productive, and creative in the face of crisis and uncertainty.