The W:OW Project
Interview: 10 questions
1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background
Coalfather (Craig Newsom & Kara Jansson) was formed in 2010 and functions as a single artist rather than a collaborative team. We began our practice while organizing a conference on mobile art at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Interactive Telecommunications Program. Initially, the work focussed on drawing, collage and shared writing. It then progressed to video, performance and large-scale installations. Our educational background is in painting, sculpture, printmaking, and design and we both share a passion for sociology and cultural studies.
2. When, how and why started you filming?
Many of our earliest video pieces were actually digital collages. More conventional filming began during a residency in Finland in 2013. It was during that residency that we had our first extended period to work together in the same location on a major project. A large part of what we do currently is based on the ideas we developed during that residency.
3. What kinds of topics have your films?
The most consistent, ongoing topic in our films is the inherent absurdity present in contemporary society. We tend to focus on what drives consumer culture and how that intersects or combats our relationship to nature and even our natural relationship with each other.
4. Concerning your included video: please tell me more about the aims and the
User History is a tragicomic look at our current culture from the perspective of a future artificial intelligence tasked with understanding us and our demise as a civilization. The title stems from present-day user experience vernacular. It seems rational to conclude that some future computer program looking at the history of our time would simply label us as “Users” and then try to piece together our identity through the internet and digital artifacts.
5. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
We often begin by writing very short stories or narratives. Sometimes we match up previous footage with those stories and other times we film new situations and scenarios to fit those stories. Then we send edits back and forth to each other. The principle we most often try to follow is that a piece has some emotional weight to it as well as some brevity and humor.
6. Tell me more about the technical equipment you use.
A large part of our work is filmed with smartphone technology. It tends to suit our spontaneous mode of production. At times we also use a 4k DV camera and Adobe Premiere. Sometimes we include 3d animation using Blender.
7. How do you finance your films?
Our films are entirely self-financed.
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?
We function as one artist and no longer maintain separate artistic practices.
9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
We are inspired a great deal by the silent era work of people like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. We also gain a lot of inspiration from the writings of Samuel Beckett, Danil Kharms and Philip K. Dick. But ultimately, simple observation of our surroundings yields the most fruitful directions.
10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
We have been developing immersive installations over the past few years and look forward to new opportunities to show. We particularly enjoy site-specific work within historical sites. We recently participated in the Governors Island Art Fair in New York where we constructed an installation in an 18th century munitions chamber. It was a great location and allowed us to place our work within a very meaningful physical context.
Can works of yours be reviewed online besides on the platforms of The New
Museum of Networked Art? If yes, where?