George, James

James George
US videomaker

biography

Interview:10 questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background
I’m originally from the rural northwest of the United States, a town called Moscow surrounded by Idaho farm country. From there I have made my way to bigger and bigger cities, stopping through Seattle, Shanghai, London, and settling now in New York for the time being. Along the way I studied computer science and supported myself through writing software. This transition from rural to urban while interfacing with the world as programmer has shaped me deeply.

2. When, how and why started you filming?
I first started filming when I was 14 years. All of my crew from home were obsessed with skateboarding. At that time the Internet had just become commonplace and we were always watching skateboarding videos from other towns and countries. We wanted to participate, so I got a job as a dishwasher for a vietnamese restaurant and saved up to buy a Digital8 video camera. During the rest of my time at home we made our own skate videos, distributing them online and as DVD’s. Once we premiered one to a sold out local movie theater. At 16 years old this was a profound experience and I was certain to be making images from then on.

3. What kind of subjects have your films?
My latest films feature abstractions urban environments as their primary subject. I want to make films that capture the feelings and pace of cities from the perspective of an occupant. I work to remove specifics of people and places because I find them to be distracting from the pure general impressions I intend to show. I think when one finds a way to generalize something it’s inherently beautiful and elegant. Elegance isn’t something that’s always associated with dense urban environments, but it’s certainly there. To this end my films are often composed of highly process and impressionistic footage; even completely computer generated.

4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
I’m a software developer and think in code. I always develop new tools and algorithms while I produce work. The tool and the product should co-evolve as I create a film. In order to be satisfied I need to feel that the engineering and the imagery are both in support the concept. I follow the principle that all the tools I make should be open source to enable others to start where I left off and take the tools in their own direction.

I don’t follow any particular visual or narrative style but find that my process of making films is closer to musical composition than traditional narrative formulas. But I believe no matter how experimental you want to be, moving images need some recognizable underlying structure to be interesting to an audience.

5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
I love experimenting with new types of cameras, especially those used for interactivity or computer vision. The images these cameras capture are often not intended for human consumption, but rather are suited for algorithms to interpret as data. They often look like the way a robot or alien would view the world. I like this aesthetic and play with it in my work. These cameras also tend to be highly programmable so I feel like they speak my language too.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with the 3d camera on the Kinect and mixing it with high resolution footage. But I also shoot Super8 film and find that very enjoyable. I use whatever equipment I think fits the project, and have no brand or manufacturer loyalties.

For developing my algorithmic processes I work in C++ with open source tools, namely openFrameworks.

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 think the most important thing about moving image as an artistic medium is that it continues to reflect the genuine state of the human condition separate from intentions of advertisers, corporations, and politicians who use image media as a means of supporting a specific agenda. I don’t think that these uses of moving images are inherently wrong, in fact I’ve worked in advertising to support myself. But the medium needs to be balanced and lead by artists working outside these constraints.

Looking into the future, for the medium to stay relevant we need to develop new ways of creating moving images that are not fixed or linear. We live in a world of media that is constantly responding, anticipating, and connecting those that interact with it. It opens up exciting possibilities and will require the work of artists experimenting ahead of what’s currently known to define the way that we shape our moving images in the future, and how they in turn will shape us.

I’m personally most excited about the integration of moving images into architecture. The last year I’ve focused on making work that engages with space.

7. How do you finance your films?
I pay for them out of pocket, but my films tend to be very economic since the means of production are mostly immaterial (code and disk space). The challenge is in affording the time to make them. I’m fortunate that the same skills I apply to create films I also use to make work for clients. There is a lot of cross talk between work I do for financial support and the work I do for artistic expression. The goal would be to see this distinction of merge into the future, and that’s what I’m working towards.

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?
Software development is by nature collaborative in that you need something to apply it to in order for it to have any value. Everyone of my projects is a collaboration in some way, either working with dancers, composers, photographers, animators, or designers.

9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
Sol LeWitt has had the biggest impact on me as an artist. He pioneered the critical thinking that laid the foundations for generative and code base art as a medium. I can always be inspired by reading his writing, seeing his drawings and sculptures.

Lately I am influenced and inspired by artists who participate in the open source communities I’m involved with, particularly the openFrameworks and Cinder communities. Everyone shares their code, process, and ideas with one another. It’s a constant source of novelty and innovation.

10. What are your plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
At the moment I really want to continue research making work that integrates with architecture. I believe that in the future the same way traditional films evolved a language of cinema, we will see narratives integrated into spatial environments develop their own cinematic language too. I’m hoping to help discover that language.

Can works of yours viewed online besides on CologneOFF or VideoChannel? Where?
Yes, my vimeo channel:
http://vimeo.com/user1528036
and my website:
http://www.jamesgeorge.org/