Video by Julia Wachtel for Temple Magazine issue 9 FUTURE
You are currently working on a video project, can you tell us more about the subject of this one and your way of working? And also what motivated you to work this medium?
For a few years now I have had an instagram practice that I call "research" photos. Although not exclusively, they primarily consist of iphone pics that I take directly from my t.v. screen and computer. Often they are very close up details of the larger image. I sometimes use these as source material for the silkscreen elements in my paintings. So these pictures are truly research, but I also consider them to be photographs in their own right.
At the beginning of this quarantine with Covid19 I was approached to participate in an online website project, “Passing Time”, organized by Alex Perweiler and Neville Wakefield, asking artists to submit short videos. Thinking to my "research" videos I thought to expand upon this, this time taking it another step further and actually editing footage and including sound. I started editing in iMovie but quickly realized Premier, part of the Adobe Suite, was a more powerful program. I guess I fell into the rabbit hole of learning how to edit, and capturing footage from live t.v. and the internet.
I’d been working on paintings throughout this quarantine, as I’m lucky to have my studio where I live. But I knew that I would soon run out of the custom built stretchers/panels on hand, and might be forced to stop painting until NYC opened up, and my fabricator was up and running again. The video project provided me with free and unlimited resources, and a new way to think about images. My paintings are to a large degree based on editing, putting images side by side and occasionally overlapping, so it was a small step to expand it into a time based situation.
I started to make it into an almost daily practice, thinking of them as the equivalent of sketches. At the very start of the pandemic, I wondered as to how t.v. advertising would adapt to the situation. At that point, I didn’t fully comprehend that this was going to be a very open ended extended reality, and I was wondering about the disconnect between the content of the already produced advertising and the real world situation. But of course very quickly the t.v. ads were directly addressing the pandemic and rebranding themselves to sell a very sentimentalized idea of American exceptionalism. I would say that my little videos, in a modest way, have tried to look at those tropes and comically undress them.
The link between your "research" videos and your practice of painting is completely relevant. The sound in the videos you post on Instagram is quite special. It creates a discrepancy with the image, quite funny on the biker video with the bee sound for example. And then, this sound recording from the camera is grainy, making us feel your presence in front of the screen. It creates a kind of loop that reminds me of this trend of people watching people commenting on videos. So, in this video you are preparing and which will be an assembly of all these mini videos, how do you edit the sound?
Thus far I’ve edited the sound in a variety of ways. The choice of what sound to pair to an image is for the most part intuitive, and not unlike the visual editing process in my paintings. I’m often looking for something that relates in an oblique way, but opens up a variety of associations. Sometimes I have a clear idea other times it’s more a result of a chain of associations that finally leads to a solution.
The bee sound, for instance, was something I went looking for. I sampled it from the internet. Just as I’ve mined the internet for stock photos, so can one do so with stock sound and video. In other cases I’ve allowed ambient sound into it. As you noted in some cases just the sound, hum of the computer. I like your observation that the grainy quality connects with my presence or that of others watching/listening. I very much want to retain that immediate and rather primitive direct connection with the media. I’m usually looking for the quotidian, such as bees and lawn mowers both sounds I sampled for this project. I should add, that while I am watching t.v. or streaming on the internet, looking for footage, I watch with the sound off. This allows me to see the imagery in a more abstract way, unlinked from narrative. Once I have the images in place I add the sound.
You are talking about mining the internet for stock photos and sound, I was wondering if you consider yourself as a collector, and if so how do you organized it?
While I have an archive of a few hundred images I don’t consider myself a collector of images, in the traditional sense of a collection. Given the constantly replenishing reality of images on the internet, and the constantly changing landscape of the world, there aren’t that many images I consider worth saving as a “collection.” The images that I gravitate to and predominately use in my paintings are what I characterize as virtual dust. They are images that exist not for their aesthetic value, but for some other raison d’etre, whether it is to sell a product, or on a website for a town’s commercial development for instance. I avoid any images that have creative ownership, whether that be a photograph or illustration.
As I start to develop an idea for a painting, which I do on my computer in InDesign, I create a folder and start to collect images for consideration. Sometimes the ideas come quickly and there are only a handful of images in the folder. Other times the process is more belabored and I can collect quite a few images let’s say 20 or more. Most of the time, the ideas don’t end up being produced. I keep the folders organized and occasionally will go back to an abandoned idea, either to try to re-develop the idea or to see if the images that were collected can inspire a new direction for a painting. So in that sense I have a fairly large archive of found images at my disposal. I’ve never counted but I’m guessing over 500. In some cases there are images that I love and know I want to use, but it can take even a few years before I find the right setting for them. As I work, I’m always on the hunt for something new to use.