Monday, November 22, 2010

Reality / Parody

"It doesn't matter how real or true the facts are; the issue is how something that somebody says is transformed into something that will change the world. (...) That happens a lot in oral communication. I can say something - it doesn't matter if it's true or not - but your reaction and the emotion it generates within you are real. (...) The actual facts are not important but the consequences of what is said are real and tangible. I feel this way about the world in general. (...) Reality is not something that exists but something that we have constructed, and since we have made it, we can also remake it differently."
- Lucrecia Martel, in conversation with Haden Guest, Bomb Magazine, Winter 2009

"It is clear that the world is purely parodic, that each thing seen is the parody of another, or is the same thing in a deceptive form."
- George Bataille

Saturday, November 13, 2010


"Allegory resists fantasies of strictly teleological history in favor of fleeting instants where "meaning" is forged between past and present, in "the depths that separate visual being from meaning"."
- Adam Lowenstein, Shocking Representation: Historical Trauma, National Cinema, and the Modern Horror Film, quote from Benjamin, The Origin of German Drama

I'm becoming more interested in allegory as a means of structuring narrative, and this has been leading me into new research. I like how, in allegory, everything can be something other than what it is, or what it seems. Horror films lend themselves to this kind of reading, as symbols, stand-ins, replacements for the "unrepresentable". I am choosing to create a (mis)understanding that all horror films are 'actually' about the act of watching movies. I want to to read horror films (specifically those films that involve children) as allegories of spectatorship. I like this exaggerated sense of metaphor, the intersection of repression and fear, the formative trauma of childhood, the imbalances of power. But also the sense of play, the knowledge that "it's only a movie".
If I have a tagline for Children's Games (the way movies do), it will be "Narrative is a game we play with our bodies."

I am stuck in between the idea of making cinema and the idea of making music about cinema. As my music becomes more like a soundtrack (arranged rhythmically), I want to make videos that are more like music (arranged as a soundtrack). In any case, the conceptualizations for these videos are becoming more elaborate, to the point where I'll probably have to ask for help from a professional. As I imagine them now, I will need a soundstage, actors, lights. For example, I would like to shoot all of the 'scenes' against a rear projection screen. This will allow me to have two layers of camera work, and a disassociation between setting and action. I recently watched the original Godzilla and loved the obviously fake (yet still spectacular) array of special fx, including rear projection. What if the rear projection includes its own close-ups, edits, pans, etc., and is brought into active conflict with the shots? I am interested in pushing the artificiality of the video to the point where it can be read as something other than narrative - music. I am in awe of the moments where actual narrative films do this - scenes from Guy Maddin (especially Arcangel) or Lucrecia Martel come to mind.

Monday, November 1, 2010

What's been happening?

It's been almost four months since my last post (how did that happen?) so I thought I would spend some time describing what I've been doing.

Work on Children’s Games is moving slowly, mostly on hold in anticipation of - fingers crossed – funding, but thinking about the piece has continued. Recently, research has included Nietzsche on the Dionysian and studies of feral children... I am now convinced that the work will need to go in two directions, perhaps simultaneously. First, I'm imagining a series of installation “clusters”, using video projection, television monitors and speakers. This mode can allow a non-linear, looping sensibility, with random intersections between elements. It has the advantage of being transportable and of having the possibility to exist within the gallery realm. These clusters would be a way of testing material, following tangents or developing ideas that may eventually find their way into the second stage - that of the performance. I'm now realizing that the project will require much more elaborate video shoots that I previously planned. I have a dozen scenes sketched out or scripted, and I’m now starting to think about strategies for gathering material, technical and creative resources. I am most excited about working with rear projection screens and actors.

Secondly, I’ve been making music for a new band, a project that involves Taryn Tomasello and Gabi Villasenor on vocals. Formed over the summer as Crippled Athlete, we've played one show as a noise duo, and another show as a trio, with all new material that I might describe (tentatively) as "psychedelic noise dubstep". This music has furthered a fascination with vocal sounds and percussive textures that I began in Flock & Tumble and continued on Knives. It's been fun and a bit strange to work in a format that resembles the structure of a traditional band, something I haven't done since Alial Straa in the mid-90s. The music I've been making is quite a bit more condensed and forceful than past work, with electronic and acoustic drums, distorted layers, and other effects. I hope that the band will eventually exist in the "real world" as well as participating in Children’s Games. Here's a rough mix of a new track that will eventually include vocals.

breeze by Seth Nehil

I’ve also been continuing work on the cut paper pieces (see above), and working towards proper documentation of my last three years of visual work. I was recently nominated for the PortlandNW Contemporary Arts Awards (along with about 300 others), which has provided the needed pressure to rebuild my website, a long overdue task. On the new site, I'll represent my drawings in a more vigorous way, and elaborate on how my sound work has shifted toward performance in the last four years. Look for that soon!

Speaking of online activity, I've been writing for Intransitive magazine. Several interviews are underway, including conversations with Oregon Painting Society, Sean Griffin, and Micah Silver, among others. These articles will appear over the next few months.