Sunday, June 7, 2015

Learn to Skate with NG

Learn to Skate follows a set path; a clear narrative, but at the same time is an attempt to subvert the narrative structure and even the documentary structure, if you want to take it further.
Whether or not Learn to Skate successfully subverts two very established structural pillars of film culture is not necessarily important, but hopefully it at least leaves a viewer wondering what the point was, and why they watched it, and what the pretty parts were supposed to mean. Documentaries, narratives, they do something, but they're not always much to do with a life. Learn to Skate is -- it's about disappointment, struggle, ephemerality, vapidness -- it has some of what's really going on in it.

"Technology moves towards the functionalist distinction and in that way transforms everything and transforms itself as well". De Certau is talking, to some extent, about the practice of writing in the passage -- writing as a self-containing technology, which separates increasingly from reality as it is practiced. Learn to Skate, if anything, is not separate from reality, despite my acting, despite the way people react to the camera. Everything in Learn to Skate really happened.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Stroszek:  a life of crime

Werner Herzog's Stroszek communicates, through a series of increasingly terrible events, the criminality of the quiet life. Stroszek is punished in Germany, for what, we aren't sure (I don't mean the prison system here; that element is more abstract -- I'm talking about the pimps who destroy his home and beat him up). Maybe it is because he is small, or because he's a little weird, or because the girl moves back in with him -- but I'd like to posit that it's only because he's there that he receives such brutal treatment -- because he doesn't do anything, and that's the worst thing someone can do.

We see this again when he moves to the united states. His home is repossessed by a banker who couldn't be, on the surface, farther from the pimps who destroyed Stroszek's life in Germany, yet plays essentially the same part -- he won't leave Stroszek alone, he invades his home, and eventually drives him out of it (or, in a more literal phrasing, drives Stroszek's home away from him). All because Stroszek is doing nothing -- he has nothing, he attempts to do nothings, he is floating in a sea of happening remaining unchanging.

My last thoughts of this brief post on Stroszek are on the cyclical nature of the film -- our static hero is released from captivity at the beginning of the film, reluctantly so, and by the end he is almost captured again, although this time he escapes with his life (this isn't meant to be a joke -- I've never understood that stupid expression, and I think it makes more sense to say "he escaped with his life" about a man who died). This implies a cyclical nature to Stroszek's life that is only concluded by his (probable) death.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Some videos I did for Clee McCracken's recent voice recital


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sue Coe: Drawing attention to what we ignore every day, a site dedicated to “visual arts and social commentary” refers to Coe as “a ‘graphic witness’ to realities more often overlooked or avoided. She is a journalist who uses printed images in preference to words.” Coe, most often making prints or drawings, explores the nightmarish worlds of factory farming and meat packing, however, she is also known for work concerning the more humanitarian (rather than animal-oriented) issues of apartheid, sweatshops, prisons, AIDS, and war (
                According to an article about Coe, she grew up “next to a hog farm and slaughterhouse in Tamworth, England [… Coe] says she couldn’t help but make a connection between the mass slaughter of humans, represented by the two World War memorials in her town, and animal butchery.” Coe acknowledges that this comparison may seem extreme, but she believes that the way human beings treat animals sheds light on how human beings treat each other ( Coe was born in Tamsworth, Staffordshire, UK in 1951.
       explains that Coe “uses the mistreatment of animals as a microcosm of society, exploring the negative aspects of capitalism and greed in symbolic and graphic terms. During this period Coe’s work became increasingly stark, using collage, drawing and painting in a style reminiscent of artists such as Otto Dix” (
                Coe published two books dealing with the issue of meat in 2005 and 2006, called Dead Meat and Sheep of Fools, a Blab! respectively. says that, in opening Coe’s books, “you will be sickened and sobered by what you see. Many of the images Coe creates to portray the horrors of factory-farming practices are gruesome and hard to look at; at the same time they reveal her commitment to using art to expose ‘realities in a way that stops us dead in our tracks’” ( In 1972 Coe moved to the U.S. and became an illustrator for the op-ed page of the New York Times, later contributing drawings to more publications such as Rolling Stone and The New Yorker. She’s authored four books in total.
                On Coe’s Cruel: "There is a spiritual terror, the promise of hell that makes them difficult to look at, and even more difficult to look away from." —Los Angeles Review of Books (
                Coe also deals with racism, both domestically and in South Africa; she’s published a book about Malcom X (titled X) and many independent prints dealing with race. (
Coe has received a lot of criticism for her politically charged work – many reviewers don’t believe that work that put Coe on top of a “moralistic soapbox” belong in museums, and that the world Coe’s work depicts is inaccurate; that "If the sexists and the racists and the awful rich are everywhere in charge of the capitalist Establishment, why is it that we so seldom see homophobic screeds, tracts against the homeless, or rightist propaganda in commercial galleries, or in the museums?" 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lawton Hall: Entropy at its Finest

Lawton Hall's story was almost as inspiring as his work -- the way he sort of fell into a rhythm of doing work, both professionally and in his spare time, and the way he described leaving school and going into the non-academic world.

Lawton's trajectory post-college was interesting to me because of how things just sort of came together for him; how often times it seems like one thing led to an unexpected other, like in the case of the slides and the Wilwaukee gallery space. The way Lawton described Lawrence made it sound like a vehicle for the his understanding of how to work and a source for a network of people -- but the art came from a larger series of events.

The collaboration at the Wormfarm institute, resulting in the video above featuring Holy Sheboygan, as well as several other songs, is a perfect example of how the chaotic forces that brought Lawton and the band together resulted in something beautiful; something that doesn't seem like it could have happened by a chance meeting. However, this is ultimately how all are is created -- at least, how all collaborative art is created. Music might be a better example of this phenomenon than other art forms, since playing in a band is so collaborative by nature, but the artistic process always involves other people, whether they are collaborators or guiding forces, and it seems like a miracle every time these people are brought together.

It never lasts, of course -- not the people, not the collaboration, not even the product. But the fact that it happened at all is a testament to entropy.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Walk

This might be different in tone from some of my other short films -- it's simpler, and there are fewer objects attempting to draw your attention; you are on the walk just like the individual whose perspective you're offered in viewing "A Walk."

"There is no place that is not haunted by many different spirits hidden there in silence, spirits one can invoke or not," (De Certau, 108). Both narratives provide access to the perspective of one of these spirits, and they are simple -- they border on ineffectual, however, their juxtaposition creates an effect that is ultimately beyond the simple, quantifiable combination of the two works.

"Only the restrooms offer an escape from the closed system," (De Certau, 111). These brief snapshots into a life, or lives, do not offer escape, they offer enhancement only. The terror of the real, of being anything other than oneself must be challenged, and "A Walk" offers that challenge, in a perfect simulation of the real -- the indeterminate lives of others, the animation that encompasses us all, the speech and motion patterns that may not be are own but are certainly shared among us.

"A Walk" is not real -- the footage is old, passed, and the story is even older. The idea that one would actually be able to live "A Walk" is ridiculous; however, it is necessarily possible that one would be able to consider the lives of those involved in "A Walk" and, possibly, forget their own.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Brush 2015

Brush highlights the nuances of mundane acts -- in this case, brushing teeth and zipping a zipper -- romanticizing them, describing their sensuality. While not everyone has an aquamarine toothbrush, not everyone has a black jacket, not everyone lets their toothpaste take as much control as the actor in this video did, the character is an everyperson of sorts. They are an individual, to be sure, but their relatability is whole. Everyone knows what it's like to brush the teeth, to zip the zipper.

"Just as in literature one differentiates 'styles' or ways writing, one can distinguish 'ways of operating -- ways of walking, reading, producing, speaking, etc."  What ways of operating are associated with this video? Is there an assumption about the identity of the viewer? What are your modes of operating? Undoubtedly different than those of the individual featured in Brush, but, arguably, just as mundane -- just as sensual, just as romantic, just as boring.

Marx wrote about "commodity fetishism" -- Brush is an attempt to escape from commodities, but not fetishism: Brush is about mundanity fetishism, "common" fetishism, everyday fetishism. Feel your teeth. They have n e r v e s.

"... Once the images broadcast by television and the time spent in front of the TV set have been analyzed, it remains to be asked what the consumer makes of these images and during these hours," (Not my italics). What did you make of these images? And, separately, what is your analysis of them?

Perhaps the emphasis is too extreme for some audiences. It is necessary to remember, if this thought crosses the viewer's mind, that the italics in Brush are mine, but the content is yours.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Project 1, Revisited

My last blog post was very misleading -- I'm sorry.

I'm working on a short film about brushing teeth.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Project 1 -- Mundane

For a long time, some people (not many, though) have been trying to remind people to think about what they're doing, all the time, even when the thing they're doing is boring or they want to think about something else, or whatever. If you're into what's real, it makes a lot of sense to think about what's you're doing; but not everyone is into real life, necessarily. 

That's one reason stories, books, video, video games, etc. exist.

This project will focus on the mundane in video games, especially games like Grand Theft Auto, where you're supposed to escape from boring real life. Second Life was made for a reason -- but I think it's worth ignoring that reason. Does Second Life exist in Second Life?

Maybe I'll film things that happen for real and compare them to footage in video games. 

Maybe (Probably?) Video Games won't have any real presence in the final product.

Maybe it'll just be me falling into bed over and over.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Final Digital Processes Show - Pepperoni Beer Donuts

Ridley and I decided to create a video / audio collage together after shooting some of our own footage and creating our own audio. The final product (once we decided to work together) is a collection of some of our solo creation and some images / audio we created together. We put all of our collective work into a final cut pro project and arranged clips and audio until we had something we liked.

The idea for the live performance came mostly from circumstance -- Ridley has access to all of the A/V technology in Warch by virtue of his job, and he owns several midi controllers / guitars / mics of his own. We both have laptops, and we found a projector in our basement last term.

The point of doing this was to demonstrate all we had learned in Digital Processes. I don't think I learned anything in Digital Processes. Our performance was garbage. There was  nothing musical, nothing suspenseful about it. There might have been a little swing, but once you have a little swing, it's hard to keep it out of something.

The samples we used were largely random and kind of hastily put together. Good luck hearing them, anyways. The keyboard instrument was one I created by accident, and all it really is is reverb that clips, like, every time it makes any sound.

I am kind of sorry that everyone applauded.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Exploding Plastic Inevitable

                The Exploding Plastic Inevitable (alternatively Plastic Inevitables) were a group of auditory and visual performance artists (to put it vaguely) formed and fronted, on the visual side, by Andy Warhol, and typically involving live performances by the rock band “The Velvet Underground (and Nico).”
                EPI was represented in Marshall McLuhan’s chapter on sound in “The Medium is the Massage” because of they directly represent the concepts of the auditory sea, where all sound forms a seamless web, that McLuhan describes. EPI were famous for the barrage of sound and light they confronted their audiences with, sound and light that was composed of films and recordings that may have had traditional significance on their own, but were combined and layered in such a way that sometimes was highly stimulating, if not entirely incoherent.

                EPI was active only in the years of 1966-1977. Their first performance, in 1966, was at a dinner for the New York society of Clinical Psychology – during which several of Warhol’s films were screened, The Velvet Underground and Nico performed, and guests at tables were assaulted by a duo wielding a video camera and bright bulb, asked sexually explicit questions and generally demeaned. The event was called “Up-Tight” (The Art of Projection, 76).
                In 1968, critic Wayne McGuire called the Velvet Underground “prophets of a new age, of breakthrough on electronic: intermedia: total scale.” Several other critics called the effect of the shows “decadence” or “perversion” (The Art of Projection, 71).
                Warhol’s provocative, sometimes pornographic films were projected to accompany the Velvet Underground’s “lengthy, atonal improvisations” and “dark, provocative songs.” EPI shows used 3-5 movie projectors, “often projecting the different reels of the same film simultaneously,” slide projectors “moveable by hand so their images swept the auditorium,” 4 strobe lights, 3 moving spots of different colors, pistol lights, mirror balls on the ceiling and floor, 3 loudspeakers “blaring different pop records at once,” sets by The Velvet Underground and Nico, and dancers enhanced by more lighting to “project their shadows high onto the wall.”

                Warhol after performing at Rutgers University in 1966: “We did two shows for over 650 people… It was fantastic to see Nico singin with a big movie of her face right behind her… The audience was mesmerized… I was behind one of the projectors, moving the images around… [The Velvet Underground] were like audio-sadists, watching the dancers trying to cope with the music” (Andy Warhol 365 Takes, 46)
                Jonas Mekas on EPI: “The film maker became a conductor, having at his fingertips not only all different creative components – like sound controls, a rock band, slide projectors, movie projectors, lighting – but also the extreme personalities of each of the operators of each piece of equipment” (Warhol [Rainer Crone])

                Based on these reactions, it should be apparent why McLuhan would choose EPI to represent the “web of sound:” the barrage of noise, light, and movement that EPI confronted its viewers (experiencers?) with is a perfect analogy to the seamless web sound forms around us. (The Medium is the Massage, 111).
                “Any pattern in which the components co-exist without direct, lineal hook-up or connection, creating a field of simultaneous relations [which] is auditory… is a kind of orchestral, resonating unity” (The Agenbite of Outwit).
                The EPI represented the “group consciousness” McLuhan described – “a vast electronic environment” – in that is was formulated of countless pieces of sound and light (and people) to create this tremendous, singular entity.

                “A demon electric light” said Wayne McGuire.