As I begin to organize too many ideas for the next film for my “Self = Portraits” series, I took some time and updated some details of the artistic process involved with the past segments.
You can see the previous postings in regards to the initial films here:
Self = Portraits…part one
Self = Portraits…part two
Self = Portraits…part three
Self = Portraits…part four
The title of this film harkens the adage “end of an era” in that the location was the scene of an apartment that was turned into a fetish studio and owned by my ex-lover who is the subject of many of the previous videos. On this day, the fetish studio had become officially defunct and I was participating in helping to clean it out and move all of the furniture out. It was one of the worst days of my life – not because of the sadness of losing the haven, but because I spent all day fighting with the man due to his complete lack of order and disorganization aligned with his extreme anger management and control issues. I was happy that the place was being altogether eliminated from his life – this sleaze den had been the source of so many disasters in his life that I was trying to cope with. In some way I thought that this was the first step in helping him to escape the darker side of Berlin, and in turn, realize some sort of a possible reality for the both of us.
This was one of the first videos that I used a real SLR digital camera – a departure from my more voyeuristic POV use of my iphone or Macbook Pro. It was the camera of my photographer friend and I was not yet acclimated with the control functions on the equipment. The superimposed heat sensory function was a happy accident – as this video was a depiction of some ailments caused by the increasing stress levels in my life. I used a cue from one of my favorite songs, “Forever” by Juliana Hatfield as the medium. In the lyrics she compares the love of cigarettes to the love of another person. I used my unyielding loathing of rolling cigarettes juxtaposed with their necessity in regards to stress as a point of reference for this one.
Because this film has been so well received and was another notch on the bed post of successful entries into a competition (premiered at the 2013 Berlin Music Video Awards) – I will let this one speak for itself.
Music, Coffee, Cigarettes. Repeat…This became some sort of solace for me during this time when I made a trek back to the first café where I met the most acquaintance during my first sojourn to Berlin in 2009. I had since left visiting the place since I worked there for 2 days in what could only be described as a Typical Non-Paid Berlin Debacle. Another happy accident in this film (I started shooting with my laptop camera with unexpected results) was when the waiter/bartender touched my face. It was a direct statement about my longing to disconnect due to superficial connections readily available in this town – to be alone in a town of loners is not easy when there is a superfluous amount of unwanted advances.
This film was all about simple theater crafts and props. I wanted to give the viewer the aspect of an outer-body experience. Here I am wearing a shirt that was a “joke gift” that depicts a rather off-color remark not only about my age, but my racial identity: “Ich bin 27” – and “Schwarze Dose” respectively. With my male pattern baldness and the obvious continuing theme of chaos/control…this film represents an inside look into some of my biggest fears and my ever increasing tumultuous love affair with Berlin itself. Missing from the lyrics from the song used in this clip: “I looked at your wall, saw that old passport photograph – I look like I just jumped the Berlin wall. Berlin, I love you – I’m starting to fade…”
I wanted to make a film that is analogous to typisch Berliner verhalten. Here I am on a Sunday morning performing one of my favorite pastime rituals: going to Viktoria Luise Platz in Schöneberg (a place I once deemed my denkenplatz) that most times during the weekends resembles a human zoo.
For more insight about my affinity for this park: Berlin Stories – Viktoria Luise Platz
This film is noted as “Dedicated to Rob” who is my former longtime ex-boyfriend from the states who I had a 7 year relationship with. The red handkerchief appears in this film (as it does in many other videos and art works of mine) – and it is an enduring token of my memory of him as it is one of the only things that I own that used to belong to him. The “staying” is apropos to the fact that this was one of the first times that I found a place to stay for a long bout of time after a treacherous entry into homelessness that started in January of 2013 due mostly in part to the annals of my abusive relationship with the aforementioned lover (the topic of many of my other films) and the then current status of a rather inappropriate living situation with a typical Berlin artist, and the loss of my job. Here, my traveling suitcase appears as a sort of time capsule in my continuing sojourn in Europe, containing artifacts of departure and arrival. I reveal myself naked for the first time in a comfortable way – rather in some of the ways of my daunting past. It is a reclaiming of myself and my body that was a pivotal necessity during this time.
Reference to Sisyphus is a common theme in a lot of my works. Here it is no different.
48. Banana 2
At this point in my life I was having a little bit of artistic block in regards to these self-portraits because I was truly starting to feel that my time in Berlin was up, that I had accomplished more than I could ever have imagined, that if I stayed things would get progressively worse, and that it was time to move on. I decided that I was going to go back to my first initial videos and make an effort to restyle them in a way to correlate the past with my present and ultimately, my future. The very first film that I made of the series took place in Philadelphia when I was making plans to come to Berlin in 2011. Here is the reincarnation of the film that started this whole thing, which notably, was the first film that was screened here in Berlin and started to ignite my passion for video art which became my primary source of acclaim and accolades here.
49. Arbeit 2
Continuing the sequel theme to my previous videos – this one is more of filler than anything with not much more to say than: 20 Euro, 3 Hots and a Cot…this was what I had to pay.
50. Acting 3
In the summer of 2013 I somehow found myself with a center stage front row seat look into the entrails of the fashion world during Berlin Fashion Week. I was initially volunteering for the Berlin Fashion Week Film Festival in which I did get to help out with, but after the first day of orientation and set-up, the designer Charlie Le Mindu solicited me to be one of the models/assistants for his fashion show that was to be featured during the festival event. I still have not written about that whirlwind experience, but it’s on my list! This film is more about some of the continuing themes in the self-portrait series…here you can see my delving into vanity in order to be accepted in an outward facing profession (as seen in my earlier films where I am getting my hair professionally shaved to meet the standards of an acting job). Also of note is the song choice as well as how I edited in (rather than out) a peculiar sense of paranoia that was brewing at the time due to the looming situation with my ex-lover that around this time had turned into an extreme case of stalking and abuse.
Heavily influenced by my experiences with Berlin Fashion Week and my inspired interest in fashion film – I wanted to make something really DeVo that had a certain edgy humor to it that goes back to my burlesque roots; as in most of my work, there is some element of burlesque and satire. Here, the device is the reverse striptease. Of course the music plays a big part – as Rufus Wainwright is one of my biggest idols, and the lyrics of the song replicate some of my attitudes of having been brought up in a pretty nomadic life. Traveling is something that I crave and loathe and I have grown quite accustomed to.
This is probably the hardest film for me to watch.
3 months went by before I settled long enough to make this portrait. That time was spent tending to the trials of The Summer of my Discontent in which I had many experiences ranging a plethora of velocities and feelings. I grew a big assed beard, had several nervous breakdowns and somehow ended up falling in love again. This time, the love would be too good to be true, and in a typical fashion, due to my pending recovery from the abusive relationship prior, I was not able to offer any reciprocity for the affections offered. The proverbial destitution of humanity that is indicative of Berlin and its history that I witnessed that summer has changed me forever – some for the good, some not so much. I learned a lot about what I wanted in life and what I did not want and many relationships were melded, strengthened and destroyed altogether during this time. I say sometimes that my skin is very thick, but it was around this time that I had grown a second skin of sorts, and it became my armor against any further attacks to my psyche, knowing full well that things would be getting much more difficult in my future before they got better – especially in the ways of love and romance.
I used the backwards stop motion technique here in a very jarring way. I HATE the sound of my voice, no mater how much I’m always singing when drunk – and the choppiness of it all disturbs me to no end. But I think I got my point across with this beast.
I will never claim to be an angel or a victim. I know I cause damage because of the erotic allure of my exotic demeanor. This is me in the state of succumbing to this curse.
I really wholly, honestly and truly thought this was going to be the very last work of art I ever made…
This film encapsulates my entire overall domestic experience as a foreign immigrant in Berlin. All X-rated shenanigans, professional tidbits, and personal relationships aside, this speaks directly about the state of my daily “world” as it pertains to my survival during most of 2013. Longer than most of my films in the series (I usually try to keep them around one minute in length), I knew that this work might be used as an entry for competitions or exhibitions, so I really wanted to make something that was really really DeVo to the umpteenth degree including that kind of lulling dramatic quality, the harsh unorthodox editing, the unexpected surprise, the voyeur/exhibitionist aspect, and of course, some burlesque. It was a chore going through all the footage and a true test of my patience as I had well over an hour of footage to edit for this one. I am really proud of the result.
The shaving thing again. It is always a visceral, almost cathartic process for me – and along with the cigarettes and the striptease and the climbing mountains, this process is heavily documented because it is something that is completely therapeutic for me. Since the inception of my bigger than life beard that started during The Summer of my Discontent, I decided that since the beard was so crazy (and admittedly, so not DeVo), that I would shave it when and only when my life started to progress in the way that I needed it to, as some semblance of reward for my progress. This was the first time I had trimmed my beard in months and it was a very painful and proud moment for me as I have grown quite attached to the thing.