Self = Portraits…part two

Like every hyperactive boy with an overactive imagination, when I was growing up I wanted to be everything. Instead of settling on something like Fireman, I dreamed of being a teacher. Later that changed into a myriad of different things but after I had my first chance to be on stage at the age of 10, I knew that dancing and performing would be part of my goals.

I grew up during the birth of MTV where music videos were these unprecedented advertising tools that were effective in drumming up business for music and for delivering subliminal messages to Generation X. Most importantly, they were works of art.

By the time I got to high school I was poised to some day become a famous video music director (as if there would ever be such a thing). I found the medium to be valuable to the needs of my interests and that I had the well-rounded capacity to perform the tasks required to create alluring short films used to expose the image of a band or song. Fast forward ten years and the music industry has taken on a whole new structure. Thanks, internet.

I gave up on the dream because there was no money in it (haha, I am still an artist so I guess the joke is on me). MTV is now a channel taken over by heinous reality TV shows that have replaced the need for actors, dancers, singers, musicians…anyone with talent. I still strive to work in this arena and I had a chance to choreograph and assist with production design for a young up and coming band a few years ago for their music video.

It is such a compelling art form to me that has so many different disciplines rolled into one, but they have become somewhat obsolete, and I fear that the demand and exposition of this craft has already seen its heyday a long time ago.

I hope to be able to use this editing technique while utilizing other subject matter and perhaps with original music. I find that the self-portraits work best with this theme. I like the gritty intimacy of the devices I use and in an attempt to do this choppy time relapse structure with other subjects has been lackluster in my eyes. Perhaps with the right equipment and the right talent, I could make something more full fledged that isn’t totally reflected on myself.

Here is the rest of the background information for the rest of the series…

9. Guest
This video was taken at a friend’s house in Amsterdam. I was fortunate enough to get in touch with him before he left (in a funny twist of fate, he was coming to Berlin for the weekend) and he met with me on my first day there to give me the keys to his flat so I could go to a job interview the next day and spend the weekend exploring Amsterdam. There was a certain loneliness that overcame me when I was in his apartment. Though I have grown accustomed to this gypsy, couchsurfing lifestyle and it is fun and exciting to be exposed to these different environments all the time, I was starting to get homesick for a home I couldn’t remember since it had been so long since I had one of my own. In this video I am getting in touch with that longing for domesticity and a place to hang my hat along with my heart. The song I chose is one that resonates deeply with me. Juliana Hatfield is one of my go-to artists as she has this very admirable openness in her writing that stems from her bipolar disorder (something that she has never kept a secret). The act of doing something so familiar to home in the home of someone else is all too common for me and it creates this uneasiness.

10. Staples (Part 1 and 2)
These were the most difficult to edit and I spent the most time on these videos. I am still not happy with them. I made part 2 first and it was one of the first “on location” shots that I had done that was in a very public place (the grocery store) but had a very intimate feeling. Though you are surrounded by people when you are shopping, you are in this bubble…concentrating on what you need for your life, trying not to forget anything and then getting distracted by what you want, not just what you need. I was a little bit shy about making a video of myself in front of other people but I remembered I was in Berlin. The carts at this particular market had little raised baskets in the main area of the shopping cart, so it was easy to set up the iPhone in a place where I could capture my actions and have no major impediments in view. I had way too much footage and it took several cuts to get it down to a comprehensible length. In the end I added much more footage of the bottle recycling because it was such an important aspect of this film entitled “Staples”. My staples in Berlin consist of peanuts, pretzels, cheese, yogurt, coffee, wine, cigarettes and sometimes deli meats. These are the tools of my survival here, and I thought it would be an important self-portrait of me to make because eating is such a vital thing, and I do it sparingly these days. The footage in the kitchen was at the time my new place to crash. I had choreographed this great scene of me organizing the groceries according to their respective locations (a product of my OCD) but in the end, it was just too long and I had to cut it because the amount of light wasn’t helping. There are many things I would have done differently in hindsight, but I think the message is still there and it captures another moment in my nomadic life.

11. Scribe
One of the best things about being in Berlin is that I have more time to do my writing. Though I do so many other things with my life, I would be nothing if I could not be a writer. Most of my days are spent creating things with words and though my outward facing career as a writer is still in the embryonic stage, it is my Life Force. It would have been silly for me to have this series without capturing the artistic process of writing. This took place in an apartment of a boyfriend of mine whom I have been dating since my second time in Berlin. He was letting me stay at his place for the week. I have always felt comfortable at his home and with him, so it was easy for me to navigate my way through inspiration being there because it is where I spend a lot of my time anyway. I could have staged it to look like I was writing a story but I didn’t want to fake it too much. I was actually in the middle of writing a story when I wrote this and instead of planning it out too much, I made the writing part a natural act. I did have in mind making the beginning the end and vice versa, and the smoking and the drinking had to be incorporated because these are normal parts of my writing routine. My favorite part is when I am deleting (it was not a dramatic act, I was genuinely disenchanted with what I was writing). I was worried that you would not be able to tell what I was doing visually, but in the end, I got the point across.

12. Rest
This is my favorite film in this series and I think it is a favorite of viewers as well. The idea came instantaneously when I entered the room. This took place in London, the day after they detained me at immigration and held me in some weird terrorist jail for the night. I was there for the weekend and I fell in love with the design of the room. Ideas were shooting through my brain and it all came together perfectly, with the styling, the action and the music. I have spent a lot of time in hotel rooms, so it was only natural that I make a film about it. I was so traumatized when I made this film that it was important for me to somehow put that into art. I NEEDED to make art. It was all I could think about. I knew right away I wanted to work with the stop motion photography that I used in “Clöses”. “Rest” is a good play on words and I knew that the music would be perfect to set the mood for the video. I wanted to exhibit this longing for innocence as I felt as though it had been stripped away from me at the airport. I wanted to be young and playful and cheerful again. At this point, it seemed so far away.

13. Compose
Another place, more inspiration. Whenever things are going bad for me I have the overwhelming urge to create. This place was another place to crash (by the same friend that let me stay in Amsterdam). It had been too long since I have been in the studio and I needed to work out and also I needed to come up with some choreographic ideas for a piece I am considering making into a film. It was simple for me to make this film, choreography is such a repetitive and grueling process that takes a lot of time, energy and focus. The reverse effect in this is subtle, and at the end I wanted to add this abstraction of the desire to jump out of the window. I don’t know if that came through clearly or not, but I didn’t want it to be too dramatic, so I guess it works.

14. Clean
This video was shot on the same day I made “Compose”. It was one of those moments where I decided I just had to escape. This is one thing that I don’t do often, and I miss the relaxing comfort of taking a bath in my own home. I was not in my own home, I was not drinking my own wine or using my own towel or robe or soap. It was this necessary moment to coerce zen and it worked quite well. These days I have this formula where I spend one day freaking out about my life and the next day doing my best to worry about nothing and to be careless. Sometimes the line blurs and it is impossible to separate the two. In this segment I was longing for some peace, but for me, peace is chaos, and the most chaotic time of my life was circa 2006 when I was running a Burlesque show, playing House with my then husband, raising pets, having a daytime career, trying to make-it as an individual artist, and all the while making time for a social life and time for myself. I think that is thinly veiled in what I tried to encapsulate here in this reverse striptease.

15. Voyeur
Being in Europe has been like traveling down this long road of self-discovery and sexual awakening. Having grown up in a pious, militant family, shedding the guilt of expressing myself is something I struggle with in the art I produce. It is not rebellious or for shock value to take off my clothes in front of an audience or make a video of it. In a way it can be a little self-indulgent but the actual mission of these glimpses into my nakedness is an exposition of my character. I am showing everyone what a lot of people already see in me, but I am abstracting it in a way that is a narrative of how I feel people want me to represent myself. Here in Berlin, in this slutty playground where it is easier to get sex than it is a good slice of pizza, I am objectified more than ever. I came to this city because here I am unique and exotic and somewhat of a marvel. Like Josephine Baker and her Paris, I want to seduce this whole town. It is not so much about desire but it is the challenge that comes along with it. I have found such a new part of myself, so many parts of myself and in that I have lost a lot of who I used to be. It is nice to grow, but to escape can be somewhat demeaning and exhausting. We all spend so much time looking out the window, looking for all those cliché greener grassier pastures. We want the cheap thrill of seeing life on the other side. To see the life of someone else. This is the media, this is television, what is entertainment is something that is real or so unreal you are forced to believe it. I met a guy at a bar and he was from another country and we spent the day together and it was wonderful and I got to get to know him and he got to get to know me and we slept together and I awoke and we became friends and then he was gone. It was a nice glimpse into an impossible reality.

I again find myself in a new place. I don’t know what will come of the next video I make, but to keep this chronicle going, it is imperative that I make a film of every new environment I find myself in. I don’t know how long I will be here before I move on to the next place, so I should get moving. Or maybe sit still for a moment.

For the complete collection go here.

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