By Jennifer Preissel
Could you talk about the films we’ll be showing in the Notes to a Toon Underground program?
They all have very different feels, but they all have one structural element in common and that is, they all use found imagery. They all use found imagery from disparate sources. I’ll first talk about Devil’s Canyon briefly—that’s kind of the more conceptually involved piece. That is actually part of a three-part series that involves investigating these fantastical dystopic Manifest Destiny stories with these tragic masculine protagonists. All the imagery from that piece comes from—I got really into the idea of abandoned imagery. When you go to a thrift store or a garage sale, there are these images that have been abandoned. So I started collecting a lot of images of the American West, not really knowing what I was going to use it for, but really got into collecting that. At the same time, I was going into the desert, filming on Super 8 abandoned structures in the desert and was collecting these images of these abandoned histories. I reconfigured them into a story to tell a slightly other history that could have happened, critiquing Manifest Destiny, critiquing capitalism, critiquing this westward push to progress. Another piece that’s being shown is The Joy of Sex. I made that when I was at grad school, and the lounge was a great depository for people dumping books they didn’t want anymore. I would just go through and look at images and look to find anything good. I found The Joy of Sex book, which I hadn’t seen since I looked in my parents’ closet when I was a kid. I was looking at it, and there was something about these pencil drawings of all the positions that caught my attention. I started thinking about what would it look like if I put these images in motion. I think it captures a lot of the elements of the book: it’s tender, it’s kind of awkward, it depicts people trying to figure stuff out. So that’s where those images came from. And then, the third piece I’m showing is called Crucial Crystal and that was made a couple of years ago. It really was at a point where I was trying to make the most epic and mythical music video I could possibly make. It collages everything from medieval images to New Age images to Marshall Stacks in the snow to epic crystal prisms to swords to black metal figures and all of the above into one fantastical landscape that keeps unfolding upon itself.
How did you first get into found imagery? When did you decide that this was something that you wanted to incorporate into your work?
Two things were happening at the same time. One was, I started out when I was in college making film and I really loved the texture of film. It was such a tactile process, you would edit with your hands, you would shoot on the optical printer, you would shoot on an animation stand and you had such a physical relationship with the material. When I went to grad school, I didn’t necessarily have the same access to those resources and also, film is kind of expensive. I never really resolved my relationship with the aesthetic of DV; it looks very sharp to me. I’m very disconnected from things on a mini-DV tape that just go straight into the computer—I like a personal connection to it. So, I started collecting images based on texture, but trying to have a source material that I could have a physical relationship with that did give me some form of texture. Newsprint or a scanned image—you can see the grain of it, you can see the color overlay, and at the same time, an image is like a time capsule in a certain sense. It embodies a time, a place, a story. Going back to the concept of editing—it is all about constructing stories through sequences of images. I started thinking about inserting these images that had very specific histories into new histories. When you are watching the Devil’s Canyon piece, you are aware of the history of the American West, but you’re also aware of the new, more critical history that that video presents. You can draw on associations previously constructed and make new ones at the same time.
I know Devil’s Canyon has a voiceover. How is that going to be incorporated with the musical accompaniment?
Have you talked to the musicians that are going to be playing?
I’ve been very separate from the process. I was never given any communication with them, so it may be fun to see how that turns out. For Devil’s Canyon, that one—
There won’t be a live narrator, will there?
They asked for the text for it. Anthony [McCann]’s voice is so crucial to that piece. He’s a poet, a wonderful poet. I heard him read and I said to myself, “That’s the voice that needs to tell the story.” After hearing the voice I could write the voiceover for it, so it’s very much written for Anthony. I don’t know if they’ll use it. That’s the most narrative of all the pieces that are being shown. I’m totally open to having it be a great surprise at the Festival.