Summary of Work for Week 6
- Read the article by Vivian Castro
- Watch the videos referenced in the article and the videos below – ,
- Create and post a proposal for a ZOOM video-art work and prepare to discuss your proposal with the class. Include images/research in your description.
During Tech Talk time – Nathan will discuss how to download a free copy of Davinci Resolve, and promote Davinci Resolve video editing workshops. All students will need to edit videos for new works soon. See Courselink for dates and times of upcoming workshops, and video workshops on the Resources page in this blog.
Breitz’s experiments in the field of portraiture can cumulatively be described as an ongoing anthropology of the fan. Beginning with ‘Legend (A Portrait of Bob Marley),’ which was shot in Jamaica in 2005, Breitz has subsequently set up temporary portrait studios in Berlin [for ‘King (A Portrait of Michael Jackson)’], Milan [for ‘Queen (A Portrait of Madonna)’] and Newcastle [for ‘Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon)’]. The portraits have thus far followed the same procedural logic, and have been governed by the same tight conceptual framework. In each case, Breitz first sets out to identify ardent fans of the musical icon to be portrayed, by placing ads in newspapers, magazines and fanzines, as well as on the Internet. Those who respond to this initial call (typically numbering in their hundreds) are then put through a rigorous set of procedures designed to exclude less than authentic fans of the celebrity in question, in order to arrive at the final group of participants.
The individuals who appear in these works have thus stepped forward to identify themselves as fans, and have been included purely on this basis: all other factors – their appearance; their ability to sing, act or dance; their gender and age – are treated as irrelevant for the purpose of selection. Each of the selected fans is offered the opportunity to re-perform a complete album, from the first song to the last, in a professional recording studio. The conditions are thus set for a typological study, as each of the participants steps into the studio, one by one, to offer their version of the same album under the same basic conditions. Having set the parameters of the experience, Breitz then allows the performances to unfold with little directorial interference. It is left up to each fan to decide what to wear, whether to use props, how to address the camera, when and if to dance, whether and how to follow the lead or backing vocals, how to behave between tracks, and whether to mimic the original recording or seek interpretive distance from it. Diverse as they are, the portraits are collectively characterized by a riveting tension between the somewhat inflexible conditions under which each shoot takes place (conditions which both reflect and reflect upon the severe limitations for creativity within the commodified realm of mass entertainment), and the struggle of each fan to register an idiosyncratic performance despite these conditions. In the process of this struggle, the singers generate an a cappella cover version of the album that scripts the work, a re-recording which might best be described as a ‘portrait’ of the original album. Although the portraits stubbornly insist on the exact format and duration of the original albums that they take as their templates, they specifically exclude the auratic voices and familiar musical arrangements from the original version, so that the star in question ultimately remains present in the work only in the unaccompanied voices of his/her fans.
The portraits evoke their mainstream entertainment counterparts (such as American Idol or Pop Idol), but also take significant distance from their reality television cousins: Breitz promises her subjects neither fame nor fortune. What she offers them is an opportunity to record the songs that have come to soundtrack their lives in whatever way they choose. The non-hierarchical grids that she uses to organize the final presentation of the fans in each portrait, allow Breitz to deliberately sidestep the question of who has fared better or worse under the conditions that she has created for these quasi-anthropological visual essays on the culture of the fan. Whether the fans who pay tribute to their icons in her portraits are victims of a coercive culture industry or users of a culture that they creatively absorb and translate according to their needs, is left to the viewer to decide. If the dignity of the portrayed fans remains surprisingly intact, it is because rather than prompting us to laugh at the fans that she lines up, Breitz forces us to reflect on the extent to which pop music has infiltrated our own biographies. From Candace Breitz
FACTUM TREMBLAY, 2009
Left: Natalyn Tremblay (born 3 April, 1980).
Right: Jocelyn Tremblay (born 3 April, 1980).
FACTUM TREMBLAY is usually shown as a dual-channel video installation on two vertically-mounted plasma displays hung alongside one another. For exhibition purposes, the footage loops endlessly without beginning or end. For more info on FACTUM and to view other portraits from this series, see Factum
To produce the series of works collectively titled FACTUM (2010), Candice Breitz conducted intensive interviews with seven pairs of identical twins and a single set of identical triplets in and around Toronto during the summer of 2009, footage from which she then edited seven dual-channel video installations (and one tri-channel video installation). Like Robert Rauschenberg’s near-identical paintings FACTUM I and FACTUM II (both 1957), from which the series borrows its title, each interviewee in FACTUM is an imperfect facsimile of their twin: their apparent identicality is soon disrupted by a host of subtle differences.
Breitz chose to work with monozygotic twins (and triplets) who spent their formative lives together and who thus draw on shared memories and experience. Each pair of twins was filmed over the course of one long day in a domestic environment designated by the twins – most chose to shoot in the home of one twin, or in their shared home. In each case, Breitz interviewed Twin A for approximately 5–7 hours in the absence of his/her sibling and then directed the same set of questions separately to Twin B. Designed to give each individual the opportunity to narrate his/her own story as s/he chose, the questions covered intimate areas such as childhood, sibling rivalry and family matters, but also zoomed out to allow each subject to address his/her relationship to the world at large.
Some questions were specifically slanted to shed light on the mysterious terrain of subject formation: the twins were asked to lend comment, for example, on the nature-nurture debate, or to offer their thoughts on evolution versus creation. Other questions invited the twins to share personal anecdotes or key memories. According to their level of comfort before the camera, some individuals were willing to enter into minute and graphic autobiographical detail, while others set distinct boundaries.
Each pair of twins was asked to style themselves as identically as possible for the camera, and left to decide how diligently they wished to fulfill the request. For some the superficial sameness that resulted – almost immediately to be undermined by innumerable small differences that manifest themselves throughout the interview – became an apt metaphor for the projections of sameness that they had been subject to all their lives.
Each pair of interviews was later woven together in the editing studio to create a somewhat stereoscopic dual-channel portrait. Breitz’s edits accentuate the push-and-pull relationship between the siblings. As the twins relate their stories, sharp distinctions in their voices, their attitudes, their body language, and their views on the world become apparent. At times they gravitate towards each other, offering almost the same syntax and gestures to describe memory, while at other moments they differ vastly in their conclusions on topics they both consider vital. Breitz’s presence is strongly tangible in each twin portrait – her jagged editing style distances the works from the truth claims of conventional documentary, suggesting that the intertwining forces of fact and fiction are always at play in auto/biography.
FACTUM raises questions not only about twinship per se, but also about the struggle that each individual must negotiate in defining him or herself as distinct, while facing constant reminders of the relative role of others in the process of self-definition.
Post a proposal (with images/research/referenes) for some kind of ZOOM based video artwork you want to make. Play with, and think about this in your notes.
Consider the history of video art – and ways artists have experimented with the medium of video itself right from its early days of mass use. Artists sometimes manipulated the hardware, the software, and used video technologies in ways that were not intended. They found ways to connect video to sculpture, performance, and initiated what we now take for granted as remix culture. They used video to make intimate confessionals, experiment with their own bodies, and explore possibilities for art in public space that was critical of commercialism and conformity.
Explore the platform of ZOOM and consider its intended use for business meetings and class presentations. Experiment and play with the tools to see what other kinds of images, communications, and relationships might happen there. Test its possibilities, and explore how the platforms we learn and socialize and do business on – can lend insight to the medium itself, and to this historical moment we are living in right now.
We will discuss your proposals in class – to refine them and find possible collaborators.