Monday, November 24, 2008

the aftermath of relative intimacy, and if i were a man

the show went mo'bettah than i thought it would, and that's not saying much, but i am relieved. installation was a nightmare and a half, because my school has a shortage of functional digital projectors (actually we have a shortage of functional goddamn everything, it's kind of a janky operation, to be honest), so i was still up on a ladder, leaning over a tiny shelf, messing with buttons, trying not to die, like a couple HOURS before the opening. when you're not totally confident in the work you're showing and the installation process is more time and work and headache than you expected, you get really fuckin depressed. well, at least i do.

on opening night i did a performance called "get behind me", in which i left the gallery after signing in to an instant messaging application on a laptop that was on a pedestal. from a remote location in the building, i communicated with participants in the gallery through instant message, although i was writing to a specific, absent person. it was meant to deal with the imperative to cleanse oneself of their demons through words, and the inevitable futility of that imperative. so the piece failed, in the sense that i was not transformed the way i wanted to be by the experience, and yet i think that's sort of the point.

(people huddled around the laptop, seen in bottom left corner)
there is very little documentation of the event, which i think is for the best. documentation, in my opinion, needs to stand alone as an art object in its own right or it frankly is boring and a failure.

someday i'll re-create the video piece that accompanied this performance. it was a three-channel video projection in an alcove, hence the installation nightmare. i used the internet phone program skype and a screen capture program called ishowu to tape myself and my partner sleeping, for the duration of one night when we were in separate beds, and one night in the same bed. i then compressed each of these videos into an hour loop. so the left side of the alcove showed my side of the video , the right side showed his, and the center was a split screen of us taping while in the same bed, our laptops on the bedside tables. they were synced, so that our movements were reflected in each projection.

my co-exhibitor, laccone, did a performance inviting members of the audience to wrap him in blackberry vines (covered with thorns) until he was scratched and bleeding, then paint his wounds with lemon juice, then dress his wounds with gauze. don't worry, everyone wore gloves. unfortunately while we were de-installing i stepped on one of the vines and it snaked up and raked my foot with thorns, so i can attest to the fact that those fuckers make you bleed. the performance neatly divided along
gender lines as follows: two women wrapped him in thorns, two men put on the lemon juice, and two women bandaged him. in the end, the performance was more about the participants than the artist. i think he should have had written instructions rather than asking the curator to address the audience, and in general i wonder about interpollating the audience in masochistic acts in a post-chris-burden moment, but the gender division was fascinating nonetheless.

after the opening, i went home and made this. it's the first video piece that i have made available to the public on youtube, and it's also the first piece i've made using this particular mode of collage and text. I CONSIDER THIS A ROUGH CUT. i ripped the footage from youtube for the purposes of saving time but in the next week or so i am going to replace it with dvd-quality picture. i'm kind of stoked about this as a possible new direction for me. copyright hannah piper burns, 2008 (bitches).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

i have 11 minutes while this file exports i thought i'd write about last night. my dear friend who is one of the sweetest and most ambitious people i know (she's a new yorker), stephanie dodes (www.stephanie, organized a benefit for two children's charities, and asked a bunch of bay area artists both famous and emerging to donate work to be auctioned off. for the children!

i was asked to donate, so i thought i'd contribute an oldie but a goodie:

this got me a free ticket in the door, with all the free sapporo and gin and tonics i could handle (2 and 3 respectively, as it turns out. i had work to do that night).

i have always been suspicious of the "benefit" form of charity- it seems like a really nice way for rich people to feel good about themselves without having to get their hands dirty, in fact, they get to dress to the nines and get wasted and buy art "for the cause". but you know, events like this are important in their own right. and we still need people at the grassroots level, but there's no reason to turn away part of the spectrum of giving, just as long as the spectrum is broad.

....maybe that's the free booze (and organic catering! oh, bay area) talking...

the only problem was i think dodes didn't get enough really rich people in the door- the crowd was mostly artists and the bids were low. my piece sold for a hundo, to a really sweet woman who collects buttons. all the pieces sold, though, and i'm sure on art alone she made like 2 grand. and that's not even counting ticket sales. so in general i think it was a real success... FOR THE CHILDREN! i can see dodes doing a lot of this in the future. she's someone to watch out for.

it was the first time i'd been out in a while, and it was nice to get dressy and be "on the list". i've never been "on the list" before. and the event was a nice walk from my house, so i got to enjoy the night a little.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

today is veteran's day.

for those of you who don't know, my partner is a veteran who served six years in the us navy. during this time, i was mostly in college. when i think about the vast disparity of our experiences, it is dizzying. this is what inspired me to make the project i am currently completing, an investigation into the existential qualities of enlistment. i wanted to make a piece about enlistment that was removed from the context of combat and war, that dealt more with the everyday of the military life. i chose to focus on the navy because of my existing connection to veterans and also because the navy life is fairly constant whether or not one is in a combat zone: living on a ship, in the middle of the ocean. 

the scope of this piece is very limited, and that's pretty much how i approach every project. not only is it totally futile to try and include "everything" in a documentary, i don't have nearly enough resources to even BEGIN to TRY to do that. instead i try to focus on the microcosm, hoping it can speak to the macrocosm. so my work is not meant to be the last word on any one issue, but rather just a piece of the dialogue. 

it has been a particularly stressful week. i often try to take on a lot because i seem pathologically incapable of the alternative, and often i find that the more i have to do, the more i get done. however, this semester has been a lesson in the art of pushing overcommitment over the line into insanity. i feel like i am constantly juggling, and that i have to always drop some balls/babies/chain-saws to keep the majority in motion. everything has suffered, and everything i have tried to accomplish this semester so far has been a resounding failure. between meltdowns i have been coaxing myself into treating this four months as a learning experience, rather than incontrovertible evidence of my incompetence as a maker. 

things i have learned:
- i seem to do my best when i make durational work that is not appropriate for the gallery.  i have a show next week where i am debuting a video installation and a performance and i am pretty sure both are going to be disappointing. but hey, i tried. 

- i really am not the best at interviewing. it's funny; i've been interviewed for several student docs and i've never had trouble giving detailed responses to questions (big fuckin surprise there). but dealing with other people, especially reticent people, as many ex-military types can tend to be, has been difficult for me. i have been reviewing the hours and hours and hours of interview footage and i am at the point where all i can hear is everything i did wrong: "i should have pressed him to elaborate on that, i should have made him be more specific, i should have tailored the questions more to each subject", and on and on and on. this is the first piece i've done involving active interviewing, and hopefully next time will be better. 

- i really don't know anything about technology. i can handle editing in fcp ok, but when it comes to codecs, exports, aspect ratios, compression, and suchlike, man am i a dumbass. i should really try to take some courses over winter break to get some knowledge before i actually get let loose on the world! 

i registered for my final semester of classes yesterday. my SIXTEENTH semester of school in a row. i think i'm done for a while after this, guys. i AM thinking about a phd in science fiction studies, but that shit can wait. 

i am taking a winter intensive on film editing, which will talk about the conceptual side rather than technical side, and is being taught by the woman who edited apocalypse now. so that's cool. and it frees up some time for me in the spring that i WON'T have to spend in the classroom and can instead spend hunched in front of my computer. 

i am also taking:
critique with janis crystal lipzin
critique with john priola
tutorial with laetitia sonami
and a tutorial with matt borruso, a painter, who is teaching my dystopian science fiction class

i am also going to TA for a digital painting class, which is kind of hilarious. 

this will be a nice, light schedule. i'm looking forward to not doing ANYTHING but artwork for a few months. 

in future posts, seriously, i promise i'll have photos. i have not had a chance to go to any openings (actually that's not true, i went to one on the 4th, but there was live coverage of the election being streamed in the gallery so i was kind of distracted) or do anything really worth taking pictures of. 

also i want to talk about the class i'm teaching and my experience taking tutorial with trisha donnelly, whom i adore completely.

the media blitz:

reading: talk to me, by anna deveare smith, and what the best college teachers do
watching: silent running, the man who fell to earth, children of men (goddamn that's a good fuckin movie), better off dead (eighties teen movies are so weird and dark compared to shitty nineties teen flicks) and terminator 2 (i'd never seen it! can you believe it? it was rad). 
considering: how to not lose my shit completely all the time anymore, how to be more of an (asshole) effective interviewer, time management, inspiration, what the fuck i'm doing with my practice. la la la.

Monday, October 27, 2008

relative intimacy


this is the show i'll be in this november. the image on the back of the card (with the legs and the shower) is a still from my video dyptich "how it was: part of the story". those two films will make their debut, as well as a video installation called "untitled (ldr)" and a performance called
"get behind me", which will be documented. at some point all of this will be available on the web, but not until december at the earliest, because i got bigger fuckin fish to fry.

first transmission: half way through my second to last semester of my eighth year of higher education.

i just returned from a weekend shoot in san diego, and boy howdy am i exhausted. i flew out on friday night after spending the day with the class i TA for on angel island, which is a beautiful chunk of land in the bay that you can only get to by ferry. historically it's been a site for various military installations as well as an immigration (ahem, detainment) center for chinese immigrants to the west coast. oh and like half of it burned down two weeks ago. i wandered around with ian mcdonald, one of my professors, and my fellow TAs josh, vera, and kit. the highlight of the fieldtrip was when we found a really gross beach that was all rocks and no sand and weird rebar and trash everywhere, and spent an hour or so chucking things in the water to see/hear the splash. yes, we are the future of contemporary art. nah, it was a pretty fun day, and unusually sunny and warm for san francisco. seeing the skyline approaching from the returning ferry was amazing.

the san diego shoot was really stressful because it was the most technically ambitious project i've ever done. i would just like to say that mr. matthew geiger was indispensible to me this weekend, as a preflight martini buddy, driver, assistant, moral supporter, and just all-around best adventure partner ever. without him i wouldn't even have been able to do this. i haven't looked at the footage yet (i got about four hours worth) but i am a little nervous about it because it's not like i can afford to go back there and redo the damn thing. it's very hard for me to do documentary work (in fact i straight up avoided it for the majority of my artistic career), because i feel very strongly about not exploiting my subjects. i will give up a shot that is artistically strong if i feel like it would be obtained unfairly. this makes filming people, especially in their homes, kind of difficult. i still have two taped interviews and a few phone interviews left to gather for this project, so it's not like this material is the only content i have to work with on this piece, but i really want one of the interviews in particular to work out. it's pretty goddamn important to me that i respect my subjects, and tell their stories well. in some ways i am just their messenger, even though in the end it is my lens and my voice through which their words will be mediated.

in addition, i am currently working on a found footage collage film using the reality tv show "the hills" as source material, a video installation using skype recordings, and a performance based around instant messenger. all of these are giving me ulcers. i am in the very beginning stages of them all and they all need to be done in approximately 2.5-3 weeks. luckily the navy film (which sent me to san dog this past weekend) doesn't need to be finished until december.

in other words, i should be editing right now. i should never, in fact, be doing anything but editing ever again (except working my two jobs or planning student union meetings or going to class, i suppose). i actually went to trader joe's and bought a supply of just-add-hot-water meals (sooooooooooodi-YUM) so i wont have to bother myself with any sort of cooking (not that i ever bothered that much before, but every little bit counts). there are so many lectures and film screenings and shit to do at school, and i barely have time for any of it. for example: i saw marilyn minter talk, and that was awesome, but i missed steve kurtz, mary kelley, chris ofili, and martha rosler. balls.

on that note i should probably (you guessed it) go edit. i will leave you with a media and concept blitz, as a means of letting you know what's on my radar. i watch about 7-8 films a week (not all feature length), have read a shitload of books this semester (my ipod broke) and am always working shit out in my head. also: i'm going to take photos of shows i go to (i go to an opening every tuesday), shows i am in, and suchlike, and put them on here, so you don't have to look at boring words with no pictures. i feel like i should show some of the work that my peers and i are busting ass making, as well as contextual evidence of my life here. i feel pretty immersed in art school at this point- it will be very, very weird next fall when i don't go back. by then i'll be in portland, hopefully with a job or two or three and a puppy and a house with my partner. and some film festivals under my belt.

i'm choosing to remain optimistic about the future.

watching: planet of the apes, the omega man (heston fest!), soliders of conscience, the art star and the sudanese twins, surfwise, the self made man, a selection of experimental films from a korean film festival called EXIS, and i have started but unfortunately not finished the fog of war.

reading: mike davis' "ecology of fear: los angeles and the imagination of disaster", and "the source: the untold story of father yod, yahowa13 and the source family"

considering: technology and intimacy, anonymity and confession, empathetic devil's advocacy, pop culture and desire, the intersections of speculative fiction, creative nonfiction, and documentary.