In celebration of the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion of June 28, 1969 which led to the birth of gay pride, an incredible song was just released by Jon Gilbert Leavitt. In less than 6 minutes the video summarizes the ups and downs and all the middle of LGBTQ triumph and turmoil.
Here’s the video, make sure you turn on the closed captioning so that you would not miss a word. Also, if you’re an Israeli – don’t blink at the 4:36 minute mark.
Last week, a friend of mine saw one of my photo collages and mentioned an amazing video she saw. The video, by Canadian artist and illustrator Ray Fenwick, is made out of three videos found on YouTube (#1, #2, #3), in each one a different woman sings Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You. Check out the two versions of this work, before reading my interview with the artist, as conducted today:
And now for the interview:
Shahar Golan: YouTube, the new ‘Mirror with a Memory’, spawned so many cultural phenomena we have just started to notice and examine. Your videos, investigating a number of these aspects, could not have been made even five years ago. Can you elaborate on the ideas that triggered you to create this work?
Ray Fenwick: Well, I think a lot about the internet and its effect on culture, and internet culture itself. There is so much to think about, so many pockets of change happening at once that it’s hard not to think about. Making this work is just a way for me to wrap my head around what’s going on. I’ve never made video before this. All of my previous work has been drawing, and often they’re sort of narrative works that use humour, or kind of explore the idea of comedy. I did some drawings of friendship bracelets a while back, and that was sort of an attempt at thinking about the way the internet is redefining culture, something as simple as the idea of friendship. But ultimately no story I could think of was getting at what was interesting to me. Then one day I just stumbled upon one of these “me singing ____” videos and was totally fascinated by them.
I kind of ignored it though because I thought “I’m not a video artist, I’ll just keep drawing”. I do however make music, so I decided to synch up just the audio from a few of the videos. Then left it for a while. I put that on my ipod and found myself wanting to listen to it, which just told me that I wasn’t done with it yet. So after listening to it for a while I couldn’t resist. I liked the way it sounded, but also what it allowed me to think about. I thought the audio was doing something that could only be helped with something visual, even though I know it raises the intensity a bit.
To do the synch of the whole thing though, that process, it kind of lead me to make the cut up edited version first. You have to kind of loop small parts to get the synch right, or at least I do, and I found that these short loops were interesting. They manage to keep a lot of the earnestness and intensity even though they’re just little bits of the whole.
SG: In no particular order, here are things that popped into my mind while watching your video and its raw material:
– Seeing and being seen, allowing others to see us, and seeing ourselves while doing so.
– What we broadcast and transmit using our bodies, clothes, and the objects around us.
– Singing as this decade’s talent everyone wants to have/thinks he has.
– The awkwardness of not having something to do – as perceived during a break within a song.
– Saying ‘I love you’, saying it out loud, saying it to yourself, saying it to your significant other, saying it to complete strangers.
– Wanting to be different and unique and succumbing to being a faded xerox, a replicant.
Anything on that list you want to relate to?
RF: Well, I would say all of those things are valid readings. For me, what I’m most interested in with this stuff is the intimacy of it, the yearning to be known despite the exponentially increasing odds against that. It’s comedic, in that it makes you want to laugh because of the almost shocking directness, laugh in the way people do when they are surprised by something. Not laughing at these people, in that cruel way, but laughing at what we all do as humans living in this age. To that end, I didn’t choose people that were singing ‘badly’. These women can all sing, and it sounds good.
Also interesting to me are all the levels of intimacy. One is in front of a makeshift stage, one is in her room, and one is in a kind of home office. Even the stage, which is like a sheet hung up on a door or something, it still has this intimate feeling. The key thing is that the intimacy isn’t earned. It’s just given.
SG: How do you see the edited version correlating to the triptych version? To the raw material? Do you have any preliminary thoughts about how to exhibit this work, possibly in a video installation that includes the other aforementioned works?
RF: Well, I am going to try a few more before I think about whether to show it or not. I’m sort of working it out as I proceed. One thing I know for sure though is that I personally like the simple triptych one more, it feels more successful to me at the moment. I would love to be in a room where each separate video had one wall, so you were surrounded on three sides by the synched video. The intimacy of the video, the epic emotion of the song would be interesting at that scale I think. I feel the synched triptych is better as it feels more like a presentation of the ideas, less fussy. What do you think?
SG: I thought that seeing the synched triptych is essential to understanding the edited version, the latter being so addictive and so wonderfully sums up the ideas discussed.
RF: See, which tells me that the edited one is superfluous. Again, I think I want to try a couple other songs and see what I think about it. I think maybe why I am quick to dismiss it is that it feels so… YouTube.
SG: I do fear, though, that people who only watch the edit might falsely dismiss it as gimmicky. It is not!
RF: I hate the idea common on YouTube that everything needs to be summarized and given a hook to be relevant.
SG: I think it all depends on where you exhibit your work and who you see as your audience.
RF: Yeah, exactly. Context is everything. In a way this stuff would be even better if I hadn’t put it up online at all. In fact, haha, I put it up, then took it down for that very reason, because a day after it was online it felt like I was somehow trying to “tap in” to the sharing culture of the internet, where everything is shared without any filter. It took a talk with a friend to make me feel okay about it, or to loosen up enough.
SG: On Flickr the videos are licensed as CC-BY-NC-ND, which means the work can be shared and distributed as long as it is attributed to you, noncommercial, and it is not altered, transformed or built upon. The ‘No Derivative Works’ part of the license made me wonder, since your work is a derivative of the original videos uploaded by the three women. Was that just an oversight?
RF: Oh, it was absolutely an oversight. I had that for my other work, which is less obviously appropriated. I’m going to change that right now.
SG: Would you care to elaborate on the technical tools used in the making of these videos, and on artistic decisions worth mentioning?
RF: Well, I used really basic software for editing. The program I used for the edited version, Ableton Live, is actually intended for audio but still allows for very basic editing of video. It made sense because I could cut up the audio in a way I was used to and just have the video follow suit. I had to use something a little more robust for the triptych though. Luckily for me what I wanted was very little virtuosity in the editing of it… No transitions or titles or anything. I toyed with the idea of having the videos synched but alternating between the three videos, but it seemed less of a direct presentation. I think forcing them into synch is enough trickery.
SG: Most of your work consists of drawings, painting and comics. What made you venture into video, a new medium for you, and can you, at this very early stage, talk about the differences, apart from the obvious ones, including viewer reaction?
RF: Well, it was video itself that initiated the idea, so it didn’t make any sense to then transfer that to the world of drawing. I’m trying lately to just let an idea take the most appropriate form. As for the differences, well, people respond more to video, but that response isn’t necessarily more meaningful. But you can share a link to a video with more people than you can share a link to a painting. Which makes me a little sad.
To see more of Ray Fenwick’s art, visit his website at RayFenwick.ca
The artist collective I am part of has kept me pretty busy during the last couple of weeks. We cooperated with Jerusalem’s Train Theatre, donated our time for a charity in Jerusalem’s first Cooking Pot Festival, and in between managed to launch the first issue of our art magazine.
The issue, titled ‘No one will admit to it‘ is a mixture of our art works, including poems, short stories, paintings, drawings, photographs and digital art. It features a number of my photo collages and a few Hebrew poems I wrote this year.
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At this time you can purchase a copy wherever we perform, but we are working on additional ways of distribution including selected Jerusalem bookshops and making online purchasing available both for hard copies and soft copies.
Upcoming events of Hagigit are posted on its Facebook page and on its website.
We’ve all made at least one of the following email faux pas in the past:
– Forgetting to attach a file to an email, especially when emailing a group of people
– Sending an email to the wrong person, just because he has a similar name
– Sending a fiery reply to an email that made you angry
Well… the folks at Google Labs have finally came up with an undo button which allows you a couple of seconds of email remorse – usually that’s all you need. When enabled, the undo option appears and if clicked within 5 seconds it will stop the email from going out and possibly shaming the sender. Now, while this is nothing new to people who use Microsoft Outlook with delayed sending, as far as I know this was not available with any of the webmail services. If you already use Gmail, check out the Labs tab under your Gmail settings.
If you don’t use Gmail but were looking for reasons why you should switch, now you have plenty:
– the mentioned ‘Undo’ button
– the two-in-one ‘Send & Archive’ button
– the ‘conversation’ method
– the ‘Gmail offline’ option
– plus, all the POP3 access you may need
….all this puts Gmail ahead of any other email service or program.
As a bonus to my readers, and when I say bonus I mean it in AIG terms: something extra you get whether you deserve it or not, here’s my take on the recent insurance company shenanigans:
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Extra information for graphic designers:
Font: LTC Cloister Small Caps
Colors: white (#ffffff), blue (#002261)
Artistic decisions: At first I thought I would just go with ‘PIG’ to fit AIG’s three letter logo and to make it a smart word play by replacing just one letter. After thinking about it, ‘PIG’ did not convey my notion of corporate greed, and since this is not targeted at any particular person but at capitalism as reflected by the AIG culture, I thought I would break the three letter mold and allowed myself an extra letter to make it plural.
After two gruelling days working an assembly line like photography studio, I have found renewed faith in the photography of children. Trying to avoid kitsch as much as possible, I worried our cooperation with Jerusalem’s Train Theatre might prove to be void of artistic merit, but boy was I wrong. Yes, many of the photos were nothing more than Jewish kids in Purim costumes smiling for mommy – but from time to time, when not pressed to fake-smile, something much deeper and profound emerged.
Following is the photo I liked most out of these two days of work. My friend Guy hinted that I might like this photo because on a subconscious level it reminds me of photographer Cindy Sherman’s work. What do you think?
[singlepic id=158 w=525 h=350 float=center]Hagigit – Purim Spiel Still #9313 – 2009
[singlepic id=162 w=525 h=418 float=center]Cindy Sherman – Untitled Film Still #21 – 1978
It’s the Jewish holiday of Purim, and Hagigit, the artists collective I am part of, cooperated with Jerusalem’s Train Theatre for a Purim Spiel celebration for kids. The events started with a show called ‘Gulliver – The Journey to Lilliput’ by Amit Drori, based on the classic book by Jonathan Swift – and continued with us. We designed and erected a photography studio to correlate with Swift’s ideas of big and small, allowing the audience to experience being as tall as buildings or feel tinier than usual. We photographed the costumed kids and using our lean mean printing machines granted them a moment frozen in time.
Here’s a small selection of the photos taken today:
After years of raving like a lunatic, my prayers have finally been answered: I just read in the newspaper today that the Israeli branch of WIZO, the Women’s International Zionist Organization established in 1920, will start an annual tradition of announcing the most chauvinistic Israeli advertisements created during the past year. The worst ad will be announced during International Women’s Day, but for now here are three of the top five candidates:
2008 – Mey Eden TV Ad – Bauman-Ber-Rivnay Advertising
Yes, we get it. It’s a Hebrew pun: an ad for a water dispenser which in Hebrew is called a water bar – so let’s book Bar Refaeli. We get it! Now, how do we get from here to the model’s crawling on the counter? Oh, yes, and let’s name it Easy, just to make sure everyone gets it.
2008 – ‘Free’ TV Ad – Lin & Lin Advertising
An ample bosom lady in the form of a snack bar tells a male snack that it is all natural so he can nosh freely. Also the Hebrew verb for nosh, Tenashnesh, is phonetically close to the Hebrew verb for fondling, Temashmesh.
2007 – Maxim Magazine Article – Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
In its July 2007 issue, men’s magazine Maxim featured a section called The Women of the Israeli Defense Forces. Believe it or not, this was paid for by the Israeli government as a way of introducing the country to young males who may only know it from the news. While the general idea is not without merit, the very notion that the State of Israel is in the business of pimping women, well that is pretty hard to stomach.
The other top two candidates announced by WIZO were a TV ad for Axe deodorant and a print ad for R3 condoms. The Axe ad, in my opinion, should not have made it to the list as the ad was not created in Israel, and the R3 ad must not have made much of an impact as I couldn’t find any trace of it.
Happy Women’s Day!
My talented sister muses in Hebrew about misogynistic Israeli ads on her Motek2 blog.
Take a letter, Miss Jones,
Due to the world situation
The shrinking pound, the global slump
And the price of oil
I’m afraid we must fire you
We no longer require you
It’s just another sign of the times, Miss Jones,
A most miserable sign of the times
– – from the musical “Blood Brothers” written in 1981 by Willy Russell
I just received this spam message in one of my email honeypots. I sure hate spam, but I thought I would post this. The content of this email may or may not be real. Not sure if carpenters from Illinois spell the name of their state without a capital I, and misspell ‘ads’ three times. Oh well…
Subject: If you could help someone for free by just clicking your mouse would you?
I have a wife and 2 sons. I am a carpenter in illinois. I am layed off work. A pretty normal thing for anyone in the trades right now. We are a real family.
I am giving you these links to my parked domains(web site names). I let google fill the page with adds. All I need is people to click on the adds. Nothing to buy.
No risk of fraud or anything bad. Just click on the adds and google pays me .05 per click. Please forward this email to everyone you know.
Great Britain’s former prime minister Margaret Thatcher aka The Iron Lady is alive and well. But Chumbawamba, one of my favorite bands, is always ahead of the curve: they just announced on their MySpace blog the completion of a commemorative EP, already recorded, pressed and ready to be shipped the day Thatcher dies:
Featuring several new songs commemorating the most viciously dismissive and destructive leader we’ve had since long before any of us were born, this CD has the peculiarity of not having a fixed release date. […] Pay your £5 now in the knowledge that, come the morning after the glorious day, you’ll have this exclusive and unavailable-elsewhere CD dropping tombstone-like onto your doormat.