Bag in Tree, Socratic Western, and Shaman
My work is concerned with the pleasures and absurdities of communication by using the conventions and techniques of stage, film and television. One recent installation entitled "Bag in Tree" used a technique that a Foley artist* would use but in a slightly modified way. The audio for this video is recorded from a separate location and is made into a sound effects record. The record and video are in-sync on the first play but as time passes the sound and visuals get out of sync. The transient nature of this sync problem serves to remind the viewer that he or she may not always be able to believe what they see.
The performance piece "Socratic Western" created by my two-person collaborative "Nosey Parker" uses a hybrid form to communicate. This work is a history lesson in the form of a slideshow lecture and one act play complete with a live panel discussion. The panelists are art professionals playing the part of actors portraying Cowboys and a Native American. We used multimedia and stage props such as a live horse pulling a carriage and simple costume paper hats and headbands to give a feeling of a play or movie set. The photographic documentation of the performance acts as a film still.
I have also executed numerous solo performances as the "Shaman" which is a theatrical avant-garde character dressed in a white paper costume and wooden clog shoes. The "Shaman" performs acts of absurdist communication by speaking nonsensical gibberish poetry and animal like utterances through an amplified bullhorn. At the same time, the "Shaman" moves through the audience in order to direct his tirade at specific objects and individuals in the space.
*A Foley artist watches a film and makes the noises that are not recorded with the dialogue such as footsteps, door slams or gunshots. This sound is recorded on to a separate audio track called a Foley track. The Foley track is in sync and is added to the final mix of the film sound.
Temporary Autonomous Zones (T.A.Z.)*
Maybe we've turned aside the normal role of the artist and have asked the viewer to shift from the passive spectator and made him or her the subject. We can't speak for everyone but everyone can speak and thus there's an unexpected and actual exchange between artist and viewer. It's definitely like Nosey Parker is asking the audience to create the subject of our work. We've constructed the environment, given you a suggestion and now we think you should supply the content. You, yes you... and before you get the nervous tickles may we remind you that our necks are on the line.
Our history of Nosey Parker has been that of a collaboration. Informed by various media and open to an evolving set of methodologies, we have sought to bring about the unexpected. With the "Temporary Autonomous Zones" project our concern encompasses all impromptu and/or rehearsed performances. "Performances" are defined within the general and specific employment of the term i.e. you can do whatever you want. We are cataloguing performances so we feel there is sufficient proctoring unless we find there are some exhibitionists among you. That, by the way, would be most unexpected.
*slightly abridged from original
Commercials and Blings
I started the Brett Commercials in 1996 while in graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. At this time, I was watching a lot of television and I became interested in the conventions of early Reality TV shows like C.O.P.S. and MTV's The Real World. I admired the look that resulted from a low-tech style shot with hand-held cameras during "unscripted" scenarios with "real people" rather than trained actors. Even though Reality TV shows were using these conventions the commercials that appeared between them still had the look and feel of slick productions populated by actors whose appearances and fictional lives adhered to the Hollywood ideal. I noticed there wasn't anyone that looked or acted like me in commercials so I came up with the idea of making my own advertisements that brand me as a product, lifestyle, etc. To do this, I started video taping my self and my everyday life. I would edit the videos using the thirty second to one minute format that commercials traditionally use. My goal was to tell a full story in that time frame. I also shot, edited and made my own music from sampled sources. The one constant in all of the commercials was that my name appeared at the beginning of each commercial. This device established me as the brand.
I made several of these commercials for my thesis show which was held in a movie theater. My commercials played in between the other students' films so the audience was forced to watch commercials away from their TV viewing at home. (This was several years before movie theaters started showing TV commercials before the feature film.) After the screenings, I became a local celebrity for a short time around Chicago. Strangers outside of the art school community recognized me on the streets, in the subway, and in bars and restaurants so my marketing campaign was a success.
The work has evolved from these early commercials to new works called Blings that simply use my name and motion graphics with music. In fact, I don't physically appear in any of the new work at all. These pieces are more like intros to shows on MTV like Viva La Bam or the weird little shorts that MTV uses as network identifications. In television industry jargon they are called bumpers. The new work consists of looped DVDs which are shown on flat panel monitors mounted to the wall or on conventional televisions placed on pedestals. The Blings function as video installations rather than commercials that play between films.