Here are three video projects that Ben and I brainstormed this week:
NYC is full of media makers, managers, and manipulators. The book, magazine, newspaper, and television news organizations all have their headquarters in NYC. In addition to the traditional media, there is a large population of people involved in sharing information, through psychic abilities. There are also countless psychics, astrologers, and shamans that work as mediums to a world not based on observed truths, but intuition. Their craft their messages by similarly working at the junctions between people and the world. They translate the indecipherable, offer words that we want to hear, and attempt to create truths from a position beyond fact. As a filmmaker and artist working primarily with non-fiction and documentary narratives, their perspective is arresting and challenging to the way that I see the world. I want to start a dialogue about the media with mediums, and try to raise questions about how a psychic sees the physical and psychic worlds.
I think a point of entry into these questions would be to start building relationships with a few psychics. I would like to attempt to engage the mediums in a dialogue about their specific studio spaces and the urban landscape that they inhabit as a way for looking at their relationships to their own bodies as the medium between the physical and world beyond. I would anticipate shooting a series of short videos that are portraits of the individuals, places of work, and their neighborhood. I don’t want psychics making any predictions, nor do I think they will attempt this on camera. I would like to create place specific narratives that can be screened through google maps and perhaps at the specific locations. I would also work to find a way to link the various psychic narratives for a longer work.
Like many people before me, it’s slowly dawning on me that my chosen profession is resulting in a lifestyle where most of the day I’m sitting down and staring at a computer. Days, weeks, months pass where my body doesn’t go beyond a set of prescribed movements—down and up the stairs in the subway, up and down from my seat at work, curled up in the same corner of my bed with my laptop on my lap. Even exercise has it’s own set of boundaries, first stretch the right leg, than the left, now the run, one foot after another until I’m out of breath. This long boring list of day-to-day movements makes lathering my hair in the shower and brushing my teeth seem exotic. My body yearns to move unexpectedly, exuberantly. When was the last time I used my body to translate what I was feeling? How would I express the little flutter of joy I get in my belly when I see someone I love? Arms outstretched, a little jig, a little leap? How can these expressive movements be incorporated into my every day life? Sometimes you get glimpses of this—a drunk person on the street dancing and singing, a mentally ill person in the subway talking to himself, gesturing emphatically. But why are these movements okay when you’re incapacitated? And do you have to be a professional dancer or actor to simply use your body to express yourself?
The video below is the T-Mobile advertisement where people spontaneously combust into dance at Liverpool Street Station in London. Now, I recognize that this is an advertisement for a huge corporation that obviously used trained dancers to choreograph this event. But I like what the video represents, and I like to imagine myself in a scenario like that, in the real world. That I’m in a public place, with faceless strangers, and all of a sudden, music comes on and they begin to dance. And through their movements, they share who they really are. And I get to know them, without having a conversation. Then the music stops and we continue on with our day. My thinking for a video project is still in the rough stages, but what I envision right now is setting up a space in a public area, (Union Square for example) where people can “dance” their stories. What the story would be is not yet determined, perhaps it would be a reaction to an event (i.e. How did you feel when Obama was elected?) or just simply, how do you feel today? I’d love to see people walk through this space, express themselves and move on with their day.
THE THIRD RAIL
When waiting on the platform for the subway, and staring onto the tracks, I watch the rats as they go about their business and my mind always wanders to the same few thoughts—what’s it like down there, in that gutter that I spend so much time inspecting as I wait for the train? Sometimes when I see something that sparks my curiosity, a crumpled up flyer that I’d like to finish reading, an item of clothing, (is it a sock or a hat?) I feel like I could just hop down onto the tracks, pick up what I’m looking at, crawl back up to the platform, and go about my day. In the back of my mind, there is always the slight urge to drop down below to what is universally known as an off-limits space, and answer the little questions I have. To inspect the third rail, what’s that really like? Can you get electrocuted if you pee on it? Are the rats aggressive? How many of them are there, really? And then there’s always the little surprise, when you’re down there late at night, and you hear voices coming from the tunnel. Are those the conversations of the rumored colonies of people who live in the tunnels? Then from the darkness emerges a light, one that has to belong to a human as it bobs up and down, slowly coming closer, so unlike the train lights that rush towards you, steadily. The voices are closer, more confident, and a pair of construction workers emerge. I’m always surprised at their confidence and lack of urgency. “Quick!” I want to shout, “Get up on the platform before the train comes!” I watch them nervously until they swing their legs onto the thick yellow painted line that indicates that they’re safe. And then the tracks belong to the train again, it can arrive now. You hear the rumble first. At Lexington there must be a vacuum effect because there’s a strong wind that whips my hair across my face and tugs me towards the dark mouth of the tunnel, and then it’s all of a sudden there, cars shrieking into the station, claiming it’s space.
On youtube there’s quite a lot of videos where people actually invade this space and jump onto the tracks. It’s so shocking and seems unreal to see the space crossed, and yet it also satisfies some sort of curiosity to see someone breaking the rules. I’d like these videos to be the principle element in a longer piece. The style and tone will be meditative and slow, with long wide shots of the empty platforms, and voice over from interviews conducted with people waiting for the trains, sharing their stories and mythologies about the tracks. This will be inter-cut with the youtube videos of people actually crossing the tracks, perhaps these below: