Similar to a book of short fiction, Tropical Stories brings together four documented performances into one video. Each performance took place in a tropical location, and through editing their separate stories have been interwoven together.
Dirty Snow Spirit
single-channel video 8:30-minutes 2015
Loosely based on Japanese Kabuki theatre, a man embodies the spirit of the earth that is hidden beneath the snow. After demarcating his performance space in a snowy landscape, he puts on a faceless costume made of photographically-printed fabric that makes him resemble a pile of dirt. He begins his dance by disseminating dirt out of the bottom of his costume wherever he moves. As his pace increases, small dirt piles begin to form around him. In time he is surrounded by various-sized piles until he can no longer move, thereby marking the end of his ritual. (performed and choreographed by dancer Jack Magai)
Asking Questions to the Night
single-channel video 5:30 minutes 2013
Just north of New York City lies Harriman State Park, a 46,000 acre wilderness used extensively by urbanites. In the fall of 2012, portions of the park were closed because a suspected killer was known to be hiding out within it. A 73 year-old outdoorsman and survivalist fled into the park after he shot and killed his daughter-in-law. Considered to be armed and dangerous, the police began an extensive manhunt. Many experts believed that with his wilderness skills, the killer would be able to disappear into the woods and survive. In the end, the search for him turned up empty.
Shortly after hearing about the incident I decided to go to the park. The knowledge of his presence infused the bucolic landscape with threat. In wanting to try to make contact with him, I asked a woman of similar age to his daughter-in-law to accompany me. We brought a powerful megaphone with us, and having come up with a list of questions, she began to ask them into the forest. Though many of our questions were in reference to the killing and his escape, we had no knowledge of whether he could hear us. Without any response, our inquiry became existential. Our words seemed to be bouncing off of the darkness right back at us.
single-channel video 10:30 minutes 2012
While studying landscape architecture in Japan I learned that many Japanese gardens are only meant to be viewed through a building that acts as a framing device. Looking for a reason to build a mobile unit that would similarly frame the landscape, I created a cardboard version large enough for two people to occupy, yet manageable enough to be easily moved. With text printed on the box that made it appear as if it once contained parts for NASA's Kepler mission (a satellite searching for habitable planets) I shot a short film in which a teenage couple finds and uses the discarded box as a means for exploring their own earthly habitat of Los Angeles.
An Unknown Lesson & other stories
collaboration with Michele Kong five single-channel videos 40-minutes total 2009
Artist Michele Kong and I were given the opportunity to travel to India, and through the support of Unite for Sight (an organization dealing with restorative eye care in the developing world) create an experimental documentary with blind people. In each of the stories in our video project, visually impaired individuals are attempting to do something beyond what we, as sighted people, might assume they were capable of. The five stories depict: a woman learning how to drive a car ("An Unknown Lesson"), a blind soccer match ("In Defence of Obscured Realities"), a boy receiving light therapy ("3 O'Clock Patient"), a group of girls practicing martial arts ("First Encounters With Men"), and a man shooting his own film ("The Cameraman").
single-channel video / installation 18-minutes / various materials 2009
While an artist-in-residence at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska I shot a short film, part fiction and part documentary, with a mentally-disabled man who was obsessed with meteorology. That summer's tumultuous weather (tornadoes, floods, thunderstorms, and hurricanes) provided a backdrop for Joe, the film's protagonist, to invoke his idiosyncratic manner of forecasting. While the narrative follows his attempt to describe dramatic weather cycles, Joe also reveals to the viewer differing means for dealing with uncontrollable forces in our lives.
After the film version of "DIVINER" was finished, Bemis Center offered to fund an exhibition, as well as a published book, about the project. Because many props were created and found during the shooting of the film, it was a natural extension to explore creative ways to turn them into an art installation. In the exhibition "DIVINER" reveals and reinvents several moments within the story line, creating a room-sized experience equivalent to walking through the film. The editing and composition of the film parallels the loose, psychic connection between the objects in the room, allowing for many potential hooks for the viewer.
I was commissioned by the Brooklyn band, Flying, to create a video for one of the songs on their new album. Initially I couldn't think of what to do. The night before I was going to turn down the offer, I had a dream about the US military using American models as suicide bombers in the Iraq war. Lifting their shirts would be the trigger for their explosion. To create the video I used early Girls Gone Wild footage. When I showed it to the band, they were so offended by it that they refused to use it, and banned me from ever showing it.
The Fence Thief
single-channel video 2-minute and 11-minute versions 2007
Having recently moved to upstate New York at this point, I met a man who is both a dancer and an arborist. Drawing off his particular skill set we shot a short, fairy tale-like film that resulted in the making of a large outdoor sculpture. In the story an arborist steals a painted fence from someone's yard, then drives it to a hidden location. Cutting the fence into pieces, he backpacks the comically-large bundle of boards into the forest. Finding a fittingly tall tree, he uses the wood to create a color-coded ladder up its side, eventually disappearing into the canopy.
single-channel video 13-minutes 2007
I was invited by L.A. art organization, Outpost for Contemporary Art, to create a new project in the Ukraine. Having discovered that the Ukrainian president had his own private marching band, I wanted to use them as part of my project. Rather than work with the entire band, I pulled out a faction of members, a brass quintet, that I filmed throughout the capital of Kiev. From old soviet vestiges to new capitalist undertakings, they wandered through transitional spaces of their city continually playing the same song. In an act of both support and defiance, individualism and conformity, the band marched in their accustomed manner deliberately oblivious of the social and political change surrounding them.
single-channel video 14-minutes 2007
Living on a farm in rural Ohio, my nephews were on the cusp of young adulthood. Wanting to capture that precarious moment, I conceived of a story that involved both of them playing roles similar to their own lives. In the short film, a Midwestern boy ventures out to a nearby county fair where he wins numerous posters of men who are famous for dramatically different reasons. He fills his bedroom with the images of these men. The second young boy stays on the farm, practicing his lessons and tending to his chores. With limited information to rely on in this country setting, both boys are trying to piece together the kind of man they want to become.
single-channel video 2-minute loop 2005
While an artist-in-residence at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire I created a 10' x 10' x 10' fiberglass sculpture based on the image of an iconic object I found in a magazine. The "Golden Rock Stupa" is a gold-painted boulder perched on the edge of a cliff in Myanmar. On top of it is a shrine that supposedly holds within it a lock of the Buddha's hair. I wondered what would happen if the rock fell into the water below. In this video I answer that question for myself by documenting my golden boulder gracefully floating within a small river on an overcast day.
collaboration with Shunichi Ogawa single-channel video 4-minute and 12-minute versions 2005
In 2004-05 I was a recipient of the US/Japan Creative Artists Award, a six-month research grant given through the US government for independent study in Japan. While there I collaborated with sound designer Shunichi Ogawa on "B-flat," a short film involving a group of young musicians traveling by traditional skiff through a secluded mountain valley. Staged as if set in the Meiji period, the eight women are trying together to maintain the note b-flat on their violins only to be thwarted from achieving their goal by the river itself. In the film they are attempting to free themselves from their Sysiphean task, but are instead caught in a never-ending journey.