JC: You mentioned something about making the 20 minute film a song, or was it a musical? I wanted to ask you to explain that a bit more.
SM: I felt there might be an opportunity to make a 20-minute musical production around some aspect of the archive. I’ve not done a musical before but I would never rule anything out. Sufjan Stevens did an album / orchestral performance all about the Bronx Queens Expressway which is fantastic. That inspired me. And my all time favourite AV performance is the Trachtenburg Famliy Slidehow Players who perform songs about slides they’ve found. I had a vague notion (one of many) i could explore this direct musical approach in the archive.
I’m used to my video work taking a backseat to musical performance. One idea was to make a musical about concrete. Thankfully I have jibbed that one off. The ideas I’m playing with now (Noahs ark, preservation) don’t have a clear form yet but if it goes down the road of narrative then I would love a couple of songs in there that take on the role of storytelling for part of the film.
I’ll ask you a question.
I envy the fact you gave yourself a clear area of investigation within the archive and also admire how open you are to what may come of it. How do you manage your ideas and expectations when you view the material?
JC: The clear investigation was easy as that came first. Rather than coming up with a response to the idea of the archive I saw the opportunity and thought it would be a good place to find the things that I am interested in: how people articulate their lives, how they explain it to themselves and how they locate themselves. It is important to me that the sources I work with are peoples conscious utterances and statements, when they are knowingly presenting themselves to some unseen and unknown viewer. I am not interested in fiction per se, but perceive it as a site where these things are likely to be.
This all makes managing expectations easier, I watch the material to find moments when my interests become apparent. Obviously this is two-way as what I encounter changes the shape of and informs my interest. I talked in my proposal about seeing the project as a collaboration with the film-makers and this is an aspect of that idea. I think much of the work comes after learning the material; I have watched the films I am working with about 5 or 6 times each. The work is figuring out what to insert and how to engage with the source that draws out the underlying philosophical enquiry, which maybe not intended in the individual elements, but is present none the less.