A conversation with Perry Bard

Perry Bard on her rooftop in New York City. © 2015 by Susan Silas

Perry Bard on her rooftop in New York City. © 2015 by Susan Silas

CHRYSANNE:

Do you think being born in Québec has influenced your art practice in terms of working, with disparate types of people, communities and languages? Did being Canadian and then coming to New York give you a broader outsider perspective? As we know many famous comedians are Canadian, often able to critique the United States better and in a more interesting and provocative way. Do you identify with this as a Canadian?

PERRY:

I think it’s totally influenced everything I do. I was born in Québec, which considers itself pretty much separate from the rest of Canada. I grew up perfectly bilingual; I had to because my family was Jewish in a city full of non-Jews. Our family name had been Schwartzbard. When my father became a lawyer he dropped the Schwartz. I asked him if it was because there was anti-Semitism in Québec. He denied that, and said it was because people in Québec couldn’t pronounce Schwartzbard. In the same breath he told me that he used to get stoned (with rocks) on his way to high school. So actually it was essential for us to be able to function in both the French and English speaking community. The adjective for a person from Québec in French is Québécoise (f) or Québécois (m). Even here in New York, my friends who were from Québec would never call me Québécoise because that meant dyed in the wool, i.e. pure French Canadian.

But the politics have changed. When I showed my work in the Montreal Biennial in 2009 the label read Perry Bard, artiste Québécoise. That seemed more significant than being in the Biennial.

CHRYSANNE:

So you had an outsider’s view; your family was Jewish and in Québec and yet not Québécois, but bilingual.

PERRY:

Right. I’ve thought about this a lot. I read recently that people who speak more than one language have a more open view of the world, which makes total sense because you have to be able to communicate in two or more cultures. That must have influenced my interest in focusing on what’s outside of me in a different way.

SUSAN:

Certainly there’s a populist strain to what you do; work that moves beyond the self and becomes involved with a variety of communities.

PERRY:

I always thought that came from feminism actually. Years ago I took a course from philosopher Sara Ruddick. She identified feminism as a set of values developed through a relationship between, and affecting both, mother and child. My father was a solid feminist. In the 80s when feminism was a very strong art movement I couldn’t see the separation of men and women, although I realize in the politics of that era it was an important strategy. But what I could identify with was this idea of expanding a community and the idea of caring in terms of social organization.

SUSAN:

I actually wanted to start our discussion with the Man with the Movie Camera project because it is incredibly ambitious and has a global reach, finding contributors from all over the world to participate. I wonder how you chose that film for this project because I see that you did another work that also involves a 20th century film and present day contributions called Democroscope?

Man with A Movie Camera, Permiere in Manchester, UK.

Man with A Movie Camera, Permiere in Manchester, UK. 2007. Courtesy of the artist.

PERRY:

Democroscope was a later work. In 1999, I was invited to go to Bulgaria for an exhibition called Video Archaeology. At the same time I was working on The Terminal Salon, a video installation for the Staten Island Ferry Terminal building, where I collaborated with a community group in the housing projects right next to Snug Harbor and the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art. The project was taking so long and I thought I had to go to Bulgaria with an agenda. Bulgaria was a society in transition. Vertov’s film was recording industrialization at the turn of the 20th century, also a moment of transition, so I logged six minutes of Man with a Movie Camera shot by shot, indicating the length of the shot, location and content, with the intention of mimicking or interpreting those shots in Sofia. I collaborated with Bulgarian artist Boyan Dobrev to remake those six minutes. The subtitle of Vertov’s film is an excerpt from the diary of a cameraman, and there are many performative shots—the cameraman climbing a smokestack to get an aerial view or lying in the street in the middle of traffic to film. I was one of the few people in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, walking around with a portable video camera in 1999. When I looked at the footage we shot there, Vertov’s camera in the film was huge (we’re talking early cinema) compared to my mini DV. So I made myself a big cardboard camera here in New York, shot myself in my studio against a blue screen and superimposed that on our Bulgarian footage. What we had done as a remake was copy the shots, and in the end I thought this was a really boring approach, that there had to be a better way to think about what a remake could be.

About two years later I was invited to be in a collaborative workshop for ISEA in Manchester and Liverpool. ISEA is the International Symposium on Electronic Art. The tech talk was way over my head but my take away was that if I had a database, i.e. a numeric or digital archive, the video could be generative, that software could automate and change the edit. Eventually, I realized that if I crowd sourced the remake I might have more varied and interesting results. So my experience in Bulgaria and at ISEA came together in the Global Remake. To do this I needed a programmer. I found John Weir through my friend Adam Simon. John had written the software for Adam’s FAAN project (Fine Arts Adoption Network).

SUSAN:

Can you describe how it works, because the work is sourcing images from contributors all over the world that replace or essentially mimic the original images to recreate the entire film. It seemed to me that you could end up with a funny problem. People were free to choose whichever shot of the film they wanted to remake so many people could pick the same frames and you could have multiple versions of part of the film and no contributions at all for other parts.

PERRY:

Yes. Here was the real drama: I had sent a proposal for the Bigger Picture Commission in the UK. They were looking for public video works to premiere on four outdoor screens there. I got an email saying I got this commission, don’t tell anybody, and we will expect to project it in October. I received that email in May and I had no idea how to go about it. I knew I needed a programmer. I started logging the film shot by shot because I didn’t know what to do with myself while I wasn’t telling anybody.

CHRYSANNE:

Was there a reason they didn’t want you to tell anybody?

PERRY:

There were four commissions they wanted to publicize before any artist went out and said they got this commission. When I called John he said he wasn’t free until the end of August. I asked if I could I come and talk to him. He said okay, and I went over there with 13 pages of numbers because I had been busy logging. He said he’d do it. So I figured out that if you need a programmer bring data. I hired a student to finish logging the film with me. We worked really quickly before John left for a month so that there would be a thumbnail for each shot. I had timed each shot so that uploads would sync with the original. The idea was to have them play as a split screen film, the original on the left and the remake on the right. The software would trim the upload if it was too long or hold the last frame if it was too short. People upload via shot number. The software creates an archive for all of the uploads, then it sequences them and streams the shots as a film on a daily basis. For example, there are now 28 uploads for shot 19, and 21 for shot 20. The database makes infinite versions of the film possible. A new film streams daily on the website: Man with A Movie Camera. You can click play to see today’s version of the film.

Man with A Movie Camera, Scene 3. Shot 26. Multiple uploads.

Man with A Movie Camera, Scene 3. Shot 26. Multiple uploads. 2007. Courtesy of the artist.

At the time I wasn’t even thinking of the web as public space, but I knew that through the web I could orchestrate that kind of a global collaboration. I had already lined up collaborators from Brazil, Mexico, Serbia and Thailand before I even came up with Man with a Movie Camera. So when I got the idea, I figured out that I needed “foreign correspondents” in different parts of the world. I didn’t want everything to come from the U.S. or Europe. I started networking people in other countries and commissioned 12 filmmakers whose responsibility was to gather more uploads in their parts of the world. In other words they would translate the instructions into their languages, explain the project and each organize one minute worth of uploads. Vertov’s film was a perfect vehicle in that no shot was longer than 22 seconds. That was how I managed to get it off the ground at the start.

SUSAN:

And it’s still ongoing right now, correct?

PERRY:

It’s ongoing.

SUSAN:

And has every shot been chosen or are there blank spaces?

MWAMC.Scene 47.Shot 1110

Man with A Movie Camera. Scene 47. Shot 1110. 2007. Courtesy of the artist.

PERRY:

There are plenty of blank spaces. The very first lecture I gave at Pratt Institute, somebody asked me: “Is this ever going to be finished? When all the shots are filled will it be finished?” And right away somebody in the audience said: “I like these spaces because you know that it’s something that’s continuously changing.” I thought, she’s really right. If it’s not finished and there’s an empty space on the right, no upload, you wonder what the gap is for, what it means. The gap becomes a very important space in the project. I’m totally fine with it remaining unfinished.

CHRYSANNE:

The project won a very big award with the Guggenheim YouTube competition. Did that enhance the profile of the project?

PERRY:

Well, the Guggenheim enhances the profile of anything.

CHRYSANNE:

Of course.

PERRY:

It won honorary mention at Arts Electronica, which is a mega award in the world of technology. And it won a number of awards and honorary mentions in different places, but the Guggenheim was definitely high on the list.


video ©2015 by MOMMY

CHRYSANNE:

Do you travel with it when it is shown live? I know you’ve done lectures and workshops.

PERRY:

I traveled with it a lot for a number of years. Finally I decided that I couldn’t do it anymore because it was just keeping me out of my studio. I went to Austria, went to China and Japan, Germany and Croatia, Singapore, all over the place—it was always very exciting. And it was in the Montreal Biennial. I showed it at the Toronto Film Festival, the Moscow Film Festival and IDFA, the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam. I gave workshops when I traveled with it that resulted in more uploads for the piece. It was a good ride.

SUSAN:

With Democroscope you also ended up choosing an early 20th century film and mixing it with something contemporary. Can you talk a little bit about that, and about how those two projects are related to each other? Or if you feel that they’re related to each other? I feel that they are in some way.

PERRY:

In relation to that project, I started doing two things: I started researching the history of cinema, the really early history, and also getting more involved in Internet culture. In my research, I discovered that the very first movie palace, contestably, because there might have been one in California, was built in Montreal in 1906 by Léo Ernest Ouimet. Since I grew up in Québec this was a very interesting detail. It was called the Ouimetoscope and coincidentally they were about to tear down the building that has housed the Ouimetoscope. This is happening to all the historic movie palaces. I went to Montreal and in the Cinématheque archives there were examples of early movie programming at that theatre. The early programming resembled what happens on YouTube. In one program you would have a little news event, and then you would have somebody’s personal story, and then you would have an advertisement for something and maybe a home movie. All of these would be strung together on one program that lasted a very brief amount of time. None of these films were more than 30 seconds or maybe a minute. I thought that it would be interesting to mimic this idea of a program by curating Democroscope.

Democroscope. Projection: 1894 Edison record-of-a-sneeze.

Democroscope. Projection: 1894 Edison record-of-a-sneeze. 2013. Courtesy of the artist.

I put out an open call. I worked with Matt Soar, who teaches at Concordia in Montreal. We selected from this open call a variety of short videos. We had nine monitors, each one with different programming, but each one on a certain theme, like all gender issues or all sports or war. The programs mixed ads and contemporary videos together in one program; some of them were more documentary and some of them more experimental. Each program showed on a separate monitor with headphones somewhat like the Kinetoscope experience at the turn of the 20th century.

SUSAN:

And was it mixed with programming from early 20th century films?

PERRY:

Yes. Actually Léo Ernest Ouimet, who opened the Ouimetoscope, made some films and I got permission to show one of his films on a monitor there. So yes, we mixed early Lumière, Edison, and 50s ads into the programming. Matt is a designer very interested in signs so we made a theatre marquis for the installation mimicking the shape of Ouimet’s sign.

Democroscope.Marquis

Democroscope.Marquis. 2013. Courtesy of the artist.

SUSAN:

I want to go way back and have you talk just a little bit about a piece from 1997 called My Little Box of Nazis. It has a very different feeling.  I’m curious about that piece.

PERRY:

There are plenty of Jewish related things in my background. Not to mention that I went to Hebrew school every day of my life when I grew up, and don’t speak a word of Hebrew, which I regret now. Richard and I went to Mexico in the early 80s and we landed in Guadalajara on Christmas day. We were wandering around and there was a storefront full of Nazi memorabilia. This was the year that Ross Perot was running for President.

We ended up with three photographs of that storefront of Nazi memorabilia. Richard shot them. And right after that I got a one semester teaching gig at Florida State University. I looked on the map, I thought: “This looks like the Deep South, I’m going to go.” I got to Tallahassee and there was a KKK meeting forty minutes away from the school campus. But also the reason I remembered Ross Perot is that on a second occasion in Guadalajara we were having breakfast and somebody next to us asked where we were from. I speak Spanish and I said we were living in New York, and he said: “Oh yes, maybe Ross Perot will be your next president. He’s the smartest man since Hitler.” And then I went to Tallahassee where the KKK was meeting.

At that point I had started collecting all of the images of neo-Nazis that I could find from the pictures collection here in New York. I made slides of them and I walked around with this collection because I was always collecting more, and my students would joke: “Here she comes with her little box of Nazis.” So that’s how it got the title.

Little Box of Nazis.

Little Box of Nazis. 1997. Courtesy of the artist.

I decided to make something totally ludicrous and I combined the images with a recipe for grandma’s chicken soup. Then I saw in Eastern Europe a call for videos for a festival called Ostranenie, which means making strange. It was going to happen at the Bauhaus in Dessau near Berlin. I was invited, I went there, I showed the video and afterwards a curator came up to me and asked why I made the video? I said I made it because I met some Nazis while traveling. He said nobody here would ever say that. I thought, of course not, because everybody’s father who was still alive would not be alive if they hadn’t sympathized. That was really chilling. I ended up making a few other Nazi related things that I never held on to.

I had one other piece that was called The Meaning of Bialy. I was invited to be in a show called Hybrid Dwellings in Bialystok, Poland. I decided to bring the bialys back to Bialystok. I had already traveled in Eastern Europe enough to know that there were no bagels or bialys anywhere in sight. I went to the Coney Island bakery; it was one of two bakeries in New York that still baked bialys and bagels by hand. The man who opened that store, Morris Rosenzweig was from Bialystok. I videotaped them making bialys and I returned the bialys to Bialystok virtually. I also brought some actual bialys. Nobody in Bialystok knew what a bialy was. When I projected the video onto 500 pounds of flour poured onto the floor, apparently the technicians who spoke no English were cracking anti-Semitic jokes about me, which the curators told me. They were very nervous at the time because the curator of the Zacheta National Art Gallery in Warsaw had just been released for showing Maurizio Cattelan’s Ninth Hour depicting the Pope holding the cross and felled by a meteorite along with a piece that dealt with neo-Nazism. They told her to go back to Israel.

SUSAN:

Well that could easily happen in Hungary now too.

CHRYSANNE :

I was reading about your piece Status: Stolen. It is common knowledge that many historical Iraqi artifacts are missing today. Added to that, today we see on the news irreplaceable ancient heritage sites being destroyed. Do you want to speak about the reaction you received to this work when first presented?  Are you thinking of revisiting that work given all the current destruction of artifacts in the Middle East. Status: Stolen seems totally connected and timely 10 years later.

PERRY:

I certainly have thought about that. The piece was a public artwork, a mobile truck-side billboard with five images of artifacts missing from the Baghdad Museum. The Baghdad Museum’s collections of Mesopotamian artifacts are considered amongst the most important in the world. The Museum was looted in 2003 during the Iraq War. Called “the crime of the century” it provoked an international recovery effort. My Status:Stolen billboard traveled the streets of New York for the month of June 2005.

Bard_StatusStolen

Status: Stolen. 2005. Courtesy of the artist.

The most interesting detail about that piece is that when I decided to do it, I had a mock-up of the billboard (which was designed for both sides of the 20 foot delivery truck) using images I had downloaded from the website of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, which had been set up to aid in the recovery effort. Their website listed the status of artifacts that had been destroyed, were damaged, stolen or missing. I had selected five images for my billboard and was trying to identify whether or not those artifacts were still missing. Unable to reach anyone in Chicago and because the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has done fieldwork in the Middle East, I called the curator. He was thrilled that an artist had decided to do this and asked me to send the images so he could verify their status. This was very naive of me but I sent him an image of the billboard as I had it, which said Status: Stolen on the bottom and he replied that he was really sorry but he wouldn’t be able to help me.

Around the same time I went to a lecture at NYU and Zainab Bahrani, Professor of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia, was on the panel. I met with her and she identified the objects for me. She surmised that the curator at University of Pennsylvania has patrons on his board and of course he wouldn’t be able to be involved, he’d be afraid of losing his patrons. The looting had provoked conversations about antiquities collections in museums and how the artifacts had been obtained.

But in the meantime I had decided to just erase the patterns and that’s why the billboard ended up being shapes with dates, which in the end is much more straightforward than it would have been with the beautiful images that they are. So that was quite an interesting trajectory. A long winded answer to your question, yes, I have thought about it but my head is now in this next project.

SUSAN:

You also did two other related works. You did an installation where the entryway was of a cutout shape of a missing artifact. And there were the cup holders and wallpaper. Aren’t they related to Status: Stolen?

PERRY:

Yes. After this project I had a show in Montreal and that’s another kind of interesting story. My gallerist in Montreal is Joyce Yahouda.  I’ve been showing with her since 1987. Her family was driven out of Iraq by Saddam Hussein, so when I presented her with this idea, she wanted no part of it. Two years later I did end up showing the piece at her gallery. For the exhibition I created a large installation of different kinds of artifacts: a tablecloth made with the Department of Homeland Security’s alert codes, wallpaper with patterns of missing artifacts and cup sleeves that said Baghdad Café.

Baghdad Cafe..Video Still Mesopotamia Endagered.

Baghdad Cafe..Video Still Mesopotamia Endagered. 2005. Courtesy of the artist.

The cup sleeves were used by Café Crème on the ground floor of the gallery building. Online, I found an amazing webcast by Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly called Mesopotamia Endangered about the artifacts that have been stolen and why they were stolen. (Blame U.S. sanctions on Iraq.) I videotaped the entire sixty minute webcast off my screen and presented it on a monitor in the gallery. It explained the economics that drove people, who were very poor and living near these sites, to loot them. They would get maybe ten bucks for a cylinder seal. It then would get transported to the border where somebody for forty bucks would transfer it to somebody else, and then it would end up in the US and probably in the museum in Philadelphia or a major museum wherever. Her webcast was really powerful. I just recorded it right off my desktop. The other piece, which I presented at artMoving Gallery in Williamsburg, was the negative space of another missing artifact, a URUK vase. I built a wood frame in the shape of the vase, which served as the entrance to the gallery, and the rectangle or shipping container for the vase was filled with bubble wrap. So yeah, I did a number of pieces. And at the same time I made a very short video Operation Marmalade: Strategic Cuisine for Cultural Indigestion. It was a one–minute ad for democracy, which I also presented as a performance, cooking and serving marmalade in the gallery, on the streets of San Francisco, and in a show I did in Seville. I also organized an interdisciplinary round table called State of Emergency : How to be a Citizen of the 21st Century.

URUK 2400 BC.

URUK 2400 BC. 2005. Courtesy of the artist.

SUSAN:

And what kinds of things were being taken and why one thing over another? Was it about value, or just the ease of transport? Do looters even know which are the most valuable things?

PERRY:

Anything they could get their hands on, anything they could dig up that they could get across the border.

CHRYSANNE:

Ironically, looking back, these thefts actually saved those pieces from being destroyed now.

Before we get into your new project, I want to ask, if as woman artist involved in media work and new media, you feel that it was easier to enter that arena; there are so many women doing that? Did you encounter any prejudices or obstacles?

PERRY:

I have a pretty untraditional background in that I never went to art school. I went to graduate school, but when I went to graduate school I had been studying for a PhD in French theater. So I started right away working in an eccentric (for then) way. And by the time I left graduate school at the San Francisco Art Institute, I was more focused on things that would lead me into unknown territory—into relationships with people whose lives I didn’t understand. I built a piece that was two chairs with burners for seats. In order to make the gas burner work, I had to learn how to convert something from gas to propane. I spent half a day with a guy who had all these propane tanks. Doing things like that became very interesting to me and I started, I don’t know I just never had one medium. I wish I had a medium, it would make life so simple, instead of tearing my brains out every time I’m about the make something or do the next thing. But in terms of prejudice I don’t know, you know maybe I have a hard head. I’ve just always done what I feel I need to do no matter what anybody thinks about what I’m doing.

CHRYSANNE:

And you’ve always found support for it?

PERRY:

Depending on what support is. I’m interested in the kinds of experiences I can have working doing my work.

SUSAN:

And do you feel like you’ve had institutional support? That can be a quite different from gallery support.

PERRY:

It’s not like I don’t apply to a million things that I get rejected from on a regular basis. I’ve been lucky in some regards; I do get some. But you have to keep going. I think any artist will say that you just have to keep doing what you do regardless.

CHRYSANNE:

You’ve worked with so many groups and traveled pretty much around the world, I would assume that’s a very empowering feeling, to be able to communicate with so many different people and see what their interests are. It must provoke new ideas within your practice.

PERRY:

The most interesting thing about Man with a Movie Camera is that I had no idea what would happen; I didn’t even understand it for the first six months or maybe even longer. So it was always a surprise, and working with other people is kind of like that too, in the sense that you have to be open to collaborate. You still have to have your own perspective and hold on to a perspective on these things. It’s not necessarily the easiest thing to do, but it’s eye opening. I learn a lot. In my collaboration at Richmond Terrace Houses on Staten Island, I became really good friends with Joan Henry, who’s a really whacky woman who was the “quote unquote” mayor of the projects there. I ran a video workshop, handed the camera to the residents and they created their own portrait. I never would have had an experience like that or even had an insight into that kind of community if I hadn’t done that work. Those experiences are really valuable.

SUSAN:

How did people respond to the installation? Were the things that people talked about in the videos that were installed at the Staten Island Terminal, anecdotal, were they political?

Terminal Salon: installation view.

Terminal Salon: installation view. 2001. Courtesy of the artist.

PERRY:

It was quite political. People really talked very personally on the screen. What was most interesting, and this is part of what gave me the idea of using a database, when we were installing there were all these kids from the community on the screen. And people who used the ferry would come, they’d see people they recognized and they’d ask: ”How do I get on the screen?” I had no way of doing that because video is a closed system, and this gave me the idea. Every time I went there, for the four or five minutes that people waited for the ferry, because they’d usually get there a little bit ahead of time, a crowd had gathered around the screen. It was a really great venue for a public video installation, New York doesn’t have that yet. There’s the Times Square thing. Times Square is eye candy. And then they put up that big screen near 34th street somewhere behind a building where there’s nowhere to sit and nowhere to see, that’s also kind of nothing. You would think that a city like New York would find a place to put up a big screen that features artist’s works.

SUSAN:

The only one I’ve seen that’s been really visible was projected outside MoMA, when the museum gave Doug Aitken use of seven building facades for sleepwalkers in 2007. That was visible from the street but took some fortitude, because oddly, it was up in the dead of winter, when it was freezing out, and it was pretty unpleasant to have to stand outside to watch. Maybe the idea was to just watch from inside the lobby but I think the museum was closed during much of it. It was at night.

CHRYSANNE:

Tell us about Mongolia.

PERRY:

Well, the grand irony is that I traveled so much with Man with a Movie Camera that I decided that I was going to stay home and I was going to make work that was no further than one block from my house. On the corner of Broadway and Canal there is a huge knockoff trade. That knockoff trade today is run by West Africans. They speak French and so do I. So about a year and a half ago I started having conversations with these guys on the corner.

SUSAN:

Are they Senegalese?

PERRY:

They’re from Senegal, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire. I took notes from our conversations, but I never used a camera or anything like that. I had done another video about the knockoff trade called Traffic, in 2005. At that time it was entirely run by Asians, mostly Chinese from the south of China. And at this point there are two communities: there’s the Asian community, many of whom now have storefronts on Canal Street and then there’s the West African community on that street corner. The West Africans are very communal in that they share food. Women show up in a car around 2 p.m. to sell food—a meal for two bucks. And if you don’t have the two bucks they’ll give it. They share snacks on some of the stoops there. They do the call to prayer twice a day, at 2 p.m. and at 5 p.m. If you happen to be there you will see cardboard stashed on the sides of the former bank building which I hear is going to be yet another Duane Reade drug store. The cardboard is the prayer rug.

Traffic.

Traffic. 2005. Courtesy of the artist.

Traffic.

Traffic. 2005. Courtesy of the artist.

I realized that the block is like the silk trade. This is the trade route, right? It’s coming from China, it’s being sold in New York by people from Senegal. I came up with this idea for an installation that I was calling I Live at the Intersection of Dakar and Guangzhou. But I wasn’t shooting any footage. In fact, I was asked if my ring was a camera. This was months after I had started having conversations with the vendors.

SUSAN:

That’s a surprising question.

PERRY:

I was talking to them and I gave one of them the ring. I said I would never do that; it’s a stone. I started writing a script and I decided that this would be an imaginary silk road that would be shot—I’m going to have to reenact the NY part of the script—that starts in New York and travels to Dakar and via Mongolia to China. The filming is going to be done by different people in those countries. The only part that I’m going to shoot myself is here. I’m making the piece for mobile platforms to reflect the technologies that are being used. On that street corner a phone call warns that the police are coming, and when it’s not busy these men talk to their families in Senegal on their cellphones—five bucks for fifteen minutes. I did some research and there’s no bandwidth in Africa. People are doing everything on cellphones unless they are wealthy or are tied to an institution living in a big city where they can get access. In China it’s more or less the same. So the purpose of my travel is really to figure out the cellphone aspect of it and how I can work with it. As the structure, I’m using a loose variation on Agnes Varda’s Vagabond.

SUSAN:

One of my favorite films of all time.

PERRY:

It’s an amazing film. The sequences in the film are very short and for streaming effectively it’s important that there be short segments. But also, in every shot there’s landscape and there’s somebody traveling across landscape. I was thinking about the filming, how the continuity could be constructed, and about the language of film when we’re all watching online. Each sequence will be shot by different people; four per country. I have a lot to figure out.

SUSAN:

And is it your idea that in the end it will be a linear single screen production?

PERRY:

No, in the end there will be an interactive film for mobile platforms and an installation of simultaneous projections from four parts of the globe. Man with a Movie Camera has been a fascinating project, but it also ate up a lot of my life and I don’t want to do that again. I want to be able to do something where I can set a limit, launch it and have it take care of itself.

CHRYSANNE:

Is that why you’re going to Mongolia?

PERRY:

The reason for Mongolia and traveling in Asia is that I want to understand how and which cellphones are really being used, because I think that we’re all going to be using cellphones the way they’re using them there and in Africa and the way they’re being used in the knockoff trade on my corner. We’re all on mobile platforms and the mobile platforms are getting more efficient and bigger. Except for editing a film, I think probably everybody can do everything they’ve got to do on a device that size. I’m interested in how the technology functions. It’s a way of gaining access to how lives are being lived and how that can translate in the work. My work isn’t really technology driven; it’s more driven by the experience. But in the course of this experience, because a cellphone is such an important device on the street corner, it occurred to me that it would make sense for this to unfold for mobile platforms as well. So here I am again in the world of the unknown. This is truly a research phase; I have a lot to learn. If I were doing what I did before I’d know exactly how to do it, but somehow I can’t ever make myself do it, do the same thing twice.

Perry Bard in New York City © 2015 by Chrysanne Stathacos

Perry Bard in her New York studio  © 2015 by Chrysanne Stathacos

 

 

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