Reorienting My Compass, North by Northwest?

It’s been over a year since I first discovered ds106 and it’s amazing to me how much creative energy I’ve discovered since then – I’ve made more work in the past year than I have in the previous ten, seriously.

Ok this isn’t exactly true, I’ve made many things over the past decade, but they’ve principally been of the industrial sort – client work mostly. There’s a lot I’m proud of, particularly media materials for my wife’s non-profit Row New York (videos like Monique and Because I Row (with Daniel Phelps) as well as photography and design).

But in the last year I’ve begun to make work that reminds me of the work I used to make. Back then I made lots of stuff, all sorts of stuff, but when I made it, I was just creating, and creating and never reflecting. Despite that fact that I was in an MFA program, I was prickly about critiques, always evasive about why I made this or that. And it wasn’t because I thought ‘my art should speak for itself,’ it was because I didn’t have any confidence or sense of how or why to describe what the heck I was doing.

So probably more important than the creative energy that I’ve rediscovered is the feeling that I can and should describe my work. I falter at this effort (it’s taken two weeks to write this post and only a few hours to make Cary Grant into a track star), but it’s one I realize I need and want to work on. I want to be more confident and comfortable describing my work, not just making it.

This summer I’m hoping to focus my energy toward a bigger project. One that’s inspired by the ds106 mashup, pop culture, ‘make art dammit‘ mantra. Above is an animated movie poster for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic North by Northwest. I previously created one  for Rear Window, and I love making these. So I’m thinking I should commit to a series, six? A dozen? I’m not sure.

But I’m also thinking about something else. Earlier this semester I read an article in the New Yorker about Christain Marclay’s mashup masterpiece ‘The Clock.‘ Marclay assembled thousands of clips from films that referenced time into a 24 hour mashup movie, that when viewed it would reference the present moment in time. So if you happened to start watching at 11AM, the clips you’d see would reflect that time.

How crazy is that? A T-W-E-N-T-Y F-O-U-R H-O-U-R movie, about time. It apparently took Marclay 2 years of slaving over his computer to create it. And its supposed to be amazing. You can only see it in galleries or museums. And I’m dying to see it, here’s a BBC story about the piece to give you some sense of it.

So besides animated GIFs I’m thinking about something else – it’s not a 24hr movie – I could never. But it’s a mashup that would require help. I’m thinking about telling a story about education through the innumerable portraits created of teachers and students in movies. I feel like there might be something we could learn from these portraits of schooling.

I’m picturing a mashup of scenes that portray high school and the interactions between students, teachers, parents, and principals. I want to see what will happen if I create interactions between characters from the Blackboard Jungle and the Breakfast Club. Too crazy?

Anyway that’s where I’m thinking of pointing my creative efforts – Hitchcock GIFs and/or a high school mashup. I’m excited and anxious at the same time. It’s been a while since I’ve felt ready to do something like this.


10 responses to “Reorienting My Compass, North by Northwest?”

  1. Alan Levine (@cogdog) Avatar

    I for one would love to see the full series of Hitchcock posters- you have raised the bar so much with this multi-scened gifs. Maybe have all them, include Alfred’s cameo in each movie.

    That’s not to say that the educator in movie mashup would not be interesting too. Heck, do’em both. But I just have to see these are so freakin’ awesome, and North by Northwest is one of my all time favorites.

  2. Linda Avatar

    I, for one, LOVE your work. And I completely empathize with you about describing my work. I’ve often thought, “Art is about having your product speak for itself so you don’t have to.” But then I started listening to interviews and watching “the making of” documentaries and realized that when I understand the process of how the piece was made, I love their work even more. Even so, I’m not at all good at explaining what’s inside my head (it’s a very messy place in there). That’s one of the reasons why I went back to college at age 45 (wha??). Four years later, I still can’t explain myself very well, but I HAVE created a lot more stuff to explain… haha.

    Anyway, I love both of your ideas, especially the film mash-up idea. …and it makes me want to offer ideas… such as making it cross-cultural with similar scenes from foreign movies (I don’t have any in mind, but there’s got to be some out there, right?). Ah, but that would make the project way too overwhelming… Okay, don’t mind me, I’m just thinking out loud… 🙂

  3. scottlo Avatar

    Hey MBS, can we ixnay on the caterwauling? Your work is awesome beyond any fair measure. I stared, enthralled, NXNW poster for nearly half an hour. Your clip of Cary running from the biplane is to die for.

    What ever you choose to do, I can’t wait to see it. The mash of high school movies sounds like a huge job. I’m not exactly sure what sort of input / help you are soliciting here. If you’re taking requests, I’d love to see Sean Penn in Taps juxtaposed against him saying “Mr. Hand” in Fast Times.

    If I might be so bold, I’d like to offer a critique/concern regarding the aforementioned NXNW poster animate GIFt. I’m still trying to figure out why it was necessary to put Nikita Krushev on Mount Rushmore. I mean, if national monuments aren’t sacred, then what is?

  4. mbransons Avatar

    @Alan the cameo’s would be great in the posters. There’s an ok mashup of a number of them, my favorite being his appearance in Lifeboat as an ad for weight loss in a newspaper being read (there wasn’t any other way to get him in that boat).

    @Linda I love so much of your work, and you are no slouch when narrating! You’re final ds106 reflection video was amazing, by far the best I’ve seen. And the foreign film idea sounds really intriguing.

    @scottlo You’re right that the high school mashup would be a bigger project requiring requests exactly like you’re for inspiration. Starting with people letting me know favorite scenes from films would be essential. It would be cool in that the project would be a bit of a collaboration. And if that Russian keeps making cameos with other monuments it’s war with the USSR!

  5. Kevin Avatar

    It came out great!

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