ABOUT THE ARTIST
1. Why did you submit to the Fourth Annual Chashama Film Festival?
This will be the third time I’ve participated with cFF. The festival’s 2011 theme, Chaos Theory: The Rise and Fall of Societies, is particularly suitable to the type of work I’ve been making this year, the Project 12 series (www.youtube.com/user/DiranLyons), which is a specific type of video work called Political Remix.
2. How is your work illustrative of the country you are from?
Political Remix Video selects fragments from popular culture, the news media, Hollywood films, etc., recombining and reorganizing that content to say something critical about the repurposed sources specifically and current events more broadly. My three works in the fest focus on the downturn of the US economy, the deteriorating living conditions of the 99%, and provide an “identity correction” of US political affairs, whereby the remix’s intention aims at making the examined institution or politician speak more truthfully.
3. Are you glad that your work is going to be shown in NYC?
Absolutely. It is always great to show creative work in a huge metropolis like New York. Given that the Occupy Wall Street protests have had such a deep and reverberant impact on political discourse this fall, it is a wonderful opportunity to contribute in any fashion to the ongoing dialog and engage with what people are concerned about.
4. Where else has your work been shown? If you have a favorite place abroad where your work has been shown, what is it?
Some of the remixes included in cFF also recently screened in Brooklyn at the 2011 RE/Mixed Media Festival this October. Additionally, The 6th International Streaming Festival will show the “LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD (Project 12, 8/12)” video in December, with exhibitions at Riviervismarkt 5, The Hague, The Netherlands, and at [THE BOX], Via Confalonieri 11, in Milan, Italy. The Streaming Festival is accessible for international audiences as well, hosting three weeks of screenings on the festival website, streamingfestival.com. Moreover, the “Obama Likes Spending (Project 12, 3/12)” remix received an affirming shout out in Wired Magazine on November 1st. In his article, “The Video Remix ‘Supercut’ Comes of Age,” Andy Baio touted the “Spending” work as one of the most epic ‘supercut’ remixes ever produced. It’s very humbling to hear such kind words from pioneers in the field of remix and to be mentioned alongside heroes of mine like Christian Marclay.
5. What is the best part about participating in a festival that facilitates discussion with international artists?
New ideas always emerge by participating in festivals, group exhibitions, and conferences. Interacting with other artists helps refine one’s thought processes and often initiates new creative projects. It’s always inspiring to see the fresh new work of others from around the globe.
ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
1. What is it about chaos that is most upsetting to you?
There is a list of unsettling items depending on the type of chaos, but in terms of geopolitics, those in power often use the resultant fear from chaos to expand their power. The most glaring example that comes to mind is the Patriot Act, shoved through congress without public hearings or congressional debate. The Los Angeles Times reported that ”few in congress were able to read summaries, let alone the fine print, before voting on it” (“With Powers Like These, Can Repression Be Far Behind? The sweeping new anti-terrorism laws threaten our civil liberties.” by Robert Scheer. http://www.commondreams.org/views01/1030-10.htm). With fear and hysteria enveloping the nation after 9/11, our sacred freedoms were minimized, eroded, and otherwise trampled by this “Patriot” Act.
2. What’s the most rapid social change that you have ever seen?
In my lifetime, again, the Patriot Act(s) have had the most rapid effect. “The American Dream” is devolving into a nightmare. We had a 4th amendment, now we have warrantless wiretapping and the privilege of being groped by the TSA (or going through microwave scanners) at airports. We had the protocols of the Geneva Conventions, now we have “enhanced interrogation techniques.” We had the UN Charter barring the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, now we have a persistent “Bush Doctrine,” a perpetual interventionist mindset, and the ever expansion of wars by a peace laureate president that endeavors to “spread democracy.” We had due process of law, now we have indefinite detentions without trial and the assassination of US citizens, as Homeland Security has shifted its focus from terrorists to “domestic extremists.”
We had a 1st Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech and the right to assemble peacefully, now we have rubber bullets, police beat downs, and tear gas when trying to exercise those rights. We’ve had a constitutional scholar, Barack Obama, occupying the White House for 3 years, a man who once remarked that the Patriot Act was a threat to freedom and liberty, but he renewed and intensified it after becoming president.
The zeitgeist appears to be one bent on a trajectory toward a full-fledged police state. We now live in a culture of assumed guilt, rather than the default position of innocence until proven guilty. We were told that all this was the result of evil terrorists who attacked us because they hated our freedoms, but the Patriot Act windswept those freedoms. If it were the freedoms they hated (which were subsequently taken away after the attacks), syllogistically speaking, shouldn’t we end the Terror War? But, from a quotable cult classic, “We are men of action. Lies do not become us.” Just try to picture the “necessary repercussions” the reprehensible US “Super Congress” will impose after a new attack. Not pretty.
3. How do you find strength in instability?
Personally, I find strength in working creatively, exploring issues I deem to be of grave importance and releasing artworks to the public. This ambition, to make strong work stemming from the necessary research that goes into the overall creative process, tends toward a fortifying of character and mind. Instability calls individuals to a higher order. It beckons people to bring about order out of chaos. In that process, growth can emerge if one sets his/her sights on the task at hand, aligns with the passionate and like-minded, and strives to achieve positive objectives within a growing collective. In some sense, that is our only option at present: to grow and become stronger through the current hardship, to never relinquish our will to the forces that threaten us.
4. What do you do to divert disaster?
It’s often wise to error on the side of caution and take proactive steps to impede antagonistic forces. “Diverting” something implies the ability to see the potentiality of an impending event, attending to necessary measures beforehand to thwart its actualization. There’s some measure of “clairvoyance” involved, where one sees certain causes leading to undesired effects. Often people disagree on whether something disastrous is looming. I think the Occupy movement is doing a superb job at persuading people that something is, particularly if things carry on “business as usual.”
Individuals have different skills sets, aptitudes, and means. Such diversity is vital. For my part, I lean toward producing DIY creative projects that elucidate some of the problems abovementioned (and their deplorable implications) because these works can foster discussion and often bring to light subjects that many still don’t contemplate, unfortunately, in day to day life. It is my hope that through creative projects, protests, speaking engagements, interviews, vlogging, and articles we will witness a greater awareness come to fruition such that people who happen upon these efforts will intuit the bleak outcome awaiting our society if we sit on our hands.
5. If you could make a community more peaceful, what would be fulfilling about it?
An unimaginable amount of funding goes to law enforcement, policing the world, and military conflict. I relish the thought of all the improvement that could manifest in people’s lives, communities, and countries if the taxation upon our society were going toward improving the overall conditions of our world instead of lining the pockets of the military industrial complex. I think seeing those positive changes and the increased happiness would be most fulfilling.
ABOUT YOUR WORK
1. How did you choose the subjects of the three works you have in the festival?
Our economic situation teeters on total collapse. In “Obama Likes Spending,” I considered whether a strong remix could be made by meditating merely on a single word as it intrinsically relates to economic implosion. One thing I wanted to demonstrate was that the vacuous promises by our government to reduce spending have been just that: empty. Unfortunately, three years of talking about spending reduction hasn’t amounted to much in terms of reining it in. Thus far, with his own follow up to Bush’s bank bailouts, the gratuitous stimulus spending, and new wars in Libya, Pakistan, and (soon to be) Iran, Obama’s presidency has been just words.
The Maggie Gyllenhaal remix entitled “Death and Taxes (Project 12, 5/12)” points to the aforementioned problems with the Patriot Act in its regard of outspoken citizens as “terrorists.” In the middle of the work, she speaks to her frustration with paying taxes that go to the military, and she winds up being quarantined in a dark space full of explosives after what appears to be her conviction to evade taxation on those grounds. I wanted to pay lip service to diminishing civil liberties, Homeland Security citizen surveillance, corporate greed, our global militarism, and the intersection of these items.
Finally, “LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD” provides an “identity correction” of Obama’s running commentaries on subjects such as campaign discretionary funds, tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, military spending, Social Security, and Medicare. Frustrated by the partisan rhetoric of the debt ceiling debate, I tediously extracted words and phrases from several of Obama’s speeches and news conferences, creating an overall commentary that reflects more truthfully the actions of this administration and the past two congresses.
2. How do you work with performers?
The performers in my remix work are generally borrowed from Hollywood films. My intention is to construct the appearance of interaction between unrelated sources so that they speak to more overtly political issues. (It’s a lot more difficult to do than I wish it were! It would be really convenient to direct performers to say scripted lines to one another, rather than excavate statements from completely unrelated contexts, turning these on their head. Serendipity so often plays a huge role in actualizing a video of this nature.)
3. How did you choose the other crew involved in the projects?
Project 12 is year-long series, now nearing completion. Every month since January, I’ve released a new video on the 12th day. It’s seemed as though as soon as one project reached the deadline, a new one immediately needed to be conceptualized, edited, and released. Constantly being behind the eight ball is a stressful position. So the series of remixes utilized a film production model where I directed the videos and selected different script co-writers that I’ve befriended over the years, among these were Desiree D’Alessandro, Vrüden Jakov, and Stephen Mears. These individuals stuck out in my mind because of their visually literacy and being so well-versed in current events and recent pop culture. The form of remix is inherently collective, both in terms of its appropriation-based fabrication and online reception. I also think in many ways that beta testing with someone is a form of collaboration. So given the co-writers’ background knowledge and enthusiasm for film and TV, they were particularly qualified to help perpetuate the stamina of Project 12. I enjoyed their feedback, advice, and interest in my work from prior years, so the logical extension of those relationships was to divide the commitment of the year-long project with them as they were available.
4. Why did you choose to make videos in this format?
Remix is so big on the concept of sharing that it seemed fitting to have the new series intrinsically incorporate sharing into its scope. The script co-writers and I perused potential subjects and then roughly conceptualized the videos, proceeding with algorithmic frameworks much like Sol LeWitt, Charles Gaines, and other conceptual fine artists approach conceptual art. A system always guided the production so that the artist’s subjectivity in the creative process did not have to run roughshod over everything else. After establishing an initial conceptual outline, I then set out to create the works, as I enjoy editing and the creative problem solving and decision-making that invariably goes into finalizing a piece.
5. What is the most compelling sequence of your projects?
My favorite passage is where Maggie Gyllenhaal yells at the TV screen in “Death and Taxes.”
Text compiled by Marcina Zaccaria