Last week I had the pleasure of being the subject of a class presentation by Laura Murphy at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. In true Wreck & Salvage style I responded half asleep and half drunk on the third straight day of involuntary eye twitching. Thanks Laura!
1. What part of Texas did you grow up in?
I grew up in Houston, Texas
2. Where did you go to college? What was your major?
University of Texas at Austin. My major was Radio-TV-Film
3. How did you become interested in filmmaking and specifically culture jamming?
I was always interested in photography, magazine collage, television, creative writing and making/building things. When I was in college I wanted to take classes that were fun and film classes appealed the most to me. I got into culture jamming sort of accidently. When I was a sophomore in college I started volunteering at the student tv station. I wanted to learn the editing equipment which at the time was tape editing from one VHS deck to another with a edit controller console. So I check out a bunch of old civil rights documentaries that I used as source footage. I had this weird tape recorder that you could run a telephone through and record conversations, so I called the University’s pre-recorded self-help line and recorded a bit called Methods of Relaxation. I used the audio as my main audio track and then contrasted that with horrible images from the civil rights movement. At the station we could apply for a show slot so I proposed a show that used all found footage. That sort of lead me down the rabbit hole of culture jamming.
4. Why did you decide to display your work online for free rather than trying to sell distribution through dvds and such?
There are too many legal complications with selling work that uses copyright material even if it is Fair Use. The thing with Fair Use is most people can’t afford the legal fees for defense. I figured the moment I put a price on something red flags would start to go up. Culture jamming isn’t about money anyway. Your jamming a culture built around selling shit to the masses so why would you do the same. There are a lot of artists who charge an arm and a leg for screenings or hundreds of dollars for a single dvd. They don’t want people to see their work online because it wasn’t made to be played online. That’s understandable but I’d rather people have access to my work. I still send DVDs to random public access tv stations for stoned people to watch at 3am. It’s been two years since I entered any film festivals. Publishing online allows me to release new work instantly, to more people, for less money. There are drawbacks
5. Do you ever get complaints from people about your more controversial videos? Does it bother you?
Most complaints are from political videos and it’s more of a response to politics than the video itself. People bitched about my Glenn Beck Beats video because they thought I was some liberal, Keith Obermann loving socialist. So it’s mostly people so wrapped up in their own views that can’t step back and look at how absurd everything is. People say a lot of stupid things on the internet, as you may have noticed, so I don’t let anything bother me.
6. What do you want viewers to come away with when they watch your work?
I don’t really think about it. I make things I’m interested in, that entertain me or evoke an emotional response. I heard someone once refer to work that creates space between the viewer and the film. Space allows the viewer room to bring their own thoughts into. This kind of work also lends itself to multiple viewings/readings. Not everything I do fits this, but for the most part I want to create work that people can meditate in, not beat them over the head with my point of view.
7. What are your other hobbies/passions/jobs?
Boring postcards and circuit-bending. I like listening to the radio. Cheap beer. Old country music. Dive bars.
8. Do you have an artistic philosophy that you live by? or does it change from project to project?
I don’t really have a philosophy. Wreck & Salvage has always been about practice informing philosophy. I’ve always tried to change things up from project to project. Play. Go where it feels good. One block at a time.
9. Do you consider yourself an “experimental” or “avant garde” filmmaker? or do you not think of yourself that way? If so, what traits in your work, your intentions, or your beliefs make you consider yourself among that crowd?
I wanted to be an experimental filmmaker when I was in school and romanticized about being an avant-garde filmmaker in New York in the 60’s. I made a lot of work that would fit in that category. After a while you realize it’s a little closed group of people. This realization came to a point when I lived in Iowa and was watching a guy sculpting a tree with a chainsaw. I looked around and realized he had a bigger audience than most I had seen at my screenings at film festivals. Who the fuck is Stan Brakhage compared to Charlie Chainsaw? A lot of experimental filmmakers take their work too seriously or can talk about what their film means better than they communicate the meaning visually. Another realization I had was I will die and this work is going to die with me. It’s all a drop in the bucket so why bother pretending it’s important. It’s only important because making things keeps you sane while you are alive. It’s very freeing as an artist to think this way. I feel better finding a comfortable layer of fat between the art film experimental world, pop culture, and everyday life. Making a video using the Rick Roll meme and mixing it with something that sounds like a Steve Reich composition, or Philip Glass and animated gifs, or Kenny G and monster truck rallies, bringing experimental techniques and approaches to unconventional territory.
10. What are you currently working on?
A 30-second commercial remix that I’m making on a bet with the other Wreck & Salvage guys, losers have to put in a full day of hard labor for the winner. I’ve got a couple of new videos to catalogue for Hard Stars. I’ve got a blog called TV Courts that I just started. I’ve got to make a few more animated postcards and a new Suppendapo animation. I’ve also got an attic full of 16mm films I need to transfer and do something with.