As part of our editorial project “In the Gallery | May 25 – June,” we had the chance to speak with self-taught animated filmmaker Brent Green about his current exhibition on view at Paddle8 member Andrew Edlin Gallery until June 23. Read below to learn about an exciting residency Green recently finished, how he imagines his work within an “American Gothic” sensibility and how new technologies can extend American folk art traditions.
Paddle8: I know that your work currently on view at Andrew Edlin was completed while in residence at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) in conjunction with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – can you speak about your experience during this unique residency, and how it specifically informed or expanded the scope of your work?
Brent Green: About the most exciting thing in the world is being surrounded by people who push each other and elevate the game all around. Those EMPAC folks are brilliant. I was hanging out backstage before doing a live show at EMPAC, ranting about this thing I wanted to build – rudimentary 3D animation – all bed sheets and projectors and Pepper’s Ghost trickery. Ranting and yelling and getting ready for my show.
The lights went down. The show was good. People clapped at the end and everything. A few weeks later, Kathleen Forde called me and said, “We want to make that thing with you – that thing you were yelling about before your show.”
“Awesome. I’m in. What thing?”
She described it to me and it sounded cool. This piece (To Many Men Strange Fates Are Given) wouldn’t exist at all if it weren’t for EMPAC. Eric Ameres (an engineer at EMPAC) was responsible for the LCD magic in the sculpture. He and Ryan Jenkins worked with me on every stage of the project.
P8: Your work has been labeled as having an “American Gothic” sensibility attributed largely to your Appalachian upbringing – can you speak to the accuracy of this description and how you imagine the ways in which your upbringing informs the work you make today?
BG: Growing up on a farm definitely had a massive impact on me. There’s the work ethic. I have a fine work ethic. Mostly, you can’t waste people’s time. There’s no point in making something if it doesn’t have some kind of epiphany or truth in it. All my friends out here are landscapers and carpenters. They have kids and have to replace their well when there’s a flood and cow shit poisons the water. Man, if they came over and I showed them a series of concentric circles they would hate me. I wouldn’t have any friends.
I love Faulkner, O’Connor and Thomas Wolfe. I don’t know what they’d think of me. Faulkner seemed generous in his old age. Cantankerous and generous. A good combo. If I’m doing it right, maybe I can be labeled American Gothic. Characters and situations as microcosms of societal issues. I hope so. You’ve walked around Chelsea, right? Everyone thinks they’re doing it right and nearly all of us are mistaken. I’m not going to take my chances on guessing accuracy.
P8: Much of work has also been viewed in the context of an American Folk aesthetic, yet you often use new or technologically advanced mediums in conjunction with older traditions such as wood carving – do you view your work as contemporary extension of American Folk, or is that a misleading way of understanding your work?
BG: Viewing my stuff as a descendant of American Folk is cool. All American young folks have access to computers of some kind, now. It makes sense tech-things would see their way into folk art.
P8: With To Many Men Strange Fates are Given in particular, but in other works as well, there seems to be an inherent concern with vision, and how sculptural elements can alter or enhance the visual scape in relation to your animations. I’m thinking specifically how in To Many Men the video is invisible without a direct engagement with the polarized lenses that are part of the sculptural apparatus – can you speak about the role that visibility/invisibility plays in your work, and in what ways you imagine sculpture and video informing and enhancing each other?
BG: Sure. In Strange Fates, when we decided to use the polarizer trick- to make the film invisible except from certain angles- it was exciting to me, in terms of what the story would become (I had originally written something completely different, about JFK, for this thing). There was a realization that we truly are surrounded by ALL the information. Literally- every answer, every cure- is floating around us somehow. We just need to mix it right. We need to charge it properly. As we are, we’re not equipped to see all that information. I mean, Einstein and Tesla were getting it beamed to them from some other place. But the rest of us have our vision blocked.
I need things out of the ordinary to trigger a different angle of viewing to connect ideas in my head.
Stay tuned for more exclusive content from galleries participating in “In the Gallery | May 25 – June 2” and be sure to check out our Tumblr for more images pulled directly from this exciting project!