Over the course of the past few days, I made a video contribution to A Tale of Two Cities: Portland and Seattle, an exquisite corpse experimental film organized by Seattle artist Salise Hughes. I had to begin my video with a shot that included a coffee cup, and end it with a construction crane. Fortunately for me, in Portland right now there are many areas where the two objects appear in the urban landscape almost simultaneously. Where there are construction cranes creating new luxury condos, there are invariably new coffee shops nearby, serving $3 cups of drip coffee to prospective residents.
I did not have to travel far to make this video. I walked a few blocks down the street from my studio to the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd & NE Couch Avenue where "The Fair-Haired Dumbell" is being erected, an office building that "sits squarely in the center of the action, and doesn't shy away from attention." When I first noticed this construction a year or so ago, I was immediately irritated - I had thought this little patch of land was a scraggly, ignored, tiny public park. There is a bus stop there and it was a small, open green space that afforded motorists and pedestrians a clear view of the west side over the Burnside Bridge. It was also a hotspot for protestors - this major crossroad of the city was a common site for small groups of people to gather with signs and stand for the day, reaching thousands of people with their message. I asked a friend who works for City Parks about this little spot of land and it turns out it had always been privately owned.
Overall this was an interesting experience for me to make this video quickly. I regularly assign video art students at Portland State to make videos in public space - just last term I assigned them to make a video about one block of Burnside Street, which I was basically doing with this piece. It's not easy to be alone in public with a camera, sensitively composing shots and paying attention to sounds, while ignoring stares from construction workers and acting like I don't realize horn-honking is directed at me. I went back several times to this area however, shooting first with my little Flip camera to get a sense of what I wanted, returning later and shooting more efficiently with my HD camera. It felt good to be back in that uncomfortable space, wondering why I feel like I don't have the right to document activities in public, or make art about shared, common, public spaces. It is important to continue to push against those social norms and make works that contribute to the visual record of this region. My agenda, unlike other image-producers for this spot of land, is not to maximize profits but to process experience critically.
Punch (2002, Canada) starring Melissa McGeachie as Julie
The final version of the video contains clips from 35 films and clocks in at 38 minutes and 44 seconds. I created four new Flattened Videos for a total of eight pieces hanging on the walls of the gallery. I also produced a small publication, using text and images from the Instagram posts I'd been making about the development of the project over the past several months.
Flattened Video detail. From Julie Johson starring Lily Taylor & Courtney Love.
Special Agent (1935, USA) starring Bette Davis as Julie
First 100 Days: United in Resistance
It's official: we in the United States have a terrible new rapist/racist president, filling cabinet positions with goons and villains and worse. More people than ever feel their lives are under threat, because they are. Since November I've been organizing with several of Portland's most committed and most fun artists/activists. We're ambitious in our efforts to bring together political education, skill sharing, community building, and creative response: take a gander at Educate + Agitate, our January 14/15 weekend of events at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. Stay tuned to our website and FB to keep up with our activities.
Next event: January 28: Organize (Pacific Northwest College of Art)
They have a name for girls like me.
on view as a 45-minute loop: Fri. Jan. 27 & Sat. Jan. 28 / 11am-6pm
Artist Talk: Sat. Jan. 28 / 12:15pm / screenings of complete video at 11:15am & 1:15pm
929 NW Flanders Street
Three dozen films, all of them featuring main characters named Julie, from around the world and throughout film history. All chopped up so that only utterances of the word "Julie" remain. I have been working on this project since 2006, adding about one per year. I just did a big push to add many more films to the project. A new short publication about the project (free) + 2D printed works (not free) will also be available.
On Wednesday I quickly wrote up this list of community groups so my students at Portland State could find hope and places to channel their energy. I decided to share the list more widely. Add to it. Spread the word. - JP
FREEDOM FIGHTERS: Leftist / Socialist / Feminist / Anarchist / Environmental / POC-led / Anti-Racist / Police Accountability / Queer / Labor / Anti-Capitalist GROUPS in PORTLAND
Most of these groups have Facebook or other social media accounts too - those sites may be more current.
Get involved! Suicide prevention lines at trans/queer centers are ringing off the hook, instances of hate speech and crimes are spiking, harassment of people of color, muslims, women, people with disabilities, queer folks is already on the rise. Learn from and work with these groups that have already on the ground doing the hard work of supporting marginalized communities and building a stronger more liberated future for all people and the planet. Find one or more you connect with and stay connected. Or start your own group.
I made a short video out of The Real DNC broadcast material. It screened a couple of times:
curated by Claartje van Dijk, International Center of Photography
October 7-29, 2016
reception: Fri. Oct. 7, 6pm-8pm
Newspace Center for Photography
"The Five Art Galleries We're Most Excited to See at First Thursday"
by Jennifer Rabin, Willamette Week, October 5, 2016
"5 Things to Do in Portland this Weekend"
by Dillon Piloget, The Oregonian, October 6, 2016
It’s been a magical month! Let’s start with the weeklong Signal Culture residency in the small village of Owego, NY. I showed up on Thursday, July 21 with few expectations, just a general idea that I would play with the analog and digital video imaging tools available at this special center for experimentation with signal processing. I had no idea my exploration would take me down such unexpected, thrilling paths. I have long been curious about these mysterious analog video processing devices that had been available at the Experimental Television Center prior to the close of its residency program in 2011. Jason and Debora Bernagozzi started the Signal Culture residency in 2014, carrying the signal processing torch.
It is important to note that I arrived in the thick of the 2016 Republican and Democratic National Conventions - Trump gave his speech the night I arrived in Owego and as I write this, Clinton is gearing up for her big speech tonight. I do not generally follow these spectacles that accompany electoral politics, I am much more invested in following actual grassroots movements for social and environmental justice. However, this year’s circus that is the presidential election has been just too fascinating to miss.
When Hank Rudolph showed me how to use the analog tools on Friday, such as the wobbulator (developed by Nam June Paik & Shuya Abe ) and the David Jones colorizer, my first impulse was to pull up Trump’s speech from the previous night as material to manipulate. As much as the speech was sickening, it was also something I felt comfortable messing with. I was excited to destroy it. Also, it was still on my mind from the night before - it contains so many creepy lines.
During those first few days with the equipment, I became compelled by several aspects of the Signal Culture studio: the constant streaming of images on multiple channels simultaneously, the realtime manipulations that are possible with the digital and analog tools, and the idea that the video signal itself is a material. This last idea, about the materiality of video, made a profound impact on me. The signal is voltage, it’s electricity, and we can manipulate it. For more than twenty years I’ve been working with video and manipulating signals, but I had never become intimately acquainted with this fundamental fact, I’d never seen the raw signal on the screen, the wave form vibrating on a monitor.
By the time Signal Culture’s Debora and Jason took me to visit David Jones’ studio on Saturday night, where he showed off his latest signal processing system, my mind was completely blown.
On Sunday, an idea occurred to me: What if we rigged the studio to use the processing tools to manipulate the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week…live? I was now invested in this political spectacle. It was like bad a TV show where I had to see what happened next. Since I planned to watch it anyway, so wouldn’t it be more fun to enhance the signal with Signal Culture's psychedelic colors and processes? And then turn it around immediately to share with the world? Jason and I set up the system on Sunday night to turn tfhis idea into a reality. I set up a Ustream account and The Real DNC channel was born.
The next night, Day One of the DNC, Jason and I jammed the signal all night long, using every combination of digital and analog processor we had at our fingertips. It was a blast! Our social media feeds were blowing up. This 5-hour session was exhilarating and exhausting.
I spent the following day a bit stunned, filled with ideas for future such live broadcast processing. I was on another planet. It was just so fun do be in the moment, live with the television feed, manipulating it and playing with it and sharing it with friends in the room and around the world. I did think about the political or critical dimensions of this act. It didn’t feel as pointedly political as other media work I’ve done. Indeed, at times it felt wrong to mess with images of really powerful and moving DNC speakers - at those times, we used the processors to enhance their image or message, attempting to make them seem even more powerful or supernatural. Overall however, I felt a kind of engagement with mass media that I don’t typically feel. I felt, however slight, more like a participant than usual.
By Wednesday I had calmed down, and decided that I would go it alone for one more night of The Real DNC broadcasting. Since I do not understand the Signal Culture studio super well, I was limited to the analog tools, but I actually really loved the limitation and the solitude in the studio, it allowed me to familiarize myself more deeply with these few tools and get to know their responses better.
By the end of the night, I was making completely abstract compositions. My friend the artist Sarah Paul was cheering me on through texts and social media all night long.
Some speeches, like Tom Kaine's, seem to drag on forever, so I did some live actions in front of a camera with objects. Check it out:
Other New York updates: I did fun talks with the students and faculty (Bob, Ghen, Billy and more) at the New York State Summer School for the Media Arts, and at the New York Arts Practicum (run by Michael Mandiberg). Visited some museums: MoMA, 9/11 Museum (bizarre-o!), International Center for Photography, Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Hessel Museum of Art, and the Memorial Art Gallery. I assisted with install of Sarra Brill’s latest curatorial project, which is just lovely, at Kristen Lorello.
Thank you to the Regional Arts & Culture Council for supporting my travel to New York in July. I certainly feel the professional and artistic development. And thank you, Signal Culture, for keeping the signal processing alive!
2. Cruise around New York State giving artist talks at the New York State Summer School for the Media Arts and the New York Arts Practicum, landing at the Signal Culture artist residency for a week where I will create work for a Pure Surface event in Portland: Coming up in July.
3. Finally really finish The Gentleman Bank Robber film, work on 100 Years of Julie, which will be a finalized version of my ongoing video using films with characters named Julie, and keep up the Minute Movies: August and September, it's all you.
Thank you to the Regional Arts & Culture Council for supporting my travel to New York in July.
I had an incredible experience in Milwaukee and Iowa City last week. In Milwaukee I hung out with my old friend and one of my enduring feminist, anti-racist inspirations, Susannah Bartlow. Read about this MESSED UP RACIST THING that happened that led to her being fired from her job at Marquette Univeristy.
I did presentations in Jesse McLean's undergraduate class and Steve Wetzel's Nonfiction Poetics class at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. I had the pleasure of bumping into Carl Bogner, the force behind the Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival. Oh and I also got to tour QZAP - the Queer Zine Archive Project, which is not at the University but off-campus in a lovely climate controlled basement. Susannah and I also went to a spoken word benefit event for Mothers for Justice United, which is a group of mothers whose children have been taken from them by police and racist vigilante violence.
Anna Swanson, an MFA student at the Univeristy of Iowa at Iowa City, had instigated this entire Midwest Mini-Tour by inviting me out to her school and community to do a series of presentations. Anna is certainly one to watch! She makes exciting participatory documentary projects that experiment with form and emphasize relationship-building. At the University, I did a presentation in Anna's documentary class and did critiques with MFA students. I also gave the "Getting in the Way: How Artists & Activists Can Work Together" workshop that I usually do with Amy Harwood, this time solo, at the Center for Worker Justice. I did a screening of three short works, plus Arresting Power at Public Space One as part of the Headroom Screening Series. Anna had organized an interesting post-screening discussion with a Dr. Jessica Welburn and LaTasha DeLoach. Also, I got to spend a lot of time with Iowa City filmmakers Mike Gibisser and Jason Livingston, and artist Hannah Givler, which was among my favorite parts of the trip. I also happened to be in town when Process Reversal was doing a workshop at the University, preparing people for the apocolypse by teaching them how to make their own emulsion and paint it onto 16mm film. So much good energy in Iowa City!
The Iowa City weekly paper, Little Village, wrote about my activities in their February 25, 2016 article, "Activist filmmaker Julie Perini presents workshop on Thursday and films on Friday."