Over on art21 I have an interview with Caroline Picard of The Green Lantern. During the interview Caroline sent me her latest video, Regarding the Death of One Barry Maguire, or Wherefrom Joseph Beuys. Below is the an excerpt from the video and a brief Q&A.
The latest video you have been working on, Regarding the Death of One Barry Maguire, or Wherefrom Joseph Beuys, is a narrated story of the two men. Could you talk about how the story came about? Did it initially begin as a short story and move into a video?
Yes, it did begin as a short story. It’s a story that seems to keep getting longer and longer. It began as an essay. I was interested in thinking about what I started calling ” the suburban shaman” in America. Basically I started noticing hipsters with dream-catcher t-shirts and feather earrings, and rope head bands and deer heads, moccasins. I started thinking about how it seemed like an extension of the already ironic surface-self, while also being an attempt, perhaps, to overcome irony. I started thinking about the “American Primitivism” approach to visual work–something I’d also started noticing around town, though the phrase isn’t mine. And then too with bands like Animal Collective and MGMT–there seemed to be this interest in the feral, tribal child. Appropriating a wildness via icons of spirituality seemed like a potentially authentic gesture that nevertheless collapsed at the same time. So the essay was going to connect this new trend with Beuys’ shamanic art practice. And then the essay became a story and then it developed other parts. It became a story about a patriarchal lineage. And about myth and our relationship to history. It begins with Bueys as a boy hunting a stag. He flies his bomber and crashes and I look at the story about the Tartars (which of course, he made up). Then I look at him as an artist, and his relationship to the bombed out city. At the beginning of the second part, you discover that Beuys did not get all of his spirit back after the plane crash and in fact a piece of his spirit entered a coyote. Then the coyote becomes a wherecoyote and bites a hippy. The hippy (Craig Maguire) discovers this while tripping. Craig Maguire has a son (Barry Maguire) and Barry Maguire goes to an artist residency where, by playing with a Ouija Board they meet the ghost of Joseph Beuys who has come to take the missing piece of his spirit back. There are other parts to the story as well, it’s starting to flesh out into more of a proper-novel, but it has been a really awesome opportunity for me to do research into different indigenous practices, to think about what it means to appropriate those practices (even if it’s just the signs of them, i.e. a dream catcher) and to, I suppose, continue exploring ways around or outside of the pulse of capitalist consumer society. Which these kids are trying to get away from by living in the woods. And of course, it’s not that simple. I liked using WWII as a beginning point because I feel like it has shaped so much of who we, as a world, are. It was also a great place to think about and compare the bombed out-city with suburbia, with the woods and a campfire. And then of course Barry Maguire falls into his own reflection and disappears.
The video is illustrated by a collage of still and moving images. It reminded me of Jaimie Baron’s essay Contemporary Documentary Film and “Archive Fever”: History, the Fragment, the Joke which frames the video spam letter + google image search = video entertainment as a contemporary archive. Do you have any thoughts about working from clips to create a whole? Although I recognized many of your sources they all blended rather well together.
Totally. I was really interested in that idea, actually. In some sense I feel like the text itself is a compilation of stories from elsewhere–Joseph Beuys, for instance, or the second patriarchal figure is based on a hippy/musicial called Craig Smith who changed his name to Maitreya Kali and got a spider tattooed on his face. A song from his band, Apache Indian plays in the background at one point. And then of course there is stuff from today. I thought using appropriated footage would reflect the way the story was compiled in one sense, while also reflecting on (hopefully) how the brain supports stories it hears with images that come from elsewhere. In other words the video is also a kind of psychological landscape of the story. We have so much access to so much material, constantly being flooded by outside imagery, I think that stuff must shape and feed our associations. While I was interested in overriding/dismissing any copyright issues, I am interested in so far as those images, once they are incoporated into one’s own imagination, seem to belong to that imaginative self. Because they provide evidence. Sometimes the visual landscape is intentionally skewed and incongruous with the visual film. The story constantly returns to this idea of the photograph–particularly the photograph that Bueys claims the Tartars took of him in front of his plane crash. Beuys used that photo as evidence that his mystical experience with the nomads was authentic. And yet it’s next to impossible that they ever took that photo. I was thinking about moving images in the same light….