Contributor: Brian Gonzalez
Creative Discipline: Film
Geographic Location: New York, New York
Passion can not be taught, however it can be honed. Being assertive and open to new experiences has helped push Brian Gonzalez’s work to a level of primal splendor. Brian is an emerging director that in his early 20’s has shown his work at Art Basel, IFC’s Media Labs, PBS, MTV-U, and was invited to screen at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival- and this was all before he left film school. Enjoy our converstion with Brian Gonzalez.
organicMobb: Why do you make work?
BG: I remember the first day of film school at SVA. Our professor started asking for us to talk about why we were there and why we made film. He said that if you don’t know why you make film then you shouldn’t be here. I think that at SVA what they were trying to get at was that you should have a purpose to your films, and that there should be some sort of meaning behind it. Right away I was on a mind set that I don’t make films because I want to, I make them because I have to. It is not something that I have chosen, and it’s not something that I looked for. It’s something that came to me. When I begin to shit out ideas and I am writing them down constantly -all the time, and when I’m listening to music and I begin to see a visual companion that accompanies it all the time, this all begins to drive me insane. It’s not something that I’m choosing to do.
Albert Camus in his essay, Créer Dangereusement or create dangerously-the first sentence is, ‘there is no peace for the artist.’ That is absolutely true, it is not something that you are choosing. This is a responsibility you are given by god. It’s as if the universe has said, ‘ we have given this to you and now damnit this is your responsibility to do something with it.’
It feels very, very burdensome a lot of the time, and it will drive you insane if you don’t get it out of you.
organicMobb: Making is a cathartic act.
BG: It is completely therapeutic. It’s a catharsis.
As you know I started doing a lot of DP(Director of Photography) work and cinematography, but there wasn’t enough that I was expressing. I wasn’t creating anything that was actually me, and in turn unable to have that genuine catharsis as a person.
I started to video-blog in 2004 before anyone was really doing it at all and consistently making video work that was very expressive and not for anyone other than myself. To be able to express all this pain that I wasn’t understanding why I was feeling. I was 16 making these kinds of videos in San Antonio, Texas.
The piece I did with Raul Bussot, It Can’t Be True- it’s about this blind woman who’s fantasizing about this guy who is outside her window. Whether he is actually there, she will never know. But really, she is just trying to understand herself- and that is really evidently me. I’m the fucking blind woman!
[It Can't Be True]
I have all these ideas of what intimacy is and the way people are connecting because I haven’t had that. When you grow up gay and in Texas, you’re everything that’s wrong with the world. So, understanding these ideas of intimacy is done for me through my work. As a person this is what I’m searching for- and it is always something that is changing because we will always be growing.
organicMobb: I feel that your work strikes a primal chord in everyone that experiences it. In Gadfly you are using a few mediums to flesh out an idea.
BG: When I moved to New York and started going to art school at SVA, I was at first just searching for a film school. It’s laughable when I think about how dead-set I was about becoming a DP and living this ideal that I created while in Texas and that was it.
Moving to New York allowed me to explore so much more and being in art school and taking these humanities classes with all these other artists that were fine artists. They would talk about Marcel Duchamp and Robert Rauschenberg. At the time I had no idea who any of these guys were and I was coming from a place in the film world where I knew my shit! And now I realize I didn’t know anything at all. So I spent so much time researching and learning about all these other artists because New York is one of the major spots in the world for art and for new art. Artists are creating things that no one has seen before, and that’s inspiring and exciting.
I wasn’t finding enough excitement in the film world. I would go to these installations or I would see a sculpture or a performance and I was moved by them instantly. I would wonder, how am I moved by this sculpture that in many ways is inert?- but I am moved immediately. A film takes several millions of dollars to make and 2.5 hours to move me the same way. I mean I can take a look at the painting, sculpture, installation or whatever and be in it for hours and I am still bathing in all of its beauty.
[Panic! At the Disco]
So the process began to be how can I integrate everything I am feeling with this into what I know, which is film. And I’ve done a few installation-type pieces in the past but I know that my foundation is film. I don’t know how to tangibly build things with my hands, I am not a very dexterous person in that sense, however I admire greatly people that do possess that ability, and I employ a lot of those people in the work that I do. I welcome their skills so that we have the ability to make something even bigger than ourselves.
organicMobb: That’s interesting that you say ‘even bigger than ourselves’. I mean now you have two people that are working in different disciplines and when you bring them together it’s not 1+1=2, but it is 1+1= exponential.
BG: I would hope so, I mean the very definition of an artist from one of my earliest mentors, Michael Verdi. He is a video blogger and a very video-savy guy, he changed my life completely. I didn’t know what experimental anything was and he completly blew my mind; breaking every rule I knew. He simply defined an artist as someone that’s always growing. This is something that I hope to continue to do, that I don’t get lazy, that I don’t get satisfied or content with what I know or accept on any level. It’s always about assimilating concepts from everybody- if I am moved by it, there is something that’s good about it. If I don’t understand it yet; even better- the mystery allows me to keep not understanding it.
Steve Reich for instance. It’s interesting how incredibly simple his pieces are. He’s implementing a concept. A concept of what is happening yet taken to these exponential levels that you get lost in and in many ways the organic nature of the human takes up so much of it. It’s something that between the musicians- between Steve, it has gotten to a much bigger place and now it is something that everyone can get lost in. If it doesn’t have that element of getting lost in it and that element of mystery it’s nothing. That moment of unpredictability is the key to all good art. If I know what’s coming next then it’s shit.
organicMobb: I suppose this can be said about anything a creative person does.
[Leopold Rabus, The Standpipe (detail)]
BG: One of my favorite painters, Leopold Rabus- there is so much happening within his paintings that you can not just look at it all at once like a Rothco. Even a Rothko, you can just fall into it. Leopold Rabus has subjects that are so intense and convoluted that your eye travels in so many places all at once- every time you look at it. So in a lot of ways the path that your eye is following is itself a story and the painting is so complex that your eye doesn’t go to the same place every time. Therefore the painting is a different story every time you look at it, yet it is composed of the same elements. On a broader level, now how can I bring this to a film? Where is this level of abstraction where I am still going on a journey with a narrative structure, but where there are still all these ingredients in between that are inviting me to go on these other tangents of story?
[Leopold Rabus, The Standpipe]
We are constantly collections of everything we have seen and perceived before. The classic film principal, Mise-en-scène, the literal translation is, ‘put in scene’. The notion that everything within a film is motivated and there for a reason. If it’s not motivated then it doesn’t belong there and should not be in your film. It’s a fundamental principal of film that a lot of people disregard, and it bothers the shit of of me. The more perspectives you can have from not only fields of art but fields of human perception and put into a single piece, the more exponential weight it carries.
organicMobb: That’s interesting- you can relate that to any discipline. At the end of the day, there is a user, whether the user is looking to see a film, enter a building, use a toothbrush or sit on a chair. There is a user in all of these creative applications.
Perhaps what it boils down to is an individual designing/ making and then the idea getting put through a selected medium and then the user reads it and interprets it. So at the end of the day it’s not about the objects or ‘things’ that we make but it is about the intention. It is what is in our mind and using the most efficient medium to get this idea out!
BG: Everyday I receive these pieces of ideas. They don’t have any structure yet. They are just these little pieces that I’m gathering all the time and I don’t know where they fit in- sometimes for years. For me music, specifically Colin Stetson, helps make sense of all these pieces.
organicMobb: And when you make sense of these pieces what is the next important step?
BG: The more that you use materials that are tangible- real and natural on some level and not so built up from CGI the more posterity it is going to have, this is important. I love Lord of The Rings for that.
Peter Jackson uses CGI but he uses it in a particular way- he composites. If you look at any of these villages within the trilogy like; Hobbiton, Minas Tirith, The Shire– they all existed in real life for a period of time. They were real, ‘bigature’ sets that were lit and had physical presence. These elements of texture and reality allow the film to be timeless. Let’s say it will have a hell of a lot more posterity than Avatar.
organicMobb: Interesting you bring up this notion of timelessness v. timefullness.
BG: I am open to CGI and compositing. However in my own work I try and create as much as I can physically. For instance in Gadfly when you see all these colors bursting from a beating heart. That is simply projection augmented with prisms. Of course this is based on simple principles of light. Nothing was animated, it was done unpredictably with my hands as I held these prisms in from of the projector- just playing with the light. This allows it to be human. Again, this is similar to Colin Stetson’s use of simple sounds with a few well-placed limits. Taking something simple and exploring.
[Colin Stetson, Awake on Foreign Shores & Judges]
organicMobb: You set up these parameters for yourself and then you play with in them. I feel that it is when you begin to bounce ideas off of these self-imposed boundaries and work like hell that real creativity emerges.
BG: I agree. If it’s not challenging then why would you do it? Even as a viewer or user. If there is nothing challenging about a particular work, then it is easily dismiss-able, and not worthy of your time.
organicMobb: I see that within your work. It challenges the viewer to emotionally understand it. It challenges the viewer to understand their own thoughts and it is engaging. Thank you Brian for this interview, and good luck with everything.
BG: Thank you.
For more of Brian Gonzalez’s work visit Taxiplasm.net