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On Wednesday, October 9, YI Artists met Julia Heyward, our artist in residence for the semester. Heyward is a multimedia artist who works mostly in film and video. Her many projects and accomplishments include creating a music video for the Talking Heads!
Heyward showed us two different videos that dealt with the concept of self-portraiture. The first one was Tarnation (2003), a film directed by Jonathan Caouette. This documentary about Caouette’s life comprised various home videos and old photographs, edited together on his Mac. In this movie we saw how visual and sound effects can affect the feel of a film. Pictures of Caouette’s family members were shown at varying speeds and music was played in the background with occasional crashes and booms. All of this was happening while the narrative recounted a young boy’s traumatic life growing up, which gave viewers an eerie sense of voyeurism.
The second film was This Side of Paradise (1999), created by Jonas Mekas. Cinematography filled with light leaks, overexposures, shakiness, vibrant colors, and more covered the summers that the Kennedys spent in Montauk, Long Island. Happy scenes were played over experimental jazz, which gave viewers a sense of chaos that lay behind the smiling faces of Jackie Kennedy and her family. In this respect, This Side of Paradise was very similar to Tarnation. Both films taught us that life is not always as blissful as it seems in the images.
After we discussed the films as a group, Heyward showed a project that she has been working on. It was an interactive film, depicting her life through the perspective of her mother, an alien, and Jesus Christ. The film was filled with clickable images and loops played over music and collected sounds. It was intriguing to see how one artist can interpret the events of her life in so many different ways.
Personally, I think that trying to capture one’s own life in any kind of medium is one of the most difficult things to do. Not only is it hard to show other people the most secretive bits and pieces of our own existence, but it’s hard to try to even uncover them for ourselves. I think that other people in the group felt similarly. After showing us her project, Heyward challenged us to go home and create a self-portrait video for ourselves during the week. Though it obviously would not be as in depth as the video portraits created by Jonathan Caouette, Jonas Mekas, and Heyward herself, the project will challenge us to try to capture the essence of who we are in a 5-7 minute clip.
By Helen, Youth Insights Artist