This Place in a Space

Cinematic storytelling is my key to the interpretation of reality, my looking glass into the world. I began working in film as a cinematographer, using light, composition, and motion to express, animate, and give substance to the fictional world created by the writers and directors I collaborated with. For several years I worked in a variety of roles on several interactive narrative and documentary projects using a mix of text, photography, sound, and video to tell interactive stories. In recent years my work has taken a turn, directing documentary films about people and their creative work.

I believe cinema can be a vehicle for revealing personality, and I choose my subjects for the creative and generous sparks within them. I see the interview (in its many forms and variations) as a way to bear witness to a life lived or a life unfolding. This perspective is reflected in both the content and form of my work. My interest in documentary is aptly described by the Setswana proverb, “Motho ke motho ka batho” (a person is a person through others). In Remembering John Marshall (2006, in collaboration with Alice Apley) I recall the life and work of a filmmaker, anthropologist, and activist through the words of close friends and collaborators. One of Marshall’s students recalls a moment when Marshall took him aside, grabbed him by the arm, and said, “You want to come away from a film feeling like you’ve met someone.” In Smile Boston Project (2007) I follow Bren Bataclan, an emerging artist who finds that his devotion to the community and to his work is proportionally rewarded by commissions, shows, and sales.

My MFA thesis installation, This Place in a Space, takes me in a new direction, exploring the complexity of documenting ephemeral, site-specific art. The project began with the raw material of documenting (with video, sound, writing, and photographs) the 2010 Bumpkin Island Art Encampment. Following the encampment I gathered reflective audio interviews with the artists and curators. Through a series of experiments with the materials, the vision for an installation emerged. My choice to create an installation is a response to my disillusionment with making screen-based interactive narrative and documentary works. My process has led me through an exploration of ways of documenting place by shaping the contours of the gallery space, creating new insides and outsides as visitors move through the space. In previous documentary work I was an observer, however, with This Place in a Space I take on the role of participant, leading to a new form of embodiment layered through participant reflections on the experience, the site-specific art works, and the homesteading experience, embodying a place (Bumpkin Island), and responding to it and creating new layers of meaning for gallery visitors to discover. The work is described further in my thesis, “Boundary Crossings { object | exhibition | installation }.”

This Place in a Space was installed in the MFA Thesis II show that took place in the Sandra and David Bakalar Gallery at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, April 30 through May 8, 2011. Jan Kubasiewicz was my thesis studio advisor. Gunta Kaza and Joe Quackenbush were my thesis writing advisors. The installation was refined in Danielle Sauvé’s Installation: Reflective Space class at MassArt. Special thanks to Kathryn Fuss for editing assistance, the artists and curators of the 2010 Bumpkin Island Art Encampment for their participation, and F. Joe Pompei of Holosonics for the loan of two Audio Spotlights.

Images from prototype of This Place in a Space, January, 2011.