During our Art Ready visit, mentors Eve Sussman (aka Rufus Corporation) and Simon Lee exposed students to a very different type of way to approach photography and film than what we had seen in previous weeks. In an age where just about everyone can snap digital photos and videos on a hand-held device, Simon and Eve demonstrated the merits of using much older technology–clunky, outdated projectors, Super 8 analog film, hand-built cameras, traditional theatrical performance, etc–to make some very innovative artwork.
Eve and Simon, a married couple but with two separate artistic practices, choose to mentor as a team because of their different schedules that may take one of them out of the country for weeks at a time for an art project or residency. Each occupies a live-work studio on a different floor of a converted loft building overlooking the east River from the industrial Kent Avenue in Williamsburg. These studio spaces themselves are inspiring, with their high ceilings, copious amounts of film props and equipment, and panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline.
The visit was divided into equal-length presentations of the two artists’ work, followed by a Q&A in Eve’s screening room. When we first arrived, Simon showed us some of his recent films, for which he has been collecting old home videos from junk shops, and editing select parts of these analog films on his computer to turn them into something entirely new. He also showed Road to Bath, a series taken from moving trains, in which “the train becomes an extension of the camera,” according to Simon.
Eve began her presentation by discussing how video can also be a type of “installation” work–she showed a piece that she had installed to fit within a particular site, where the audience became “part of the artwork” through being recorded by a live surveillance camera. For other videos, Eve took her inspiration from art history, recreating entire sets and performances based on the famous painting The Maids of Honor by artist Diego Velazquez, and the Rape of the Sabine Women, an event portrayed in many Roman history paintings. The Art Ready group discussed what it takes to create such intricate films, including costume and set design, and rehearsals (“Fortunately, we already have a big community of actor and musician friends, but sometimes we do traditional casting calls and postings” Eve explained, when asked how she finds her actors.)
One student asked whether Eve and Simon work for any commercial film studios, or show their work in popular theaters or film festivals. Simon explained, “We make art films, which show in the art world. We don’t work on other people’s films. We are our own directors and producers.”
As mentors, Eve and Simon plan to teach students different ways of making photos and films and basically “play with the different equipment in the studio.” Students can potentially make their own movies or series of photos. Eve and Simon’s mentees should also expect to go on a lot of field trips and create a diary of what they see.
Many students appreciated being exposed to a new approach to film making. Said one student:
“It was very interesting and inspiring to see and hear how and why they make their films. The fact that Simon works with super 8 film was wicked cool!”