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breaking the relentless spool of film unrolling


Jesurun's performances of Everything That Rises Must Converge eviscerate the nervous system. The performance is a control system that lays bare the innerworkings of language and consciousness.

The innocent eye is essentially the pinhole through which one perceives. What the eye focuses on has as much to do with physical as well as mental processes occurring on both sides of it. Both sides are in a constant and sometimes hostile state of educative communication. They are positioned in a line of communication that extends itself within a chain of command struggling to find meaning in itself. The human struggle to get from the inside to the outside and bring the outside to the inside is full of detours, pitfalls and discoveries in interpretation. There is a constant search for the correct translation.

Our original mediators, language, sound, vision, smell, touch, have been compounded by the addition of other mediators in the form of cameras, imitations, reproductions, recordings. In an almost organic way these mediators reproduce themselves at an astonishing speed. As we have discovered new mediators in an effort to understand ourselves, it has made things clearer and more confusing at the same time. The sophisticated and sometimes brutal techniques in which we present and filter information in our ordinary, contemporary reality is certainly an influence on my work.

One of the main concerns in my work is the use of spoken language and its structure. The many levels and layers through which a thought struggles to become words and language constantly reinvigorate communication. Also important to me is the relationship of content to sound and rhythm and how these reflect the impulses of thought and emotion.

In a sense the use of media is one step further away from the brain than the spoken word. But in other ways it seems one step closer because we are capable of making it dissect the very language that set it into motion. It sees and remembers more than our physiology allows our sanity. We can even attempt to catch it and return to its natural internal origins. It is a reflection of the sophisticated techniques our minds use to decipher, edit, reconstruct, contrive and adapt our personal and collective realities. These techniques are primal, (automatic?). We are constantly looking for their origins.

Language and media seem natural partners and enemies. My interest is in their co-existence, their frictions and the humans caught in between. The background of my relationship with media began long before I incorporated it into my theater work. I spent three years as a "television content analyst" at CBS which consisted of watching four hours of prime time network television a day. Gleaning from it information on violence and social attitudes for larger studies on the effects of mass communication conducted by the Social Research department of CBS.

From there I went to the other side of the tube as the assistant to the producer of the Dick Cavett show then broadcast by PBS. The Cavett Show consisted of taped half hour interviews, generally one on one with the host. The work at CBS exposed me to perhaps the most crass elements of media use. The Cavett show deeply involved me with the other side of the spectrum. It was a language based program, which, although containing its fair share of manipulations, was quite pure in its direct, unedited style, motives, and the broadcast of personalities and information.

My involvement in this work influenced my work greatly in terms of my attitude toward media and the ways I was to use it later in my theater/media productions. At CBS I realized that much of broadcast television is not only a creation of the network producers but a reflection of and a collaboration with the society it "served." I came away with the thought that although these shows service the audience, the media itself, in its largest and most anonymous form, was itself serviced by the audience. It was watching us.

The minute we turn on our set we are connected to, influenced and disciplined by a large system. The Cavett show introduced me to a kind of television that is basic in its vision and intent, almost pure video. Of course it's content could be altered and structured but the show itself was about content. Content based on language and faces with a very limited amount of camera angles and techniques. Within that limitation I saw an endless stream of content available to the audience.

From this I became aware of the power of the words themselves over image. The words and conversations were infinite in their variety. It was a construction made of electricity, cameras, light and faces. The conversations could be as complicated as the prime time shows were in their constantly moving, shifting, visual and aural techniques. Both of these uses of media collided in my work.

As a filmmaker I began to wish for a way of breaking the relentless inevitability of a spool of film/video unrolling. I began my first pieces as attempts to make films without filming them. To take everything one could put through the lens of a camera and present it live. The audience would be the camera and film. An innocent eye freed from the eyepiece of the camera. It was an architecture of all the elements needed for a film. Script, actors, film techniques (jump cuts, fragmentation of time, bird's eye views, etc.) became the structure of the pieces.

I moved into creating fully integrated theater pieces containing simultaneously synchronized interacting pieces of film and live performance. What held these elements together was the language. Verbal and visual interaction between screen and performers became as natural in my pieces as interaction between live performers. The video/film could not be separated from the live content. It became a very complicated sandwich. Live and prerecorded work could constantly connect each other. Over all there was an underlying and constant tension between them. An uneasy truce that always seemed on the verge of breaking down.

Every performance skirted the edge of chaos because the timing and speed of the language shared by live and recorded actors was so tightly knit. There was no way in or out after the piece began. It became a friction between naturally expanding live performing actors and strictly edited pieces of video/film. The language was so freely interspersed between the live and the recorded that the audience had to decide what and when to look.

In general, theater audiences found this an unwelcome intrusion. Any sense of reality created in the theater was constantly called into question. (A feeling I always have when I watch television.) The content of the pieces at times became directly related to the actual struggle of the actors as they worked to maintain a common ground with their own mediated images. This also brought the use of actors into question. Are they mediated images? How much are they programmed in any theater piece? Are they prisoners of the order of the words they have memorized? How much freedom to do they have within these constraints? In a film do the rules allow them to be edited visually/verbally? and if this is allowed in film is it also allowed in theater? .The terror of living in a sandwich for an hour and a half surrounded by the seemingly passive/aggressive presence of the video/film talking image was transferred to the audience.

A recorded image has been scrutinized and recorded by a camera as well as by a single human eye and then again by the audiences’ eyes. The recorded human image also has the quality of scrutinizing the audience itself. It takes in the scene through seemingly dead eyes and through a face that appears to speak and think. These human images in particular open up vast territories for actors in the minute movements of facial and body movements and vocal fluctuations. These are generally not perceived on stage but on screen. It becomes a combination of stage and film acting. The acting becomes more intimate. One sees an actor inhabiting a larger theatrical space and at the same time speaking within a very small area. Face to face as it were with the audience.

I also began using live cameras in several different positions to reveal and conceal the live action from all participants, audience included. The presence of live recording cameras transmitting simultaneously allow for more spontaneous and intimate activities rather than inhibiting them. Certainly physical space may be constricted but within that small space opens up a newer world of expression.

As a microscope peers into small areas of reality only to find larger and larger universes within smaller and smaller fragments. Actors begin to do things they have never done before particularly with facial movements. The concentration becomes very precise. When restrictions seem their harshest I find that actors always find a way of creating variations if ever so minute. For the actors, I realize that within what appears to be the pressure is a tremendous amount of creativity, calm and freedom. These are extremely perceptive creations to break an imposed pattern This breaking of the pattern always has some effect on the rest of the structure and so it shifts and changes and in doing so new paths are discovered. Camera angles, live editing, focuses shift to accommodate imagination

For me, the urge to use media comes from an area found deep in a pre-language state. I also find that my tendency towards words comes from this same area. In all, it is a process which begins somewhere before writing, continues through writing and ends as something which is neither film, video, literature or theater because it has elements of all these languages.

Do these languages begin separately? Or do they begin as one and then separate to continue their life outside the brain? For me, the main concern is to get them back together. I find that despite obvious frictions, (what works on the inside doesn't always work on the outside) an almost musical relationship between voice,words and media allows these elements to be attracted, reunited, reorganized in their performance.