Interview with Videos Collide artist Ben Bigelow

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Los Angeles Ben Bigelow is an extraordinary image-maker and narrator. His newest piece (cowboy and old-western influenced magic) debuts for the first time ever at the Videos Collide in Real 3D Space show tonight! Doors open at 8PM, show starts very promptly at 8:30PM. Bring your loved one, bring your arch-nemesis, your parents, your cyber crush, whoever it is, you’ll all walk out of it excited for the possibility of banishing YouTube and Vimeo and watching time-based art in REAL 3D SPACE.

First off, let’s start with a survey. There’s a lot of terms floating around that describe the ballpark of your media (video / performance art). In 4 words or less, describe in your own words what it is you think you do. How much is “video” and how much is “performance”?

Intermedia performance alchemy, haha I don’t know I hate titles.  Like the alchemist, I’m interested in transmutating the properties of mediums to create new, golden hybrids.

How did you come to focus on your current medium/media? What’s motivating you?

I’m motivated both by project specific ideas and my environment. Much of my work presents an interaction and blurring of fact and fantasy, history and mythology. Often, a medium will be chosen (based on its inherent properties, time/space etc) to represent one of the narratives in the work. For example, in my Vidz Collide piece, the single channel videos are visions the cowboy dreams after his performances within the sculptural scenery on stage. The physicality of the set is the cowboys “real” world, while the transient nature of video compliments his “dreams”. However the line is being blurred: video blends into the scenery on stage and the single channel videos are sculptural models.

Your collective works all have different levels of audience interaction. What is the relationship between you and the viewer? What’s the difference between the LIVE viewer and the viewer behind the screen? What sort of role does the two you play in relation to the other? Do you think there is ever a chance that documentation will ever take over live performance? Btw, HOW important / successful do you think documentation is in bringing your performance to the audience that isn’t physically present? Okay, I realize this is definitely several questions crammed into one.

I’m looking to suck people into a world.  Sometimes audience interaction facilitates that, other times distance is more effective.  It depends on the world.  The world for this work at it’s heart is about a struggle between personal and national behaviors.  Because there are both objective/subjective perspectives, there are times when my presence is live and immediate, and other times when my presence is prerecorded and distanced.

I’m interested in performance documentation being able to stand alone as a single channel work.  For this performance, I plan on reshooting it on a sound stage and making a video that will both provide a record of the live performance and exist as something new and independent.  Last time I failed at this, it’s really hard to do right!

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Performance art was touted as being more real than other forms of art because the presence of the artist and focus of the artist’s body is actually what gives the impression of “the real”. How scared on you when you get on stage? You’re essentially “naked” in front of your audience, in front of time, and LIVE snafu’s. How does the fear aid in your performance?

Feel like I cant really answer this one till after this performance.

Where do your characters come from?

Months ago I started watching western movies because I had always hated westerns and realized I had probably missed out. (I was the kid playing humans vs. aliens, not cowboy vs. indians). I liked the cowboy (though not many of the movies). I was drawn to his existential wanderings, and how historical fact and cultural fiction combine to create the archetype. I started researching the time period: westward expansion, gold rush, boom towns…it felt familiar. I also liked the desert landscape, it’s openness and quiet violence. Like the romantics, landscape and environment are important “characters” in my work; I try and give them as much personality and narrative influence as their more human counterparts.

How closely do you think what you do is connected to technology?

Technology is important as a tool and as a subject.   I like combining antiquated processes and technologies with their more modern counterparts…something done because I’m often evaluating antiquated ideas with their modern counterparts. And I’m a nerd, I can’t help but want to appropriate/tinker with interesting technologies…however I try and stay away from fetishizing as much as possible.

What do you think about the idea of “rehashing” art?

I’m very interested in the history of art and how what I’m doing fits into it.  In this performance, the single-channel works are 3 famous history paintings brought to life.  These paintings relate to the themes in their respective performances and bring the themes into the larger POV of US history.

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And of course, what do you think about the current & future internet? Do you think it holds the fate of mankind in it’s web?

I think its all part of a larger process and less important on it’s own than we think.  That said, it is a crucial piece of the puzzle and it’s all cause-effect.  Like technologies before, the internet will eventually be gone and its wake an altered social/political/economic environment.  What I hope, is the the next paradigm shift will come when the way we interface with the internet changes. Personal computers are just fancy typewriters, eventually I hope they COLLIDE IN REAL 3D SPACE!, in ways totally unimaginable.