VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Biermann, Gregg

Gregg Biermann
US videomaker


Iterations, 2014, 5:37
@ artvideoKOELN – audiovisual experiences 01

Interview: 10 questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background:

I’m an artist with a quarter century involvement with avant-garde/experimental/underground cinema and video art.

2. When, how and why started you filming?

I started filmmaking in 1988 after really just stumbling into it in college. I liked to draw and liked photography and Ken Jacobs and Larry Gottheim showed me that cinema could be a visual art far off from big budget movies.

3. What kinds of topics have your films?

Many of my films are computational transformations of Hollywood cinema like Iterations (2014), they make generative art from iconic moments in the movies. My Material Excess (2003) is a feature length animated version of the Dante’s Divine Comedy but addressing contemporary consumer culture. New Jersey Gradual (2008) scans the Garden State Plaza mall parking lot and garage in Paramus. My more recent mini-feature The Age of Animals (2014) deals with the topic of global warming driven by human activity and the role of climate in past mass extinction events.

4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?

I work with appropriated images and sounds often but I am not really capriciously collaging with this work, rather I set something systematic into motion and then the work very much propels itself. I have always been fascinated by art is about its own structure. I like the feeling of moving through a larger architecture in time; the feeling that some sort of overarching design or organizing intelligence that we don’t quite grasp is responsible for the progression events that we experience. This even if (especially if) they feel strange at the moment we are experiencing them. I do think that it is possible to become aware of the structure of these works through multiple viewings and perhaps a good deal of concentration but I don’t think it is necessary to have a good experience of them.

5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.

I build my own workstations from stock parts although I use commercially available software. Since I am looking to make work that would have been very difficult or impossible to do in earlier periods I do keep up to date with developments in hardware and software.

6. These days digital technology is dominating also video as a medium. In which way the digital aspect is entering the creation of your videos, technologically and/or conceptually?

Technology suggests where the arts should go. For me it suggests rigorous compositional strategies that embrace the digital propensity to copy and mutate in order to arrive at surprising results. So for example, Iterations is part of a series of short conceptual video works that use the computational capacity of computers to create complex global schemes as re-structuring strategies in the manipulation of iconic moments in classic Hollywood films. In Iterations a scene from Hitchcock’s Rear Window is split into 19 vertical columns. Each column is moving at a different speed. The central column is moving at the original film’s speed but columns to the left of that move at progressively faster rates and the right of center bars move progressively slower. At the temporally central point all visual and audio elements coalesce in a single frame. The result uncovers new cinema that is buried within the familiar sequence.

7. How do you finance your films?

I finance them by teaching courses in film history, theory and criticism. I teach primarily at Bergen Community College in New Jersey but also at NYU Tisch School of the Arts in New York.

8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team?
Most of the time as an individual but I have collaborated with musicians and writers on occasion.

if you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

It depends, of course, on the collaborators. It is hard to find a good match so I end up working alone although I think of technology as my collaborator.

9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?

The contemporary media arts landscape is alive and well. My inspiring contemporaries are: Stephanie Barber, Mark Street, Stacey Steers, Jennifer Reeves, MM Serra, Katherin McIniss, Bruce McClure, Robert Flowers, Brian Frye, Ariana Gerstein, Monteith McCollum, Lynne Sachs and many others…

10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
How does a series of flat panels going up the spiral of the Guggenheim sound?

Can works of yours viewed online besides on the CologneOFF/artvideoKOELN platform? Where?

Yes. On Fandor and MUBI.