VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Brunelle, Jon Keith

Jon Keith Brunelle
video & performing artist from USA


  • artist biography
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    Interview: 10 questions

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

    For years I made my living as various types of public speaker, including trade show spokesperson and professional magician, but a frustrated writer always was lurking beneath those facades.

    2. When, how and why you started your work?

    I performed as a storyteller during the ’90s, and for a while had a stage show that I now refer to as ‘fake autobiography with lots of props’. Late in 2001 I began working with projected slide images I’d pulled from vintage films, rearranging and recontextualizing them to form new stories. My first project was ‘The Hammer Variations’, a remix of the classic noir film ‘Kiss Me Deadly’.

    3. What kind of subjects have your work? How do you develop it, do you follow certain principles, styles, etc?

    I can’t consider myself a filmmaker; I’m more of performer who works with pre-existing film images. During my shows I stand next to a movie screen and, using a handheld remote, rapidly flip through projected vintage film stills while I tell my tales in live voiceover.

    The stories typically are political and cultural satire, and always suggest the flood of images and information through which we navigate daily. During longer performances, I work with video artist Daniel Vatsky, who bridges my tales with live video mixes based on the stories’ images and with whom I collaborate on pieces that involve elaborate editing and animation. We perform as The Psychasthenia Society.

    When I began developing this work, I would collect resonant images, juxtapose them, and try to develop connective narrative threads. Now it’s a more fluid process; writing and image selection occur side-by-side.

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

    My work is essentially a complex slide show executed through Microsoft PowerPoint. My video artist friends are very amused.

    7. How do you finance your work?

    My financial investment is minimal; every few years I buy a new laptop computer or some new video cables, but I’m in the privileged position of not worrying about actors’ compensation or film costs.

    9. Who or what has a lasting influence?

    Italo Calvino’s story collection ‘The Castle of Crossed Destinies’ was on my mind when I began this work. Calvino would develop a story by laying out tarot cards and creating narrative threads between the images; he’d then shuffle the cards and write a different story based on a new layout. I also draw inspiration from Geoffrey O’Brien’s ‘The Phantom Empire’, which predates the Star Wars movie of the same title. O’Brien’s book is a long, poetic, dreamlike meditation on movie imagery and how it saturates our subconscious thinking.

    10. What are your future plans or dreams?

    My shows pack small and travel light, so I’d like to begin touring. Bring me over to Europe!