VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Kowner, Elyasaf

Elyasaf Kowner
is a media artist based in Tel-Aviv (Israel)

  • artist biography
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    Interview: 10 questions

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

    I grew up in Haifa – a city that mixes mountain and sea, buildings and nature and the wadi reserve was a refuge with its vast green plantation and feeling of freedom. There’s nothing more amazing than the smell of sage that grows in the wild ! At the same time, the city had its urban side with those exotic characters and opportunities. So, today I’m infatuated with the way urban environments interact with natural internal rhythms. Can’t stand urban clichés. I retain great love for city centers. Those which I still haven’t seen those I have lived in – Haifa, New York, Oxford, Tel Aviv, The Hague, Jerusalem. I love wandering as pedestrian and riding around on my bike.

    2. When, how and why started you filming ?

    For many years, I was painting and making stenciled graffiti. Back then, I used photography for documenting the graffiti work or as reference for paintings. Then, in 1997, when spending student exchange in The Hague, I shot loads of photos and developed them myself in the academy’s lab. It was during a course with a teacher named Brandy that I made the book ‘Moments in Growth’ which contained the combination of photos and texts. I documented one day of a spiritual journey. An authentic experience. A revelation that was captured through artwork. Four originals were printed manually, and the book was not released until now. Yet, it was already like doing video, maybe better ! 
Around that time I visited an exhibition by Gabriel Orozco, ‘Recordings & Drawings’ in the Stedelijk Museum and after watching his videos I was inspired to lend a camera and shoot my first video. It was later exhibited in the academy and was called ‘Measuring the Distance on a First Winter’s Day’.

    3.What kind of subjects have your films?

    My films are usually about the human aspect. I try to document moments that connect to the sublime but are visible and which can communicate. There are also the issues of nature, abuse, loss, control and love for people. I’m interested in unique forms of expression. Usually curious to meet new interesting people as well as to stay attuned to the old ones. People are so… surprising, special, unique.

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

    It’s not like there’s a continuous method I work in. That is what I reject the most. I try to keep my head open and to stay on the move on a regular basis. For example, I have recently shot seven thousand stills. Where will they go ? I don’t know! But eventually it would make sense.
    In a similar way, I have shot thousands of video scenes and a few of them later became ‘works’. And, yes, there’s also another approach – that of planning or working on a specific subject – This, sometimes turns out as productive and useful.

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

    I have made films/videos with an old video 8 camera (lent from sweet ex-girl friend, Maya) and had no editing equipment and therefor couldn’t use any editing cuts. It was kind of an excuse to simply present scenes as they were shot and it forced me to be attentive and disciplined while shooting. Later on, I obtained editing equipment and it made things look nicer but it also made life more complicated. I guess, having more options doesn’t always mean ‘more meaning’.

    6. What are the chances of new media for the genre film/video in general and you personally?

    It seems like the chances are endless but at the same time – it’s what we’re going to do with it that can make a difference. I hope people can use media to bridge between cultures and points of view but at the same time – respect and stay tuned to the other – both for who he or she are and to their special place in the world.
I have a feeling that so much of popular culture is missing the point due to the simplifications of consuming society. There is more to life than money and the day to day needs. In my opinion, it is the role of the artist to offer new ways of looking at the world – and most important – to stay FRESH. Though everything must die eventualy, good art can last much longer and reach new levels of connecting to the sublime.

    7. How do you finance your films?

    Most of my film/video work was made without any financial support. There have been rare events in which some financial support was given. I try to use my own equipment and I often find beauty in moments as they are – I find that ‘free’ things are often the most valuable. Of course, maintaining equipment such as camera, computer, and a studio can sometimes be very difficult.
    Actually, I’m looking for a mini DV player right now. Would love to barter it in exchange for work. Need any photography/design/editing ? And, yes, there are surprises… A few of my videos were sold to museums. I sometimes sell photographs and recently received a letter about support from a foundation for a project. Have I mentioned that I’ve been teaching students for the past 6 years ?

    8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team? If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

    Honestly, this is a great question cause I find this issue so interesting. Let’s admit it, the myth of the artist working in the studio is that of a solitary activitiy. It probably has to do with the introspective side of art which I regard as highly relevant and important. Yet, at the same time, there’s something so healthy in collaborative interaction – exchanging ideas, energy and feedback.
So, I guess combining the two in a somewhat balanced way is the best lifestyle for the artist. I mean, just look at the questions and answers we are engaging in right here. This is not a solitary action! True, it involves me having to sit alone and come up with answers – but if not for your questions – I would probably not even reach these thoughts. Thanks, anyway.

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

    There’s something about the day to day. Walking around the city and paying attention to different rhythms that are multi layered heart beats and movements of beauty. Then there are close friends and family that often seem like a voice coming from within. Loneliness is a darker frontier and its long arms sometimes grasp me tightly like that of an old witch. I’m influenced by creative people, by those who didn’t forget how to play, by those who connect with nature. Drugs can be used as a blessed trigger for spiritual experiences – obviously, they are not an aim for itself.

    10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?

    Of course, there’s the desire to show my work in museums and receive world wide recognition. But I’m looking at the past few years, and honestly, showing my work extensively had not necessarily made me a happier person. It is simply an excuse to do other things such as those having to do with creativity, meeting interesting people and reaching new places. Realizing, once again, that love is the most important thing.


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