Time Out NY, TJ Carlin

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Art
Studio Visit: Dani Leventhal
Looking inside and out through the artist’s keen lens. By T.J. Carlin
2010
How do you create your video pieces? I shoot a ton, all the time. I have this collective library
of footage, and I start pulling from that and putting things together formally, or to create a
particular reading. There is a cumulative emotional effect to the pieces, but the way things are
laid next to each other does have meaning. For example, in Draft 9 I was shooting my
grandmother who was moving her head back and forth like a bird, so I put a clip of a pigeon next
to that. It’s a close-up shot, so you can see the iridescent feathers. Pigeons were originally
brought to cities to be ornamental, and they were also messengers with important functions. I
feel like old women used to have more of an important position in society, and now we shove
them into old-folks homes. I put the two next to each other to draw attention to that. I don’t know
if that comes through, but something does. I’m being literal in those choices, instead of
metaphorical.
Sometimes you incorporate fictional elements that are staged, like the piece you have on
view right now at MoMA PS1’s “Greater New York.” What goes into those parts? Well,
there’s this killing scene in the video that came from an emotional state I was in at the time,
which was that I was feeling really violent. So I constructed the shot with my housemate, doing a
number of takes to get it right. But they all looked a little bit pathetic, so I just put them all in to
make a bit of a joke from that.
Your work is remarkably textural and embodies strong physical urges. How did you
decide to use video as a medium? I’d been making sculpture for years. In 2002, I had an
accident while working on this piece that had a harness and a boat winch, and I broke my hand
in three places. I couldn’t build anymore, so I decided to start working with the computer and the
mouse. Also, I was working with animals a lot, skinning them and making sculpture from their
hides. And I wanted to do a performance from that, but I decided it would be a much better idea
to shoot it on video and have the action be further away from viewers. I’ve yet to make a real
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