Thursday, May 4, 2017

MAPPING THE VOID: AN ARTIST INTERVIEW WITH KEREN CYTTER

Keren Cytter is an Israeli artist living in the United States.  I've worked previously with her on a project titled THERE'S NO US IN MASTERPIECE.  Presently, she's raising money for unique art documentary road trip through a section of the United States.  I sat down with her to discuss the project and her artistic inspiration.

Poster from There Is No Us In Masterpiece
CK: What inspired your concept for Mapping the Void?
KC: I was inspired by the American landscapes and people I saw and met on previous road trips. It’s hard to comprehend that the most powerful country in the western world is neglecting most of its own citizens and towns. I went on a couple of road trips before and watching the way different communities and subcultures suffer and flourish on this land is fascinating phenomenon. Also, the last elections took me out of my comfort zone and the phrase “echo chambers” has become something that should be addressed too. I was very depressed after Trump was elected and wondered what I could do about it. I think that social media turns every user into a close minded person. It’s a very isolated environment that connects you only with people who think the same. So the most important thing for me right now is to get out of my own "echo chambers" and meet and communicate with people who think the differently than me.

Still from There Is No Us In Masterpiece
CK: You're not an American, correct? Tell us about your background and your relationship to the United States.
KC: When I was young I wanted to be a writer and my first source of inspiration was Jack London. I liked his character as an adventure writer in general. So living in New York was an early dream. I lived in Tel Aviv (I’m an Israeli) when I got accepted to de Ateliers in Amsterdam. After my studies I moved to Berlin and lived there for six years, forgetting completely my "American dream,” but Berlin was quite cold (on every level) and when I heard about the existence of an 'artist visa’ I decided to move to New York. It happened in 2012, and since then I feel quite at home here. I like the US and the more I stay here the more I understand the American mindset and American history and how different it is to experience that from inside. 



CK: What states do you plan to visit that you've not been to?
KC: North Carolina, Alabama and New Mexico. 
CK: The focus of the film, though described as a documentary, will be the perspectives of the artists you're bringing with you.  What differences do you see in the roles of artists versus documentarians?
KC: Depends… There are documentarians that are actually artists and artists that are just awful. So it’s hard to keep a clear line between the two. I treat the medium as a reality in itself and in that case it should deliver something that is free from the industry or other conventions. It should inspire people to see their life in a different light. I’m interested only in telling a story, but I want people to review their own limitations, and decide what is necessary for their life and what is just limiting their vision. It might sound a bit pretentious, anyhow it's a stand, not many documentarians are taking. 



CK: Do you have a favorite documentary or art project about the United States?  Are there documentary or art projects about other countries that you have found compelling?
KC: I like Errol Morris, how persistent he is and how gentle he is dealing with his subjects, he’s not directly addressing the US, but you can definitely learn about it in movies such as The Thin Blue Line, Tabloid, Gates of Heaven, Mr. Death . . . I like Love Meetings by Pasolini, about Italy (That was actually one of the main inspirations of this doc) - when he’s crossing Italy and interviewing a large variety of people - Students, punks, children farmers, old women and so on, and also discusses it with his friends. I remember when I watched it the first time, it didn’t interest me so much but after a while, thinking about it and watching it again, I thought that it’s quite brave of him. I thought he used the medium like a language to simply communicate with his surroundings. 


CK: What will be unique about this trip and this documentary? Do you have any expectations you can share?
KC: I think it would start as a ‘normal documentary’ and then slowly will turn into a work of interrogative fiction as it will be based on the people that are taking part of this trip. I expect things to get complicated. I want it to be visually beautiful and the story telling should be gentle. That's all I can say right now without lying. 




CK: How would you describe your own art practice?
KC: I’m trying to be free. I’m trying to make art as I think art should be made - as free as possible. It shouldn’t have a subject and shouldn’t be about something but the thing itself - Every art piece should be an independent form that stands on its own, just like human beings. My main practice is videoArt. I think this is where I can really make a difference, but it’s important for me to be fluid and not to be tied to only one category. To have as few definitions as possible - I don’t want civilization to limit my soul. I’m not afraid of anything. I can’t control that, but I realized that if I stop being afraid of my fears I can reach a certain freedom. 

Learn more about Keren's project and consider donating to her campaign!

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