Sunday, 15 July 2018

Interview w/ artist, James Craig Page (Scotland)

From Sarahjane Swan's hometown of Dunbar, in East Lothian,
self-taught artist, James Craig Page, has been producing vibrant, exciting and hyper-imaginative paintings for many years now. As well as his Church of Gloss art-movement, inspired by a cloud over the Wicker Man Festival, JCP has garnered a great deal of attention for the meditative practice of stone stacking, appearing several times on prime-time BBC1, setting up the
European Stone Stacking Championships in Dunbar, and travelling to Austin, Texas, for the World Championship.

Last year Avant Kinema were privileged to be able to add these two James Craig Page originals to our collection.

Here's our interview with James. Avant Kinema: Who are you? Where did you grow up and where are you based now?

James Craig Page: Who am I? I am a singular aspect of consciousness having a living experience. I was born in Dunbar and remain there.

AK: Could you give us a history of your involvement with creating visual art?

JCP: I began creating art in my early 30s after being made redundant from my gardening job working with Sir George Taylor at Belhaven Gardens, Dunbar. I had written poetry and short stories for many years, but I remember the first piece of wood I found on the beach that I took home and painted on. I had no money for materials, and remember going to the early learning centre in St James Centre in Edinburgh to buy Poster paint for £1.00 a bottle. My brother in law worked in a paper factory and gave me large sheets, which I stapled together to create a canvas. I mixed up the paint, threw it on, and began experimenting like a child with primary colours. I'd wait till it dried then identify shapes, faces, creatures and then outline them in black line. I learned more from the paint that day than I ever did in art class at school. After a year unemployed I painted every day, more for my sanity than anything else. After another 6 months I got put on a job club course to encourage me to get a real job. I left after a day, walked home from Musselburgh penniless, and booked the local library, free of charge to hold my first exhibition. I decided I had nothing to lose and a houseful of art to sell. So a month later I sold 6 pieces at my first exhibition and never looked back. I've also never had a "real" job since.

AK: What were the major influences in the arts and in life which encouraged you to become involved in this field?

JCP: Finding I enjoyed playing with paint and general poverty encouraged me to keep going.

AK: What does the word experimental mean to you?

JCP: The word experimental means the starting point of an interesting journey.

AK: At Avant Kinema we have a particular interest in low budget, DIY or LoFi forms of creativity. What are your thoughts on creating work this way?

JCP: I have always created stuff with inspiration not money.

AK: Could you talk us through the whole process of how you generally go about creating a work, from the initial concepts through to the finishing touches?

JCP: I have never started a painting or a rock stack with any thought whatsoever, preferring to work from a Dwamic state of doing without thinking. Then I may reach a point where I consciously interact with what's been created, but not always. I have studied meditation, mediumship and palm reading from my teenage years, so find it easy to switch off, tune in, then create.

AK: What do you use to generate ideas and stimulate your creativity?

JCP: Nature has become my muse, and I've never failed to be inspired by her beauty.

AK: Have you been able to get much in the way of funding towards travel to festivals or for your art in general?

JCP: Through creating the European Stone Stacking Championships in Dunbar, and curating a major Land Art Exhibition at Summerhall Gallery, Edinburgh, it has opened doors to funding opportunities. I have had very little in the way of personal funding, and find writing applications to be the 2nd most arduous task I've come across in life. AK: Could you tell us what Stone Stacking is and how you came about the practice? What is your philosophy? Is it art or meditation?

JCP: Stonebalancing is a process of creative meditation which teaches you more about yourself and the inner life of Nature than 25 years of modern schooling ever could. I became aware of this practice through online videos and the photographic work of Michael Grab aka Gravity Glue, then through meeting and working with Sterling Gregory, Travis Williams, Tim Anderson and such like Land Artists from around the globe.

AK: Can you tell us what The Church Of Gloss is? How you created it and what it stands for?

JCP: The Church of Gloss or C.o.G was formed around 2007, after I met a cloud in the sky above the Wicker Man festival. Shortly afterwards I was given a word that came to me as a sound. This sound/word then revealed itself to me over a period of five years. I was in the presence of a another friend when I received this. I then chose a few trusted creative and spiritually minded friends to share the word with. We now have 111 members around the world: including a few well known musicians, actors and artists I've been fortunate enough to meet and trusted enough to share the word with. It was initially an art collective started with Callum Easter, with a spiritually minded ethos for self exploration and colloboration, and has evolved into something much more.

AK: What was it like appearing on The One Show on prime time BBC1 and having such wide media coverage?

JCP: Appearing on The One Show and Landward earlier this year was a great way to communicate my passion for this art form, and to make people aware of the many amazing artists and human beings that make up the ever expanding balancing community that I now feel a big part of. It encourages me to keep on doing what I truly love, even if the wages aren't that great!

AK: Do you have any future exhibitions, installations or artworks you would like to tell us about?

JCP: I'm currently curating the Dunbar Street Art Trail event 17th-26th Aug including a shop window pop-up exhibition featuring international and local artists and musicians. I will also be creating a Zen Balance Garden at Summerhall for the Edinburgh Fringe festival with Sterling Gregory. There will also be photographs from the Art of Balance exhibition, held earlier this year, featuring some of the best stone balancers and land artists from around the world. We are currently looking at options to tour this show in London and New York.

You can see more of my work at:

Art of Balance short film.
By C.o.G Productions.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, James Craig Page.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Interview w/ filmmaker, Dagie Brundert (Germany)

Not long after we started our own experiments in home-processing Super 8 film in 2016, our friend the American filmmaker, Walter Ungerer, suggested that Dagie Brundert in Berlin was a lady we might want to connect with. Dagie Brundert is a pioneer in the art of home-processing analogue film in household and/or natural products. She long ago moved on from the standard Caffenol recipe (washing soda, coffee, vitamin c) to messing around with everything from red wine to wild flowers or seaweed as developing agents in the service of her art, always with fantastic results. Dagie is ever generous with her knowledge, being a firm believer in the open source approach to information sharing and is regularly booked to host Super 8 film processing workshops.

AK: Who are you? Where did you grow up and where are you now based?

DB: Hi there, I am Dagie! Aka Dagmar. Aka Poly Phenoly ;-)

I was born somewhere in the middle West of Germany, lost and bored but also surrounded by trees, meadows and hidden places to play… but I needed to find a way out of it so I went – via some unimportant stations – to Berlin. 30 years ago. I call it now: home.  My lovely ugly shiny Berlin!

AK: Could you give us a history of your involvement with creating work involving still or moving images?

DB: Before I discovered the moving image I was always drawing, writing, taking weird photos … and then one day my professor (I studied art in Berlin meanwhile) brought a super 8 camera to us students to play with … and that’s exactly the historical magical moment when the arrow hit me: I took it, checked it, made a simple film and whoooooosh a new universe opened its doors for me!!! I was able to set up a world on my table and make plastic figures act like I wanted! Animation! Yeah! Animate stuff, animate myself, play all along in my little bubble, I loved it.

AK: What were the major influences in the arts and in life which encouraged you to become involved with this field?

DB: Other films that showed me that there are no limits to fantasy, that there doesn’t have to be a classical story, that I was allowed to follow my funky instincts and just trust that something will evolve. Also music. Music helped me to survive lonely times. Like: The Beatles (honestly! I loved them when I was a kid!), John Peel who opened up the music universe for me (yes I was able to listen to him at night in Germany, broadcasted for BFBS in Germany), Dada, Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger, Schmelzdahin, Jacques Rivette …

AK: What does the word “experimental” mean to you?

DB: Playing with material and ideas.

AK: At Avant Kinema we have a particular interest in low budget, DIY or LoFi forms of creativity.
What are your thoughts on films, music, zines or other artworks created in this way? Is this a way that you personally like working? If yes, would that be for aesthetic reasons or more because of budgetary constraints?

DB: Somehow I can’t think of any other way than no/low budget DIY … I have always been … well I cannot say “poor” since I’m quite privileged in this world that I happen to live in … but I love to tinker on my own, immediately when an idea strikes me, I wanna do it all at once, all by myself, now … If someone gave me a million I wouldn’t say no but it is not necessary. I don’t want to be dependant, I don’t want to wait.

AK: What was your earliest experience of using analogue film, video or photographic equipment?

DB: I choose analogue film and tell you a story: in my early Berlin student days when I just got the camera I strolled along my street together with my friend and we saw a stand at Woolworths with a mass of Barbie dolls. They looked so sad! In one second we knew we had to free them and make them actors in our first film! We checked our cash resources and freed 23 of them: blonde, brown, black hair; pink, blue, yellow dress, simple cheap barbies without knee or elbow joints. At home we lined them up and had so much fun just making them collapse. It became our/my first film “23 Barbiepuppen kippen um”. The bug had bitten me.

AK: Where did these initial steps lead?

DB: To my super 8 career!! At the beginning I didn’t really take myself and my films serious … but they grew. And now I’ve been doing it for more than 30 years, I have discovered so much, I have dived so deep into the material and into experimental ideas … there’s no end. It’s my sense and it’s my satisfaction.

AK: Did you have any guidance in using this technology or did you work it all out for yourself?

DB: Almost no guidance (there was no internet in the late 80es ;-) When I found out about self developing … it was all trial and error and some books that I read and some people that I
talked to. And my earlier darkroom experiences as a photographer. Now it’s easier and that’s what I like on platforms like facebook: the open minded and sharing mind of the groups there. Mostly.

AK: What specific models of analogue equipment / stock do you favour, and why?

DB: All expired films!!! I especially adore 40 years old colour films …. Ektachrome 160 is my goddess … I just found an alternative E6 recipe that made it possible to use this fallen out of time stock and receive fantastic images. And of course testing new eco soups with my favourite b&w film & TriX. Nothing can make me more smile than shaking some TriX stripes in a tank full of rhubarb soup with soda and vitamin c, to open it after fixing and to hold the images in my hands! Oops, when I write and read it, it’s like giving birth! Only less painful!

AK: What is your process for using analogue technology and techniques? How do you shoot, process/develop, edit/correct, add effects or, in other ways, manipulate this raw material? How do you then present it to the World?

DB: I process now almost all of my films myself. Give them to some pros to have them scanned and then I edit them (FinalCut). I don’t manipulate them at all, only some time stretching here and there. And then I spit them out and throw them into the world. All my films are on Vimeo. I appear on film festivals from time to time.

AK: We're very interested in the way you've taken the Caffenol template and used it to experiment with everything from wine to seaweed in your processing. Do you have a strong understanding of the chemistry involved in this or do you just try lots of things out to see what works?

DB: When I began I had no idea about chemistry. I thought I understood b&w photography, I understood how the silver molecules in the emulsion got hit by light and then been transformed from silver salts to metallic silver … but that was almost all. Meanwhile I read a lot of articles about the processing components, about phenols … and I believe I understand it deeper and deeper: phenols are everywhere in almost all plants, phenols are mostly bitter (except for in raw potatoes which makes an amazing developer by the way!!) … briefly said: my instincts evolve with reading and just doing!!

AK: Have you shared any of your skills in the Analogue Arts with others through workshops, tutorials or other forms of training? How was this experience?

DB: I am an analog hippie, I share all of my knowledge. Caffenol belongs to everybody, there is no patent on it. Some of my “soup films” are tutorials, like “Tullamol”

 I write the recipe in the credits at the end of the film. I want people to try it themselves, to have fun and to make some beautiful art. When I give workshops I very often have students that are completely digital … I mean: they grew up with digital devices that made it possible to film at almost no costs. But they yearn for something after a while. Something tactile. Something that really consists of something. I show them. It is contagious!
AK: The Digital Revolution has opened up the World of High Quality, Low Cost filmmaking and photography for a lot of people. It's still relatively expensive to use analogue movie or stills stock and it's also generally a more time-consuming and complicated way of working. So, what's the attraction? What is it that makes the expense and effort worthwhile in the 21st Century?
DB: See question above! It’s a total different approach. A different aesthetic. Do you know about wabi-sabi? That explains a lot! I quote Leonard Koren “Wabi-sabi is the quintessential Japanese aesthetic. It is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional … It is also two separate words, with related but different meanings. “WABI“ is the kind of perfect beauty that is seemingly-paradoxically caused by just the right kind of imperfection, such as an asymmetry in a ceramic bowl which
reflects the handmade craftsmanship, as opposed to another bowl which is perfect, but soul-less and machine-made.  “SABI“ is the kind of beauty that can come only with age, such as the patina on a very old bronze statue.” [Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, by Leonard Koren]
… and then I quote myself: “You extend your antennas and begin to notice the subtle beauty that exists in so many banal, imperfect, impermanent and incomplete things and existences. You fill your camera with a super 8 cassette, hide behind the lens, play spy, step on your right track and find it.
Super 8 has the capability of teasing out and capturing the wabi-sabish soul of things and occurences. More than just displaying, picturing one-to-one-wise – it soaks up beauty molecules, cells, souls and spits out beauty grains – simply because Super 8 is magic.”

AK: What kind of future do you see for analogue creativity in a digital world? We can see analogue-digital hybrid art becoming an interesting new form that filmmakers and artists can experiment with. Is this something you would like to experiment with at some point in the future?

DB: Take the best from two worlds! Mix! Play! Invent! Why should there be a limit?

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions, Dagie. :-) x