Hunter Longe's video installations use magnetic fields to scramble and warp VHS video feeds, erasing information stored on the magnetic tape. The effect is mesmerizing; even as the video image unravels, revealing underlying textures and layers, the invisible forces of magnetism become visible and plastic. The technique dates back to the early work of Nam June Paik, at least, but Longe takes the theme of electromagnetic forces further, exploring its tensions and aesthetics in his 2011 show, Degausser, at The Popular Workshop, a hybrid gallery and creative agency in San Francisco.
This video directed by Cole Schreiber of Sunday / Paper filters an interview with the artist through the projections and TV screens of the artist's work. It's one in a series of artist profiles by The Popular Workshop and Sunday / Paper. Schreiber and the Workshop's creative directors, Nate Hooper and Andy Hawgood, discuss the project in an interview below.
Stills from the video
The Atlantic: What was the inspiration for this series?
Cole Schreiber: The inspiration for the series mostly came from the artists themselves and a desire on our part to take them out of the gallery and introduce them to people in a more digestible, dialogue driven way. Video is a really great way to reach a broad audience, and making a short film that is informative, but is also equally a work of art in its own right was the goal. We’ve used each artist’s work as a stylistic inspiration for his or her film.
Nate Hooper: When we would talk to Hunter about his work in the gallery, the way he became animated and the enthusiasm with which he talked about his work was contagious. A show like Hunter’s could be considered on the surface relatively academic, but once you understand the cultural filter that is Hunter, the work could take on new facets, both a more emotional profundity and even some levity and humor.
Bob Chisholm, as clearly evidenced in his video, is a unique guy. His outlook on life and his approach to living is not one that you run across often. His work is truly a byproduct of the way he chooses to live. This video was really just a chance for us to show the world the man behind the work, because he is just as interesting as his photos are.
Andy Hawgood: The Popular Workshop is a creative agency as well as contemporary art gallery. This essentially is the branded content coming out of our space, a presentation of the experimentation and collaborative nature of our company.
How do you select the artists you profile?
Hooper: All the artists that are featured so far have all had shows at The Popular Workshop gallery. How we choose artists is based on the collective intuition of myself and Andy. Over the last year, we’ve been able to synthesize a fairly cohesive conceptual roadmap.
Hawgood: A theme in our studio, as well as the artists, has really been about the contemporary creative process and product. Artistic authorship is blurred these days, as so many people can create things (photos on Instagram, homemade YouTube videos, visual "curating" on a Tumblr page), leaving us sort of grasping at what artistic integrity is. The artists we have shown in the space seem to play with this in various ways, deconstructing the act of "visual making," of art.
It seems like more visual artists and arts organizations are creating video documentation of their work, using video sites like Vimeo as a platform. Is this shaping how artists promote their work?
Schreiber: Generally speaking, I would say artists and creators are all more business savvy and aware of more methods to promote their work than ever before. People love insight into the creative and technical process of making things, whether it is a movie, painting, sculpture or a building. Video allows for access to this and it really drives home the idea of process, which is great for promoting work; people don’t want to just see the finished product -- they want to see how it all came about.
Hooper: Videos have been a fun and effective way for us to not only promote the artists that we’re showcasing in the gallery, but in addition, as a creative agency, it’s been a cool way showcase our own creative and collaborative efforts. I see video as being a powerful vehicle for us to communicate, be it commercially or for our more esoteric art-centric projects.
What are your goals for the series?
Hawgood: The goal for this series has been to promote the artists, their ideas and the shows themselves. Also, there has been a heavy investment into collaboration; we all learn from this process. That would be really the essence of this series; through collaboration and experimentation we are gaining a more in-depth perspective of all contemporary image making.
Schreiber: Make more films. Make better films. Ultimately we hope to release a full-length film made up of all the smaller films in conjunction with a book that is something of an almanac where we can print the full interview with each artist plus pictures and scrapbook material. You know, the usual.
Hooper: Shows in the gallery space are really very temporary. These videos serve not only as time capsules of the shows themselves, but can give some insight into who the artist is and their ideas, and hopefully over the course of a bunch of these, they can help to give our audience a better idea of who we are as a gallery and why we’re attracted to these folks and their work. Exposing a larger audience to our artists, their work, their ideas and their quirks is a big reason for making these. And they’re fun to make.