Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Space in Time with Chani Becker (Part 2)

This is a continuation of yesterday's interview with Chani Becker of HotHouse Design and Post here in Duluth.

Ennyman: What are themes that emerge from your creative side? Or, what are the problems that you're trying to solve?

Chani: With film in particular?

E: I'm thinking of film right now.

Chani: This is something that I haven't figured out where it's going yet. But I've been thinking a lot about the work that I'm doing documentary-wise. It’s all related to sustainability, environmental and social sustainability, all very straightforward documentary projects, either documenting initiatives that are going on or this or that. But in my creative work I'm heavily influenced by the surrealists, and in my own life by the absurdity that tends to permeate every day existence. I've been thinking a lot about how surrealism and the technical approaches of surrealism can inform sustainability.

E: That's a very interesting combination.

Chani: Yes. So those are the themes that I'm interested in, working on and thinking about a lot. I'm conducting a workshop on surrealism and sustainability this summer at a sustainability conference. To a bunch of educators and scientists who may not be necessarily open to these ideas being put together. We'll see how that goes and see if it will sort of jog some new ideas and see if it will help me try to put this into some sort of narrative or experimental film.

E: Who are your influences? Bunuel and Dali come to mind for me.

Chani: Yes, Bunuel is one of my favorite film makers and David Lynch would be a close second or tied for first. But Luis Bunuel specifically regarding sustainability. His films have been really important. The Exterminating Angel is a film that comes to mind. I don't know if you've seen that one.

E: I've seen the one where things are being pulled out of the well and an eyeball is being slit. I've seen also the life of the …

Chani: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

E: Yes.

Chani: The Exterminating Angel, he made in the early 60's, 1963. It's black and white, and it takes place after the opera at a wealthy persons' dinner party and they're all following social convention. It's getting late in the evening and social convention tells you that it's time to go so your host can go to sleep. So people have this urge, this instinct to do that, but they can't. They cannot find the will to leave the room. So the whole film takes place in this room over the course of days and days and days, nobody can muster the willpower to leave the room, even though it’s insane. They're breaking social convention, they get to the point where there's no food, no water over the course of these days and they are literally clawing through the walls to get to the water pipes to have water to drink because they don't have the willpower to leave. So I love that situation as a metaphor for sustainability and for how we're living so unsustainably and the capacity to change is there, the idea of leaving the room is there but the will power isn't there and we'll bite off our own ankle rather than just walk out of the cage.

E: You said you have 3 current projects right now?

Chani: Three current documentary projects, and many other graphic design projects I'm doing.
E: Tell me about your painting. You do art, also.

Chani: Yes, yes.

E: Do you have a studio?

Chani: Out of my home, I have a large space for painting at home and yes, it's been difficult to balance that with starting the business and working on these films. So it’s been tough. I haven't been painting as much.

E: Tough because you wish you could be paining more? All the time?

Chani: I do, I do. It's been tough just to balance my time, nearly impossible. I work every night at my business, working on projects. So it's been really difficult, but I've managed to eek out two paintings since I've been here in Duluth. But yeah, they're more just getting my muscles flexed, getting warmed up.

E: I guess that you're never bored?

Chani: Or easily bored, one of the two.

E: What is your biggest fear? I have to throw a curve ball in there, make it seem like I'm an interesting interviewer.

Chani: My biggest fear? I think boredom is my biggest fear actually. What a terrifying thought to not be interested in anything.

E: I have a hard time picturing that for you.

Chani: It's not something I worry about.

E: According to Updike, it is one of the life forces that drives people though. So you got involved in with this 3N6D project with John and the others. What did you learn from that experience? Tell me your take on it.

Chani: That was an amazing experience, I learned how the process of art making, or the creative process can literally open up new spiritual pathways within yourself. That's what it did for me, it ended up being a ritual, a ritualistic experience, kind of a sacred experience that just happened randomly with these disparate elements coming together. I taped all three nights and I've since watched all 3 nights, and the energy in the room and just the way it all evolved and unfolded, it turned into this very magical portal which I can't describe how or why, or really what happened. I'm sure it was unique for every person who experienced it, but that's my take on it, that there was this sort of portal that opened. It also had very much to do with the time. It was over 3 nights and it happened right at the end of February and it was an early spring and the ice was melting and it all came together in a very powerful sort of random spiritual doorway being opened.

E. Yes, it was a unique event, unusually powerful and evocative. Thanks for sharing yourself here. The best to you in your future creative endeavors.
NOTE: The paintings here are original works by Chani Becker. Click to enlarge.

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