Interview: Gabriel Shalom

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Gabriel Shalom
is a New York based media artist

artist biography

gabriel shalom

His video “Small Room Tango” is part of
VideoChannel’s “image vs music”

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Interview: 10 questions

1.
Question:
Tell me something about your life and the educational background
Answer:
When I was seven years old my parents took me to see The Who perform in RFK stadium in Washington DC. I grew up listening to a lot of music, especially classic rock and big band swing music. My dream was to play jazz clarinet. My mother is a painter and children’s art educator. She used to teach children’s art classes at our house and I would participate. Eventually she established her own studio and I began teaching cartooning classes. I studied at the University of Maryland when I finished high school, and in my sophomore year I wrote and illustrated a comic strip called Lupus Levine which was printed 5-days a week in the University student newspaper. Eventually Maryland bored me and so I went to Germany for an exchange program to study graphic design and electronic music. The thought of returning to Maryland after the exchange semester was an ugly thought somehow, so I transferred to Bard College where I finished my bachelor’s degree in film and video. Just this past summer (2006) I was on scholarship at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe where I concentrated on scriptwriting, montage theory and some design projects with my girlfriend.

2.
Question:
When, how and why started you filming?
Answer:
I first starting playing with a video camera the first semester I got to Bard. The first finished video project I ever did was in January of 2004 called Small Room Tango. I created it at my cousin Cory’s dorm at NYU in one weekend. After being an electronic musician for four years, at that time the sole motivation in making the piece was to try a theory I had about rhythmic editing. I still consider Small Room Tango to be the beginning of an as-of-yet unfinished series of experiments in visual music and audiovisual aesthetics.

3.
Question:
What kind of subjects have your films?
Answer:
So far all of my work in moving images has a close relationship to music. After Small Room Tango, I created a longer-form piece called House which used similar rhythmic editing techniques. Then I tried something different for my bachelor’s thesis; a 65-minute documentary about four eccentric instrument inventors called Instrumental. As a life-long comic artist, I am now beginning to brainstorm about a new series of online animated cartoons which take their inspiration from a short class-project I did at Bard called Bigeons.

4.
Question:
How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
Answer:
I see my work as a process of exploring and refining a new set of formal considerations in audiovisual experience. Essentially I am a storyteller, and I always find it necessary to work with the convention of a treatment, script, or at the very least simple storyboards before I start a project. Since I started studying in Germany in 2003, I have become much more conceptually rigorous with my projects. Now I am slowly learning to balance that rigor with the necessary element of spontaneous and intuitive creativity that really gets my projects off the ground.

5.
Question:
Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
Answer:
I use Ableton Live, Sony Vegas, Resolume and Arkaos. I am eagerly awaiting the people at Ableton to get their act together and implement video the way they already implemented audio. I work on a PC. I think Macs are basically a scam in slick marketing.

6.
Question:
What are the chances of new media for the genre film/video in general and you personally?
Answer:
I think we are in the very first baby steps of seeing the impact that new media will have on cinema. Solid state video recording will make it possible to totally destroy the lines between production and post-production, making the formally two separate processes one dynamic exchange. The ability to instantaneously edit and review footage while still on the set will dramatically affect what is possible in conventional storytelling and also in media art practice. The concept of live cinema is growing in popularity, in part I think because people are getting fed up with Hollywood style entertainment which has at this point reached the apex of predictability. In a live cinematic context, the audience is wholly engaged with the knowledge that what they are witnessing is different every time it is performed. As the systems for the playback of high-fidelity audiovisual digital formats become more stable and widely available, I can see more and more artists and filmmakers turning to hybrid formats to express their ideas and stories. Online distribution of video is also getting easier and is only at the very beginning. The implications of what is to come are perhaps too great to forecast in this area. Anyone who thinks YouTube is at all indicative of the future of online video communities can’t see the forest for the trees!

7.
Question:
How do you finance your films?
Answer:
I have been the fortunate recipient of a number of stipends and grants from the various educational institutions I have attended. I also just finished my first artist-in-residence at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany. This residency came with a stipend from the Jeunesses Musicales Deutschland. Now I am in the process of looking for work in film production, eager as I am to get some hands-on experience on the film set. Ultimately until now I have financed most of my projects out of my own pocket. Donations are accepted!

8.
Question:
Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team? if you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?
Answer:
Although I like to have a lot of control over my projects (what director doesn’t?) I tend to find that when I work in groups my capacity for growth and learning is tremendously increased. I like collaborations with musicians especially. During my residence at the ZKM this summer, I had a good experience experimenting with editing techniques which I only felt free enough to explore because the music was someone else’s responsibility. It was a relief not to be responsible for both the images and the music (like in Small Room Tango and House) and this allowed me to concentrate on my visual aesthetics. Nonetheless, I still intend to continue my own solo audiovisual experiments.

9.
Question:
Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
Answer:
The most significant experiences have probably occurred while a graduate level student at the HfG Karlsruhe. I got to hear a lecture from the Soviet editor Artavazd Peleshian about his “distance montage” theory which I interpreted in terms of the aesthetics of hip hop and electronic music. While living in Karlsruhe I have become good friends with Woody and Steina Vasulka and in January 2006 I traveled to Paris with them to do some research on a long-term documentary project about rare video synthesizers. A big highlight of that trip was meeting Chris Marker, a soft spoken mystery man who inspires me greatly with his film San Soleil. When I thanked him for the odd sense of time-travel I felt after watching his film, he merely smiled saying that the best compliments he receives are actually flattery to the creativity of those that praise him.

10.
Question:
What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
Answer:
Several audiovisual solo projects are in my sketchbook waiting to find the right moment to be produced. My big, dreamy, long-term project is a secret, but suffice to say it has something to do with giant mutant pigeons that explode. Seriously!

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