We never know where our inspirations and talents will lead us. For multimedia artist Ann Oren, the the path of creativity happened completely by chance. Ann’s work deals with the history of the cinematic viewer that nowadays has also become a performer. Focusing on the inability to draw the line between exhibitionism, voyeurism and spectatorship, she creates films, videos and installations inspired by the viewer’s different experiences as a producer while provoking the limits of the spectacle. She recently finished her first artist feature film "InConatct," which will be presented at Anthology Film Archives in New York on June 27, 2012. In celebration of her first feature film, Ann explains the way her eyes see the world around her.
AICF: What or who inspired you to want to be an artist?
Ann Oren: I never wanted to be an artist, my interest organically shifted into art making. I can address this question more in terms of what inspired my thought growing up. Many things did: Milan Kundera, the television culture in Israel, Ingmar Bergman, Mike Leigh, Hal Hartley, Sergei Rachmaninoff, a show of Pierrick Sorin I’d seen in Paris, Matthew Barney’s very early works, Paul Mccarthy, Francis Bacon, Nietzsche, Sartre, Kafka, Agota Kristof’s “The Notebook”, Art writer Matthew Collings, living briefly in Paris before doing my military service, then absorbing New York, the most liberating place I’ve ever been to. When I got here I was most affected by the explosion of consumer video use and display, on cell phones, YouTube started then and it altered my view on what contemporary content should be within the arts.
What was your creative journey that has brought you to where you are in your career today?
During my depressing service in the Israeli Army my only escape was fantasizing about what will come next. A friend had mentioned to me he knew a girl that went to study film in New York. I was already a cinephile at the time but I never shot video or practiced photography beforehand, so that sounded very exciting to me and I decided to try it as well. I arrived in New York at the age of 20 to study Film at the School of Visual Arts. I started experimenting with different film styles as we got to make several projects each year, but what caught my attention while trying to make films, was the dominance of consumer video technology in the market, it was when people started having access to video on their phones, DVcameras came out and reality TV and later YouTube made nobodies into temporary stars. I was so curious about how this shifts cultural desire and it paralyzed me from pursuing traditional filmmaking.
More than anything else, I was interested in spectators that slowly morphed into a legitimate performers, I wanted to make work that focused on these spectators-performers, assuming the knowledge they already possess as such, watching films and television on a daily basis throughout their lives and now receiving their own platforms and audiences.
I then enrolled in the MFA in Fine Arts at The School of Visual Arts. During that time my work became installation based and dealt with cinema spectatorship and the inability to draw the line between exhibitionism, voyeurism and spectatorship.
This year I returned to filmmaking from a new angle, I made a feature film project "InContact" that is an experimental narrative examining intimacy in our universal state of voyeurism, evoking an age of lost romance and melodrama. The film unfolds through a live-video social media platform called InContact. It explores levels of spectatorship and exhibitionism in our everyday life, when every user is both a viewer and a performer.
What do you need as an artist today?
Workspace, funding opportunities for projects, exhibition spaces that are truly open to culturally relevant work in 2012, curators, artist communities. It is necessary to also engage myself outside the art-world, in order to really absorb the culture I exist in.
What creative project are you working on now?
I’m working on a project called "Penelope," it’s a video collage whose only character "Penelope" is weaved from appropriated footage of iconic cinematic female performances. Through the removal of everything but the woman in the frame, Penelope is left constantly in the spotlight - lit on a dark stage. The original narrative fades away and Penelope becomes the ultimate cinematic woman re-staged into a monologue. This re-staging is both my revised narrative and a reflection on the construction of the woman as a staged fantasy generated in cinema of the 20th century, exposing Penelope's prop-like ontology.
Where do you see yourself and your career in 10 years?
I can’t see that. It’s like staring at the sun. Every year brings new desires and goals, since I constantly morph with every work. Each project I do leads me to the next one and only at that point I realize what the prior was about and where it belongs. For example, I thought I abandoned my film practice in 2004 and that my work was no longer cinematic but strictly reacted to cinema spectatorship, nevertheless I found myself this year showing a feature film.
What does it mean to you to be an Israeli artist?
I never really considered myself an Israeli artist, but these are clearly my roots. I think that the spectatorship culture that is very strong in Israel, in my opinion stronger than in the US or Europe, is where the Israeli within me shows in the work. I am not surprised to see that so many successful Israeli artists living in and outside of Israel, work with video as material. I believe that it's their absorption of this aspect of Israeli culture as well.
What does it mean to you to have an organization like AICF available in the art world?
AICF is a great resource for Israeli artists. It helps promote them, showing portfolios online and it inevitably creates introductions, a community. Every artist can benefit from belonging to artist communities, because most of the time we work alone.
.ORG-Connection: The America-Israel Cultural Foundation supports artistic life in Israel. By encouraging Israeli artists and supporting institutions and programs, AICF makes a vital contribution to the cultural foundation of Israel and strengthens her relationship with America. To stay up to date with the AICF and all its events, check out its page on Jspace.