Thursday, 1 June 2017

504 Module

01 – Write a concise description of your studio project

For my first-year project, I first created a sound piece. My intention was to explore sound as a completely new medium for me.

In my work so far, through painting, I had been investigating the diverse identities places take on over a period of time. Still working with the same theme, identity, I wanted to compare events from the past and juxtapose those to current events.

My idea for this sound piece was to contrast voices of right wing extremists who are meeting weekly on the streets of Dresden, demonstrating against the politics of the German government and against accepting refugees from Syria – to four sound loops that would represent Germany’s Nazi past. By presenting these 5 loops together my intention was to remind the listener of the past, to explain the propaganda of the Nazis and to compare this propaganda to the propaganda of hate of today.

Once I had put together and isolated the sound loops, I decided to take my initial proposal one step further and create a video. Since the newly arisen right wing extremism in Germany is directed against Muslims this time, especially against refugees from Syria, I wanted to give agency and a voice to a refugee from Syria. The video includes parts of an interview I had recorded in Berlin in 2016 with Farid Abd Albaki, a ceramic artist from the city of Homs.

In the video, I projected sounds representing the past onto recent media imagery of today: my voice reading a poem by Holocaust survivor and writer, Primo Levi, (1919-1987) onto images of burning refugee homes in Germany today. I projected the voice of Dr. Peter Gary (also Holocaust survivor, 1923 -2016) onto right wing populists’ and extremists’ marches occurring weekly in Dresden, demonstrations against the acceptance of war refugees from Syria. Also, I have included images of refugees on their odyssey to and through Europe while one hears the voice of Farid telling his story. One can hear the voice of Hitler, his famous ‘Prophecy’ in which he announced the extinction of the Jewish race openly in 1939, while I showed images of today’s right wing rallies in Germany. The video shows images of the destroyed city of Homs in Syria from 2016 and propounds a new genocide with the killing of minority groups during the Syrian civil war. I projected my voice reading Holocaust survivor and poet Paul Celan’s Todesfuge (Death Fuge) onto those images of the destroyed city of Homs. The recording of the sound piece Todesfuge by Paul Celan (1920 – 1950) was a collaboration with a composer from New York, Concetta Abatte.

With this video, I wanted to juxtapose the consequence of this aggression to current propaganda of hate against people who need our help and support. I want to suggest how things can escalate if the people of a country do not stand up and protect each other.

Here is the link to the video:

After the feedback I received at the residency in New York, I broke down the video into four individual videos:

a)  The Todesfuge projected on images of the destroyed city of Homs
b) The interview with Fareed together with images of people on their odyssey from Syria to Europe
c) Primo Levi’s poem projected on Burning Refugee Homes
d) Right wing extremists’ demonstrations in Germany

This video was a further development of my previous photo series from the fall 2016 pertaining to 12 distinct genocides.
(plus image of photo series)
My work reflects on our current role within society. We may be paralyzed, when we should stand up and try to prevent bad things from happening. I want to inspire the viewer to think about his or her own role. I am interested in how Germans deal with collective memory, with forgetting and suppressing the past as opposed to remembering and comprehending.

In my paintings, I overlaid contemporary maps onto maps of the Third Reich to examine the divergent identities of those places over time. For my first-year MFA I had suggested I would create a series of 4 to 6 paintings that continue a discourse about historic layers and unique German identities over time. After discussing painting with Andrew in Berlin, my intention was to abstract my work more and to introduce brushwork to my paintings.
I started to let my work become more loose and minimize my literal approach. I feel I need to push this further in the second year. In this new series Structure I – Structure V I unfolded the current factory building that stands today where the former Camp (Lager) Moschendorf was located.
In my thesis, I discussed the work of Shimon Attie, The Writing on the Wall, Susan Hiller and her J-Street-Project and Christian Boltanski’s The Missing House. Their work is diverse but their work and my work all confront memory and German identity. Here is the link to my first-year paper:

Under my blog post from May 15th,,  
you will find a far more detailed description of my first-year project and you can see all my paintings as well.

02 – How did the research impact upon your project and your working practice?
Through my research and my studio work of the first year, I have learned that I am not limited to painting anymore to tell a story. I realized that the medium in which I work is less relevant. The idea comes first. Then I will decide which medium I should use.

Once I had created all my sound loops I realized that if I overlaid image and sound in a film, I would be able to create another level of layering, which I usually try to achieve in my painting work. Through video, I am able to powerfully juxtapose experiences of the past to what is happening currently. Video allows me to investigate differently than painting ever allowed me. I can tell a story with moving images and use sound as an additional layer.

One of the artists I researched for my first year MFA paper was Shimon Attie. With his projection of images of the past onto the present sites, Shimon Attie, with his installation The Writing on the Wall, inspired me to project my collection of sounds of the past that represent experiences of the Holocaust onto images of the present.

In April my video was accepted to the symposium Future Imperfect at Plymouth University. My film was very well received. This reception and also the very positive response of the visiting artist Fawz Kabra at my presentation in New York, encouraged me to further explore video and to experiment with that medium.

I realized I need to approach the themes I want to discuss from a broader perspective. Historic readings for my research of German identity and the study of other artists who explore the same theme are important. Now, however, I want to widen this research and study contemporary and conceptual art that is exploring and discussing political issues of the world.

03 – What directions does your project suggest for further research?

Before I had started this MFA I had only worked with painting and sculpture, never with sound or video. My intention was to experiment with new mediums, find alternate ways I can express my thoughts about German identities over the course of time. I realized that the film medium allows me to address this subject in a distinct and more precise way.   
In my second year, I would like to further explore video as a medium and to shift from comparing events from the past to the present to juxtaposing contrasting events from the present that happen at the same time.
To begin this exploration, I need to research documentary film makers and look at their work.

PART B – Second Year MFA Proposal Outline
 01 – Title of project
Working title: Meanwhile in LaLaLand

02 – Name of student and any collaborators and their roles

Ira Hoffecker

03 – Suggested advisors for studio and for research element (first, second, third choices, if any). Explain your choices.

Here are my two first choices for advisors.
Andrew Cooks – my studio advisor for painting (and research advisor)
Jean Marie Casbarian – my studio advisor for video (and research advisor)
Both would be my co-advisors! I would like to work with both in both areas of studio work and research.
Fawz Kabra, Caroline Koebel or Anya Levin could be choices two, three and four in regard to studio advisor for the video work
Michael would be choice two as to studio advisor for painting. Who else? Are there any other painters who are advisors? I would like to work with a painter and it went well with Andrew this year!

04 – Description of proposed project or body of work – practical element

At this point I would like to suggest a video project AND, as a separate component, a continuation of my painting work.

So far, I only have a rough layout for the project. I want to be open to experimentation and improvisation.

    a)  Video

Here is the concept of the main body of my project Meanwhile in LaLaLand:
(or alternative title: One day in 2017)

I would like to produce a video, which tells the story of events happening at the same time around the world. I was inspired by a novel that I read recently, All the Light One Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I would like to read a page from this book which describes several events that all happened simultaneously around the globe and would like to project my voice, again, on to contemporary socio-political imagery. The intention is to articulate the non-equilibrium on this planet and also simultaneously show the ignorance of the Western world. I want to compare and contrast children dying from starvation in Jemen, on the same day that 160 die in a terror attack, with images people post of bears in a hammock or elephants in a pool on Facebook on the very same day. For my video I want to collect film excerpts from news from all kind of events worldwide. They will all represent elements that show the imbalance in today’s world.

(There are four other ideas for videos that I might develop independently:

-       Black Milk of Daybreak
As mentioned in my 504-01 description of last year’s project, I had broken down my video into four loops at the end of last semester. At the moment I have these four loops: The Todesfuge projected on images of the destroyed city of Homs, the interview with Fareed together with images of people on their odyssey from Syria to Europe, Primo Levi’s poem projected on Burning Refugee Homes, Right wing extremists’ demonstrations in Germany. I would want to go back now and re-edit those 4 loops in order to make them work better as four individual videos.

-       Abstract experimentation with film
During the Future Imperfect symposium in Plymouth, we saw several films that did not really have a meaningful content. The film makers were playing with the film medium. This encouraged me to experiment with the medium, to create a video about the making of the film, about the elements of video making. For this purpose, I would like to study more tutorials with other video making programs. So far, I have only worked with IMovie. I will need to go through tutorials of other video programs and experiment with them. Recommended programs to use are either Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere. Also, I loved the level of cooperation and collaboration amongst the students at Plymouth University.

-       ‘Once a Decade’
10 years ago, I had interviewed 18 eight-year-old boys and girls and asked them about their perception of life. I produced approximately one hour of interviews with each of them. Unfortunately, I was unable to take the time to interview those children again 3 years ago. They are now 19 and 20 years old and except for 6 or 8 of them, the now young adults do not live in Victoria anymore. I could try and get in contact with them again. I know some live in the US, a couple in Vancouver, some in Ontario and other places. I could do interviews with them and then create a one-hour film with interview excerpts of all of them in 2005 and 2017. Originally, I was inspired by Michael Apted’s documentaries ‘7 up’. In contrast to his film, however, in which he talked about the life of privileged and unprivileged kids, I wanted to turn the focus to the various ethnic backgrounds of these kids. I am aware that this project only gets really interesting once everyone has been interviewed three or four times. So this would just be a project along the way to a more finished version in 20 years.

-       The story of Farid.
I am interested in continuing to tell Farid’s story. Privately, however, I have started a sponsorship group in Canada in order to try to get Farid’s family to Canada one day. The process is very tedious and it might take four years for them to get to Canada. In one year will we learn if they get accepted as applicants for immigration at all. I cannot and do not want to exploit this situation, and need to be careful with this project. First of all and most importantly, I am interested in the well-being of this family. If it is better not to tell their story from their point of view, then I won’t pursue this subject in this direction. Also, I needed to sign a document promising that I will protect and never disclose Farid’s identity during the immigration process.

This fact might make it impossible to create a video (that would be screened publicly) during the second MFA year which. Still, I will try to interview Farid and can always tell his and his family’s story once they are here in Canada. Here is his current situation:

Farid is still in Berlin. His wife is still in a refugee camp in Turkey with their three children. Farid cannot travel because he has no documents. His passport did not get renewed four years ago by the Assad regime. In Germany, he is under ‘subsidiary protection’, a status that gets renewed every six months. He is not allowed to travel, cannot leave Germany, therefore he cannot go to Turkey to see his family. He is one of over one million refugees that came to Germany in 2015 and 2016. He is one of the many Syrian refugees that do not get asylum in Germany, in the hope that the situation in Syria will de-escalate one day. Farid, who did not support Assad, said he cannot go back to Syria as long as the Assad regime is still in power there. His father was shot without a trial by Assad regime soldiers. Farid is certain, he would not have any chance of surviving if he went back to Syria as long as Assad is in power, even if the civil war was over.

b)  Painting

In my painting work I would need to push myself further. Before, I used to overlay two distinct maps from different times. Since last year when I started to abstract my work more last year, I have been struggling with composition. I want to be open to experiment in varied directions. For example, I would love to explore image transfer and bring further imagery into my painting work as an additional layer or component. Again, I would like to work with big (approx. 40 by 60 to 48 by 72 inches) canvases and intend to create about 4 to 6 paintings again.

05 – Description of project report or thesis – written element
At this point I think I will be writing a project report describing in detail the process of both my painting and video work.

06 – Project results, e.g. documentation, performance, script, intervention, website, exhibition, book, journal

The idea would be to create an installation of many screens (instead of just one) that are spread all over the room. The viewer is in a labyrinth of video projections and wanders between the screens. One can listen to the individual videos with headsets. Possibly I would exhibit some of the paintings with the video installation.

07 – Brief description of research method
In my continued painting research, I would look at other painters who work with abstraction and maps such as Marie Thibault, Julie Mehretue, Mark Bradford, Albert Oehlen and others. I also want to study artists like deKooning, Enrico Riley, Emilia Dubicki, Trevor Kiernander, Rebeca George, etc., because I would like to learn how to loosen up my brushwork and direct my work away from the maps towards complete abstraction with supple painting strokes.
For my video work, I need to study other film makers. Initially I want to concentrate on documentary film makers. I would look at their work, distill what their work is about and analyze their process.
In my initial research, I want to study documentary film work and start with looking at the work of Adam Curtis, Kater Attia, Werner Herzog, Michael Moore and also watch Marcel Welm’s film Wim Wender’s story of his early years and Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams. These two last ones are documentary films about artists (Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog). Andrew and I discussed them in the context of me possibly making a film about Farid. He suggested I not record his refuge experience, his horrible situation but to focus on his life as an artist.

08 – Initial bibliography for written element

I just read All the Light One Cannot See by Anthony Doerr which inspired me to create a piece with events that happen simultaneously.
John Berger’s A painter of our time.
I just ordered two conceptual art books, two books about documentary film making and the John Berger book which Andrew recommended to me.
Documentary Filmmaking: A Contemporary Field Guide by John Hewitt and Gustavo Vazquez, 2013
Documentary Storytelling: Creative Nonfiction on Screen by Sheila Curran Bernard
I think I need to look more at conceptual art. I know and I feel that my work is too literal. I know there is some kind of paradigm shift that needs to happen in my work.
Conceptual Art by Paul Wood
Conceptual Art by Peter Osborne

09 – Research question or hypothesis for thesis. For project report only if applicable.

I intend to write a project report

10 – Intended audience

People who are interested in current politics worldwide. (I was asked the same question at the conference in Plymouth regarding my video Black Milk of Daybreak). So far I have only exhibited my paintings at commercial galleries and need to find ways how I could possibly screen my videos to an audience in addition to the Transart MFA students.

11 – Short statement on your current practice

In my work, I am looking into other ways how I can investigate and discuss identity. I am interested in layering and juxtaposing Germany’s former identities (mainly from the Nazi era) to today’s identity, initially through painting, subsequently through my first year MFA video, sound and photography work.

12 – Formulate entire project in 2-3 meaningful sentences.

In my first-year MFA work, I compared experiences from the past to what is happening today, discussing German identity. I now would like to compare events from all over the world that are happening at the same time to show the non-equilibrium in this world. Again, I want to layer this project, possibly by creating several videos that are screened simultaneously. I am interested in weaving in imagery from news from all over the world and Facebook imagery. The intention is to speak about the ignorance of the Western world towards what is happening in regions of crisis on this planet.

13 – Technical description and production process including medium, quantity, size or duration

My research and film production would occupy the entire autumn semester and at least the first half of the spring semester.  First, I need to become familiar with various video programs through tutorials. Simultaneously to creating video work, I would like to also create four to six new paintings in the size 40 by 60 inches to 48 by 72 inches.

14 – Connect past and future project

Currently, connections exist between my two projects, especially within the context of place and social-political transformation seen through my painting practice and videos. I would like to advance my work further in both areas. Another connection is the way that I work: I work with layers: in painting, I overlaid two maps and in my video I juxtaposed events from the past to present events. Now I want to juxtapose concurrent events worldwide occuring the present that stand in strong contrast to each other.

15 – Connect studio and research project (if separate), explain how they inform each other.

I think that a project report and writing about the process of creating a video and creating the paintings will be very helpful support for my work.

16 – Brief description of conceptual motivation
My first-year MFA work motivated me to explore the film and video mediums. I have worked with layering and juxtaposing as a concept. Now I want to create various different layers of what is happening simultaneously.
17 – Short description and abstract (50-100 word) of written element
The written element would be a report, like a sketchbook that I would create alongside the project. I would plan and work out the ‘script’ of the film, the basic elements to start with and then report on the individual steps along the way. It could almost be like a journal, in which I write my thoughts and experiences throughout this project.

18 – Proportion of written/practical element
While in the first year the proportion of my work was 50% studio work and 50% writing and research. This coming year, I would like to try to focus more on the studio work. The written element would describe the process of the practical element.  

19 – Possible location for the project

The presentation of the project can happen anywhere. The filming would happen in Berlin, Victoria and possibly in Turkey.

20 – Timeline for realization of project
I would start work on the project at the beginning of the fall semester (September 2017) and would conclude this project during the spring months of 2018 (March/April) and then finish my project report in April/May/June 2018.

21 –  Budget

Depending on my travels involved in this project and the likelihood that I would install this work with several screens for the MFA presentation, I calculate I would need a budget of $1.000 to $3.000

22 – Additional supporting information
Just an idea:
Since I would like to do several interviews with Farid while I will be in Berlin July 23rd to August 13th and since he lives close to Berlin, I was wondering if it was possible that I invite him to the third week of workshops in Berlin (to the workshop with Jean Marie).
I would pay for this week of course.

It would give me an opportunity to look into different ways of collaboration with Farid, a ceramic artist and refugee from Syria.

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