For the past 20 years I've been making films and videos that teeter between the experimental, documentary and narrative worlds. I try to take each project on its own terms: tailoring the way I work to the parameters of the idea.
I started out making shorter abstract films, and enjoyed the particular pleasures that accrue to working with images that toy with discernibility and reveal the ineffable in such a pure and clear way. For many years this was my only way of working.
In the mid 90’s I started to think about other ways of working. I didn’t renounce the abstract mode, but I wanted to add to it. I was restless, and felt that I had some ideas that short abstract films couldn’t contain. I wanted to make films that explored rootlessness, and considered what it is about place that attracts and repels us. Excursions (26 minutes, 1994) and Why Live Here?(50 minutes, 1996) use voice over and documentary elements in a way that was new for me. It’s worth noting that I returned to abstraction with Blue Movie in 1994. I didn’t want to give up painting the surface of the film and other tactile strategies just because I was exploring new formal elements.
Later in the 90’s I more firmly embraced the documentary idiom with Happy? (a remake of Chris Marker’s The Pretty Month of May) and also set about making an experimental, unscripted, character-driven feature film At Home and Asea. Again, I didn’t renounce shorter, more abstract works, I just wanted to try something new.
Continuing my conversation with fine arts, in Baltimore I also explored installation using video elements with “City Salvage” which I presented at the School 33 Arts Center in 2002. Again, alongside this new way of working I continued to make short form hand painted/processed work, and Sliding off the Edge of the World showed at Sundance in 2001.
One element of process that has informed all my work in its various guises is the negotiation between spontaneity and formal control. When I paint on film, I work in a very unstructured, improvisatory way, letting my hands go where they will in creating the footage. Later I pore over the material, finding connections and emphasizing metaphorical resonances in editing. In directing actors for my two features I allowed them to improvise the words, but later I added voice over (in the case of Rockaway) and other elements to give the material shape. I think both ‘letting go’ and reasserting control at different stages of the process can be equally expressive.
Many times in my life as a filmmaker I have found myself drawn to cities. I find the activity of wandering and shooting immensely inspiring: the city offers endless possibilities, surprises and contradictions. I am drawn to the delicious unexpected chaos that I encounter on a walk with a camera. Four of my films come directly from this peripatetic sensibility (Guiding Fictions, 2002; Sweep, 1998;Happy?, 2000; Fulton Fish Market, 2004). Other films and tapes, of various lengths and subject matters are inspired by the urban landscape (At Home and Sea, 2003, Baltimore; Alone, Apart: The Dream Reveals the Waking Day, 2004 Baltimore and Queens, NY; Rockaway, 2004, Queens, NY.)
Lately I have been thinking about presenting moving images in concert with musical and performative elements, as well as in a gallery context. Both Fulton Fish Market and Trailer Trash were both performed live with accompanying musicians before they became theatrical films. I am always thinking of ways to partner with other artists so that our ideas resonate and become more than the sum of their parts.
In 2006 I was a Hallwalls Artist Resident in Buffalo, NY. In four weeklong trips to Buffalo I was able to explore this city and shoot some footage that considers the urban milieu in a new way. In April 2007 I collaborated with two local groups the Real Dream Cabaret and the Open Music Ensemble in a performance combining my imagery, their performance and sound work. The piece was entitled Inside and Out: Infected Districts and Memory Lanes and weaved together historical fragments, street interviews, documentary portraits and hand painted and effected 16mm film footage to offer contrasting perspectives on this engaging city.
In the summer of 2008 and 2009 I traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina and Uruguay to shoot, learn Spanish, show work and present artist workshops. I have several installation and video projects in the works from this part of the world. I’m also working on a charged, montage driven collection of urban sketched called Collision of Parts.
Download Mark's Statement