Academic journal article Millennium Film Journal

Frequencies: An Interview with Jason Boughton

Academic journal article Millennium Film Journal

Frequencies: An Interview with Jason Boughton

Article excerpt

Here is a first person protest against the foreign ventures of American empire, a demonstration of video rooted in the body, as a body, walking into funeral grounds and across streets where his kind has been before, slowing things down so he can understand, and hear at last the voices which sound from these places, the phantoms which are clamoring to be heard, singing, wailing, the soldiers from Vietnam and Iraq, the embassy personnel, the empty promises of presidents past and present. His practice begins with a long troll through the internet, he is a virtual pirate, a gluttonous fan (is there nothing he is not interested in?), searching for pictures the empire has left behind. In place of the camera, the internet, and once they have come home, regathered their digital parts into movies that he pulls apart and then together, he searches for a way to make them visible again. It isn't simply a question of representation, of some clever reframing. Instead, he tries to close the door, he looks for a way for these pictures to refuse the viewer, to keep their mystery and demand our approach. Jason's battleground of pictures refuses the survey look, the pan that maps out territory, the aerial view that designates targets. How very necessary this work is, particularly now, when the divisions of form and content seem larger than ever, when the documentary belongs to television and formal experiments to the art world. So many state terrors have become visible, but few can be seen, except in those instances when time has been re-introduced into the act of looking, when there is time above all to wait for these pictures to unfold, and lay bare the dark secrets that produced these everyday catastrophes.

Mike Hoolboom: How did you find the title for The Frequency of the Sun (10 min, 2005)? Does naming come first, as something to gather thoughts around, or does it occur as an afterthought?

Jason Boughton: Until recently, I worked by accumulation; images were added to or subtracted from other images until some sense emerged, or until they articulated an argument. Frequency started with a sequence of outtakes from why We Fight, the American propaganda films made by Frank Capra. Some of those images are still there, but the first assemblies contained many more.

The name came along soon thereafter, when I found a source online for radiographic videos from NASA. There were audio clips as well, low-frequency solar radiation played through a radio receiver. That noise is under almost all of the tape, though it's mostly inaudible. After the name was fixed, it became litmus for the other material: did it fit the name, which was also the name of all the parts as well as the whole...

This was during the American war in Afghanistan, and even then the Iraq war seemed a foregone conclusion. It was clear that all of this real and impending violence was totally impractical, that is, it would fail to address whatever the "problem" was; people seemed to want it to happen because it might be satisfying, not because it would be useful. This was the atmosphere while I was collecting material, and the goal of the video was always to make an argument about the American obsession with ritual violence, this enormous cliché, without actually engaging in the frustrating, spectacular, greatest-generation clichés.

MH: The opening shot is a bravura track through what appears to be a Midwest cornfield, though the preceding title has clearly identified this landscape as Iraq. It is a striking juxtaposition, and carries with it a sense that "us" and "them" are somehow the same. Where did you find this shot and why is it so long? Is duration an issue for you?

JB: The misidentification of the first shot is a trick I resort to fairly often, and is less a proposal of equivalence than an opportunity for confusion, like a small pin-prick opening made in the known, through which disorientation can spurt. A large part of my goal in any of these little videos is to sow confusion among the faithful, though I doubt the faithful are ever in a position to see my work. …

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