Interview by Jes Reyes
In this interview, artist Dan Murphy answers some of my questions about One Nine Three Nine, his short ambient film nominated for Ae's Creative Vision Award. Make sure to check out the film on Thursday, July 28 during our Impressions screening.
Dan, this is the third year in a row that Ae has featured your moving image artwork. I know you also as an illustrator. When did you first start creating moving image and how do you describe the work you do?
I started about 8 years ago, editing video to some short music demos I had recorded. Having the visual component really activated the music for me, adding a new dimension of creativity to work with. I usually describe my work as ambient film & music collages, utilizing vernacular found film sources and original music compositions.
Moody, dreamy, surreal, and vintage are some words that come to mind when I think of your videos. There is also a sense of mystery to your works, too. Do you consider your work narrative?
I'd say so, it's almost an invitation to a narrative. The mystery in having the narrative slightly out of reach of the viewer, hopefully drawing them into the work to investigate further. They might not find the same narrative I created, and it may reveal as much about the viewer in what they end up finding, I’ve come to think art is at it’s best when it’s about instigating that journey within a work.
Much of the tone of your work comes from how you use image and sound. Which comes first for you: the music or the images?
It could be either, I just let myself be open to whatever gets the process started and go from there. For One Nine Three Nine I had the images first and started composing music on top of that, then arranging some of the film clips around in response to the music, and adding more music layers in response to that, and so on. So for a while both image and sound are pretty fluid elements reacting to each other.
Tell me more about One Nine Three Nine, the work we will be showing during the 3rd season of the Ae Film Festival. I know that you used found home movies from the 1939 World’s Fair…where did the images come from? Why did you select The World’s Fair for your imagery?
The home movies were shot by a home movie buff named Philip Medicus, who shot hours of footage of the fair, which I found on the Prelinger Archives website. I had some unrelated industrial film clips in an early cut, but realized they weren't necessary, there was enough to work with in the World's Fair footage, At first glance the Fair films had this colorful sheen, full of spectacle and promise of the future. But then thinking about the year 1939, I started seeing this foreshadowing in these relatively benign scenes, things spinning out of control, marching figures/still figures, machinery with unsettling automation, crowded spaces and then empty spaces, and flashing blasts of light. The constructed dreamland of the Fair was already contrasting with the real nightmare of world events and the impending outbreak of World War II. Through my piece I was bringing that a bit closer to the surface with some help of a melancholy soundtrack.
Do you have any new projects you are working on?
More film projects like this are in the works, maybe some longer form pieces. I've been painting a lot of portraits lately and would like to get something together with those. I'm working on the next book of a graphic novel series I write and draw called Elle Cirka.
What do you want your relationship to be with your local arts community?
I've had wonderful experiences being involved with gallery shows, and publishing my own art work/illustration and playing music around town. Being a part of the Ae Film Festivals has been another great way expand my connection to the arts community here. Creating art can be quite solitary, and being able to meet and build relationships with other artists and the art audience is important, as seeing the creative work of others drives me to improve during those long hours in front of the canvas/camera/guitar/computer/etc.
Where can we find you online?
The Lion, Dan Murphy, Music collage
Previous film fest posts from Altered Esthetics blog: