Billy and the Magician

Stephanie Barber | U.S. | 2011 | 3m 18s
color | sound | DV
from Jhana and the Rats of James Olds

I met a magician the night before and asked him to come to the museum and do some sleight of hand for my camera. After taping him and watching the footage I wrote this story ––a mystery of “nothing proportions.” The man who agreed to read it came in late in the afternoon. I was getting nervous about finishing this piece––so many people said no and I was not happy with the readings of the few who said yes. Then David Speck came in with a big round voice and full of questions and excitement about my project.  I love his reading of this story. He was a theatre director in Seattle, visiting his children in Baltimore. His family sat so patiently and pleased while he recorded his takes for me.—Stephanie Barber

Between June 25th and August 7th 2011 Stephanie Barber moved her studio into the Baltimore Museum of Art where she created a new video each day in a central gallery open to museum visitors. The goal of this project, entitled Jhana and the rats of James Olds or 31 days/31 videos, was to create a series of short, poetic videos in the playful and serious footprints of Oulipo games and daily meditations; creating one new video each day. The exhibit was both a constantly changing installation as well as a collaborative performance in which museum visitors were present as spectator and often creative partner. This video was created on the 10th day of this exhibit.

“I am thinking about the emphasis given to product over production, or display over creation. The piece is a video screening and an installation and a performance—a spiritual obeisance, an athletic braggadocio, a consideration of marxist theories of production (with the assembly line so lovingly lit). It is a funny game for me to play, an exercise in concentration, discipline and focus, an extension of my everyday. It is a greedy desire to squeeze a massive amount of work out of myself; a dare; a show I would like to see myself. It is like the backstory before the story, an inversion of the way we usually experience art work. A moving from the inside out. I was thinking how the interiors of museums are really only able to share what is almost the exterior of a piece of art work––and though this colliding of the interior and exterior is fuzzy––a step towards the interior of any art piece might be the making of that piece. I’m interested in the tedious and repetitive qualities of meditation and art work, the difference and similarities in these two practices. The practice and work of these practices––the dispelling of the so-seductive myth of artist as creating through a vague and florid explosion of inspiration––or perhaps interested in romanticizing the effort and challenging technical, logistical, practical elements of creation. The tedious as IT. Or one of the ITs. Like all pieces of art, this project is accordion in its intentions, shrinking and expanding upon use.”—Stephanie Barber

Screens as part of Bitches Brew.

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