Friday, 1 October 2010

Chelsey Hoff

Chelsey Hoff is a visual artist, living and studying in Chicago. Hoff's videos act as a dreamlike synthesis of recurring visuals and sound, often recontexualising grainy footage from MTV-era VHS tapes whilst also drawing on the the laid back and nostaligic iconography of musical contemporaries. I interviewed her last night on gmail chat about her current location, projects, collaborations and time and space.

Are we just jumping into it, however you want to do it?

Not to do the whole tedious a/s/l thing but some background's always nice like location, did you study etc

Sure. I'm 20 years old. I was born and raised in Florida. I ended up in Brooklyn on a whim (aka my car broke down while visiting). I spent a year there, and recently moved to Chicago to study at SAIC.

So your course is arts based?

Definitely is - it's not all concentrated in film / video. SAIC is pretty open about which departments you work in. I'm starting to explore sound and new media.

SAIC aside, Chicago is a pretty groovy city with a tech noir vibe. A lot of creative vibes and energy going around. This week, there is a big glitch art event happening.

Like a live show?

Gallery openings, screenings, workshops, real-time video shows

Are you involved, do you do the real-time stuff as well?

Err performances rather. I'm not involved, some of my friends are. I like some of the glitch aesthetics, but as far as the whole movement goes, I'm not associated with it. I actually just did my first real-time video gig with my friend, Theo Darst, at a sky limo and teaadora show last week. Its something I'm going to keep pursuing.

How does it work, do you just project in a gallery? Is there music as well? Would ever use the term 'VJ'?

People have different ways of going about it. This event took place at a bar (beauty bar of chicago), and was specifically for a show put on by Acid Marshmallow. We used a simple, freeware real-time program, and ran it through a little analogue glitch-making device one of our friend's built, then ran that through an ancient digital effects processor. The term VJ sounds so cheesy !!!

It does, but it kinda suits the work I've seen of yours, i.e that whole 80's vibe and you know being a 'VJ' must have been so hot in the 80s - I realise that sounds like a facile connection

Haha yeah I bet, wasn't there, couldn't say, can only imagine through a lens of blurry/artificial nostalgia.

Is that it that disconnection, as it were, that inspires your style?

Definitely. There is something so enchanting about experiencing an era I was too young or non-existent to have experienced first hand, through outmoded media. Its like having a memory that was never formed placed in my brain. I also have an obsession with the ethereal and ephemeral. I love moments. At first, I was trying to capture and stretch ones that stuck out to me.

Yeah that idea of focusing in on something, well empheral, that comes across with the way there's loops of sounds, mixed with looped and recurring visuals

Its all about the feeling. Its about creating a third meaning while superseding a framework or larger context, extracting that meaning.


Yeah, recontextualised media appetizers

Yeah, I know this is gonna seem like another poor comparison but you work with similar grainy vhs style footage, that evokes or is taken from the same era that a lot of the music you use to soundtrack it with tries to emulate via samples/recording methods

Not a poor comparison! I experience some form of heavy synesthesia. I think of the sound and video as one, I experience them as one. The video feels like the music.

Do you create the video from the music and vice versa then?

Without the music, there would be no video. I'm just beginning my venture into sound. For blss, I had all the footage and textures ready to go, but couldn't complete it until there was music. I jammed on my friends synth for a day, and was able to complete it.

'bnc' above was a collaboration with my friend and noise-maker, Anthony Engelhardt. I asked him to make me a 15 min jam, and went from there.

When artists approach you to make videos, do they have anything specific in mind?

Most of the time not. I feel like the ones that do approach me do so because they know we share a mental, aesthetic link - they trust that I can articulate what they are trying to say.

Just back to the found footage/you, do you prefer working with that, rather than creating your own videos from scratch or is it more, different paths to the same goal?

Video is a pretty new thing to me. I started working with found VHS because it was the quickest way to achieve my goals. Obviously, there are limitations to what you can do - I am starting to branch off and film things myself. Now its about recreating those portals and zones I found in recycled footage through new footage.

I suppose that's why the internet has spawned so much of this type of work, because all these mediums are free to access whereas video cameras/setups are expensive, Does your uni help you out with that?

SAIC has a ton of resources, we even have a Sandin Image Processor!

Re: internets - the type of work I do is possible because of the interwebz. Its a trend of the 'post-modern condition' For me, its also about archiving this obsolete footage, making it more topical, showing people footage that might otherwise exist unseen.

In the case of weirdo, found VHS. Not many people would watch Diabetes: A Positive Approach or Mastering the Art of Carving with Merle Ellis all the way through

Travel videos are great too, they paint hyper-realities

Yeah in the same way that infomercials do, it's that cheesy, lack of irony that's quite attractive

Right, the 80's and 90's was a powerhouse for ridiculous, garbage media. Somebody has to go through and sort it all.

I'm seeing a lot of tumblrs that seem to just re-hash something that I had semi-forgotten about, from say 10/15 years ago. Does remoulding something contemporary not interest you?

Its the distance and time from these events that allow us to romanticize them, but the gaps between trends and eras do grow smaller.

How do you mean?

Our perception of time is tied into the speed and amount of information we take in. That speed and amount of information continues to quicken at an exponential rate. I think it naturally follows that our perception of time would change too.

Do you always see yourself creating visual/video art? Is that what you want to specialise in?

I really just started. I am going to continue doing the video thing, but I feel there will be a point when just a video is not enough. I'm starting my venture into sound. Video will always be my base, but its going to become more of how I incorporate and expand it into other interactive systems.

Yeah I feel similar, but from the opposite direction, a lot of my friends make videos and music, i'm tired of asking others to create them for me

Same with me for music, not tired of it, I love collaborating, but, for things I do on my own.
venturing off into new mediums can only widen your perspective.

Speaking of widening my perspective - I'm going to begin working on my first short soon! The short is a meta-tation on media, video, and industrial zones (I live next to a tortilla factory and down the street from a steel mill) permeating my hypnagogic and dreaming states. Sometimes, I have dreams where my mind turns into a monitor projecting pure, raw video. While its happening, I'm unable to tell if its something I've seen or something I've made, or a premonition of something I will see or make. Pairing that with the continuous, often abrasive, sounds of Pilsen - its going to be a journey into the realm suspended between video and reality, an attempt to find the true video-self. I plan on making the score, an ambient/drone/industrial noise soundscape, with my friend and fellow media-maker, Zahid Jiwa. I'm hoping to keep the music and video as one symbiotic being - shooting and jamming, allowing them to feed and inspire each other. Its going to be shot on VHS and the first camera I ever used as a child - a decaying, Olympus Movie 8. In some ways, it will be the extended, loosely narrative, darker version of 'blss'.