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Still from Rhett Jones' contribution to Ways of Something.

“…this culture is mad.” // Q&A with Lorna Mills

By Apartment613 on July 23, 2015

Post by Katja Melzer, SAW Video Programmer.

This evening, Lorna Mills’ groundbreaking Ways of Something (2014-2015) will screen at SAW Video. A contemporary remake of the iconic BBC television series Ways of Seeing (1972) by John Berger, the Toronto based media artist invited more than 100 Canadian and international artists from different generations to collaborate with her. Each artist selected one minute of the original video, and responded to it by creating their own minute using 3D renderings, animated gifs, film remix, live webcam images and video. The resulting work is not only revisiting Berger’s theories on contemporary art from 40 years ago, but furthermore expands the discussion to current and future art creation and distribution on the Internet.

How did you initially come across John Berger’s Ways of Seeing and what made you want to work with it?

Ways of Seeing seems to be a standard text in most art schools, I read it when I was young, but what I didn’t know was that the TV show preceded the book.

I was invited to curate a set of one minute videos by the One Minutes in Amsterdam.  I really had no ideas for it that excited me, as I don’t consider myself a video artist or really enjoy screening videos, but I stumbled upon the Berger videos when an artist named Jaakko Palasvuo linked to episode 1 on Facebook. The version on Facebook just happened to have closed captioning and Ways of Something immediately crystallized as a collaborative art work.

Do you have a favourite scene or an observation by Berger which you found most striking?

My favourite Berger moment is in episode 4:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbfHYCEpWOQ[/youtube]

  “one can only say this culture is mad” (so I took it for my minute)

For Ways of Something (2014-2015) you invited 112 artists from different generations to recreate one minute of Berger’s television series resulting in a four-episode remake. Remake, mashup or ‘Art Video Mega Mixtape’ (The Creator’sProject) – how would you describe your approach to this extensive project?

I gave the most thought to the overall logistics behind completing the 4 episodes. The artists had total freedom to do whatever they wanted in their own minute. I only provided the technical framework and a few rules such as the captioning because I knew the text would be the thing that held it together, creating continuity and discontinuity at the same time.

Although the artists created their contributions independently, a collaborative or perhaps even collective spirit seems to be inherent in the work. Do you think that projects like this create a sense of community online, or do they rather reflect something that already exists?

I actually think they do create a sense of community, as everyone knew they were part of the whole. There are a variety of micro-communities on-line, some people see this as cliquish, though I don’t, but I do like to mix and match.

In a previous interview, you said that you don’t feel like you are really part of the project but also did not see yourself solely in the role of a curator. Did completing your own minute for the fourth and last episode, which is still unpublished, change your understanding of the overall work?

Finally doing my own minute didn’t change my understanding, it just made me feel part of it in a way that I felt was far more legitimate than simply leading the project.

As an artist who obsessively collects and reuses found images, what is your take on recent discussions around appropriation of (art) images on the Internet? Do images published online belong to someone?

Personally I generally try to avoid artified imagery on the net, I’m more interested in the stuff that comes from people who don’t position themselves as artists.  (Richard Prince’s instagram theft bores me beyond words.)  R.M. Vaughan wrote a good essay in MOMUS about this very subject, I will defer to him, but just this once…

You altered the title from Ways of Seeing to Ways of Something. What is this ‘something’?

To me, ‘something’ is a propositional word or a placeholder for a lot of potential meanings. It’s expansive.

The SAW Video Summer Screening and Picnic will start at 6pm with music by DJ Skid Vicious, courtesy of CHUO 89.1 FM, delicious treats by Seed to Sausage, homemade pies and summery drinks at the cash bar. At 8pm a conversation between media artists Lorna Mills and Matthew Williamson will be moderated by local curator and critic Anna Khimasia. From 9pm, the first three episodes of Ways of Something (2014-2015) by Lorna Mills will be screened.

Thursday, July 23, 2015 – 67 Nicholas Street, Outdoor Courtyard (in the unlikely event of rain, the event will be moved inside to Club SAW)