Pretty Pictures of Dangerous Things

Cover Image of the DVD set for release on June 29th, 2010. Property of Factory 25

A little over a week ago I went to a really tasty Indian Food Restaurant and two drab and obese women were sitting next to me.  My initial observations were laid to rest as I heard their conversation. Essentially they were discussing how to best utilize green screens with stop motion. Immediately I knew they were in fact filmmakers. I wanted to interrupt and join their conversation upon the immediate common ground that I shared with them. Thankfully I did not because what I learned from eavesdropping was a far more candid take on the issues they faced. Their audience, high school students, they were both teachers who collectively worked to create stop motion films to illustrate lessons. Brilliant! The argued over the new lesson plans that were in talks for the following year and how it would effect their work and whether or not they had enough time to finish their new project before the summer ended. They also commented on their persistence in doing what they love no matter how much time it takes out of their normal routine. These women for my dollar are the type artists I want to see more of! But sadly their’s is also the type of work that will never be seen by anyone who could appreciate it on the aesthetic level that would allow them to grow. Realistically I’m not sure they’d want that anyways. Needless to say it was no stretch for me to sympathize with their plight and just hearing their struggle was, simply put, comforting and notably inspiring.

This week a DVD will quietly be released of a documentary that quietly traveled the festival circuit last year despite winning various awards and inciting extensive critical acclaim. The film is Brock Enright: Good Time Will Never be the Same by Jody Lee Lipes. It follows the making and construction of Performance Artist Brock Enright’s first solo exhibition at the noted Perry Rubinstein Gallery in New York City. Brock had received previous attention with his Videogames Adventure Services, which customers, as I understand, could pay to have someone they know or themselves kidnapped. After the media circus that followed this endeavor, Brock committed himself to his artwork fulltime. Lipes’ film tackles a portrait of an artist finding meaning in his work while also seeking for inner direction. To call it a fascinating look behind the curtain, which by all means it is, would be an understatement. The film chooses to focus on the present tense in a way where we as viewers become a part of the world. Where our reactions to the material on screen seem interwoven into the framework of cuts and framing of the characters.

While I’m not sure the film successfully creates a hero in Brock, it does enjoy the steps taken to create one. Part child, part wild man, part nightmare, part mouse, Brock seems to work ceaselessly despite the mounting bills. So while the mischief Enright uses to create his work occurs we find ourselves drawn to see where his mind goes. In other hands this could be the point at which an audience might feel lost but this is quite the opposite. The darker our journey gets and the more wild and chaotic the happenings the perspective stays consistently calm. Through Lipes’ use of simple framing compositions and, editor Lance Edmunds, delicate cuts the insanity of the artwork is somehow by contrast grounded. The concept is simple enough, but in practice it is what makes this film by and large a unique and highly enjoyable spectacle to watch.

I have always seen successful art as something that just felt right for me. Whether I am creating it or observing it, if it feels off I know it usually means I must stop my train of thought and restart with a fresh and adaptive approach. This is a process captured on screen multiple times over with Brock during the course of the film. Despite the fact that most people will never make art the way Brock does, this film allows us to understand his struggle to create it. So whether an artist is preparing a class lesson with clay and a green screen or wearing a mouse nose dancing in woods with a sledgehammer for an exhibition in New York City, they are working to create something that feels right. In a time where many people spend their whole lives feeling out of place or uncomfortable it is always refreshing to encounter those with the aptitude to find out what uniquely gives them satisfaction. As much as there has been said about art and the creation of art; few sentiments offer a good comment to what it is or what it takes to make it. On the surface art can be beautiful, it can be disgusting, serene or abrasive, mild or dense, but little to reflect on the struggle to create or what it might feel like to do so. Currently we live in a time where art can be found anywhere; being made my almost everyone with an iPhone. It is safe to say that not just anyone could do what Brock Enright does, nor could many people make the film that Lipes has.

While the documentary does not include much of Brock’s final exhibition the DVD thankfully gives us the final product in the form of a film. If you are at all as frustrated with the present releases at the theaters then this film will come as a welcome surprise. Be warned this film deals with sexual and “gross out” subject matter (with drugs and alcohol in the mix) in a chaotic and often times in a concequence-free setting. In other words my mother would cringe through much of it, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.