ISOLATED EXPERIMENTS-Jina Park
During this period of global public health-sanctioned isolation, Millennium Film Workshop, like many other organizations has sadly had to postpone many of our planned events for the Spring season. We’ve decided to continue to showcase in the meantime, great work from great artists here on our own website, in a new weekly series we’re calling “Isolated Experiments,” accompanied by comments from the artists themselves. Sign up for our mailing list via our contact page to get email updates about new films as we post them weekly.
This week, we are featuring “The Vigilance“ a six minute video piece made by artist Jina Park
MFW: The Vigilance, as a title, implies stoicism, but the video moves fluidly through several different tones in the span of minutes, from nightmarish to irreverent, serene etc. Can you talk a little about the theme of vigilance, where it comes into play for you in this film?
JP: I don’t know if this back-story is interesting or helpful, but I’ll start by talking about my condition when I made this work. Back then, I just started graduate school in Chicago. I didn’t even know how to set up video format on the camera properly. Just checking out a camera and a tripod made me so nervous and overwhelmed. I stayed in a small sublet room in a neighborhood where I didn’t feel safe to walk when the sun went down. This room had a walk-in closet that I didn’t know existed until the day I moved in. The girl who used to live in this place asked if she could spend the night before she left. ‘Oh, sure.’ I thought I would sleep on the couch. ‘good night.’ ‘good night.’ Then she opened another door in the room. I glanced at all the stuff and a small bed crammed in there. While living there, I used to walk home from the bus stop late at night. Sometimes I had to scream and run away as best I could. There were also nights when strangers knocked on my window facing the street. I couldn’t help imagining someone would be behind the two doors of my room.
Also, I had about ten plants that she asked me to take care of. I watered them once a week. During the four months of fall and winter I stayed, they grew so fast. They were very green, stretched their limbs over the floor and desk, sensually and violently entangled. I believe that those limbs sometimes invaded my feverish dreams. I always felt anxious and terrified at the state of being exposed and trapped at the same time. Soon, I realized that if there were someone behind that closet door, it would be me — someone with my face. What would I or she be looking for? I made this work as an impromptu. I made the first half without any plan, then made the second part with a simple storyboard. The title, Vigilance came to my mind after I finished this work.
MFW: I wouldn’t have guessed this was made from a place of inexperience–the sound design is very effective-when watching it on headphones, I actually paused to go check on my door and realized it was the video! Can you tell me a little bit about the decisions you made with the sound, particularly in the more abstract second half?
JP: Oh, that’s really great to hear! I’m very glad! Yes, I use a lot of sounds from psychological landscapes. It came from the limitations I thought I was facing at the time. Looking back now, I was always concerned about my lack of experience, technical skills… also working alone with limited physical space and materials – the part I performed in front of a tripod was taken at my house or vacant space in my neighborhood. Also, I thought that I couldn’t get good shots that lasted long enough for more than a few seconds. So I chopped up the footage and that’s where my quick and fast editing started. I needed something to link these pieces together and carry the whole thing. I walked around the streets, collecting sounds, and found some recordings from the Internet, like https://freesound.org. People share a lot of great sounds! At that time, I didn’t use Pro tools, I worked with Premiere. I had so much fun working on it. This sound design allowed me to overcome physical and technical limitations, expand the space of this work, and add multiple layers… I’m sure you’ve already guessed. I hope people get to experience it.
MFW: I like the idea of being moved to explore, extract and collect sounds and images from your environment by making a film inspired by confinement due to fear of said environment. It’s almost like the double in the film is the self you come into by making the film. Is that kind of reflexivity intentional? Do you ever actively feel these kinds of transformations happening by the act of making when you make art, do you notice them in retrospect?
JP: My goal was very simple. I wanted to figure out what I could technically do and what I would make as an artist and filmmaker. While making this piece, to be honest, I felt stunned that it seemed to reflect myself too much. ‘I want to make something more fictional, more cinematic and new… not what has been all the time in my head!!’ At the same time, I was afraid when people told me that my work seemed personal and visceral.
For me, this work was an adventure, an experience of breaking through the egg shell. And that feeling of out of control totally took me. Since then, I try to be open to environments. From the next piece, I became more conscious of control over elements and tension -what to conceal or show, how to blur the borders of reality and dreams, even though they were also one person projects filmed in limited domestic spaces. So yes, I actively feel these happening presents in filmmaking, though some thoughts come later.
MFW: Last Question: We have all been impacted by the covid isolation and subsequent racial protest movement; if each artwork changes us, do you see or anticipate any larger change in the landscape of art making in general?
JP: That’s a very important question!! Yes, there will be a huge change, many changes at various levels, but I couldn’t anticipate it at the moment. The two events have already brought significant changes to the film production guidelines, and to our existing view of consuming media and art. We see it already impacts the landscape of art-making in general. Beyond these immediate systemic changes, we will see how these unprecedented common experiences have left some scars on all of us, led us to awaken and move, and how it will be reflected in the art of our time. I am looking forward to seeing it, with fear, hope, expectation.
As for BLM, I would like to mention Arthur Jafa’s video work, “Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death.” I saw it in MCA Chicago last year. It was a great work. I kept watching it for an hour and cried a lot. I think that work affected me on a deep level.
Jina Park is an experimental narrative filmmaker and a modest, meticulous existentialist. Half of her body is made of whipped cream, the body of her work is made of huge craving for life. For her, life is a dazzling fear, being alive is radical. Jina tries to create females who never let go of their ethics, no matter how much their lives are shaken and how long they have wandered, through her films.