Category Archives: ART INTERVIEW

EarthDance Film Festival – Thursday Night

So there’s a pretty cool event happening tomorrow night… The 8th Annual EarthDance Short-Attention-Span Environmental Film Festival.  I should tell you right off the bat that it’s not actually in Oakland (rather Berkeley), but I am writing about it for a few reasons…

For starters, its founder Zakary Zide is an Oakland resident.  He worked at the Oakland Museum of Art for years and it was during this time, and through the museum’s support, that the festival originated.  Plus one of the films included this year is Oakland’s own homespun documentary “Scrapertown” about the Scraper Bike movement in Oakland.

Having established the festival’s proper Oaktown street-cred, what’s more important is that this event is cool, thought-provoking, inspiring, entertaining, and fun! You can read more about it in my interview with Zakary, below photo.  In the meantime, here are the details:

EarthDance Short-Attention-Span Environmental Film Festival
2011 Official Selections (PG-13)
9 films, 90 minutes.

A serious and light-hearted exploration of nature, culture and environmental design.
Featuring an eclectic collection of comedies, documentaries, adventures and animations, films range in length from 3 – 30 minutes.
Short is Sweet.

Thursday, March 17th, 2011
7pm and 9pm (two screenings, same films for both)

24/7  ticket hotline:  800-838-3006
On-line:  BrownPaperTickets

The David Brower Center
2150 Allston Way
Berkeley, CA 94610
(map here)

photo by Rus Anson

Hi Zakary,

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few questions about your 8th Annual EarthDance Film Festival, screening tomorrow night at the David Brower Center in Berkeley.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen several of the previous incarnations of this festival, even back to its early days when it was screened at the Oakland Museum of California.  Can you talk about its genesis?  How you came up with the idea?  And the involvement of OMCA towards that end?

It’s great that you’ve experience our collection!  Thanks for following our event!

I started the EarthDance Short-Attention-Span Environmental Film Festival in 2004 for 4 reasons:

  1. I wanted to demonstrate that stories about the environment aren’t always political and aren’t always gloomy and doomy…the natural world is full of humor, quirky characters (the praying mantis – come on!) and inspiration.  My friends, colleagues and I weren’t seeing the kind of environmental stories that we could relate to.  Most things being produced at the time were either of the Croc Hunter variety or predictable to the point of being annoying.
  2. To provide a container for people to come together; a venue for people to share their stories and multi-media explorations of their relationships with the natural world.  Environmental films aren’t just for eco-freaks.  We all have a relationship to the natural world; even if we’re only talking about an ant invasion in your kitchen. How you deal with the ants, that’s the interesting bit.
  3. To help create a ‘culture of nature’ and raise money for environmental issues.
  4. To inspire and be inspired to take action.

I was working at the Oakland Museum at the time. I presented the idea to the powers that be and eventually got funding for a “pilot” year. The goal, among those above, was to help the museum with new audience development.  Fortunately, EarthDance did what we had hoped.  The Film Fest bolstered museum membership. And existing members were happy to have something new to get excited about.  As a result, I got more funding to keep the project alive.  I’ve since left the museum, but thankfully they have remained supportive.

Were there other environmental film festivals that served as examples?  Of either what to do, or what not to do?  (You don’t have to name names).

There were a few, but we were one of the first environmental film fests.  Now it seems that everyone and their uncle has a film fest. I should really talk to my uncle about starting another one.

I believe the festival’s been referred to as “eco-tainment”.  Can you talk a little bit about that?

People like good stories, for good reason.  I’m not a fan of sensationalism, but I do appreciate an entertaining story that has a meaningful message.  I think this explains the popularity of such films as Super Size Me, and Michael Moore’s documentaries.  In this way, I don’t think one should have to sacrifice entertainment for ecology.

I think too many TV shows and films with important messages to tell get caught up in a scripted narrative, or else frighten or bore their audiences to death.  There are so many different ways that people relate to the natural world – from the hunter to the vegetarian.  I’m interested in telling everyone’s story.

What I love about the films I’ve seen in years past, is the enormous variety of subject matter & film styles.  Everything from 30 second shorts filmed under a scientific microscope, to 30 minute long foreign animated films, short documentaries following eco-warriors, and so much more.  There’s really something for everyone.  And typically lots of laughter.  Can you talk a bit about your process of selecting films for inclusion?

I’m glad to hear your feedback on this!  This is exactly the kind of response that we try to elicit with our curation!

We intentionally cast a wide net.  This is another reason why I felt like the Short-Attention-Span nature of the film fest was essential – variety.  People’s time is short and as great of a film as Who Killed the Electric Car is, not everyone wants to sit through 90 minutes of one eco-themed story.  We wanted to include more people and expand the conversation.  We’ve found that people really appreciate our variety. We often hear that our collection is “not what we expected, and that’s a good thing.” Specifically we look for films that are passionate, provocative, and funny.  We look for personal stories that have not been told before; quirky, inspirational, and generally non-political.  And of course, they have to be 30 seconds to 30 minutes in length.

I know a particularly memorable one, both because it was hilarious, and also quite recent, was the short film “Spiders on Drugs.” Does each year consist of entirely new material?  Or do you carry over audience favorites from year to year?

Each year is a fresh collection. We do, however sell / lease compilation DVDs of all of our collections for both public and private screenings.  It’s probably time that we have a “Best of the Best” screening!

It seems a common perception problem with issues of conservation and/or sustainability is that it’s just not fun.  It’s like your mother nagging you to turn down the heat and put on a sweater instead.  You know it’s the right thing to do, but somehow it feels… what’s the word… um, burdensome.  Are you trying to change this perception?

Absolutely! A little sugar helps the medicine go down.  As one of our festival attendees put it, the environmental awareness of our fest hits you more like a fine wine vapor than a sledgehammer.  I think we go for the subtle and sublime as opposed to the guilt.

As an ecologist and educator myself, I learned first hand that facts and figures don’t often move people as much as a personal connection and the rich flavor and depth of the story.  We have found that if people can relate to the story that it’s easier to get inspired, and then they will take it upon themselves to take their interest and awareness to the next level.

We all know on some level that the environmental situation – our relationship to the natural world – is being tested and strained.  We don’t need more gloom and doom stories.  Now is the time for stories and meaningful media that reconnects us to the source of life – the very stuff of our spiritual, physical, and psychological sustenance.

Has your perception of the world, and our place in it, changed at all through your years of curating of the festival?

I think that more people are waking up to their relationship to the natural world, and that the economy is reflecting this.  Of course we have to be careful of greenwashing, but I think it’s great how many more eco-friendly products and designs are available today vs. 8 years ago when the festival first launched.  Green products and services can always be improved. But humans will always have an impact. We consume. Mitigating our consumption and giving people healthier choices is a step in the right direction.

What do you hope the festival’s viewers will experience?

Surprise, joy, inspiration, celebration and motivation to explore their relationship to the natural world.

I know there’s a question and answer period following each screening.  What’s the craziest question you’ve ever gotten?

Would I ever make love to a polar bear?

Hah!  Thanks again Zakary.  See you at the screening!

ART INTERVIEW: Get Up

Did anyone make it to Art Murmur Friday night? I saw a great show on urban street artists (specifically black calligraphers & muralists) tying in nicely with my street art theme of last week, so I’m gonna continue to roll with that for a bit.  I’ll have more on the show, titled Aero Soul 2,  later in the week.

For now, I have my next artist interview installment.  I had initially hoped to have these monthly, but seeing as this is only my second in over a year, you can see that I got a bit off track (ahem). But I have high hopes to get back on track, so if you’ve seen something interesting recently and want a bit more info about the art and/or artist, send me a note and I’ll see what I can do…

Here’s another piece by Get Up – we’ve seen this one before, but with a different color scheme. It exemplifies a cool feature of stencils – that they can be used over and over. My interview with him follows…

Large Wheat Paste art, east bay wheat paste, get up graffiti art

Are you a formally trained artist? What’s your background?

No training or school. I’m pretty new to the whole art thing. I used to draw alot when I was young, up until maybe 7th grade, but I was never serious about it. I’ve done music since I was 13. I started off DJ’ing and then shortly after started making hip hop beats. I have an album out under a different name that features some songs with MC’s and some instrumental tracks.

About a year ago I realized that the music I’m doing, and that I really want to do, is different from what I had released under my previous name. I liked “Get Up” because I wanted something simple, a verb or command, something positive, and I just felt like it went with the theme of the music. Get up and dance, get up and do something etc.. At the same time I thought it would be cool to do some street art-type promo to get the new name out there. I started with the dancing couple with bandannas. I was just having fun, getting a rush doing it, and right away I started getting lots of positive feedback and people were taking it a lot more serious than I was. I really enjoyed painting and the idea of having visuals along with the music. That’s when I decided I would try and branch out more and do music and painting equally. My first piece went up in June 2010 in San Francisco.

Can you talk about some of your influences? (other artists you admire for example)

I really don’t know much about or follow art or artists. I see lots of stuff on the streets and stuff but I rarely know who it’s by. I’m familiar with most of the more popular artists, and I’ve learned about and met lots of artists since I started doing it. My influence is just the world around me and my experiences. I grew up in Philly so I’ve been surrounded by some of the best graffiti for most of my life. I have a few friends that are street/graff artists too so I’ve picked up some things along the way.

What is it about street art that appeals to you?

I love how it’s in your face and so many people see it every day. You can’t do that with music, short of standing on a corner with a boombox. Another thing I love is the interpretation aspect of it, or art in general. It’s also just lots of fun and I think its awesome when people tell me it made them smile or how they enjoy seeing it everyday going to/from work.

It seems that street art has really come into mainstream acceptance in the art world recently (gallery shows, etc.) How do you feel about that?

It’s cool I guess. I don’t really follow that world too much but I have been involved with it a little bit recently. There’s still a huge difference between a street piece and a canvas, but if people like what they see on the street and want to enjoy it in their homes, there’s gotta be somewhere to facilitate that. I do believe that if you are going to sell pieces you should have plenty of affordable art and not just expensive pieces.

How did you get started?

Just wanted to try something new to promote my music and have some fun at the same time.

I’ve seen a number of your larger pieces around Oakland and they seem to be primarily stencils. Is this your main mode of working and if so why?

I started with stencils because I was only interested with doing lots of pieces easily. I didn’t start stenciling to be an “artist”. I’ve been doing simple graphic design for a few years, just for my own music stuff, so I basically just wanted to take what I was doing on the computer and put it everywhere I could. Another thing I do a lot of is painting on cardboard, wood, or canvas and leaving it in the streets for people to take home. I also do lots of stickers and just started doing screen printing.

I’ve noticed that some of your stencils are done on large sheets of paper and then pasted up, rather than painted in place. Can you talk about your process?

I prefer to paint when possible, but some spots are just easier to paste. With posters if you get caught in the act you can still take it down and no damage was done. With paint you’re most likely getting a ticket or going to jail. I was arrested when I was 14 for graffiti, and then in November 2010 I was locked up in London for doing stencils. It’s always best to avoid jail. Posters have the advantage of being able to have more detail and color and still be put up in a minute or two. Paint is more permanent and can go on spots that posters might not stick to.

You seem to have the idea of music incorporated into many of your images, and I understand you’re a musician as well. Can you talk about whether your music inspires your visual art and whether your visual art also inspires your music?

When I started it was strictly to just get my name out there for the music, so that’s why mostly all my pieces are music related. Over the past few months I’ve been getting a lot of interest in the stuff I’m doing so I do see myself exploring other themes that I’m passionate about, and doing stuff more as an “artist” rather than just doing street advertisements. I’ve been doing lots of canvas painting and trying out different media and mediums. I definitely see the music and art inspiring each other. Whether its making a painting to match a song or vice versa.

Are there other central themes you focus on in your work?

Positivity, color, or just things I think are beautiful.

How do you hope to affect people who come in contact with your work?

I always hope for a positive response or feeling, but any reaction is good because it means people are paying attention to whats around them. If I can bring a subject, or situation some attention and get people to think about or discuss it than great. I know I’m probably not going to save the world or fix any problems by putting something on a wall, but If I can brighten up a block and make someone smile, or inspire them to do something positive or make some art themselves then I’m about as happy as can be.

Do you have a favorite color?
Probably green. It represents so many different things but mostly life and growth to me.

Thanks for your time – I really appreciate it.  And thanks for bringing your art to Oakland!

ART INTERVIEW: Mark Bode

Hey kids… so I kind of wrote a lot yesterday, eh?  And this here post is even longer, twice as long in fact.  My dear friend who knows of these things says the average blog post should be 250 words… no more, no less.  This interview clocks in at more than 5 times that!  So I’m going to take a bit of a breather… take the weekend off, give you folks a chance to catch up.  Plus I’m going to see bluegrass! Have a great weekend and I’ll see ya’ll next week…

P.S. – all photos (except last) courtesy of Mark Bode

First Mark, let me thank you for bringing your artwork to West Oakland! When we met briefly a few weeks ago while you were working on the Nymphs mural. I hope it’s ok that I call it this… does it have a real name?

I refer to it as the Forest Fairy mural.  It was inspired by my friends who are amazing artists from Brazil who call themselves Os Gêmeos, which means “The Twins” in Portuguese. They are simply amazing artists and they visited me recently for the first time.

You mentioned that you had been part of a similar mural project in the mission district of San Francisco.  Can you talk a bit about that?

I was a part of The Lilac Street Project between 24th and 25th and Mission.  It’s an alley way behind Mission street where the tagging and activities there had become seedy and out of control. So a group of artists and a very savvy couple by the names of Randolph Bose and Lisa Brewer spearheaded the transformation with mural work.  And it worked like a charm.

As the artists completed the murals, more and more tourists came through to photograph them, transforming the alley into a tourist attraction which actively stopped the tagging and caused the seedy activity to move elsewhere.  Amazing!  The owners of the property were very happy for their decision and it was a positive thing for the neighborhood. Overall there were around a dozen local and international artists that contributed to the cause. The artists were taken care of with grant money from the efforts of Randolph and Lisa.

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Did your experience with the Mission project influence you in wanting to do something in West Oakland?  Why West Oakland?

Of course! I went to The Arts School at Peralta High School on Peralta Street around 1977. Now one of my art school teachers Kathryn Porter owns property in the area, and at a recent high school reunion at that location I told Kathryn I would love to do some mural work in the spot where my friends and I first started doing art. And she agreed.

More times than not people TALK, but don’t do the WALK. I followed up and did the walk, maybe partially because of my teacher and partially because I met my life long friends there and felt I owed something to the neighborhood.  Thus the Peralta Street Project was born… we will see if the city of Oakland agrees.

What I love about these murals is their juxtaposition to the immediate neighborhood that can, at times, feel very bleak.  There are boarded up houses nearby, industrial warehouses, the nearby recycling plant that draws many disadvantaged locals pushing their shopping carts full of bottles and cans.  It can be a little depresssing.  But these murals are beautiful, and very serene I think.  The asian woman with her hair and the ribbons behind her flowing in the wind, and the nymphs with their delicate wings, bathing in the mystical pools.  Can you talk about why you chose these images specifically?

I only know that I have images that make me feel a certain way that I want to paint. I don’t have a political agenda and I don’t want to preach to the people who live in the area.  Just positive imagery. And what I want to paint is my motivation, I have infinite images I want to paint… I’m not sure what spurs it.  I want to keep going but I can’t fund the work on inspiration alone as I have a living to make and must move on…

Are the characters from some of your comics?

No , this is from another place. Comics are tedious and small.  Sometimes I have an urge to go big with imagery and use my whole body to convey an image I might have. I must go big before I am too old to do so.

And what does the lettering behind the asian woman say?

It’s Japanese…  it says DREAM and LOVE. Maybe not in that order, but it doesn’t matter. Alot of street artists make their pieces hard to decipher  and it becomes a code between individuals.. I feel if we start utilizing each other’s languages in the same pieces it may be that we can relate and communicate to each other through that other language,  much like music and how it is a universal code.

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I asked another muralist about the distinction between graffiti “art” and a lot of the tags I see that don’t seem to require any real skill.  Do you see this distinction?

Tagging can be a form of urban art or a territorial thing… in most cases it is an eye sore and is much need of a face lift. If I tag for instance I always put an image with my tag, maybe a beautiful woman or a character that says this is who I am, and I made this spot interesting. Not all will agree. I think taggers should use their flow in a positive way and show they can beautify and not destruct or destroy public property, even if it’s mundane and sterile at times.

In fact, I noticed you had to come back and clean up a couple of these tags on one of your murals.  Is it difficult to see your work altered?  Or is that just part of the whole street art thing?

It can make you angry if taggers go over such wonderful things and start a war of mind and thought, “Why did they do this?  Why can’t they see the positive thing we are doing for the very same neighborhood they live in?”  Well, I know in most cases that a true street artist will have respect for what the artist has done and won’t deface it. Sometimes there is a situation where a young person feels empowered by the act.  For me,  I love doing the piece and I just get to work on it more if I have to touch it up. I was, in an off-handed way, glad to return to the piece.  But that attitude is rare… I don’t make beef, I just wonder “why deface a positive to the hood?”

Are there any “rules” about altering other artists’ works?

If it is a spot that is permanent then yes we have a rule.  Like Peralta, I am trying to make a more colorful place for people to live in.  If someone has a different vision, we should work with them.  But if they are defacing our work there is a social or economic problem that is deeper than the imagery.  Maybe they need a hug!!!

It seems one of the great things about street art is that you have exposure to a much broader audience than people who would typically know of your work (comic book fans, graf artists, etc.)  What do you hope the random passerby takes away from his/her experience of these paintings?

It already happened while the piece was being created…  I teared up when a homeless person looked up and said “I love her” and smiled.  That is worth every moment, and I heard that multiple times during the creation of the Maki piece. People love her and it makes them feel a good feeling as they do their daily grind, whatever that may be.  Ill do it again in a second if I can..

What are your plans for future murals in the neighborhood?  You mentioned working with the folks at Custom Alloy Recycling.  Any movement there?

We will see what happens there… they seem receptive. I hope the art will prevail and we can cheer up West Oakland and the bay area with ART!

And lastly, if folks want to get involved and help out with your next mural, is that possible?  If so, how should they contact you?

I always work 3 days a week at Sacred Rose Tattoo in Berkeley and I’m always receptive to new artists.  So contact me and I will surely direct you as best I can.
www.markbode.com

Thanks for your time Mark.  And thanks for bringing your positive energy to West Oakland.

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