Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Interview with LJ Frezza, the creator of 'Nuke'em, Duke'

Critical Writing / Interview

Appropriation Alliance: Thanks for joining us LJ!

LJ Frezza: No problem!

AA: Your remix was very popular during the festival, particularly by those who enjoyed your ‘Lo-Fi’ aesthetic. Could you share with us a little bit about your process and what you were aiming for with ‘Nuke'em Duke’?

LJ: Well, it was something I'd been working on for a while I had read about the movie 'The Conqueror' last year about how John Wayne and a bunch of crew members supposedly got cancer from the shoot since the location was downwind of a nuclear testing site and watching the movie and thinking about Wayne's other roles in war movies I started thinking of ways to position The Conqueror as a sort of metaphor for the U.S. Military's recent actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. So I used a lot of footage from that film and another John Wayne film called 'Back to Bataan' and footage shot by soldiers on camcorders that I ripped from YouTube. I iked the aesthetic of the low resolution of the stuff I got from YouTube and decided to work with that compressing the videos over and over again. I really liked the compression artifacts and saw them as a kind of metaphor for the instances in our lives when we can see that certain aspects of our culture are flawed. I also did some ‘datamoshing’, which I learned how to do from YouTube, actually.
DATA MOSHING TUTORIAL That process basically involves removing certain intermediate frames in post production. Oh, I guess I should also mention that I've been doing found footage work for a few years now.

AA: Your use of ‘data moshing’ was very interesting. Somehow, you were able to keep your cuts in rhythm with the music and the effect is transfixing. How hard was that to accomplish?

LJ: In my work I focus heavily on editing. I've had a lot of practice, so it wasn't really hard. I do it more through feeling than anything else. I just sort of get a feeling for how the music is progressing and edit accordingly and everything seems to work out in the end. Thanks for the compliment, by the way.

AA: You certainly display a complete command of the technique in ‘Nuke’em Duke’ as well as ‘Best of Captain Kirk Fight Scenes’, also known as ‘Boldly Going’, which is also interesting because you subtly make reference to the original roots of remix in the early ‘Fannish Vidding’ of Star Trek, as articulated in Francesca Coppa’s brilliant essay, ‘Women, Star Trek, and the early development of fannish vidding’.

LJ: well, just to clarify, the actual name of that video is ‘Boldly Going’. The name on YouTube was a bit of an experiment in branding and an exploration of the way in which YouTube videos are watched versus those on Vimeo. The Kirk thing was similar in that it was also supposed to be a metaphor for militarism, but I did it in a very obtuse sort of way.

I did sort of want to explore the fan compilation aspect in the Kirk video. I went through the whole series and pulled clips of him doing those weird combat rolls or punching people. I'm actually working on another video now using James Bond footage. I guess with these three pieces, I wanted to examine an older generation's masculine idols, a generation that's still very much running the United States. And through the glitches, I wanted to show how these outdated idols break down in contemporary society even when what they represent still persists to some degree.

AA: Changing topics, how did you hear about the Critical Remix Festival, and why did you submit your video?

LJ: well, I heard about it through Frameworks, this listserv for experimental film. One of my professors told me about it in college. I really liked the theme of the festival. I always tried to use found footage/remix to critical ends, a lot like the concept of detournement that guy Debord and the Situationist International wrote of and that seemed to be exactly what the festival was promoting.

AA: Indeed it was, and ‘Nuke'em Duke’ certainly contributed toward that aim! Finally, LJ, is there anything on the horizon that you would like to share with us or direct us to?

LJ: Well, I'm working on this site specific project right now where I'm projecting the above-ground scenery onto the ceiling of a subway car while the car is below that location. I'll be projecting it on the red line of the T in Boston. People can visit my website for updates about it, including specific times I'll be projecting. So, if anyone's in Boston, they can see that in the next months.

I got the idea because people in the subway don't really know where they are while they're traveling. It just kind of spits them out, and I wanted to do something with video that could help them locate themselves, geographically. And also, I wanted to provide something for people to look at besides advertisements. People usually just try to ignore each other in the train while riding and displace themselves from their physical surroundings, but if there was something to see, they could all see it together. So in a sense, it was a way of criticizing the loss of our sense of physical presence in modern society. I don't dislike the subway at all, mind you. I just wanted to make it a little better for people and less of a chore. I start to feel a little pretentious explaining the theory behind things I do, but I hope that all makes sense.

AA: Not at all, it makes perfect sense!

LJ: I'm building a portable projector pack for it and I'm shooting everything on a cell phone.

AA: Sounds like a really cool guerilla/DIY project! Make sure to send us some pictures! Thanks again for joining us LJ, we can't wait to see what you do next!

LJ: I really appreciate it, thank you.