Jessica Fenlon - Peep

7:00, 2013, Experimental
Take the data file that is a digitized 16mm stag film from the 1960’s. Alter the data.

The stag film puts the viewer in the original cameraman’s place, intimate distance from the stripping woman. "Moshing" the data interrupts our gaze; the nakedness revealed in her strip veiled by data decay and digital hallucination.

The dance with each viewer’s perception thresholds mirrors the stripper’s dance. A meditation on the agency of the viewed.
DirectorJessica FenlonProducerJessica FenlonWriterJessica FenlonCameraJessica FenlonEditorJessica FenlonComposerJessica Fenlon


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Who is Jessica Fenlon?
An artist, writer, poet, teacher living in Chicago, IL, USA.

What is Peep about?
Looking. Intimacy. The agency of the naked woman, her presence and participation, her consciousness.

How did you start with film? And do you have an educational background in art or film?
I studied video production in art school, for collaborative projects. In graduate school, I really took to the animation-based approach I still use to make my short films. I’m lucky, I had some great teachers.

Could you explain how you work, what themes or concepts you use and what is important to you?
I am interested in discovering margins for dangerous or foreign spaces, making them safe enough for an entry point of understanding. I have made poetic portraits of destroyed or marginalized communities; loop-based constructions pointing back to trauma theory and the problem of language when used to describe annihilation; and now these deconstructive works, where I’m playing with moments from the culture’s popular vocabulary - in this case, the consciousness of the sexual ’object’ being considered by the viewer.

How long do you usually work on one project?
As long as the project needs to be worked on. This piece took just a few days of attention [16 - 20 hours direct editing & sound production + export/compression time] to produce.

Do you carefully plan the production process or do you work more intuitive?
Storyboarding has begun to play a more important role. But in works like this one, where everything’s so clear from the start, it is like painting, to me, but as a video.

How does the title relate to the work, and how do you find a fitting title?
This work named itself; it usually does. "Peep" refers to both peep show booths and the act of looking. ..

Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from?
Much of my work comes from a place I call "the poetics of annihilation". Peep fits with that. Sex work seems to involve a conscious self-objectification; it engages with the ’problem of the male gaze’; there is a lot of darkness to human experience in this space. I found manipulating this vintage stag film to be an opening to considering that dance of intimacy.

How important is sound in film, and if you use sounds, do you create your own or use existing?
Very important. I sampled, created and mixed the sound for this work, to create an imagined open space against the small room of the video.

How does content relate to the form of your work?
In this case, they are nesting boxes.

What possibilities of the web are yet to be explored?

Did the web changed your view on art, or your career?
Yes - it makes my artwork and my career more portable. I love the idea of the ’invisible audience’ - many individuals behind screens considering the work, as opposed to screenings, where I see the audience’s reactions very directly... When my work is delivered on the digital platform, it enters a space so loaded with activities the context loses meaning - our viewers do their banking, chat with their friends, read the news, watch their porn on their computer. So, here, in this gallery, the video is in this very leveled space, where everything viewed on the screen is reduced to digit signal.. .

Where would you place your work; cinema or art. And what is the difference between those according to you?
Neither and both.

How influential is the reaction to your film by the audience?
Each person has their own experience. I’m curious about what kind of conversation it can inspire, if any.

What is your next project about?
I.thou : a looping unknown narrative, warped and altered by datamoshing techniques. Its a collaged trauma narrative; its about how we know the story, how we tell the story, what story we believe. It’s very much about filmmaking, as well. I’m just finishing mixing the sound. Its about 40 minutes long, something of an epic for me!

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