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Colby Jennings - Balance

8:00, 2012, Video Art
Once, a monk named Soṇa was practising walking meditation with such determination that his feet started to bleed. This became apparent and Soṇa was asked

‘Before you became a monk, weren’t you skilled in playing the lute?’
‘I was.’
‘And when the strings were too tight or too loose, was the music pleasant and tuneful?’
‘No.’
‘And when the strings were neither too tight nor too loose, was the music pleasant?’
‘Yes.’
‘In the same way, when an effort is too intense it results in agitation and when it is too weak, it results in slackness. Therefore, Soṇa, keep your energy in balance, be sensitive to a balance between the faculties, and you will attain your goal.’
DirectorColby Jennings

CountryUSAEdition2013

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Interview

Who is Colby Jennings?
I am an artists and educator living and working in the center of the United States. I am an Assistant Professor of Computer Animation and Digital Arts at Missouri State University. My work is almost always conceptually based on the culture or landscape in which I was raised. I make use of many time-based materials and practices, often incorporating performance, installation, and opportunities for digital and analog interactivity.



What is Balance about?
Balance is inspired by a story used in some circles of Zen thought and practice. This story is meant to bring up the conversation of balance in one’s life and in one’s practice. The story goes like this:

Once, a monk named Soṇa was practicing walking meditation with such determination that his feet started to bleed. This became apparent and Soṇa was asked

‘Before you became a monk, weren’t you skilled in playing the lute?’
‘I was.’
‘And when the strings were too tight or too loose, was the music pleasant and tuneful?’
‘No.’
‘And when the strings were neither too tight nor too loose, was the music pleasant?’
‘Yes.’
‘In the same way, when an effort is too intense it results in agitation and when it is too weak, it results in slackness. Therefore, Soṇa, keep your energy in balance, be sensitive to a balance between the faculties, and you will attain your goal.’



How did you start with film? And do you have an educational background in art or film?
I began as a student of Animation, both 2d and 3d. I still have incredible regard for this type of work, but it didn’t satisfy me. It was hard to see a feverish and fleeting idea through in a process that took so long. I needed something more immediate. I became drawn to appropriated mash ups of video, audio and stills to communicate ideas. After spending some time working in this way, I moved closer toward performance and designing my own footage / actions to capture. Most of my performance based work is left untouched, and lasts as long as it took to create the piece. I enjoy the simple documentation.



Could you explain how you work, what themes or concepts you use and what is important to you?
I often find my way back to issues of normative gender and masculinity as it was on display in the rural regional culture where I grew up. Strong connections to the American Pastoral are also very present.

I deal with anxiety on various levels, and I typically incorporate subjects associated with my anxiety into my work. By putting these elements into my work, or recreated situations and experiences that left me uneasy, I am able to collect and study these memories or experiences. It becomes scientific in a way, much like an entomologist pinning up specimens for study, I too am collecting, researching and archiving, but from these new perspectives, I’m able to look in news ways at my anxieties.



How long do you usually work on one project?
Sometimes a project happens all at once, other times it takes months of thought and planning (usually just in my head) before I feel ready to begin producing.



Do you carefully plan the production process or do you work more intuitive?
Definitely work intuitively.



How does the title relate to the work, and how do you find a fitting title?
The title itself was obvious as it draws from the story of the monk.



Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from?
Everywhere, but I find that my mindfulness practice has really opened up each moment to being worthy of research and investment.



How important is sound in film, and if you use sounds, do you create your own or use existing?
For most of what I do, sound needs to be as it is in the space at the time... But I do occasionally find myself created or mixing a track for a project. Sound is incredibly important for me though, definitely a consideration at all times.



How does content relate to the form of your work?
My mind always jumps to time based experiences, whether it be simple video, or complex interactive installations. I want to create, or recreate experiences, and invite my audience to participate, even if only as a spectator. I suppose since much of my content stems from memory, it just makes sense for me to draw these things out over a span of time.



What possibilities of the web are yet to be explored?
There are some things that have already been explored that I think I’d like to dive deeper into, such as remotely interacting with an audience or an installation... Think Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present, without the Artist being physically present.



Did the web changed your view on art, or your career?
Absolutely, mostly through access to other artists work, but also through the access to raw footage and resources for appropriation.



Where would you place your work; cinema or art. And what is the difference between those according to you?
I would place my work in the art arena, although there are much that resides in the grey areas between. The difference is usually intent I think... A video in a theater is to be watched, a video in a gallery is to be experienced.



How influential is the reaction to your film by the audience?
This sounds horrible, but I make my art for me... It helps me deal with my anxieties. I’m happy to share with an audience, but reaction or no reaction doesn’t change me much.



What is your next project about?
I’m expanding the Balance piece into an interactive installation complete with 108 of the small wire sculptures depicted in the video. Each sculpture will be activated by an array of different types of sensors that trigger motors mounted underneath the base of the sculpture to spin the pedestal that the figure is balancing on. I recently submitted and received a grant for this project. It will be on display during the Summer of 2014 and will be ready to travel by the Fall of 2014.


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