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Interview With Thomson and Craighead on Belief

Interview With Thomson and Craighead on Belief

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Published by Animate Projects

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Animate Projects on Jul 04, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Interview with Thomson & Craighead on Belief
We interviewed Thomson & Craighead about Belief, the final work in the desktopdocumentary trilogy, following on from the AnimateTV commission Flat Earth(2007) and A Short Film about War (2009).Love, sex, money, war and now religion – what inspired a focus on religiousmusings and assertions in your final desktop documentary?
For us, the whole 'Flat Earth Trilogy' has tried to take a wilfully inadequate look at whatmight be described as big subjects, and war and belief seem inextricably linkedtogether. Obviously a 'short film about war' is a kind of impossibility, just as a thirteenminute video about belief is, but in making these desktop documentaries we want to atleast infer the enormity of the subjects they glance at, while thinking more specificallyabout how information is mediated via the worldwide web and in turn how that thenrelates to us as individuals.
There must be thousands of videos under the ‘religion’ tag on YouTube you couldhave selected, can you tell us a bit about the process that went in to selecting theclips that make up Belief?
Well the tag or keyword in the work is, belief and not religion. From beginning to end,this work takes you through a trajectory that looks at supernatural belief, fundamentalreligious belief, belief as a vector for racism, economic belief systems, self belief, beliefin the afterlife, cults, spiritualism, animism and belief as a meme in popular music. Thattrain of thought comes out of a relatively short but intense research period where weand Steve Rushton sat down in Rotterdam for a week and just looked and looked andlooked and looked at stuff while generating a collective chat log and discussiondocument. You are absolutely correct that there is a lot out there, as the idea of selfbroadcast and belief go hand in hand and it became quickly clear that we could eithermake a work that would be over an hour long or to pair it down to roughly ten minutes,which is what we did ultimately, not least because it is in keeping with Flat Earth and A Short Film about War.
In Flat Earth you use the Google Earth view to links the blogs, in A Short Filmabout War you incorporate the log of URLS and GPS location feed, and with theinstallation version of Belief you’ve created a compass to point to the location andapproximation to each clip’s uploader - why is incorporating the location of thebloggers and vloggers an essential element of each film?
It is important to us because these works are about how information is distorted by itsvery dissemination online, but also how we individually might authenticate informationas it comes into view when part of decentralised global communications networks like
the worldwide web. In A Short Film about War we use the text log as a way ofundermining the dramatisation taking place on the left screen. It produces a kind ofdouble vision where you are seeing the same data visualisation simultaneously in twodifferent ways. In Belief we use a compass for two reasons; firstly to remind us the webis a layer of information that relates ever more to our place in the physical world, butalso as a way of placing the viewer at the centre of the work, thus making a directspatial connection to each movie element and the viewer/artwork on a 1:1 scale.
 You include footage of the American girl speaking about the Japanese tsunami,which was a viral sensation of sorts and the first time I’d come across footage inone of your films that I’d seen online before – do you purposely choose materialfor your films that is relatively unknown on the whole, and why did you choose toinclude this infamous clip?
You are right that we usually search out stuff that is less known so that when weinclude it in our documentary artworks it has a more neutral status. In Belief we decidedto try shifting things a little by using some clips that already have a history and place inpopular online consciousness, having been cloned and re-blogged many times already.To our minds the clip at the end of the work taken from one of the Heaven's Gate cultinitiation videos is also well known, or was in the late nineties, and we wanted torepresent this cultural tendency of things going viral and then being duplicated online,while creating a kind of seepage between the narrative trajectory of Belief and the wideronline and physical world.
Belief feels the most critical of the three films, was it difficult to maintain a criticaldistance with this work or were you looking to be more provocative with thiswork?
That's a difficult question to answer. We don't feel much critical distance from any ofthe three works in 'Flat Earth Trilogy' nor to we wish them to have critical distance inthe sense that some objective truth might be the product of it. As artists usingdocumentary practices, we would rather be bringing the very idea of what documentaryis to the fore, as something for us all to contemplate. What really is the differencebetween fact and fiction when both seem to inhabit each other so readily?
There is some wonderfully grainy VHS footage included in Belief giving the filmmuch more of a personal, user generated feel than the other two works in theseries. Can you talk about why you chose to make an HD film integrating this lo-fifootage?
Well, it is partly for convenience: you might as well make something in HD so that it canbe played easily in places where that technology predominates, but it is also so that wecould get some more detail into the Google Earth transitions. When you see the work inHD (it doesn't really get there online), each Google Earth move has a slightly morevertiginous feel than in the earlier works and as a contrast to the low-res videos, the

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