Conversations at the Edge

Interview with Brett Kashmere

Posted on | October 21, 2013 | Comments Off

Still from From Deep (Brett Kashmere, 2013). Courtesy of the artist.

Still from From Deep (Brett Kashmere, 2013). Courtesy of the artist.

Could you tell us a little bit about the project you’ll be screening for Conversations at the Edge this fall?

From Deep is a 90-minute experimental documentary about the game of basketball and its shifting place within 20th century American history and culture. It toggles between essay and mixtape, and draws its material from a wide range of sources, including, popular cinema, archival footage, music videos, hip hop music, highlight reels, newscasts, interposed with self-shot footage of pick-up ball from across the Midwest, the Northeast, and down into Kentucky.

There are two main threads that weave throughout the piece. The first traces the merger of hip hop and basketball in the mid-80s, coinciding with Michael Jordan’s rise as a cultural icon and the emergence of the corporate branded athlete. The second thread is more ethnographic in nature and highlights the social dimensions of the game. Playground basketball is represented in contrast to the professional game (as spectator sport), emphasizing the participatory, inclusive aspects of pick-up ball. In these sections the camera becomes part of the action.

What inspires you in the world?

Sincerity, social justice, perseverance, the DIY ethos, optimism, fresh style, intelligence without arrogance, experimentation with form, people whose work takes risks and speaks truth to power…

Still from From Deep (Brett Kashmere, 2013). Courtesy of the artist.

Still from From Deep (Brett Kashmere, 2013). Courtesy of the artist.

Tell us a bit about your process: how do you start a piece, and how do you know when it’s finished?

My process is research intensive and fairly circuitous. I often start broadly, with a subject that I feel passionate about and personally invested in, which provides a frame of reference. In this case, I knew I wanted to make a project about basketball because it was an important part of my adolescence, and I’ve always maintained an interest in it. I also wanted to continue my investigation into the skein of sports, identity, nationality, and fandom that I started with a previous project titled Valery’s Ankle, a piece about hockey violence and Canadian identity. The genesis of From Deep was in moving to the U.S. and suddenly being surrounded by basketball, and basketball culture, in a much more consuming and daily way than as a teenager playing out of passion and later, as part of a high school team. I was interested in how the game fit into a larger conversation about politics, style, and race in this country.

Once I determine what the subject is, I start to read extensively and I make a lot of notes, collect footage and parse clips. I don’t follow a preconceived plan or script instead, I try to find a form within the material itself. The initial assembly takes a long time as I churn through different possibilities for organizing and structuring the material, determine what I still need, and start to find the connective threads. The narration usually comes together toward the end; it is written in response to the shape and flow that the images have taken, and drawn from the research and notation that I’ve been conducting throughout the process. With From Deep, I decided to incorporate two voices into the piece, because I felt it needed at least two different perspectives. The last step was selecting the underscore music, which I worked with DJ /rupture (Jace Clayton) on.

Still from From Deep (Brett Kashmere, 2013). Courtesy of the artist.

Still from From Deep (Brett Kashmere, 2013). Courtesy of the artist.

What have you been watching lately?

I saw Eric Fleischauer and Jason Lazarus’ twohundredfiftysixcolors a few nights ago and that was a treat. It’s the sort of film that appeals to me a lot – research-based, curatorial, typological, collaged, intertextual, and which says something about the current state of our world and culture. The other kind of work that I’m intrigued by right now situates the moving image within a sculptured installation or highly constructed or specified viewing environment. I’m thinking specifically of recent projects by Sharon Hayes, Kerry Tribe, Harun Farocki, Wu Tsang, Neïl Beloufa, and Elisabeth Subrin, among others, that feature a fragmentary, spatialized mix of narrative and nonfiction elements, often with layers of historical reference.

What are you most looking forward to about presenting this new work?

Seeing it projected large with good sound and an audience. This will be the first public preview of From Deep, so I’m excited to have the chance share it with others, to let it out into the world and hear the response. I think Conversations at the Edge is an ideal context for From Deep. It’s designed to be both informative and entertaining, and to create dialogue. The concept of edu-tainment, which I first became familiar with via the music and writing of KRS-One, is something that has underpinned the project from the very beginning.

Brett Kashmere will be presenting a special preview of From Deep at CATE on Thursday, October 24 at 6PM

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