Artist Profile: Tommy Hartung

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Tommy Hartung, Anna, 2011

Your work calls to mind surrealist cinema, and seems nostalgic in a way, for the earliest motion pictures.  What, if anything, are you drawing from the past?  Do you feel you are reinterpreting the past by using modern technological tools to create the work? 

I don’t think of my work as surrealist. Surrealism presupposes an ordered, sensible world where something foreign or fantastic has intruded. The reality created in my video is so far removed from the reliability of a real world concept like gravity or time that it is hard for me to think about it relating to surrealism. There is definitely a relationship between early cinema and my current work, but I would not characterize it as nostalgic exactly. I am interested in the methods, pace, and intensity of early cinema. I’m not trying to use these archaeologically. Films like Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc, or Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible have a pulverizing intensity. Nikolay Cherkasov in Ivan, and Maria Falconetti in Joan of Arc are almost in trance states as the film unfolds around them. There is a tension in early cinema that I find hard to match, and try to build in my work.  

Much of your work includes a still, lone figure amidst a changing environment.  When there are multiple figures, like the busts in Anna, there's a sinister or disharmonious feeling.  Is there something to this in how your characters operate or relate?  Do you think of cinematic roles with these figures?  How do you incorporate your references (to literature, documentary, and more)?   

The interaction of characters can sometimes be sinister, cold, or terse. The characters I develop tend to be workman-like in their tasks or roles. I also think there is a very ...

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