Steven Soderbergh's new film THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE just opened in select theaters across the country (that's not an ad, but a lede ...).
It stars Sasha Grey, the award-winning porn actress who is getting a lot of media buzz about her transition into a mainstram indie role. In a new interview just published in the SF Chronicle, she is asked
Q: I understand you're a real film head, Turner Classic Movies and all that. What are some of your favorite films?
A: Oh, geez ... let's say filmmakers, that's a little easier. I think everybody knows Godard by now. Cassavetes. Catherine Breillat. Paul Schrader. Truffaut. David Lynch, John Carpenter. I'm all across the board when it comes to films.
She claims JLG and David Bowie are her biggest influences and that her rough and at times degrading sex porno performances are her own version of "performance art" (Karen Finley eat your heart out).
She identifies with feminism and is her own agent and is now directing her own films too (she's still only 21).
Soderbergh was off shooting Che when he suggested she watch Godard's "Vivre sa vie" -- one of my favorite JLG films (the cafe scenes experiment with sound in a way that was to influence many future art-films) and one that has influenced the development of My Autoerotic Muse.
Given that her performance art practice involves a lot of writing (Soderbergh first found her not by watching her films but via an article she wrote for LA magazine), she "created and wrote and wrote and wrote this character's back story. Once I was happy with that, I condensed it and gave it to Steven. And I think he said 'yes' to everything."
The character she plays is Chelsea, an escort "guided by personology books who writes in her journal after every date, things Grey picked up from the escorts she met and thought would flesh out her character nicely." As one rag put it: "Hire Chelsea for the night and, yes, she will have sex with you, but she'll also pretend to enjoy it, as if she were your girlfriend. She'll even sit and listen to you drone on about your job or, you know, your wife. For this, you'll pay her $2,000 an hour."
What else is this otherwise undergraduate art student up to?
"I'm shooting my directorial debut in two weeks - it's called "The F@%k Junkie." I'm working on a sex philosophy book, which will be kind of like a coffee table book. I have an adult novelty line coming out in July. I'm working on a novel; I have an independent film coming up in August, which is amazing because it's a lead role again, and I'm playing against type, and it's a very challenging character; and I have two other offers right now for films that are in pre-production. My other movie, Smash Cut, is coming out later this year."
Gertrude Stein once wrote, "No one is ahead of his time, it is only that the particular variety of creating his time is the one that his contemporaries who also are creating their own time refuse to accept." Is Sasha Grey just another young adult film actress who has somehow convinced herself that what she is doing is an expanded form of interdisciplinary art practice, and will one day soon live to regret it all; or is she that rare, precocious spirit that is forever waiting for time to catch up with her?
The screen capture above is of Immobilité from the live exhibition in Milan's Piazza Duomo:
But how did this image come to be, i.e. how did happen to travel to this particular location at this particular moment in time? The short story:
London, August 2006. Thinking that I should use my first-generation Nokia mobile phone to make short video art works. Experiments ensue.
Paris, September 2006. A random word on a sign that does not say "immobilité" but that conjures up the word "immobilité" anyway, even as I am capturing data at various art sites for the first work in my Mobile Phone Video Art Classics series.
Cornwall, June - August 2007. A new Nokia N95 and a small cast and crew fleshing out, via intersubjective culture jamming and image embodiment, the word / idea / concept art project "immobilité" even as the sun refuses to shine, or especially as the sun refuses to shine (although it eventually fakes everybody out, makes an appearance, the way any image makes an appearance, and the production fills with the same color that stimulated the Abstract Expressionist painting movement in the UK post-WWII).
16 months later: after many video edits and sound studio sessions in Kailua, Paris, Austin, and Boulder, the so-called first feature-length mobile phone art film is close to being finished.
The work opens at the Chelsea Art Museum in New York City on April 7, 2009 and runs for five weeks.
The images above, i.e. images captured on a mobile phone in Cornwall bluetoothed to and edited on a laptop in Kailua, Boulder, Paris, et al, remixed into a stream playing on a screen in a Piazza in Milan that is also being captured by a web cam that transmits the image snapshot back over the network to the same laptop that edited the remix and that now takes a screenshot of, converts to jpg and uploads to blog.
That's at least one way of telling the story.
There are an infinite number of other ways to tell this story, but this one, a fiction like all of the rest, will have to do for now.