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Art Talk: Michele O’Marah

Art Talk: Michele O’Marah


[MUSIC PLAYING] MICHELE O’MARAH: My name’s
Michele O’Marah. [LAUGHS] I’m a video artist. -So then, the first video art
project that you made was the “For Those About to
Rock” videos? MICHELE O’MARAH: Yeah, it was
sort of seven short videos. And it’s my history of indie
rock or punk rock, I guess you would say– the Velvet Underground, the
Runaways, the Germs, Pussy Galore, Babes in Toyland, Bikini
Kill, and Dinosaur Jr. Each video is about
a different band. And it’s formatted like a
preview of a movie that was never made. -Like a fake trailer. MICHELE O’MARAH:
Yeah, exactly. -Were these your
favorite bands? MICHELE O’MARAH: I respect
all the bands that I made videos out of. And I liked some more
than others. But some just had really
great stories. -What’s your fucking problem? We’re just a fucking
band, man. Don’t you know the difference? A fucking punk rock band,
you British jerk? -And you were making these on
the regular video camera, regular video tapes? MICHELE O’MARAH: Yeah,
everything is super lo-fi, you know? That’s the aesthetic that’s sort
of always stayed with my work from beginning
to end, you know? It’s kind of this
do-it-yourself– everything is super homemade. I mean, I’ve never had
a lot of money. But it’s always been this desire
to complete these big projects on tiny budgets
and stuff. -The Velvet Underground
one is very minimal. Rob Pruitt doesn’t
even wear a wig. MICHELE O’MARAH: Yeah, they
don’t even have costumes. Yeah, yeah, that’s when
I was like, oh, costumes are bullshit. So everyone’s dressed
like it is the ’90s. It’s just in my shitty
apartment, but they’re pretending they are the
Velvet Underground. -Right, so the only way you know
it’s them or who they’re supposed to be are what they’re
saying and the way they’re acting. MICHELE O’MARAH: Right, yeah. -Lights and dancers, a really
cool female lead singer. MICHELE O’MARAH: I
went to school. And I was a photography major. And postmodernist photography
was all about political correctness, you know? And people wanted
to talk about– I’m gay, and here’s my work
about being gay, or I’m black, and here’s my work about that. So to me, I was like,
well, I’m punk rock. And so here’s my work
about my community. -[SINGING] -The Bikini Kill one
caused some waves. MICHELE O’MARAH: OK, yeah,
Kathleen Hanna’s super iconic and really empowered
a lot of girls. And that’s really great. And I can respect that. [MUSIC PLAYING] MICHELE O’MARAH: It’s really
simplistic and idealistic. And as a mature person,
I have a right to sort of criticize it. It doesn’t mean I don’t
have a certain kind of respect for you. But, you know. -Right, it’s like you love these
bands, but you’re also making fun of them. MICHELE O’MARAH: Yeah,
because it’s– -Because they’re crazy. MICHELE O’MARAH: Well, because
it’s “kill your idols,” you know what I mean? It’s the whole Sonic Youth–
that’s their song, right? Because it’s like, ooh, these
people are your heroes. They’re amazing, they’re
amazing, you know what I mean? But they’re just not. -Hey frat guy up front,
what the hell do you think we’re doing? Let the ladies stand there. We’re not playing this
show for you. Why don’t you go see
some cock rock? -In the film about Dinosaur Jr,
it’s basically J Mascis sitting on a couch. And he never moves. MICHELE O’MARAH: Right,
he’s just a big blob. [MUSIC PLAYING] -And then, in “The Pussy Galore
Story,” they’re just crazy junkies. And you see [INAUDIBLE] wearing this big puffy coat,
and it doesn’t even look slightly glamorous. MICHELE O’MARAH: Yeah,
it’s true. -What am I, the only fucking
junkie that you know who wants to get paid in dope? -You’re the only one stupid
enough to ask to get paid in dope, that’s for fucking sure. MICHELE O’MARAH: I really
made it for my peers, in a certain sense. And that’s sort of just what
I was doing at that point. But when I look back at it– I like the project for what it
is, but I feel like I wouldn’t do that now, make something
sort of so about me. -Fuck you. MICHELE O’MARAH: And the movie
is “Valley Girl,” which is like my favorite film
from the ’80s, because it’s really romantic. [MUSIC PLAYING] MICHELE O’MARAH: It’s kind of
like a new wave “Romeo and Juliet” story, because
she’s from the Valley and he’s from Hollywood. And all her friends are into the
mall and all that stuff. -Like he’s not so awesome. -Awesome’s not the word. -I’m sure. MICHELE O’MARAH: His
friends are grungy sort of punk rockers. They’re more like
new wave guys. [MUSIC PLAYING] -OK smart guy, we’re here. Now what? -Mingle. MICHELE O’MARAH: And of
course, when they get together, her friends
don’t like him. And there’s all this peer
pressure to break up. -They’re [INAUDIBLE]. They’re juvenile delinquents. You’ve lost your mind. MICHELE O’MARAH: But then,
there’s a big romantic ending where he crashes the prom
and runs away with her. The lead actress in “Valley
Girl,” she’s the only real actress that I’ve ever used. -What are you doing here? Do you have a death
wish or something? MICHELE O’MARAH: And I really
wanted this sense of sincerity in the project. -When you decided to remake
this, you decided to remake everything about it. You remade the music. MICHELE O’MARAH: Yeah. [MUSIC – “MELT WITH YOU”] MICHELE O’MARAH: I had this
really small area where I had this three-walled set. And everything that was sort
of like a public space was shot in that. All the places that are actually
people’s living spaces are just either my
friends’ apartments or my apartments. And then, within them, I
would alter the spaces. I made some ’80s paintings,
or I made a couch. I thought the books were too
distracting, so yeah, I made these little fabric covers. So it was just this kind of
abstract blue and red background. Failure was a part of the
formula for “Valley Girl,” because one person can never
replicate the job of a whole film crew. It’s an obvious fakeness
with a slight retarded quality to it. Deconstructing narrative–
that’s my whole thing. That’s my big thing. Because I’m trying to talk
about, maybe, the sort of subtext of what’s in
the Hollywood– what’s in the movies, and what’s
in what we watch on TV and on films, which is such
a huge part of culture. -“Faustus– MICHELE O’MARAH: “Faustus’s
Children.” -You have to tell me
about that one. MICHELE O’MARAH: A group of
kids, they murder their friend in the woods. But then, one by one, they
wander into the woods, where they’re avenged by the
supernatural force of their dead friend who kills
them all. -[SCREAM] MICHELE O’MARAH: It’s a
collaborative piece. I did it with my two friends
Dave Jones and Tim Jackson. And I would ask other people,
well, what is it you want me to make? You think of the genre, or you
write it, and I make it. And I wanted to do something
with Dave and Tim, because they’re both really smart. And so I was like, what
do you want to do? They were like, oh, supernatural
thriller. We want to basically
kill rich kids. And I was like, OK, cool. -You’re not going anywhere. -[SCREAM] MICHELE O’MARAH: So this is
like a written script, something that I never
did before. It’s not an appropriation. I mean, it’s a little bit
of an appropriation. It’s based sort of on this
book, “A Secret History.” So Dave used that as his sort
of base, and I watched a lot of movies, like Wilt Stillman
films like “Metropolitan” and “Barcelona” and “Six Degrees
of Separation.” And I would write down lines that
I thought were good. And so it’s like half that and
half his own writing, is sort of what the script is. -It’s considered unacceptable
to be a snob. We don’t talk about our money. We don’t talk down to people
we can’t stand. So why is “bourgeois” considered
a term of contempt? -Every interesting cultural
movement is an attempt to overthrow the bourgeois. MICHELE O’MARAH: They’re
real high falutin’. They’re real high falutin’. -[SNORT] MICHELE O’MARAH: And it was the
first time I got a studio. I’d never had a studio, and so I
was like, and we’re going to build a real set. Then I built the cabin, and
then I built the woods. There’s a wall, and it’s like
10 feet by 10 feet, but it’s just cut paper. It took me like two months
cutting all the paper by hand and gluing it by hand. -But it’s your aesthetic. MICHELE O’MARAH: Yeah, and
it’s really handmade. -Your intensity frightens me. [MUSIC PLAYING] -[GASPING] MICHELE O’MARAH: The video is
called “How Goes it with the Black Movement?” [MUSIC PLAYING] WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY: In 1966,
the Black Panther movement was founded. Prominent among the founders
were Bobby Seale, who is its president, and Huey Newton,
after Eldridge Cleaver, probably its best-known
champion. MICHELE O’MARAH: Well, it’s
a remake of a show from– an episode of the show “Firing
Line,” which was William F. Buckley’s political show
that ran on PBS. And William F. Buckley was
sort of a really iconic conservative who had this talk
show for almost 20, 25 years. And he would essentially just
invite more left-leaning people onto the show and debate
topical political topics with them. And on this particular episode,
he invites Huey Newton to come on the program. WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY: Huey Newton,
you will remember, was tried and convicted of killing
a policeman, specifically of involuntary manslaughter. “Free Huey Newton” was to the
late ’60s what the slogan “Who Promoted Peress?” was
to the early ’50s. MICHELE O’MARAH: And I just
found it to be a really, really intriguing piece of
television or media, I guess. Because they’re so obviously
opposites, you know? So you just have a lot of
expectations on what you’re going to think about them. And they turn out to be a
lot more complicated. And the dialogue that they’re
having is really nuanced. William F. Buckley is played by
the artist Maynard Monrow, who’s very dramatic. WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY: For the
record, while you were relaxing in jail,
I was working. MICHELE O’MARAH: Because he was
so over the top with his intonation. And it’s very campy. But it’s just really a sort of
more campy version of how William F. Buckley actually is. [LAUGHTER] WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY: Mr. Sinkin,
I think we have just about a second. MICHELE O’MARAH: I was
expecting it to be– oh, I’m just going to
love Huey Newton. He’s so great, he’s so amazing,
and I’m sure William F Buckley’s a big asshole,
and blah, blah, blah. But then it’s really confusing
when you first listen to it. And I didn’t understand what
Huey Newton was saying. I was like, god, what
is he talking about? And then William F.
Buckley would be like, you’re just babbling. You’re just babbling. And I was like, he is. And I was like, am I agreeing
with William F. Buckley? HUEY NEWTON: Contradiction
is the ruling principle of the universe. It gives motion and matter. And contradiction is based
upon eternal strife. MICHELE O’MARAH: Everything
is really homemade in the project. So as an artist, it was almost
like, oh, I’m going to go outside of the film and make
actual artworks that are related to the piece, as opposed
to just a backdrop that’s in the piece. Huey Newton was imprisoned, so
the Black Panthers and their supporters would wear these
Free Huey buttons. William F. Buckley ran for
Senate or something, and so that was his political button. We dragged him up
a little bit. They’re also sort of take-offs
on slogans from the Black Panthers. These are pretty
straightforward. They’re just character
portraits. That’s William F. Buckley. And you can see, he’s
a lot more cynical. Huey Newton’s a lot more
sort of innocent. And that actually was a banner
that was in the background. The introductory shot starts
on it and moves out, so you know where they are. I’m interested in this piece,
but I’m also interested in historical distortion. And I’m interested
in construction of media, you know? You’re watching something that’s
been designed for you by somebody else. So it’s like, how much
can you trust it?

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100 thoughts on “Art Talk: Michele O’Marah

  1. It is art, but crap art. A kinder word may be "weak." Good bands and extremely weak concept and product.

  2. look'in a little long in the tooth (hilariously apt) to have such a naked finger. I think I can see what's happening here…trying as hard as she can to finally have that happy childhood to make up for a lonesome prom night due to that hatchet wound of a face she's rock'in. bravo vice, you lifted up a rock and found yet another "artist" underneath.

  3. I can't handle all the hyperbole combined with sweeping statements about an unbelievably diverse demographic of people. If you're judging an entire generation off of meaningless, anonymous quips on Youtube, you should just stop. It's going to be a very inaccurate portrait of what's actually going on.

  4. i rather see art of realism, proffesional work of 3D sculptures/paintings/digital illustrations.
    Abstract shit never gets me,

  5. My god you are right. The problem is that people don't know how to live an exciting life anymore. Including me

  6. it's not anybody's fault, but seriously, every time i think about it, i fucking hate modern art, its so pretentious and crappy

  7. Soo… I don't really believe in 'art'. Yeah, there's some wonderful pictures, books, paintings et cetera out there, but the idea of 'expressing yourself' is just… well, garbage. I can literally just take a dump, point at it and say 'that symbolises my inner strife' – because, hey, I said so, I guess it's art. What a load of bull… pun intended.

  8. Didn't intend to generalize an entire generation. Just the culture of people who spend all day heaving negative feedback and harshly critiquing everything without any attempt on their part to contribute to the cherry basket. I was hinting that, us who do in fact spend quite a deal of time fighting in the comment trenches could not possibly be leading a very productive life on the outside, seeing as there is only 24 hours in a day, yet we are constantly scanning the inbox ready to swiftly fire.

  9. Or maybe I just don't get it… And just because i can take a minute to post or read in a comment section (a action that literally takes 1 or 2 minutes) doesn't mean i spend a majority of my time on the internet watching people. Your hypothesis is based on a assumption that seems unrealistic and generalizes the millions of people on the internet

  10. People having a different lifestyle has nothing to do with accept.. I personally don't like her work because of the way she doesn't seem to change or "grow" with it – not really a lot of new ideas.
    If you want respect then people need to be impressed.. If she has fun, good for her, but you can't exspect people to make positive comments about something that is far from flawless in most peoples minds – especially not on youtube where the comments mainly are based on what people think here and now.

  11. Meh were not all guilty.. It's just the way people naturally respond to something… If you learn to not over analyse it then theres not a lot of drama going on.. If you decide to read a negative comment immagining a negative attitude vs. a positive then it makes a lot of change to the comment… Sure theres crap comments but it's mainly people who mis-read stuff or overanalyse it… So i somewhat disagree… Most people still have a choice to get off their butts and gtfo doing something else…

  12. I think most "artists" just miss the point of actually impressing people with what they make, and instead of trying to avoid going "chinese factory style" and pump shit out their asses with tons of quantity instead of quality bullshit wich we have to throw onto a fire and burn off anyway because nobody cares about it – simply are too careless or even "ignorant"/creative to even care about what other people think..

    If you don't go anywhere with your work.. Then do something different right.?!.

  13. i dont belong in this time. staring at a fucking screen all day over hearing assholes! no wonder shootings r up!

  14. I understand what you are saying, and for the most part agree. At least with everything you've said about letting a woman enjoy what she loves. But in the very first sentence of your statement you lost me, because you speak in generalizations, and do not include yourself; as if you are not part of narrow-mindedness, as if that is a quality you do not process. You do.

  15. We all have direct access to the internet so there is no need to generalise for everybody else. There are millions of people on here who are not your generation, not from your country who also share nothing with the lifestyle of your particular social circle but who still share the same internet experience in the same moment as you. Your observations might be true for you and those who you choose to observe however they do not reveal some quintessential human condition the way you imply it!

  16. regarding her earlier videos: they're funny as fuck. maybe you had to be around (alive) in the 90s to really understand this sort of humor. regarding william f buckley: he was a very complex, interesting, smart and brave guy. too bad you don't find too many people like that on the right these days.

  17. If you put yourself out there you will be judged and everyone has as much right to their opinion and judgment as you have to your own happiness.
    Stomping around and demanding that people respect you will result in anything but respect which is a lesson most should have learned by early childhood.
    I judged your comment as unwittingly didactic however I will humour you by admitting that it might apply to mine as well.
    Again, if you display yourself publicly, you will be judged – can't be avoided.

  18. So you stand by your original comment which in context means that I am not an artist because I sound boring?
    And you say this and can be correct because you study the context and historical versions of art?

    I think you find that art is made by artists, not people who study it contextually and historically so your opinion is duly noted but not viable because you have no insight on any of the methods.

  19. Boring. Most all these art talks have been laaaaame. This stuff is so contrived and boring, I really can't find the value, and I'm trying.

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  21. Wow. Like, rilly, rilly lame. Faux edgy. That whole VHS "Video Artist" (giggle) has been done to death.

  22. is this supposed to be whack ? i make WAY better/chiller/artsier videos than her! watching this i feel like an automatic sore loser or something is that the purpose of the video?

  23. Saying an artist like her is bad is purely a matter of opinion. Its not really my cup of tea, but shes clearly just making stuff because she enjoys it, not to profit off it.

  24. I've been tempted since months ago. I'm still trying to hold in. Where are you going to get great documentary if you leave? are there a better Vice channel out there? (just in case I cannot take any more) I bet they have some good stuff on HBO, those hipster idiots.

  25. Yes and 60 have died in Egypt protest.. but they give us this shit to watch. I bet they have all the good stuff on hbo

  26. In case you find a decent channel covering protests worldwide and interesting topics like Vice used to, please let me know! Al Jazeera maybe.

  27. Why do they rarely feature someone who actually have an artistic talent? Instead we get hipster "2deep4u" half-ass art. Though I guess that's Vice for being into things that are "hip".

  28. I'll keep a heads up. I know about Al Jazeera I actually used to watch them way before I knew about Vice. I don't know, but I will keep you updated. What topics do you like/want me to look out for?

  29. Is it me or is vice always uploading boring shit that no one cares about these days? I miss seeing nothing but stuff that pulls you in: how to deal drugs, interview with a cannibal, Japanese death Forrest, shit like that. Where is that stuff vice? I don't give a shit about these weirdos that think creepy shit is art

  30. Lol YouTube-ugments… I've caught myself in the same situation too many times, all it does is waste your time and make you unsure of yourself. 😛

  31. This women says "like" more times than I can count. And honestly it's just another embarrassment to art and punk culture.

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