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Immobilite: Interview with Artist Mark Amerika

Earlier this week I highlighted the film "Immobilité" that's being touted as the first "feature-length foreign film shot entirely on a mobile phone." The film by artist Mark Amerikia is showing in The Project Room for New Media at Chelsea Art Museum in New York through May 9, with a remix version exhibited in the Streaming Museum that presents exhibitions in cyberspace. The unique nature of the project inspired me to seek Amerika out for an interview. Here's what he had to say about his provocative new film.

What inspired you to make the film?

Ever since I was a teenager, I have been in love with what we in the U.S. call foreign films. My early novels and digital artworks have been heavily influenced by them. What I find interesting is that, since I do not speak a foreign language, then basically my favorite artworks are films that I end up reading -- literally reading, as in reading text and reading images, sometimes simultaneously which is not that easy. So I decided to start my own "Foreign Film Series." The first one, My Autoerotic Muse, was one shot entirely on HD in New York City and is 95 percent finished. The second one I shot in Cornwall, U.K., where they have beautiful landscapes and beaches. It's totally wild out there and the film is really about finding a place that is wild that is not a part of this world.

What do you hope the impact of making a film like "Immobilité" will be?

I hope that it first creates a new kind of hybrid form that is part visual art, part literature, and of course part filmmaking. Given all of the big shifts we are seeing in the way people experience their art these days, especially with portable and networked technology, I hope it changes the way we see different media and audiences converging and that it enables us to both transport and be transported by the work. Or maybe I mean "trance-ported?"

Why did you want to use a cell phone as the means of recording and telling your story?

Because a) it was easy, and b) the quality was actually quite good but just low-tech enough to make a difference, and c) I am really interested in experimenting with the camera as a prosthesis, I mean literally, like the way eyeglasses help us see or an artificial limb might help us walk, I was thinking of the micro-camera as part of my body. At times it felt like I was holding my eyes in my hand.

Tell me a little about your use of subtitles in the film?

The subtitles in all of the works in the Foreign Film Series serve a literary and philosophical purpose. If you watch a film like Godard's Alphaville, and read the subtitles, all of a sudden you are reading philosophy while watching images. But in the case of foreign films, the subtitles we read are usually translated dialogue or voice-over, right? In my work, the subtitles are actual "characters." They are inside someone's head and we are thinking along with them as we watch the images. We are, in a word, reading. Or even mind-reading.

How did making "Immobilité" change you or change your views on film making?

It convinced me that if you are passionate about inventing a new kind of cinematic hybrid that plays with sound art, literature/philosophy, video art, and the history of underground filmmaking, you can do it. You can do it with a Flip, a mobile phone, a monster HD camera, a web cam, whatever -- it can be done. And with the distribution and networking potential of Web 2.0, art can now be more easily accessible than ever before.

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