Michael Morris likes film.
Understatement of the year. He loves film. He lives and breathes it. Morris is the man when it comes to video.
Since moving back to Dallas four years ago, he has carved a niche for himself in the local art scene, bringing the history of avant-garde film alive while creating a name for himself as part of its future in contemporary art.
Historically, Dallas is not a place that has a deep history of alternative moving image practices, but Morris wants to work to change that. He has been seeking out people and institutions that are interested and sympathetic to this work, and that desire brought him to the Video Association of Dallas. Four years ago, Morris was just a volunteer helping out in any way he could. Now he is in charge of programming elements of the annual festival. In 2012, he programmed a successful video and performance installation event at the Dallas Museum of Art for the Dallas VideoFest, and has curated and collaborated on shows at theaters and galleries across town, including the Texas Theatre and CentralTrak.
How did you first find your way into your craft? I first started making videos as a student at Richland College. I stumbled into a class by accident and fell in love it. When I was a film student at UNT, I first saw the films of Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger, Barbara Hammer and Stan Brakhage, and that made me realize that it was possible to make films the way you write a poem. I was seriously close to pursuing poetry as my craft, and I had an opportunity to move to New York to study writing there, but at the very last minute chose to move to Chicago and study film.
Describe your aesthetic in five words. Eschatological. Skeptical. Historical. Cinematic. Synaesthetic.
Why do you do what you do? Since I was young, whenever I've been impressed or touched by an experience -- whether it was music, film, poetry, philosophy or art -- I've always wanted to do that thing and produce that kind of experience for someone else. I feel driven to it. I've been lucky to be able to make this drive one of the main pursuits of my life, and to be able to share it with others. There's also an element of catharsis in making something from somewhere deep inside. I don't think it would be possible for me to make something that didn't somehow feel vital and important to me.
What in your daily life inspires you? This depends. My "daily life," like anyone's, has gone through a lot of changes over the last few years. More recently, I've been happy to celebrate the transient nature of meanings and of moments. I find this feeling expressed well in Eliot's "Ash Wednesday:"
Because I know that time is always time And place is always and only place And what is actual is actual only for one time And only for one place I rejoice that things are as they are and I renounce the blessèd face And renounce the voice Because I cannot hope to turn again Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something Upon which to rejoice
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What's your next big project? I have several in the works ... I'm continuing the Hermeneutics Cycle, a series of works that examine interpretation. I've been working on a few collaborative works that have been developing slowly, but interestingly. There is a handmade film that has been in progress for several years...The Video Association is also working on a new project for January called the Dallas Medianale, and I'm already working hard on putting together programming for this. It's going to be something special.
What's something that Dallas doesn't know about you? I'm really not a new media artist, I'm an experimental filmmaker, which might be a kind of new media artists, really ... kind of like the way a square is kind of a rectangle. Yeah. Oh, and I'm really into bad pop culture.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year? My friends moving away. And maybe shitty, pseudo-conceptual abstraction, though I don't have a lot of skin in that game, so whatever.
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