Notes From Elena Oxman
I started working on the piece when Kmart declared bankruptcy in the winter of 2002, so it began as a sort of ‘in memoriam.’ I grew up thinking of Kmart as a permanent American fixture. It must have been one of the first American institutions I became aware of – probably neck and neck with the Constitution and baseball. I wanted to write about Kmart, not just because of the way it intersects with my own experiences growing up in a CT suburb, but because of the way in which Kmart is just as much an ‘idea‘ as it is a place. In the mythology that surrounds Kmart as much as in its physicality, it’s the mingling of hope, humor, and regret that I find compelling.
In its original form, the piece is digital video with voice over. I wrote the text first with visuals in mind, which made the shooting process very quick and easy. I shot over the course of 3 days with a Sony hand held mini-dv camera, and recorded the voice over on mini-disc with a cheap radio shack microphone. I used sound studio to import the audio into i-movie, where I edited the audio and visuals together. I-movie is a really basic program and not great for fine-tune edits, but it does the job. The originally music is by Matt Whyte. I recorded him on mini-disc with the same cheap microphone in my garage.
After graduating from Yale University in 1999 with a degree in American Studies, I was awarded an Emerging Artist Fellowhip at the Yale Digital Media Center for the Arts. There, I produced two documentaries with classmate Elihu Rubin, which subsequently aired on Connecticut Public Television. Elihu and I went on to found a production company, American Beat, which continues to operate out of New Haven, CT (see www.americanbeat.org for a list of our films). I am currently pursuing a graduate degree in English and Cultural Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. I remain involved with American Beat, and continue to make audio and video documentaries from my new home in Carrboro, NC.