Intro from Jay Allison: Transom and the FLIK International Film festival put out a call for multi-media self portraits. We have our two winners: "I Hate Drake" by the comedy collective "Mortified" and James Barany's poignant and powerful piece about his own obesity called, "My Most Important Self Portrait." The animated images of James’s body and the sounds of his voice work together in a dark and elegant duet. We urge you to come take a look and listen. James is available to talk about his process.
About My Most Important Self Portrait
For the first time in my career, I am using my art not as a mere reflection of an idea or event, but rather, as a catalyst for change itself. During the past several years I have slowly been transitioning my studio efforts toward experimental animation and media arts. The engagement with time, motion and illusory elements were very appealing and appeared to offer more opportunities than the static large-scale paintings on which I was previously working.
Experimental time based media has stimulated my investigation into memory, metaphor and intrapersonal motifs adding a sense of life and empowerment to them. Serendipitously, my personal, physical and creative lives have recently collided in such a way that all of my focus was redirected without warning. During the past two decades I have observed my health spiraling out of control. I have battled dieting and over-eating disorders throughout my entire life, and whether due to depression, emotional stress or a general unhealthy lifestyle – my body has ballooned out of control. I have become Morbidly Obese, a term which implies I am at least one hundred pounds overweight. My greater dilemma is that I am twice the figure for what is listed as ‘healthy’ for a person my sex, age and height.
This sedentary problem isn’t just a personal one, it’s become an epidemic in the United States and I see my struggle as a universal reflection of the individuals who have and who still experience the same daily struggle with their health. After a series of epiphanies in August 2004, I finally re-evaluated my health. Was there any way I could stop this suicidal pattern of unhealthy behaviors? Could I employ what I do in the studio to adjust this element of my life? Animation, with all of its complex properties and grueling demands appeared to be the ‘structure’ that could potentially assist me in regaining my health. Something about the methodical process of animation prompted a personal re-examination of why I was animating. The process of animation itself appeared to be the perfect vehicle to combat my failing health with its rigid, methodical structure and the endless requirement of time, two elements with which each animator struggles.
In August of 2004 I began My Most Important Self-Portrait, while following a strict pattern of diet, exercise and hypnosis; I began what I hope translates into a life-altering affair. Each day I measure my body mass and record my progress into an animated form. Several times throughout the week I document these slight changes by shooting time-lapse photography of my body. To express my emotional status I have constructed a small set that allows me the ability to rapidly manipulate text and image as I interact with them. Hundreds upon hundreds of images are manipulated to produce a sense of motion and believability as time-lapse and animated elements mix together.
By doing this, every minute of every day become connected at some level to my intent in the studio. My art no longer serves as mere reflection, but prompts the change itself. My body and health will become the ultimate reflection of my success or failure; however, the animation will allow my audience to experience my metamorphosis both physically and emotionally. My specific intent is to hopefully continue this work, and further develop a series of short media-based works that further examine the inherent relationships found between our collective intelligence of both intrapersonal and interpersonal experiences.
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My Most Important Self-Portrait is a combination of both high & low technology using my favorite istopmotion software from Boinx, a low-grade mini-dv camera with a very long firewire, and lots of screevers chalk. Just take William Kentridge add some Red Grooms and sprinkle it with some Cindy Sherman- presto! A minor amount of post-production was done in After Effects to better combine and accelerate elements of time, but largely, what you see – is what you get. I’m also trained as a Baritone and perform with the Florentine Opera Company in Milwaukee, WI. So to answer any additional questions, yes, that’s me singing in the underlying score.