Here's how DJ Spooky describes the film and his video installation project on his website...
Griffith's film (Birth of a Nation) has been a historical object of fascination for me for a long while - it's been one of the defining images of America in the 20th century. As we enter the 21st Century it sometimes helps to know like the philosopher Santayana said so long ago, that "those who do not understand the past are doomed to repeat it."
"Birth of a Nation" focuses on how America needed to create a fiction of African American culture in tune with the fabrication of "whiteness" that undergirded American thought throughout most of the last several centuries: it floats out in the world of cinema as an enduring albeit totally racist - epic tale of an America that, in essence, never existed. The Ku Klux Klan still uses this film as a recruiting device and it's considered to be an American "cinema classic" despite the racist content. By remixing the film along the lines of dj culture, I hoped to create a counter-narrative, one where the story implodes on itself, one where new stories arise out the ashes of that explosion.
WLUW morning DJ Matt Malooly recently caught up with DJ Spooky to discuss more about the project and his philosophies as a performance artist:
Matt - ...I was wondering about that idea of gathering artists in one physical space, cuz I know you’ve compared the work of curating, I think, to ‘living life like a mixtape’?
DJ Spooky- Yeah exactly
m- And also talking about how a mentality of collage of remix or the web has become this sort of basic psychological framework for a lot of kids today, or these generations growing up the 80s and 90s and now. And I was wondering how does that play into your organization of festivals?
d- Yeah, I mean basically anytime you have all these kind of multiple frames of performance going on, you know, you just look at the context and you can see all sorts of people hanging – that’s the mixtape mentality, you know? It’s always just saying, everybody check this out and let’s see the flow. I really think that the mixtape… the history has yet to be written. I know Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth is doing a book on the history of mixtapes...
m- It seems to a lot of people around the world that the U.S. is becoming stuck in this provincial rut, while at the same time the rest of the world is becoming even more cosmopolitan, even more migratory. Yet the U.S. has one of the highest rates of internet use and of a kind of sampling or mash-up media culture. So how important is that sense of organic interactions, of physical presence, of migration through space, or meetings, in that regard?
d- Wow, this is a complex question. You know, is this gonna be up for a normal radio program? "Excuse me, home listeners, this is getting theoretical." (laughter) Yeah basically I just really think the U.S. is in a strange loop at the moment; but yeah, like you’re saying, people are listening and checking out all sorts of stuff – that’s not the problem. The problem is, I think, the mental sense of not really exploring other cultures.
m- Yeah that’s what I’m talking about
d- It’s like hearing the news and wanting to change the channel and going to, like, a sports or Presidential announcement. And I’m mainly concerned with issues of a lot of what the U.S. is drifting towards, a sense of disconnect with the rest of the world, you know? So for me when I do music, when I curate events, it’s always a kind of bridge-building process...
For the complete interview, tune into Matt's morning show this Thursday at 8:30 on WLUW-FM (88.7)
DJ Spooky's Rebirth of a Nation will be shown this Thursday (11/18) through Sunday (11/21) at 7:30 PM at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 22 East Chicago Ave. Tickets are $18 for MCA members and $22 for the general public. For more information, visit www.djspooky.com or www.mcachicago.org.