Video Vortex #6: In Coversation with Natalie Bookchin (part 2)

On: March 15, 2011
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About Janice Wong
Janice Wong is an Australian-born cellist and digital media fanatic living the life in Amsterdam (The Netherlands). She graduated from the Masters of New Media programme at the University of Amsterdam in 2011 and worked at adidas as a Global Social Media Manager until 2017. She is now a Music Producer & Cellist based in Amsterdam. Contact: janice[at]


[originally published on Video Vortex #6 website. The original text can be found here]

(Part 2 of 2 – In conversation with Natalie Bookchin)

Mass Ornament

G: I see you’ve really chosen the audio track and it is leading you through the work. The image itself is not carrying the sequence; the sound becomes very very important.

N: Yes that is absolutely true; even less in this one but it becomes even moreso in the newer pieces which are language based. In fact I am editing more for sound than for image. So the image is following the sound with the talking heads. And at first I thought “How in the world am I going to make this a visually compelling piece?” But it is critical that the heads are there. The fact that the speakers have faces do not make them anonymous anymore. So there’s a weight that’s carried by seeing a face. And having someone look at the audience big and having the sound loud creates a different kind of relationship with the viewer and the video that you’re watching. So it’s very different to see it small on the screen than when you actually walk into a space and see it. This piece was added sound for the most part, even the sounds in the room were made afterwards, and I did that because I wanted there to be an individualisation of those spaces. So it wasn’t all just reduced to a mass ornament. To have a tension between the individual and the mass. In the newer works I’m not adding sound; now I’m just cleaning the sound. The sound is important, and it’s musical and it’s rhythmic and I’m editing in an almost melodic way.

G: To come back to this motive, a heterogeneous, participatory culture that we know, the YouTube genealogy, and turning that into a collective statement made by you as an individual artist, people nonetheless see something happening here, a transformation is taking place, going beyond what people experience and express themselves. Have you had any responses from people who simply promote participatory culture?

N: I think there are different ways to think about participation too – I mean if participatory culture online means adding a comment then how participatory is that really? Or if participatory culture means finding an identification with a political subjectivity, that’s another kind of participation that may not mean pushing a button or writing a comment. There are different ways of thinking about interactivity and participation. And even though in this work I’m not asking viewers to click a button or write a response.

G: Some would be relieved that finally there’s an artist synthesising all this noise; people are complaining about information overload, but now there is Natalie Bookchin…

N: (laughs) In some way I’m paying attention and I am not in the stories I am trying to tell; they are partly my stories but I am also partly trying to pay attention to what are some of the popular stories being told around a particular theme. In My Meds it’s not particularly a story; it’s more about isolation versus a desire for a collective.

G: Your works are all designed to be experienced in a gallery setup, and not on a computer. Is that a step forward or step back? And are you going to keep producing only for the museum?

N: I put my work online even though it decreases the quality. It’s another way to show it, more of documentation rather than how I would like to show the work. But you can still imagine something. The viewers get an ideal experience in the gallery in an embodied way by walking across the space. The images are big and the sound is surround, so that’s an ideal experience for me. But if you just watch the video you can know what the piece is about because you have references to other experiences, so you can bring that with you. So no, it’s not online art. It speaks to the online and offline world and that relationship between online and offline. There’s dialectic between on and off.

For a chance to meet Natalie Bookchin in person and a more in depth look at her work:

Tuesday 15 March 2011
SMART Project Space
Arie Biemondstraat 101-111 (Auditorium), Amsterdam
Time: doors 19.00 / starts 19:30-21:30
Tickets: 4 euros at the door

Video Vortex 6

Geert Lovink in Conversation with artist Natalie Bookchin

Photo: Anne Helmond

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