Z Collective - Pursuit of happiness

13:06, 2008, Experimental
A walking waking victim of the American Dream, slowly drowns in a pool of narcissistic self-reflection.
DirectorZ CollectiveProducerZ CollectiveCameraOlga M & Talena SandersEditorChristian AustinCrewFeaturing Martha Williams
Music by ZGT - Dok Gregory and Peter Principle

CountryUSAEdition2009 ScreeningsPeriferias 2008 in Huesca, Spain; Art Tech Media 2008 in Cordoba, Spain; FF600 in Ljubljana, Slovenia; Cyborg OFF in Anghiari, Italy; Festival Miden in Kalamata, Greece; P"Silo Video Library in Marseilles, France

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Who is Z Collective?
Z Collective is a Brooklyn based multimedia collective that explores the interactions and connections between art and the mundane. Frequently working in conjunction with other dance, theater and audio collectives to nurture fresh ideas and stimulate dialogue through live performances and installations.
Christian Austin and Olga M are its founders and artistic directors.

Your film is about?
A walking waking victim of the American Dream, slowly drowning in a pool of narcissistic self reflection.

How did you start with film? And do you have an educational background in art or film?
The film was a result of a collaboration between Z Collective, Zero Gravity Thinkers (ZGT), Zemi17, Martha Williams, Jen Kosky and numerous other dancers for a live architecturally inspired performance work at the Chelsea Art Museum for the Sonic Self Series. The theme was Goya’s etching "The Sleep of Reason". Each artist was free to interpret the idea as they saw fit in order to create a live interactive performance piece. We were split into three groups: live video, live audio and dance. Each group devised their part and then we came to together on the evening of the performance to put it all into play.

The film "Pursuit of Happiness" was put together from video we shot we shot for the performance.

We are working artists who come from commercial film backgrounds.

Could you explain how you work, what themes or concepts and what is important to you?
We all meet and decide on a theme together and then separate into organically created groups based on the medium in which each artist works. We are interested in themes relating to consciousness, humanity’s relation to the universe and the world and the ideas of the infinite worlds which surround us both tangible and intangible.

We feel it is important for our work to speak about and to the world we live in. Our philosophies are inextricably intertwined with our work. We are very concerned with communicating and engaging the audience with the work in a way that breaks down the barrier between the artist and the spectator and are keenly aware of the importance of working in a non-hierarchical environment which incorporates the multiple perspective inherent in the world around us.

Where do you get your ideas or influences from?
Our influences are diverse but relate very closely to ideas put forth by renegade thinkers throughout the centuries - those whose ideas ran counter to the historically accepted status quo and their passion and determination to share the enduring spirit of human creativity which has brought us humans out of the caves and driven us to explore the vast reserves of knowledge and enlightenment which are the collective inheritance of the human race.

How does the title relate to the work, and how do you find a fitting title?
The title refers to the one of the tenets of the Preamble of the American Constitution - Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. The work explores the dark and narcissistic side of this concept. The title finds the work. We know it when we see it. It just feels fitting to the work.

How does content relate to the form of your work?
Creating a live improvised work allows us the freedom to explore our subject in relation to the many intangible influences around us while incorporating the diverse influences of the participating artists.

How important is sound in film, and if you use sounds, do you create your own or use existing?
Sound and image are equally important as the medium is comprised of the interplay of both elements. We work collaboratively in order to create original video, audio and performance unless we feel that we want to comment on some existing works. The audio for this piece is a remix of a recording from "The Sleep of Reason" performance.

How do you finance your projects (by yourself, sponsors or subsidy)?
We usually finance ourselves and have received grants from the Experimental Television Center in Troy, New York.

Nowadays everyone with the right equipment can create videoart, good, bad or ugly?
As has always been the case the ideas and desire is more important than the equipment used to make it. Each machine has its own quirks and anomalies which can be discovered and utilized to create a work in which the content and form relate to each other in innovative ways. We are all effected by sounds and images in our day to day lives. They define our experiences in the world.

As to the flood of technology that is so altering the film and video landscape, there has always been a deluge of low brow content in all manner of media. Good work always stands out. Now the tools of production has been given to the people and we have been benefactors of this revolution.

What possibilities of the web are yet to be explored? Which dangers do you see ahead?
The web is an amazing tool which allows us to question and push the pre-existing boundaries set up by the societies in which we live. With it we erase the superficial borders of race, nation, society and state and communicate our ideas to each other. The dangers inherent in it include the idea that art and artists have less value because anyone can upload videos to youtube as well as the subversion of the medium by corporate powers in order to propagate the status quo.

Video broadcasting platforms on the internet, why or why not?
Yes. They allow us to share ideas and knowledge with each other across the globe.

In what category would you place your work; cinema or art. And is there a difference between those?
This is an impossible question. We like to create cross-over work which defies categories. Our interest is the experimentation and free play of ideas. We also feel that our works should relate the nature of reality rather than conceal it.

How important is the reaction to your film by the audience?
Very important as we like to make work which shares and communicates our ideas with the world. We also believe that if the audience loves or hates a work is a testimony to its impact. We want to make our audiences think and not merely watch.

What is your next project about?
Our current project is a music video for a song called "Light of the Moon" by Zigmat, a Brooklyn based electro-rock band whose work we greatly respect. You can check out their music at www.zigmat.com

We also perform on a regular basis in and around NYC, primarily exploring works that fuse theater, spoken word, dance, and live video performance. We also have a series of experimental "film" works currently in production for release next year.

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