Film and Video Chair Nadia Hironaka was awarded a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The foundation, which bestows the fellowship annually to those "who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts," recognized Hironaka in the film-video category. Guggenheim Fellows receive a grant to aid in the production of their respective works. The video installation artist recently shared her thoughts on winning the prestigious fellowship, the impact of current events on her work and her new role in the undergraduate Film and Video program.
MICA Communications: How does it feel to be a Guggenheim Fellow?
Nadia Hironaka: Honored. The initial rush has subsided, but I still have momentary flashes of excitement.
Communications: Was your entry an original production designed specifically for the competition, or was it a selection from your notable portfolio of exhibitions that have been showcased nationally and internationally?
Hironaka: I'd been developing a project idea for a film with my collaborator, Matthew Suib, over the past year. We had a good bit of research completed before submitting our proposal for the fellowship. There are two parts to the application. The first portion is all written material. Later, you are asked to submit work samples--highlights of your career from your portfolio.
Communications: Your solo and group exhibitions span from Hello Cleveland to Black Hole. Is there a "stream of consciousness" that is expressed in your art regardless of medium?
Hironaka: Our work develops organically, often as a condition of our collaborative process. We gravitate towards current and historical events, and images and moments from the history of the moving image. We build ideas and projects around those points of reference, sometimes weaving together a number of disparate elements.
I'm drawn to intricate structures, the process of constructing a narrative (a term I use loosely), and the suggestion of connections made through placement, pace, form, etc., which are aspects of artmaking that call much more than surfaced content into question.
Communications: Regarding the trilogy of locations- Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore- what were some cultural activities that influenced and are influencing your concept about the impact of "moving image culture" on people's perception of what they understand and experience?
Hironaka: Current political events at home and abroad and how we come to see/experience them are both fascinating and disturbing, and are influential on our work. The notion of taking ownership of how you use moving images, especially those taken on your phones and other consumer devices, is becoming more developed. Much of this goes back to Marshall McLuhan and his quintessential text on media theory, Understanding Media. The notion of understanding media as an extension of ourselves--making the tools of the day do what we want them to as a means of expression.
Sure, go ahead, check your e-mail, watch a cat video and text obsessively, but also notice the examples of police brutality that are being documented by the general public. When our phones are used to capture these events and serious discussions of how we govern are addressed, greater changes can occur within society. Ultimately, these new tools will affect our future history.
In 2011, we made Provisional Monument for the New Revolution, a large scale video installation that uses videos from cell phones, along with news footage taken of the Arab spring uprising, to create a non-fixed/moving image monument. The piece was created to be an ongoing work in progress. The content changed and the number of projections expanded as events unfolded around the world.
Communications: Your expertise is in film and video. To what extent does the technical knowledge about film and video production affect the presentation of the art?
Hironaka: Our projects range in form and medium. That said, it's extremely helpful to have a wide array of technical knowledge behind you. What technology we use depends upon the content of the piece. We may work with low-res appropriated imagery or high-end, super slow-motion production equipment, go from HD digital video onto 16mm film or orchestrate outdoor projections seven stories tall.
Communications: Can you provide an explanation of your current project? Is the project a result of your Guggenheim award?
Hironaka: The fellowship will help support the production of a film, which presents a speculative history where the radical Italian architecture collective Superstudio's proposed Continuous Monument has been realized. Group members, academics and other notable figures discuss the consequential effects on society that have arisen since the structure's creation. Concurrently, acts of arson at international film studios occur, and these events are tied together through a conspiratorial narrative.
Communications: You are a MICA faculty member and an artist. What was the appeal of MICA?
Hironaka: MICA is an impressive institution and offers such a supportive community. My colleagues and my students are amazing...really, amazing. This combination is a rare and unique trait.
Communications: What is your mission statement for your tenure at MICA, as a new chair, and will you provide an overview of the courses?
Hironaka: This is an exciting time for Film and Video: our move to the Film Center, a beautiful new building with state of the art facilities, our partnership with Johns Hopkins department of Film and Media Studies and a new graduate program. I feel quite privileged to have this opportunity and anticipate new development and growth as our program moves forward. This year, look for course staples such as Cinematography and Lighting, Video Art, Film, and Alternative Narrative, along with thematic and genre specifics such as Horror Movies, A Sense of Place, and Reality, Illusion, and Moving Image. It's going to be a stellar year.
Communications: Is there an educational component that will familiarize your students with Screening, the organization that you created with Matthew Suib?
Hironaka: Within the course Video Art, I approach the medium historically while also referencing the contemporary artwork that has come out of this past. Much of the work showcased in part with Screening represents cutting-edge approaches to video art, both old and new. For many of my classes, but especially with Video Art, I screen artwork from Screening's archive. Additionally, I've had artists such as Takeshi Murata and Michael Bell-Smith give artist lectures at MICA (both have shown with Screening).
Hironaka exhibits her video installation in Intersection, presented by MICA's M.F.A. in Curatorial Practice program, on Tuesday, Sept. 1-Sunday, Sept. 20, in the Sheila & Richard Riggs and Leidy galleries inside the Fred Lazarus IV Center, 131 W. North Ave.