Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Charles Fairbanks (UM)

Touching, Vision, 2008

I’m Charles Fairbanks. I’m a photographer moving into video. Most of my work is documentary-based, but I’m trying to work in other ideas, poetic concepts into the work. I grew up in rural Nebraska. My mom is an artist, she started drawing and painting when I was a child. We would do things together. I loved to draw and then gave it up when I was in junior high. I wanted to not be like my mom. Didn’t take any art, wasn’t really doing any art, until college. I went to school in California and took a sculpture class my second year and it kind of blew my mind. I was wrestling on the team at the time. I ended up quitting the wrestling team that year, but right when I was quitting, I was in my first photography class. In retrospect it seems like, as I was losing this thing that was really important to my person, how I interacted with the world sensually – which was wrestling, that picking up photography at that moment was really important to me, and a lot of the energy, the fact of the way I interacted with my world sensually translated really well into photography.

It’s funny, in my work at different stages, photography and now video, I keep going back and forth between my art practice and my wrestling practice, at different phases I’ve come back to it. It seems like one is pushing the other and they’re each pushing how I think of each one. Most recently, in my first year in grad school, I think I was really immersed in the intellectual development, and I was just swimming in all these ideas, but at the same time, I think I was getting away from an experimental, material practice. And then after a year of grad school, I just felt it in myself. I just felt like I really wanted to start wrestling again. So I did. I happened to be in Japan with my program, and I looked for a wrestler. I found a wrestler, and we ended up putting together a match. And I put together my first, it was sort of a video documentation of what we did, and it was sort of a video in its own right.

Since then, I’ve been working on other forms of wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu most recently. But as I’m doing these, I’m also pushing my video practice along with it. So in the last few months, as I’ve been returning to wrestling and then working with the video, which I think of as an extension of senses really, an extension of our visual senses, our oral senses as well, I’ve been thinking about how I can try to embody the experience of wrestling through video, in a lot of senses both how I can work with my own perspective as I am wrestling and try to translate this into something accessible by a viewer, but also translating how other people embody wrestling. How, say my father, who is also a wrestler, embodies wrestling and experiences it visually as he’s watching me and wrestling sympathetically. And so, I have a number of projects in the works that have to do with this sort of embodiment and as I’m returning for example to Mexico next summer, and returning to the ring under my undisclosed identity there, I’ll also be returning with a camera in my mask and producing sort of an ethnographic film having to do with embodiment, but also questioning identity and say, my relationship to this other wrestling culture.

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