Talking Kevin Obstatz over mouthfuls of cookies and sips of coffee.
This is how the formal interview session between Kevin, Beth and I began...
B- How old were you when you first became aware of art?
K- (mouth full of cookie)- The whole question of art versus entertainment is central to where I am coming from. I can answer that easily with film. It first occurred to me that someone has to make movies for me to watch them at 12 or 13 years old. I took a summer class at 14 about how you make a movie and I was like wow, you can just do that yourself. I was aware of narrative way before I was aware of what fine art meant. I remember being actively un-interested in art museums, but stories would hold my attention.
B- When did you start realizing the moving image was part of that museum you ignored.
K- Midway through highschool I discovered in Stanley Kubrick movies for example the idea that a narrative has a set of expectations attached to it. A narrative is satisfying when it is checking off the boxes of those expectations. Somewhere in the middle of highschool I realized it wasn't necessary to follow those rules. You could make a movie that challenges a person's expectations and doesn't giving them what they need or what they want. Not until college was I exposed to any art films of an aggressively non-narrative formalist work. Even then it was a slow and gradual progression of interest for me.
C- What films or movies, or moving pictures were you attracted to when you were younger? Do any experiences stick out?
K- At some point I had this distinct memory of being a little kid and my parents were watching Back to the Future. I remember seeing the scene where the Delorean comes out of the back of the truck for the first time, there was spooky music, and fog from the fog machine and I remember having a visceral reaction to it.
It seems beth and I were trying to look in Kevin's earliest years for his formative experiences as an artist. Stories of experiences as youth are often interestingly evocative and easy for a participant or listener to relate to. We all have experiences when we realize the layers of media, ideas, and motive behind a movie picture. For Kevin it is the scene with the Delorean. For me it may have been when I was so bothered by Hocus Pocus I had to leave the theater. I knew it was just a movie but I made a deliberate act to avoid that experience.
At a later point in the interview Kevin explained another one of his formative experience as an artist and filmmaker. This time less freudian. After college, Kevin spent some time in France. He explained the culture he encountered of wonderfully small venues of experimental filmmakers. Dispite this culture he found himself not enjoying many of the films. After this he related his distaste with those films to his work. Kevin's goal isn't to make art that is difficult. Instead for him the idea of exploring what he can do with film, or the idea of committing to super 8, for example, is approaching film as an artist.