Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Interview: David Han

Name: David Han
Age: 33
Location: Toronto
Craft: Smart ass/Imagineer/Media artist/Basketball enthusiast

How would you describe your craft to people who aren't familiar with what you do?
I usually tell them that I make the kind of film or video installations you might see in an art gallery or at an event like Nuit Blanche.

Where do you primarily draw your ideas and inspiration from? What is your creative process like?
I guess a lot of work I'm interested in really goes back to Gene Youngblood's concept of expanded cinema. Although I come from a film and television background, I really like this idea of the films being drawn out of the cinema, leaking out of the darkened interiors of movie theatres and into real life, real places. Contemporary technology has really pushed this process along, making this an everyday experience.

As a result, it's usually the technology that's the starting point for my creative process. I'm interested in the promise surrounding a new piece of technology. Promise, not in a utopian sense, or in some fetishistic, fan-boy sense, but more like the sense of wonder or magic that surrounds new technology. A lot of my work tries to evoke this sense of wonder through the integration of such technology, often in unsuspecting and curious ways.

"Margaret Learns to Drive From There to Here"
multi-channel video installation exhibited at the MOCCA, 2010 and The Leona Drive Project, 2009.

What kind of materials do you love working with and how are they related to your ideas?
I love trying to find a balance between the familiar and the strange. In a lot of my work, there's an attempt to take something very mundane, or familiar - like a mirror, a car, a treadmill, or, in the case of my most recent work, your own shadow - and then subvert or alter the relationship with that object or phenomenon, usually through the integration of contemporary technologies like custom software. I suppose this goes back to my interest in the sense of wonder or magic that often accompanies new technologies.

I'm reminded of the story of the Lumière Brothers film "Train Pulling into a Station", one of the first films ever screened for the public. As the story goes, during the scene in which the train comes towards the camera, the audience in the theatre screamed and ran away from the screen. I like that story.

"Restive Threshold"
Film and Video Installation, exhibited at the Eleanor Winters Art Gallery, 2011.

What interests you the most about Toronto these days?
Recently, there's been an increased interest in 'maker', or DIY culture. While InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre has been fostering a small, but dedicated, artist-centric maker community for the past 30 years, I've recently discovered a few other organizations that really speak to the diversity and vibrancy of this culture. Places like Site 3 coLaboratory and DDiMIT are popping up all over this city, which hopefully points to a future where Toronto becomes an epicenter for this type of work. If you're interested in seeing for yourself what I mean by 'maker' culture, check out Toronto's first Mini Maker Faire on May 7-8, 2011 at the Evergreen Brick Works.

You've lived in and around the Bloorcourt Village neighbourhood for quite some time now. What about the neighbourhood has made you stay put there for so long?
I've lived there for almost 8 years now. I like the fact that while it has seen its share of changes, it still has a real community feel to it. The pace of gentrification in Bloorcourt/Bloordale is slow and languorous, almost as if it's not really happening, or as if the developers aren't really sure that this neighbourhood is worthy of gentrification. It means that there's enough time for a community to be born, time for adjustment and understanding (instead of resentment) and the formation of unlikely allegiances between community members of disparate backgrounds. If you've ever played soccer with hipsters, humanists, Brazilian teenagers and Eritrean cab drivers, you'll know what I mean.

You have two cats named Sebastian and Eddie. Tell us a funny story about them.
Ah. My cats. They are like a 80s cop movie. You know, the kind of 80s cop movie that features a grizzled old veteran, a few weeks from retirement, who gets partnered with a young, rambunctious rookie whose all bravado and nonsense. Exactly like that. All the time.

Bunny Bling Bling Tip:
David is participating in the Sight & Sound: Audio & Visual New Media Festival
from May 11 - 17, 2011 in Montreal, Canada! Go check it out if you're in and around the area.


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