Brendan Kirwin is a media producer, documentary filmmaker and video artist living in Chicago, IL. Brendan is dedicated to using technology and media to create social change. Along with various documentary and non-profit video projects, he has been working on Journey to Peace a documentary, following reformed gang members as they work to bring peace to their neighborhood. As a extension of Journey to Peace, Brendan helped organize Chicago Conjunto, a community arts event centered around non-violence. He has a BFA, in Music and Multimedia, at the University of Michigan.
Dear Olivia from Brendan Kirwin on Vimeo.
You have written that you are "interested in how we communicate through art and media and whether this nurtures true connection or merely feeds more static into our live." What do you find most challenging about making "true connection" through video art?
I think the most challenging thing for me in creating video art is the lack of immediacy that comes with the medium. If I have an idea that I want to express, I first have to shoot footage, or scan found images, or create motion graphics that evoke the idea. Then I have to work with these images in Final Cut (the video editing software I use) to create a sense of rhythm and cadence that is harmonious with the idea. That's a much different experience than putting paint on a canvas or playing an instrument, and because of this I find that my video art tends to be more cerebral than say my writing or my music. Is a video attempting to represent my human experience really capable of transmitting that experience to another person? I don't know. I like the idea of exploring the limitations of technology (both conceptually and practically) through multimedia, creating a way to scrutinize this overwhelming deluge of "progress".
A number of your documentary projects could be considered a form of art as activism. What qualities of film-making do you consider to be uniquely suited to social activism?
I would hope that all social documentaries could be considered art as activism. Documentary filmmaking is the best way I've found to convey human experience in a concrete way. The major obstacle of getting people engaged in a social issue is convincing them that it's worth their time and energy. As the saying goes, "You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into," so with an issue like homelessness or gang violence, it's going to take more than statistics and figures to change someone's mind. The way past that is to get people emotionally engaged, and there's no better way to do that than putting a face on the issue. One of the best ways to nurture empathy is through collective experience and short of having the person walk in another person's shoes, you can do that through documentary films.
Are there specific themes you would like to explore or film-making techniques you hope to experiment with in future projects?
The past few years, I've found Buddhist psychology and practice to be an extremely engaging and liberating part of my life and I plan on exploring more how mindfulness and compassion opens up our heart and mind. I hope to experiment more with stop-motion animation, because it's whimsical and challenging, and seems to be a good medium for exploring the process of "being in the moment".
Sincere thanks to Brendan for sharing his thoughts on film-making and especially for sharing his short film Dear Olivia. Pretty extraordinary, right?
What do you think of Dear Olivia?