Miranda July Interview By: Jennifer Perkins
Recently Naughty Secretary Club took the time to interview one of the more interesting and creative people of our generation, Miranda July. Miranda does multi-media performance art pieces that get shown all around the world. She founded Big Miss Moviola which is a distribution house for female oriented independent films. She has directed videos for Sleater Kinney, directed 4 short movies to date, has spoken word records out on K…Miranda July is a woman of many talents indeed.
How did it come about with you having a role in Alison MacLean’s “Jesus’ Son”? How was that? Did you get to meet Holly Hunter or Dennis Hopper? Can we expect to see you in any more upcoming film roles?
Alison was a judge at the Cinematexas film festival in austin where my movie The Amateurist was playing. She wanted to interview me for Filmaker Magazine. I was going to be in NY, performing Love Diamond as a work in progress. She came to Love Diamond and we did the interview a few days later. A few days after that she asked if I’d like to audition for this movie that she was in the process of casting. I was on tour at the time, so i had to have the script faxed to one of the venues. When we (me and my accompanist Zac Love and the band Octant who we were touring with) were driving to the audition we got completely lost. I had to get out of the van and hail a cab just to not miss it entirely. I arrived all breathless and flustered. I didn’t meet holly h or dennis h. just billy and his brother and dad and I hung out with his girlfriend who is the actress mary– I forget her last name — was in fried green tomatoes and other movies, long dark hair. and samanthat morton who is really really on fire all the time.
Imagining you trying to stick to only one medium, seems a difficult task. If you had to choose between film or live multi-media performances (that included some film) only, which medium are you more attached to? Which did you do first?
Well that’s hard. i think it would be a mistake to forsake live performance for movies, so i will never do that. at the same time i can forsee taking taking some time off performing if I were to make a feature of write a book; something that took a long time to make. but that’s not gonna happen this year or next year. I will probably tour more in 2001 than I ever have before (with my new multi-media performance, The Swan Tool). This is partly because I will go to europe where there are more sites that think new = good, not just a hassle.
Is the character Tinny Santiny based on anyone in your real life? What about in of the other characters in your pieces?
Tini was originally based on my mother. many of the characters start out based on a real person and then evolve into someone else, a fiction. but having the core personality be rooted in someone i know allows me to find my back home when I start becoming to vague. the characters in the FATE are based very closely on my family. that is perhaps the most literal thing i ever wrote. of course my parents never would catch and of the completely blatant references, my mom would just say I have a “wonderful imagination”.
Who are some directors and also some films that you think are worth a damn? Are there any films or filmmakers you can point to specifically that have led you in a certain artistic direction?
When I was a kid: Jane Campion’s first movies (her student short films), Sex Lies and Videotape, Slacker (the first wave of indie films did have a big impact on me, She’s Gotta Have It. I didn’t think too much about these being men, I just read about them maxing out their credit cards and I thought: oh.) Rumblefish. More recently: Animal Charm, Ross Mc Ewee, watching Edie Sedgewick. I am more influenced by books and art that I see in books and magazines: artists: Gillian Wearing, Harrell Fletcher, Mark Dion. Authors: Julie Hecht, Emmanuel Bove, Nina Berberova.
Which of your artistic accomplishments are you most proud of? Is there a CD or a movie of Miranda July’s that you like better than any of the others?
I think the Binet-Simon Test is more polished and complete than the other cds. it’s hard to say since the i am usually trying to do something i’ve never done before with each thing. not just new content, but a new use for the medium itself. but everytime i don’t quite achieve what i wanted, i try again. so the Binet CD is in a way what i wanted to do with 10 Million, but I didn’t know how to. I think the Swan Tool CD will re-attempt some of the things I was just starting to think about when working on the IQU ep.
How did it come about for you to direct a video for Sleater-Kinney?
We are friends. they knew i made movies. i think it just seemed natural at the time. it was hardly even discussed. on the night before the shoot i explained to then what it would be like.
Has it ever been played on MTV?
Who are some bands, musicians, composers, whichever you enjoy?
on the turntable right now: Kento (from iqu’s) mix cd, cat power, low, takako minekawa. I pretty much listen to whatever my music friends give to me. i don’t buy records. i do buy books.
I saw you for the first time play with Dub Narcotic Sound System, I don’t think many people in the audience were expecting what you gave them. There were some people that obviously couldn’t handle this and made cracks throughout. Do you experience this a lot with your performance being so intense that they catch people off guard and they react negatively?
not so much anymore–the audience is generally there to see me because i take up the whole evening. i do kind of miss the arbitrariness of performing for fans of the band that comes after me. nobody makes cracks anymore because they think that i’m art. but the reactions are still very visceral. always the endless nervous laughter at the strangest moments. and then they come up afterwards and ask : was i supposed to laugh? were you trying to be funny? Hey man that’s your job, i just decide what should happen on the stage.
What are the plans for the future of Miranda July? Are you going to be traveling and promoting The Swan Tool? Are there any talks of wide screen releases for your films in the future to art house theaters across the country rather than just select “showings”?
I’ll be doing a west coast tour of the swan tool as a work in progress in ocotober, it premieres at the rotterdam international film festival in jan. It will tour extensively in the US and europe in 2001. There’s a new Big MM Co-Star tape that will come out in October and is curated by Astria Suparak. She’s going to tour will the swan tool in oct and show some of the movies to celebrate it’s release. it’s a compilation all about sexuality malfunctioning. hmmm, i don’t think they’ll ever be any wide screen releases of my short movies, but that’s a nice thought. they are distributed by Video Data Bank however, so festival around the world show them regulary. You can see Nest of Tens at the NY Video Festival this month and at Cinematexas in Austin in October.
This interview has been reprinted from my old zine Naughty Secretary Club and was done a long long long time ago.