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New York’s digital shorts: 'Made Here' explores artists’ relationships with the city

The web-based videos looks into the lives of performers and artists

‘Made Here' is a web-based film project and forum that centres on a series of shorts (each around five minutes long) in which New York artists talk about their experience of living and working in the city, how they came to do what they do and how they fund their activities. Supported by the Rockefeller Cultural Innovation Fund and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, series one was launched in 2010. Season two began in March and continues with new films being added until July.

While the interview subjects are predominantly rooted in dance and theatre, there are also performance artists—including sculpture, video art and performance art veteran Joan Jonas, now professor of visual arts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Also included are burlesque performers, puppeteers and arts administrators. Many of the artists work across multiple media.

The episodes have been directed by Chiara Clemente and produced by Tanya Selvaratnam, who made the 2008 documentary “Our City Dreams”, which explored the practices of five woman artists, including Nancy Spero and Marina Abramovic, and which featured in Art Basel’s film programme in 2008.

The films are divided into categories including Technology, Creative Practice, Activism and Creative Real Estate, searchable by subject or artist.

In the Identity section, Jonas comments on her motivation to become an artist: “It is a mysterious drive…why would you do this, why would you live like this, for many years not knowing if you’re going to be recognised or supported? There’s the need to make form out of chaos, to formulate a thought. There’s the need to communicate something that you can’t communicate in any other way.”

As well as the website, the project includes monthly live screenings and discussions.

The non-profit organisation Art21, perhaps best known for producing the series “Art in the Twenty-First Century” for the US PBS public TV network, has a lively website which includes exclusive video micro-shorts featuring artists commenting on their work. The most recent posts see Carrie Mae Weems talking about her “Kitchen Table” series of photographic prints addressing issues around domesticity, while Cindy Sherman explains how she first started playing with her identity and appearance as a performance artist, before migrating to photography when she moved to New York: “I needed my own armour just to deal with the crazy people out on the street…and I guess I didn’t want to be confused with them.”

o Made Here films can be viewed and discussed at www.madehereproject.org.

The Art21 shorts can be seen at www.blog.art21.org

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'New York’s digital shorts'