On Halloween night, 10 years ago, I pulled into Tucson in a rented SUV packed full of as much of my belongings as I could get into it. The few possessions of mine that wouldn’t fit were in a friend’s basement in Portland, Oregon, where’d lived for the last 3 years and where I’d eventually, reluctantly realized I couldn’t stay. The rainy winters had gotten to be too much, and I decided the desert was where I needed to be instead.
It’s symbolic, or indicative, of how much my life has changed since then that I spent most of my anniversary day, October 31, at the hospital, taking care of my sick daughter (It's not serious, don't worry). Ten years ago I wouldn't have been able to imagine such a scenario, and in fact would have found it inconceivable that I would have a life in which I wouldn't have time to write a blog post on a Saturday about living in a town for 10 years. I wouldn't have even imagined being here that long. The longest I'd lived anywhere before, as an adult, was 6 years.
Do I have time to fully explain the profound changes to those who didn't know me then? Probably not. But in a nutshell, think about my first paragraph, above. Everything I was to live with, packed into a car I didn't own. My bike, the futon I slept on, my computer, some cameras and video tapes, that was pretty much it. I had no job waiting for me in Tucson. I had no assets and not even a savings account. Now I have a wife, a kid, a house, a car, two dogs, 3 chickens, 2 and a half bikes, power tools, and more.
I'll quickly just list some other differences between then and now:
- There were only 3 or 4 people I knew in Tucson. Now I know hundreds of people and have never felt more a part of a community that I do here.
- I was a war tax resister and as such I owed the IRS tens of thousands of dollars and had the aforementioned lack of assets and savings because of the fear that they would show up and take it at any time. I even was afraid of having a regular, non-freelance job. Now I pay my taxes and have permanent, salaried work.
- I was single and had been for the last 3 years and in fact for my entire life I was against the idea of ever being married. Now I'm permanently linked to someone I know I want to be with for the rest of my life.
- I had basically rejected art in favor of media activism (I sold or gave away all my guitars and other musical equipment before leaving Portland). I felt radicalized and unable to justify making art and not devoting myself, at least my free time, to social change in a direct way. Now I have returned quite a bit back to art and am trying to lead a more balanced existence between work, activism, (still socially aware) creative projects, family, and even other pasttimes like brewing beer and roasting coffee.
- For my whole life and including my first few years in Tucson, I was totally committed to not having children. I still believe in not producing my own offspring for social and environmental reasons, but I now am the father of an adopted little girl who I love and am devoted to, to an extent I could not have even fathomed 10 years ago.
- I enjoy gardening. I enjoy digging holes in my yard, and building things with wood and drills and saws. I live with and love 2 dogs. I see a therapist every week, run 3 miles every other day, and go to work 40 hours a week in an office. None of those things were true 10 years ago and in fact none of them I expected to ever do, some had never even occurred to me, and some of them I had been consciously opposed to.
You get the picture. And I'm happier, healthier, feel less afraid, more secure, more balanced - for the most part. Life is good.
I better wrap this up and get it put on my blog, before my familly wakes up.
A single-channel version of a piece designed to be a 2-screen performance work. Conceived of as a study or stepping stone in a larger project concerning urban redevelopment and gentrification.
This emergency meta rendition created for "Avant AZ", an evening of video art at Exploded View microcinema in Tucson, AZ, May 9, 2015.
(Produced in collaboration with Allison Leigh Holt; Contains video material generated by Holt using her Glass System videoscultpure, by projecting and re-filming through the sculptures time-lapse footage of my guest house being built. Holt also provided integral script and concept feedback. more info about the sculptures here: oillyoowen.com/work/the-glass-system/ )
I don't usually do the year-end retrospective thing. But I've been meaning for a couple of months to write about my recent past as a freelance videographer
The end of this calendar year prods me into actually doing it.
Since getting back full-time into other ways of making a living, I'm spending much less time out in the world with my camera, and I sometimes feel wistful about that. However, the fact is that if I can get myself to look at the bright side, I can look back and feel a sense of real satisfaction and pride in the number and variety of film/video projects I've been involved in over the last 18 months or so (I choose that period for 2 reasons: 1) just to buck the trend of looking back at the arbitrary unit of one year that is the habit for this season, and 2) because when I open the Raw Footage directory on my newest hard drive, the shoots I've been on stretch back about that far).
It's especially heartwarming to see, as I look back, how much of this work has been for non-profits and other good causes.
Here's a list of highlight clients and/or projects:
- promotional film for Coaltion for Sonoran Desert Protection
- documentation of Chico MacMurtrie's show at MOCA Tucson of Amorphic Robot Works' "Chrysalis" piece, a giant semi-intelligent kinetic sculpture.
- documenting events for Living Streets Alliance, most notably Cyclovia Tucson
- A promotional film about South Tucson made with Creatista for Primavera Foundation
- A documentary about homelessness.
- footage for some short videos about coffee, kefir, and other food things for Edible Baja Arizona magazine.
- Two lectures from the Institute for Applied Meditation
- An educational video series about immigration called "Radical Hospitality" for the Mennonite USA church.
- documenting the SAAF Moda Provacateur fashion show
- a wedding.
- some bands that wanted me to film them playing live
- PSAs for Child and Family Resources
- helping a friend with a documentary about Diamond Mountain's 3-year meditation retreat.
- Documenting the Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference at the U of Arizona
- instructional videos on meditation at a retreat center in Cochise Stronghold
- fundraising videos with Creatistia for Literacy Connects
- documenting the Mayor's Council on Poverty
- various promotional footage for the Downtown Tucson Partnership (with Creatista)
- and finally, one of the last projects that I'm still involved with is videography for a documentary film in progress by Eva Lewis called No Man's Land, about the organizing against the Arivaca Border Patrol checkpoint.
I was just down in Arivaca yesterday shooting stuff for the last item, so I guess I can also celebrate that I'm still doing some of this stuff. Just not trying to pay all of the bills with it.