Film and TV

Kelly Sears Uses Found Footage to Capture Current Crises: See Them Tonight

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Westword: Talk about your project and this specific style of work you've been developing.

Kelly Sears: I guess it really grows out of a lot of different interests I have. I love animation. I don't know how to draw, and I'm not actually interested in learning how to draw. But I am interested in things like collage and layering it and building these larger compositions. That's how I really got into animation. As I was making films, I was really into collecting things or re-appropriating material.

The path really developed along those two interests: using animation, strategies like collage, compositing, layering, masking and kind of foraging for ephemeral media and archival media. It became a way of using animation almost as a critical means to talk about the content and the histories that are in the histories that I've collected.

How do you decide what images and themes you use? Are these films fictional?

They're as fictional as nonfictional. They really have a foot in both places where the narrative will go along and we can understand it as our own history and we can understand it as a detour into a more uncanny space, but often that detour comes around and is really set up to talk about contemporary political histories that we're experiencing right now.

Talk about some of the issues you're dealing with.

Well, the films feature lost astronauts and haunted presidents and possessed high schools and lots of different kinds of traces of disaster. Looking for material is very serendipitous. There are a bunch of archetypes and themes that I'm interested in, such as Manifest Destiny, occupation, surveillance. When I'm out looking at images, either at formal archives or at thrift stores and flea markets, there is always a certain amount of conversation about American history that I'm interested in. And so, I will find an archetype like an astronaut and latch on to that and think about how that figure can embody some of these stories.

In The Drift, you're going from this astronaut universe into counterculture and then look at the death of that. Is that more or less the narrative that you're dealing with?

I was thinking about the space race as a larger ideological metaphor and thinking about what happened in American history and what engagement was attached to that. I made that film during the occupation of Iraq and it was very much after mission accomplished was declared. I was thinking about these questions of frontiers and occupation and these more ideological gestures. The astronaut became a really beautiful metaphor for that. And of course, things don't work out for the astronauts in this piece. That moment of American history gets reconfigured. But it was all about thinking about questions of home and on the other side other imperial histories that take over.

Read on for more from Kelly Sears.

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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris