A conversation with Orr Menirom

By Eve O’Shea

Clinton and Sanders Looking at the World and Naming Things for the First Time (2017), Installation View (Copy)

NARS Foundation Season IV Resident Orr Menirom speaks about her filmmaking practice and methods.


EOS: I am wondering about your choice of medium. What do you feel that film specifically does to convey your message? Did you arrive at it after having used other materials?

OM: I actually started as an undergraduate student, studying Fine Arts. I wasn’t specifically focusing on film; I was thinking in more of a 3D way. And when I started working as a student there, where I was studying in Jerusalem, I started with specific installations around the city that were sort of connected to different sites there. I started documenting those installations through video, and that’s one of the ways that I got into moving images. And then when I went to grad school, I chose to go to the film department in the School of the Institute of Chicago. Film then became my main medium.

EOS: What do you feel the difference is between using your own footage versus found footage or footage that you don’t take yourself?

OM: I’ve worked for a long time with found footage; it’s actually a very conscious choice for me. When I first started working, it was really important for me to work with materials that are easily accessed. Like, everyone on the internet is a kind of a source, so I think people are able to watch the work and be inspired to do something similar. Maybe that is part of what I’m interested in, that the work can be accessible for everyone. I think that over time, I started incorporating different materials on top of that, and that is sort of the foundation of what I work with. But I also started working with the production and kind of complementing those materials with my own materials that I film as a response to them. And I guess it’s partially because of my interest in authorship and voice and the boundary between the self and the other — where does one voice end and the other continue? Where do other people’s voices play out in my own work? Relationships are formed through engagement and involvement in other people’s messages, and through the type of materials that they find worthy and interesting enough to upload online. And what I do is step in and identify something in them that I also feel is interesting, so then there is a type of connection there and a response to someone else’s materials.

EOS: How do you arrive at your subject matter, which is very disparate but also linked? Is it by chance? Is it slightly guided by chance, or is it highly intentional? Are you prompted by images or materials? Or, rather, would it be the story or concept that comes first?

OM: Definitely image-driven. That’s a good question, because I do think very visually, and maybe that’s because of my background in Fine Arts. I think images are something that I understand much better than narratives, even though I work with moving images. I feel like I understand much more than the moving part. And so that’s related to the image. But I think that another big part of my work is that it’s kind of a hybrid between different strategies. So, it’s influenced by research-based practices, but it’s also film, experimental film, and it’s also video art. So all of those factors, I guess, play out; when I’m working on a piece I sort of simultaneously work on the different aspects of the piece. I write, film, edit, and vice versa, and I keep working on all those aspects at the same time. I start with a lot of materials, and then reduce them and reduce them until something sort of crystallizes — maybe a clearer idea that comes through the work. Maybe, maybe, if I’m lucky.

EOS: The category your work would fall into is an interesting way of seeing what it is and what it’s not. Would you say that your films are closer to a documentation or a documentary? Or a narrative short; fictional?

OM: I think I see them more as a personal essay. They have documentarian elements to them; maybe mostly the tone or maybe just the level of engagement with the materials, that of trying to read something into them that points to a reality that’s outside of just the artwork. In that sense, there are documentarian elements to it, but I’m definitely not committed to a truthful or objective — those are charged words — well, I’m not committed to the same type of storytelling that a documentarist would, and so in that sense, I’m making art. I definitely think the work points to itself as being very subjective and poetic, and in that sense, I think it still is an artwork. I think it treads those two lines.