Here’s to you

Melanie Fiander’s “One Minute Introduction”
By CHRIS THOMPSON  |  March 28, 2007
FATHER FIGURE: From "One Minute Introduction."

“Hey there, Mr. Jason Simon. My name is Melanie Fiander, and this is my film.”

These words kick off Melanie Fiander’s “One Minute Introduction,” one of the works to have made the final cut for inclusion in the upcoming 2007 Portland Museum of Art Biennial.

Fiander created the film, a one-minute black-and-white vignette in which she explores the items on top of her mother’s dresser, as a way to introduce herself to Jason Simon, a curator and artist working in video, film, and photography who was one of her faculty in the Maine College of Art’s MFA Program last summer.

The film begins, after Fiander’s no-nonsense text, with a lead-in focus on a palm-sized framed photo of her father playing guitar; from there Fiander’s fingers start in, moving in and out of sync with her slow roving camera as together they scan surfaces, inspect jewelry boxes, and probe their contents — to the tune of Miles Davis’s “Autumn Leaves.”

Why use this particular format, a film that traces your poking through your mother’s dresser, to introduce yourself to Jason Simon?
As I had never met Simon before, I wanted to introduce myself to him through my artwork, and for that film to be formal but also casual. The formality appears in the text but is not overly dramatic and the casual tone is set immediately with the audio. This footage of my mom’s dresser seemed suitable for Simon’s arrival as a visiting artist at Maine College of Art because I felt this was a great way to introduce him to myself by way of my family. Simon himself has used this same “snooping” technique in his films, particularly in Paul Schrader’s Bag and also in Vera, although in a less direct manner.

Most of the inspections of the boxes and objects are quick — like you’re looking for something in particular — but there’s an extra-long lingering over the crucifix earrings, a kind of double-take. What’s at work in that moment?
The two crucifixes are a pair of earrings that my friend’s family in Ecuador gave to me. I was very appreciative of the gift but when I got home I turned to my mom and said, “So, do you want these?” A very thoughtful gift should never be overlooked, but I think we have all received a gift at certain point in time and thought, “Thanks . . . what do I do with this?” During the filming, I saw that the earrings were now in one of her jewelry boxes and went in for a second look.

It seems the more I learn about religion, the more I become confused. I’m constantly going back to my Catholic roots only to run away screaming every two months, give or take. Maybe it’s a phase?

I’m curious about the degree to which this film was scripted beforehand.
This film was not scripted. While I was filming my mom’s dresser, I was simultaneously having a conversation with my mom, Aunt Mary, and a family friend about Aunt Mary’s husband, my Uncle Carmine. Aunt Mary was ironing pants, retelling a few stories, and the camera drifted from her to the dresser. This information is not accessible to the viewer, but is an example of how my films usually begin.

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