This is the third in a continuing series of Splice Premieres, articles that profile artists, musicians, and filmmakers that are
making careers outside the mainstream media. Read Zach Kaufmann's interview with St. Louis alt-country band Theodore, or John Lingan's discussion with documentary filmmaker Christian Klinger.
I found Chris Lineberry’s videos sitting like warm eggs in the great chicken coop that is YouTube after I demanded that my boyfriend look up the video for “Melody Day” by Caribou. We watched the hammers hit a piece of wood to the beat for awhile, and he absentmindedly clicked on one of the videos in the “Related Videos” category, only to be quickly stunned by perfectly timed messes of pulsating colors, rainbows, clouds, dinosaurs, school buses, and apathetic faces that quickly melted into the landscape. It was a video narration of Caribou’s “Zoe” (above) by Lineberry, who after a few clicks I found out was only 17 and had created several visually stunning videos using nothing other than MS Paint.
Is it too late to say the future is here? It might be some kind of indicator that a teenaged North Carolina native who sits with his hand on a his mouse through many winter nights, his eyes full of pulsating colors, can create on crude software the type of animation that 50 years ago might have given Walt Disney a seizure.
Lineberry took time away from his MS Paint window to hop over to a Microsoft Word window and answer a few questions.
SPLICE TODAY: Give me a short paragraph about yourself. If that sounds vague, try including things like childhood ticks, fears, obsessions, teenage hobbies, weird but shareable family predicaments, favorite ways to break the law, etc.
CHRIS LINEBERRY: I was born in Greensboro, NC and, save for an infantile two-year stint out of the state in Vancouver and Cincinnati, I've lived here all my life. When I was four, I thought that beyond my periphery the world might be the inside of a giant spaceship with the most disgusting and globbly aliens running the control panel. I'd turn around quickly to try and catch them but they were always just out of view. I'm obsessed with “Where's Waldo,” mermaids, primary colors, miniatures, planning my dream house, comic books, and museums. In seventh grade, my dad grounded me for having dreadlocks, perhaps rightfully so because they were disgusting. As for my favorite way to break the law, I drive five miles over the speed limit.
ST: Have you had any formal training in art, especially animation?
CL: I've attended a magnet arts high school, Weaver Academy, and will be completing my senior year there this spring. However, even though the school has the resources for animation, they've never given me a chance to do it there. The school has provided me with a technical basis for my work, though.
I've also been involved with the Elsewhere Artist Collaborative since the spring of ‘04 and the conceptual foundation of my work has been heavily influenced by the experience.
The animations sort of arose when I realized that my clunky, obsolete, hand-me-down, McAfee-infected, warrantee-expired Dell could facilitate activities beyond x'ing out the pop-ups that confirm that all of my bullshit virus protection needs to be updated.
ST: How do you choose which songs to narrate?
CL: On top of the song being something I would consider "good music,” most of the time it's the length that I look for. It's an unfortunate case of needing size to matter, but time is a crucial element in the process. If the song isn’t short enough, then I feel bad about gypping it. I guess part of what I do relies on having "a sense" for how things go together, which is probably not the most exciting or substantiated element of my work (even though it's still important).
ST: What is your personal history with music (phases, embarrassments, philosophy if you have one)?
CL: In seventh grade I went from listening to Kittie to Cat Stevens. The transformation happened over winter break, I guess. Then in eighth grade I cut off my long, flowing, Shirley Temple locks and fell in love with the Arcade Fire. I played upright bass for a while and played with a few orchestras (I made it to Carnegie Hall once, even though the audience was composed of parents). I'm obsessed with noise that sounds like something's being played backwards (it's in my animation of Jon Brion’s “Bookstore,” called “Time Travel” [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6X3c7Tq5ia8]), strings/orchestral/symphonic sound, and sounds that define the times. A lot of my music comes from local college radio stations.
"Time Travel" by Chris Lineberry
ST: How does music appear in your mind? Do you experience synesthesia? I’m guessing you know what it is by your video called “Synesthetic City.”
CL: Well, I used to tell people I had synesthesia, but that simply isn't true. Although I certainly do have aesthetic associations with music, they don't occupy my actual reality like a true synesthete. As far as what those associations are, it varies.
"Synesthetic City" is based on a screenplay idea I had in eighth grade about a synesthete whose synesthesia composes his own separate city. Helping to protect the city are three superheroes loosely based on those from "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends," which was about superheroes meeting in college and fighting crime together. Although the video is strange and, to some mindsets, possibly trippy, their character adaptations were to focus on how cool college kids would fight crime, which was to not fight crime and instead smoke cigarettes and talk about parties and shows they went to, all the while looking fabulous in their costumes. It's about image.
ST: There seem to be a lot of philosophical themes and connections in your videos. Can you explain some of them?
CL: One of my favorites to talk about is "Where's Waldo?" There was this epiphany I had in my freshman year about how Waldo was on the inside, with an awareness that you were on the outside looking in. Waldo serves to mediate our two planes of existence, making him a potential allegory for Jesus Christ. In this sense, the audience is, to a degree, placed in the role of a deist god as we overlook the situation without intervention and experience a grand narrative through visual clutter. The book is a sensory simulation of being God. I'm not religious, though. Perhaps Waldo symbolizes our passive role as an audience. If you count the appearance of his outfit on a clothesline, Waldo is in five of my MS Paint videos, one of which was very recently created to promote Elsewhere's residency program hosting Guerra de la Paz, a collaborative duo that make sculptural installations out of clothing.
ST: How long does each video take you?
CL: On average, a video takes me an intensive month or a less intensive two months. The winter months are my busiest, running on autopilot during the short, dark days and loitering at our downtown coffee shop to work. I turn it into a factory.
ST: Do you think there is something mystical about MS Paint?
CL: It's perhaps the opposite. I leave the mysticism to Adobe, which makes some of the simplest tasks a chore. MS Paint doesn't front. It's one plane, one layer, no messin'—just pure, unadulterated bitmapped magic.
ST: Would you leave it for Photoshop, or some other coveted program?
CL: A time will come when MS Paint and I will have to part. I've taken a computer graphics course, so the switch won't be quite as dramatic as it potentially could be, but it's a day I dread when I give up the title of MS Paint Purist, even though it makes me sound like an asshole. There's got to be a word less abrasive than purist.
ST: Who is your favorite artist?
CL: I don't have a favorite, but I like Mariko Mori, who did an installation of a UFO abduction and, as a separate project, encapsulated herself in, well, a capsule in the middle of Tokyo.
ST: What goes through your mind, as a video artist, when you watch MTV?
CL: It's funny you should ask me that because I don't have cable, so I can't answer that very well.
ST: Say you grew to have a six-figure income. How would you want to earn it?
CL: I'd like to be making installations of famous comic book moments using life-size pose-able action figures (could that make six figures?). Or maybe I'd be running an avant-garde restaurant in New York where all of the seating arrangements were the insides of decadent transportation devices like a grand dining hall in a submarine or an airplane. The trick is simulating the movement of the travel, perhaps through projection behind the windows of the space. We'd cater to people who love to travel and love doing it in first-class luxury. Overall, at this point in my life I'd like to plan spatial experiences when I'm older. I hope it'll make six figures.
ST: Sick of high school?
CL: Oh honey, don't get me started. I'm just playing the game to win.
ST: College plans?
CL: I know I'm going, but where it is has yet to be decided.
ST: What book would you like to make into a film and why?
CL: Either The Phantom Tollbooth or Where's Waldo? The Phantom Tollbooth is heady and fun, an epic quest to reunite rhyme and reason by jumping to the island of conclusions, eating half-baked ideas, wandering to the land of the doldrums, etc. The set design for Where's Waldo? would be a challenge that I'd like to take on, though; it would be a visual masterpiece. Think of all the extras!
ST: Do you make other forms of art?
CL: I paint and draw and do some graphic work on the Macs at our school. I also do some installation work at Elsewhere. I've developed a strong liking for dioramas recently. I wrote a few screenplays back in eighth grade, only two of which still ring true as solid ideas (and definitely need to be tweaked, to say the least). Aside from what I actually produce, my interests are spread across the artistic board, from fashion to architecture and beyond. There are lots of things I'd like to make but either don't have the time or the resources for.
ST: Any secret talents?
CL: I can make a farting noise with my eye (the same science as doing it with the armpit except with the eye socket).
"Assimilation" by Chris Lineberry