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“Above Ground Episodes” is a multi-platform art project consisting of limited-edition LPs, experimental videos, paintings, and live performances. According to creator and Brooklyn-based artist/musician J.Wise, the use of combined media will result in an experience of total sonic and visual immersion. “I hope people will want to get inside and spend time with it,” he explains. “That it opens up a space that they don’t feel everyday. Something they want to return to.”
As it turns out, J.Wise may be getting a more involved user experience than he originally anticipated. His Kickstarter project has received a deluge of input in the last month — not all of it financial. Summing it up nicely, he says: “Once people have gotten on board, they have a stake in the project and become a crucial source for advice and ideas. In a sense, you have a growing board of trustees or executive producers who want to see the project succeed. Their observations and suggestions in the fundraising department may prove just as important as their financial contributions.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!
For more wisdom from J.Wise, check out our Q&A with him below. Support his project here.
First things first: What exactly IS Above Ground Episodes?
Above Ground Episodes is an art project that has several components. The LP of music and DVD of loose narrative visuals are the things being offered to backers that they can keep and experience in their homes. But there will be live performances and, possibly, exhibitions of objects in the future. I’m hoping that you’ll be able to dive into any one aspect and get immersed in it as a complete experience while at the same time knowing that it is a piece of a larger story.
What inspired this idea? Do you think there are specific benefits to working across so many artistic platforms (art/music/film)?
It mostly began with songs. And the songs, both lyrically and mood-wise, seemed to be coming from a place that I wanted to explore more with some imagery. But I didn’t want to do straight up music videos for each song, because I feel like it can undermine the listener’s imagination and limit the kinds of things you visualize when you are just listening to music and words. Sometimes you don’t want to look at anything.
But sometimes you do. The DVD will have instrumental music and ambient sounds that have elements in common with the songs on the LP, but there won’t be words and there will be a push and pull between the images and the sounds. In other words, sometimes I’ll be scoring filmed sequences with music and other times we’ll be filming and editing footage to go along with music that has already been recorded. This is what I find exciting about moving between the different media: they can compliment one another and also act as a creative engine.
What do you hope people will take away from your work?
I hope people will want to get inside and spend time with it, to have that sensation that it kind of dances around something big and undefinable. That it opens up a space that they don’t feel everyday. Something they want to return to.
How does your work here differ from what you do with a more traditional band like The French Kicks? Is it [better/worse/different adjective] for you?
It’s less attached to the routine of recording, touring, promotion and maintaining a relevant identity as a band. This project is more about assembling a point of view through several different media. By design, it’s a more personal obsession, one that makes less sense in the context of a band. But I enjoy both ways of doing things. They both have their appeal. A>G>E just kind of formed itself from things I had been working on and thinking about and seemed like the right kind of project to launch on kickstarter.
Also: What is happening in your project pitch video?! Tell me about it.
There is a figure moving through a landscape and going about some tasks very deliberately and purposefully. And then something maybe or maybe not supernatural occurs. And that’s what you’re given to work with. The video also puts forth the seed of the collaboration I describe in my proposal. I’ve taken percussion I recorded with the help of Nick Stumpf and then shot video with Theo Burtis to kind of generate this mood, place and character. It’s been interesting to see how different people who have seen it inject their own stories into such short little piece. Some people find it meditative, some find it terrifying and others find it very funny. And that’s sort of what the project as a whole is going for: to serve as a vessel for people’s imaginations.
How has your use of Kickstarter been so far? Any advice for other potential project creators out there?
It’s been very inspiring. It opens up a new way of doing things and a really simple and professional format for organizing a project and communicating with backers. The diversity of work being proposed on the site and the community of creators constitute an interesting and appealing new model for someone familiar with the pitfalls and snares of the record industry.
One thing that I hadn’t really anticipated when launching this campaign was how valuable the input of backers would be during the fundraising process. Once people have gotten on board, they have a stake in the project and become a crucial source for advice and ideas. In a sense, you have a growing board of trustees or executive producers who want to see the project succeed. Their observations and suggestions in the fundraising department may prove just as important as their financial contributions.
As you may have seen on Pitchfork this morning, on May 6 Yo La Tengo, Claudia Gonson, Sharon Van Etten, the Clean, Kyp Malone from TV on the Radio, and — amazingly — Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel will play a benefit show for New Zealand musician and legend Chris Knox at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC. The tickets will be for sale exclusively on Kickstarter, and quantities will be limited.
How excited are we about this, you ask? Infinity times infinity plus infinity excited. It’s an amazing project, and we could not be prouder to be a part (thanks to the organizer and our friend Ben Goldberg for putting it together and including us).
Check Kickstarter’s homepage on Tuesday at NOON EST for the project itself. We can hardly wait!