Featured Farmer: Jeff Wood
is an Actor/Writer living in Brooklyn and Berlin.
An interview with Jeff from Oct 15, 2015...
Jeff has just released his first book, The Glacier which is available here or can be ordered through any good bookshop.
Where are you right now?
Vienna. I'm on Pro-Dad Tour while my girlfriend Claudia is performing in a show along with Grayson of The Farm. I hope Grayson is okay for his show tonight after how late we stayed up last night in the hotel parlour experimenting with Austrian beverages and talking about being Dads. In the show he has to ski down a giant, totally vertical wall. It looks really dangerous and since the technical director was with us last night, I'd want to have all my wits about me.
Can you upload a photo for us?
Of last night? No, definitely not. I should have purchased the photo of me and Cooper (my 1-year old son) from the TV Tower yesterday. You know: the photos they take of you when you're going in... and then when you come back down they show you the photo and give you the option to buy it for way too much money. But it's really this massive guilt trip because if you don't buy it, you're refusing to buy a photo of your own kid and then they're just gonna throw it away, and you have to live with that: that you let some jerk throw away photos of you and your kid because you were too picky or too miserly to just buy the damn thing. It was the same in the hospital when Cooper was born: they had made a goddamnbook of his first photos, and if we didn't buy it they were gonna throw away this whole book of photos of my first and only son. Jesus. It's the same with the train tickets in Berlin.... I mean... honor system? Come on. I was stalwart this time and now I have to live with the guilt. Anyway, whenever I'm on Pro-Dad Tour I always take Cooper to the TV Tower which is usually on the outskirts of the city (except in Berlin where it's the epicentre, and the only vista). It's an awesome sort of out-of-time Balkan/Star Wars pilgrimage: exceptional architecture, rotating Cloud City restaurants, and all kinds of kitsch combined with the pure terror of height and television waves. Perfect for a 1-year old.
When and how did you first meet other members of The Farm?
I first met Grayson in Athens and then on the Greek island of Hydra in 2004 and 2005 where we were working on an epic, improvisational, feature-length video piece called The Rape of the Sabine Women by Eve Sussman and Rufus Corporation and where I think we had the best time as people and artists that we have ever had or will ever have. Which is kind of terrifying. But it was a special process, and right before the crisis, and the world has kind of changed since then.
But I've had the great fortune to work with him and other Farm artists on a handful of subsequent projects: Edgar, a strange and beautiful dance theatre piece. American Night, an art film shot on the Sergio Leone sets in Spain! Natural Habitat, a totally rad performance installation in the Berlin Natural History Museum. Cleavage, a performance residency at Theatre Freiburg. And Frontier, which was basically Grayson and Gavin and my answer to Tarkovsky, but with $40 and another awesome residency at Theatre Freiburg.
When you find collaborators like this, you keep working with them in one way or another. Your life and your joy quickly grow to depend on it, and for good reason. A lot of things have gotten easier and more immediate in this world, but the world is not getting any friendlier. It's still the same savage world it's always been, otherwise no work would be made or would be necessary. But to make the work, and survive, and to make substantial and risky work you have to take risks yourself, but you also have to form meaningful tribes and set up safe-houses where you can balance your autonomy with a vital and vigorous community. Only way shit happens. Even if we are spread out around the globe.
Your first book The Glacier has just been published by Two Dollar Radio (USA). What is it about?
It's about what I call the pre-Apocalypse: the mythic, split-instant, circa 2000, when the world really drastically changed and we all entered the future. A charged landscape, a changing housing pattern. Drifting demographic signifiers, and a really cataclysmic restructuring of the Social. A total sea change. We didn't know what was coming, but it was, and it did, and here we are. I was interested in that stretched out moment of the just-before, like snow globe, but on a fractal and geologic scale. It was very real, and it was invisible, and it was ubiquitous. Not only have times changed since the turning the millennium, but time has changed.
The cool thing is that the book is also a hybrid form: because the phenomenon of The Glacier was so multivalent to me, I wanted to explore it through the lens of a lot of different devices: literary, poetic, cinematic, theatrical, sonic... so the book, even as a novel, reflects that curiosity and ambition. Not so different from the way that a lot of dance-theatre pieces get made- using all the story-telling devices at your disposal in order to let the narrative kind of unfold itself as an organic happening, rather than as some kind of clear and square formula. I'm very attracted to that: the literary qualities of performance and cinema, and vice versa.
When did these themes start interesting you?
That's a long story (see attached interview). But ironically when Grayson and I first met I had been developing The Glacier and he was in the process of making Lawn and we were struck by how much we were both captivated by this global über-structure, this mono-crop of architecture and food and entertainment and domesticity that annihilates the inflections of local culture and sets itself up as the baseline for everything: the anti-cultural culture. And it's not just American. It's transAmerican, or supra-American, or post-American. It's really a new sort of cultural infection that is truly global, or non-local: a howling void within the fabric of relation. I think at the time we were both interested in this void as a very immediate and tactile haunting. What's not there is there, and what's there is not there. That's rich, endless terrain- so it was an awesome way to get to know each other and something that we continue to use as a reference point and a wellspring.
Do you have a favorite quote from any of the book’s reviews?
Yes, definitely: "Strongly recommended to readers who enjoy being mind-fucked the entire time."
Doesn't get any better than that. It's up there with one of the most memorable reviews I've gotten as a performer. I was doing Sam Shepard and the reviewer wrote that they could smell me. I mean literally, like, I stank. Apparently that was working.
Now that you are a published writer, what has changed?
I don't know yet. I had a child and published a novel in the same year so it feels like a big wave that I don't have a reading on yet. I've always kind of worked on a longer game, or a more subterranean time-scale, so... Maybe in a way I hope things might become slightly more tangible now, and generative in shorter wavelengths. You wanna go further out, but you also kind of want to know where you are, what the stakes are. I sat on this piece of writing for years before it's seen the light of day, which is actually not that odd when it comes to novels, or even films, but can seem interminably out of step with reality when you're making life-choices concerning the arts. But we've talked a lot, for example, about how having a child really really focuses your relationship to time and mortality, and therefore, I think, to expression and intention and risk. You know, everything comes at you at once: the material, the primal, the metaphysical, tenderness, surrender, ferocity, terror, and the most intense and selfless form of love... it's too much. And there's a synchronicity there with being an artist. One thing that getting published this year has meant is that I didn't frickin' waste a big handful of really developmental, woodshedding years as an artist: when you're in your crazy-cave and you have no idea whether it's gonna pay off or not. There's some substantial validation in that. Not where validation is just needed in some needy sort of way, but where it's really needed in a very substantial and practical sort of way - like: Are you gonna participate in the society?! And: Are you what you say you are, or what you think you are, or what you wanted to be? Or are you a fraud? That's both abstract and very real. So in that sense I really hope that it's the beginning of something that I started a long time ago and continues to play out. You just want to keep making work. I want to keep doing more of everything, and I have too many projects on deck so we'll see which ones sort themselves out first. Again, I'm fortunate to be working with the most extraordinary people that I could imagine: in the US, in Europe, in Australia.
Follow Jeff's latest work on his website, Vimeo or other smart things he says in 140 characters on Twitter.