Name: Jerusalem In My Heart
Members: Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, Erin Weisgerber
Occupation: Producer, musician (Radwan Ghazi Moumneh), filmmaker (Erin Weisgerber )
Current release: Jerusalem In My Heart's Qalaq is out via Constellation.
If you enjoyed this interview with Jerusalem In My Heart and would like to find out more about their work, visit their official homepage or their facebook profile. You can also read our earlier Radwan Ghazi Moumneh interview about Jerusalem In My Heart.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
Rgm: The process of creation is such a difficult one to quantify. It’s not one ‘thing’ per se that influences what a creation is, but rather a general feeling that overtakes me that defines the direction that I want the work to head into.
It’s more of a ‘where am I in my head’ in the very moment, influenced of course by what is happening around my immediate world.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
Rgm: It’s not a matter of planning nor chance, as work evolves over a period of time. The root of the musical ideas always revolves around a ‘statement’ of sorts.
I have many notes all over my studio with either a single word or a phrase that leads down a path. And that path is the path to a piece, but I let it take me where it takes me. Usually only about ⅓ or these ideas make it to a piece.
It’s a slow and morphing process, but not one where a lot of work is put into it, but rather a lot of pondering and thinking about what ‘feeling’ is it that I am after.
EW: In order to get started I need a subject, a process that I want to apply to that subject, a mood or emotion, and maybe some vague guiding images. And a question. Above all I am driven by questions or hypotheses, and by seeking answers through the process of working.
Chance plays an incredibly important role. Film is a recalcitrant medium. It was designed for use in precise industrial processes. As an artist working outside of that industrial framework, I often lack the means to control my results as tightly as, for example, a professional film lab could. I'm using old equipment that often doesn't quite work as it should. Or else – lacking the knowledge systems that were once in place for working with film – I am figuring things out as I go, piecemeal, through trial and error. Human error and environmental factors therefore become intrinsic to the work.
I plan very carefully – not what I think my final result will be, but the process I will use at any given stage of creation. Still, I am never sure what the exact results will be. I love that uncertainty. If I could visualize a finished work before I began, I think I would lose my motivation to create.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
Rgm: I produce so many albums in my studio that when it comes to my personal work, I have a much more minimalist approach. It’s like a reaction to the ‘professional’ work that I do. I attack the idea with a defined purpose in my mind, once I have the idea collected in my head, and usually execute it quite fast.
EW: I like to organize and check my equipment, and clean my space before I begin on a new project. Through those very mechanical actions I re-familiarize myself with my tools and enter the headspace I need to work.
Sometimes, after completing a process, I won't get results that interest me. At that point I view my results and refine my process, refining and repeating it until something interesting emerges.
In Jerusalem in my Heart I allow myself to experiment with a lot of new processes. For example, in the "Abyad Barraq" video I worked with emulsion lifting which was something I had never done before. I wanted to mirror the instability and damage present in the pro-filmic images in the film material itself, and emulsion lifting seemed like one way to do this. So research is always present.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
Rgm: Hahaha this is interesting. I most definitely do, but have to admit it’s a bit embarrassing to talk about. A steady fast for the entire winter, coupled with a lot of exercise and a steady slow flow of wine and coffee put me in the right mental and physical environment. Montréal was under a strict lockdown for about 5 months, so it really helped in finding serenity and ‘quiet’ to make noise.
EW: Whenever possible, I try to match my activity to the time of day: writing or digital editing first thing in the morning, working on film in the studio from afternoon into the night, meetings or administrative work in the afternoons.
Otherwise, I am obsessed with rock climbing, so a quick climbing session in the afternoon helps me to burn off some kinetic energy, clear my head, and re-focus. It does wonders.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
Rgm: The first is always very easy. It’s what follows that can kill a person ...
EW: Once the film has been shot, creating a first edit is always the most difficult part of the work. So it’s not the first bit of creation, but the first bit or removal or organization that is most difficult.
I try to be very free in my first edit. I try to work quickly and experiment with a lot of approaches, just to get something on the timeline and get through that first anxious block. Then I let it sit and come back to see what the effect is, what is working. From that moment I can start to shape things and be more precise. This is true for the stuff I edit digitally, like the videos for Qalouli or Abyad Barraq.
Preparing the live show is different since there is no final work, but an experience that changes from night to night.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
Rgm: On the contrary, it comes together hyper fast. Like I said, I don’t work slowly on anything in particular, but rather think about it for a long time, and once I have committed to an idea, I ‘make’ the work in a frenetic and spazztic fashion, to maintain a freshness. I spend my days on people’s albums going over infinite details over and over and over, so my only way to cope with my work is to be brutish and rough when it comes time to create and finalize. I hope that that comes across in the recordings.
EW: I apply a technique or a process.
Then I get my results.
I spend a great deal of time watching and re-watching the results, trying to feel them. Trying to understand what they are doing.
This is the most important step – the one where I don't seem to be doing anything, not moving forward, but observing.
At some point I make decisions about how to proceed and I take the next steps.
The process repeats itself until the final form emerges.
Work – observe – make decisions – repeat.
Working with film, this observation and decision making is so important because any process can take many hours or days to complete, and may be irreversible. It's not like digital editing where I can try something quickly in order to view the result and hit the undo key if I don't like it.
I often dislike the loose term “experimental film,” yet I have to admit that experimentation is central to how my work emerges.