AXW – No.1515 has great compassion and references the “ancestors”. What was your inspiration in connecting the rhino image with the voiceover?
CR- When I was a child I received a postcard from a family friend in Africa. It showed a group of rhinoceros in the bush. The inscription read, “Fierce looking beasts aren’t they?”
When Alanna Simone and I were traveling shooting footage for THE GRANDFATHERS, we were continually confronted with the number 15. This was uncanny because the number the Nazis gave my grandfather in Auschwitz was 1515.
One day I was looking at a copy of Dürer’s rhinoceros woodcut. I saw that it was dated 1515. I learned it was an imaginary portrait of an actual rhinoceros which was sent to the king of Portugal as a gift for his menagerie.
Then I was at the zoo with my new camera and there was the rhinoceros pacing back and forth. I probably don’t need to say that a zoo is a prison.
The film connects the dots, connects the numbers, with the living experience of a great and magnificent creature with the echoes of others in the past — his ancestor, my ancestor, everyone’s ancestors — all those captured, enslaved, incarcerated, beheaded, exiled.
AXW – There seems to be a lot of social concerns in your works — please tell us about your creative process.
CR-I work in an intuitive, non-linear way with images and ideas; ideas and images.
Projects start with a small nugget of an idea, or something — an internal image or a visual — that has a certain hum or vibration around it. I’ve learned to notice that buzz, stay with it, pay attention to it. Like the business with the number that kept showing up. So I follow it and, like working a dream, amplifying the image, it grows and connects to other images. Sometimes the vibration is a feeling tone. And yes, like you say, there’s social concern, something feels disturbing and I feel concern for it.
The rhinoceros in the postcard was a mighty wild beast; the one in the zoo is one of a dwindling number in the world and this particular one paces, neurotically, helplessly. Things humans have a hand in often seem disturbing to me. I guess I need to express that, I need to respond somehow, in some small heartfelt way.