by JC Gonzo
[Editor’s Note: This is one of a two-part feature on the new Philipp Virus and Vanessa Matic collaborations, to be followed up with an overview of their upcoming film The Animal You Hide.]
Twenty-year-old poet, model, actress Vanessa Matic has teamed up with videographer Philipp Virus to create a series of visual takes on written pieces featured in her upcoming book “Animal Abstract.” Virus is primarily known for his extensive involvement with Digital Hardcore Recordings, having helped define the aesthetic that surrounded the scene with music videos, short films, and live recordings.
The series of four short videos follows Vanessa exploring various locations, at times voyeuristic, and at times the opposite. Although Vanessa always appears as an isolated figure, she is not necessarily alienated by her surroundings, but rather, dominates them. The soundtracks feature music from Virus, Alec Empire, Hanin Elias and TweakerRay.
Currently, Philipp Virus is completing post-production of the film, The Animal You Hide, in which Vanessa served as the writer, creative director and star. I asked Vanessa a few questions via email on their projects and her first book release.
There’s an obvious ongoing collaboration with Virus and a mutual interest.
Well we met in NY, I was living here and he was visiting. We started to talk about our interests and we became friends. We decided to keep it going for a while, the poems were fast. I think it interested him, my writing and the way I wanted to do it, also because I’m a tough cookie who probably looked pretty damn cool. I was interested in previous things he worked on buy I thought he could do something different. That’s why we went in a different direction than music video. Although, the visuals can go with music and be just that.
Anyway, then the movie idea came and it took a while. We kept working on the idea when we messed up the conceived images in mind. I had to re-write the story, which I did rather fast by looking at the images we fathered. I was in a panic but knew better. I was just just to make it happen. And then I guess it was just easy going and no stress, I think that kept us both interested in going with the flow and making something we think is a good piece of work. It was a proficient act and fun.
So what is “Animal Abstract” and when will it be released?
It is a poetry book. I’ve collected many writings for years and I wanted to collect rather than just put out a book quick. It’s like the title ”Animal Abstract,” I think that everyone has a animalistic tone to them, whether we like it or not. The basic instinct for living, it’s abstract. I hope that soon this lovely 2011 it will be finally released, it’s surly ready.
The locations in the Animal Abstract videos are all very intriguing, where were they shot?
It was all shot in Berlin, while I was visiting. One at a lake property, another on a rooftop, one in a museum, and as well at the holocaust memorial. Which we did really early in the morning, I was pretty exhausted. I didn’t sleep all night so I could be up so early. There is always so many tourist there during all hours. It was also a very cold day, I felt pretty tired and frozen. I just kept thinking of religion and the suffering of people. Like the holocaust walls themselves, the meaning of genocide and the meaning of love. The will to live, humanity, war, escape, all seemed to be a piece of this meaning and the meaning of my poem. To be free of captivity of violence, but that humanity is cruel and people do suffer. “Nothing is true, everything is allowed” and then after all we know it’s not. We know better, but that’s why I named the book Animal Abstract. Even without all knowledge one can do a tragedy, one can make peace. I knew we were going to shoot there and the whole night these kind of ambiguous thoughts flooded my head.
The one in the museum was exiting, “Film Museum Berlin.” There were many people there actually, but everyone was sweet and passed by. Everyone was getting out of the way, and once the security guard walked by when I had my high heels on the mirror glass, which is a no no, but he just passed by and didn’t say anything, so that was super. It was a great and very lovely museum with this cool mirror ornamented room, and these screens filled with wonderful old films like Metropolis and Nosferatu.
The lake was in Bad Saarow. It was a lake house, which was cool, very green forests, beautiful wild lake… that could possibly have water snaked somewhere in those leaves, or so that was the feeling. Wild, beautiful nature.
How did you get into modeling? Is this a primary interest of yours?
I got in to modeling when I was 18, it started with Justin Hyte who is a great guy, he called me in we never met before and he did a shoot with me, he was just inspired at the time. Then I somehow met the very cool Sandor Lubbe of Zoo magazine, he did a shoot with me at the Gansevoort hotel in New York and then we did several shoots over the years in Amsterdam, Berlin and so on. He has a whole collection of my photos, which are lovely. I didn’t ever really start modeling, I was a ”muse” to the photographers. Which is exciting. They like you for being you. No, modeling has totally never been a primary interest, when I was 14 I was given a Wilhelmina modeling card by a scout, I never called… I was into doing ballet and being a kid. I didn’t get the concept of that, at the time I had long red hair. Then, later, I never wanted to go look for an agency. I just wanted to do what comes next.
How do you feel about the video versions of your writing & Virus’ work?
It was fun when we worked together, a bit weird as well because Virus totally didn’t understand what I was thinking about when I wanted to do the poetry visuals. It was very new to him and, from what I hear, to other people to. I guess just because the aspect of visual poetry is a new concept it’s still a new experimental approach to poetry. Yet, all went great, we filmed without thinking, it was like going for a cup coffee with a friend and then something good comes out.
What (or who) inspired you to make this book?
I think when I was eighteen I was home schooled at that time and I was always writing listening to music, I never had a favorite type of music or a type of taste I always wanted to hear, to live, to meet myself and the world. I would write when I traveled to Europe, I would write when I was in a cafe, when I couldn’t sleep… I think all those things inspired me, especially travel and music, of course people I met a long the way… I wrote poems about them too. It’s the most wonderful when a person inspires you because it’s a auriferous feeling beyond myself, makes me sit down and type on the key board like a monkey in the dark.
Philipp’s site says 6 are planned and so far we have 4. Will the other 2 materialize?
Oh, I don’t know. Maybe yes, maybe no. At the time we planned six, we only did four and we stuck to it. Although Philipp does have one more short story named “Apple Boy,” by me. It’s about a dream I once had, and it’s about being afraid of something you have done.
What else is coming up?
I want to write a book of short stories. Maybe, do some music along the way and of course I want to do more acting. I finished a short film when I was in Berlin which I’ve written, starred, and creatively directed and directed by Virus who is rather amazing, Called the “Animal you Hide” haha it’s been the year of the animal I suppose. Make sure to keep an eye on it, it has a great cast… Clemens Schick, Birol Unel, Natalia Avelon, Achim Bornhak… and more.
Vanessa seems to be showing up frequently in Virus’ new work, including a music video from the ex-Digital Hardcore duo Cobra Killer, featuring Thurston Moore & J Mascis:
Also, this little piece of fun, Dirty Robot, which stars Virus himself: