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Interview with Robert Breer
Charles Levine
Film Culture, No. 56-57, 1973, pp. 55-68.

Robert Breer in UbuWeb Film
Film Culture in UbuWeb Papers
Presented in partnership with Anthology Film Archives


CHARLES LEVINE: We are here with Robert Breer in the country. And Robert Breer is sitting on his favorite swivel chair in his studio and it's a beautiful day in July. Bob just told me that the sound of this swivel chair is on one of the tracks of one of his films.

ROBERT BREER: Breathing, it's in Breathing.

LEVINE: How did you record it? Just asked someone else to sit in the swivel and you. . .

BREER: No. I recorded it inadvertently. . . (laugh)

LEVINE: And then just adapted it?

BREER: Well, the track of Breathing was a. . . the sound track of Breathing was the breathing of a neighbor dog, made the sound track that way. Teasing him, to get him to. . . I got him to make all kinds of weird, low breathing sounds, by alternately teasing him, baiting him, pushing away the microphone, which he kept hitting with his tail, and during one of those gestures I made this beautiful enormous sound with the chair, this squeeky chair. I played it back later, and it worked out as a piece of punctuation, I found a place for it. There it is, very mysterious.

LEVINE: That seems to be something like the style that you have where you adapt what you find. But at the same time your work, I have found, especially in the last film you've done, is very controlled, very much a thing in which you're adapting one particular line, like on some of the small cards you have, which follows through.

BREER: Well, the process of making film is one where you're somewhat protected, in one sense. Because you can, unlike painting, which I did before—the question of protection is an interesting one, psychologically, to follow, but, anyhow, it has to do with being free and yet. . .

LEVINE: I wanted to ask you, how you started. In the begmning you were a painter, right?

BREER: Yes, always "in the beginning..." It sounds kind of biblical. . . Anyhow. . . It sounds too pretentious, but I started out. . . Well, I started when I was ten years old, being an artist, I guess, officially in my family, a family of engineers. Because everyone else was an engineer, relatively speakmg, I was an artist, because I drew more than anybody else and I was sent to a Saturday art school and I think that's how I became an artist. It was a question of family stimulus, self-stimulus, and. . . Anyhow, that is true. . . Eventually that worked into painting, by way of army training aids, syphilis posters, and things like that. It gave me a thorough distaste for any kind of commercial art, and when I got out of the service, I had a big art experience, big quotes around that. . . and I could see some possibility of art as either a boundless pit or a topless. . . oops,. . . topless, anyhow. . . an endless horizon, more close. I got very excited about art then. Before, I was just doing it, and I seemed to be able to. But it didn't mean anything. Anyhow, then I started painting seriously. And painting was one thing. The question was really art, and I wasn't devoted to painting as such, although I did get very deeply into it.

After I got out of college, I went to Paris, on a G.I. bill, and signed up in a school over there. I never really went to it, no one ever did in Paris go to these schools. All you had to do is to take one look at them to see what they were working on. . . there was some kind of mysterious thing going on that had to do with art at about 1900, I guess, and people were still painting in the academies that have spider webs in them and they're still painting the nude and it was as if Mondrian hadn't lived in Paris for fifteen or twenty years. So that the people I knew were working outside of them.

LEVINE: Wasn't it in Paris that you did a piece that was in a store window—was that early or late, when you were staying there.

BREER: A piece in a store window?

LEVINE: Yes. It was sort of a film for a store window. . .

BREER: Oh, I see what you mean. Well, the painting, I got tied up with the gallery Denise René which was at that time, well, it represented almost a school in itself of neo-plastic painting and had the. . . The war, of course, had killed all interest in art and all art activities in most part, and so this gallery represented artists that went back to pick up where the Bauhaus left off. It was a school of geometric painting, well, as exemplified by Mondrian and Kandinsky—Kandinsky was living in Paris at that time, and was kind of a senior artist when this gallery got going. I forgot when he died—in the fifties. Anyhow, these people were disciples of Bauhaus and I got very much caught in that—doing hard geometric, hard edge geometric painting. The window piece, or the film for the gallery window came quite a bit later. Four, five years after I'd been painting I started making films and I was trying to combine painting with film, put film in the galleries, and the idea there was to have a show, actually I was going to show a bunch of mutoscopes. The gallery happened to be a store-front type gallery, Iris Claire, that's where Tinguely got a start—a tiny gallery and it was impossible to.. . . The ideal for me was to expand the gallery onto the street and to show films on the windows, the way of having a big audience in the street. The whole idea of taking the audience out into the street was nice. It was also imposed on me, because the place was so small.

LEVINE: Well, in other words, you've started working on film during the years you were in Paris and it was something that you just chose as an extension of your painting?

BREER: Yes, it was a kind of fluke, really, hindsight, you know. It's a different question, but as I remember, I was painting these paintings at the rate of two or three a week, I guess. They started out as thumbnail sketches and then those were expanded on the canvas and I ended up usually with four, five various simple geometric forms in working with the problems of space dynamics, using known physical phenomena, such as red advancing and blue receding.

LEVINE: Did the mutoscopes enter first, before you. . .

BREER: First thing that came out of painting was a flip book, which was a kind of sketch for a movie, which would show the process of painting rather than any fixed composition. I was sort of interested in examining the process, and the evolution of the painting over a period of three days, how the forms became locked in each other. The idea of locking them in and then the thing dying on me, that's what bothered me, and I was interested in seeing what really was the process rather than an end product.

LEVINE: Almost like using the camera to dissect the work.

BREER: That's right. In fact, I. . . In a way, you know, cinema being analytical and synthetic, I synthesized films, I have ever since. I started out making the individual frames myself and putting them together. I didn't film myself working on the canvas. So the first thing was a bunch of moving designs on paper, you know, a flip book. Then, I filmed those, and the film was entirely different from the one I expected.

LEVINE: Your flip books—what did they call them? They are sort of Breer mutoscopes. They're a series of cards, put into a wheel which is turned and which produces motion like flipping a book, with lines and drawings put together. You started those approximately the same time as you started making films?

BREER: No. At first I made these sketches, I made a film on the basis of those. Then I made some. . . Well, I started flip books at the same time, that's how I made my films. The idea to make mutoscopes was to bring movies again into a gallery situation, where I could have a concrete object, which gave this mysterious result of motion. I thought that it would have more impact if you didn't turn out the lights and turn on another light and all mystery, everything hidden. I wanted this to be in the open, so that you'd really experience this pure effect of. . . persistence of vision. It was also the idea to get people interested that would go to art galleries to look at this phenomenon instead of. . . you know, the general movie audience just accepts without questioning. All my art ideas had to do with material I was using and I wanted to examine it more closely, and bring it into the open, to expose it, and so forth. So that mutoscopes came along as an after-thought, a way of presenting flip-books, if you like.

LEVINE: Later, I noticed, like in your canvasses, your large works, you had motors behind them, and you had a small line of metal, like moving in it, a slow arc, which caused a shadow which was part of the painting in a sense—to me that seemed like a way of using motion as part of painting.

BREER: That's right. In a way it's kind of throwback, because you're always dealing with conventions, and I was using the convention of the canvas, as a given situation, and then sneaking in elements which normally you don't find in the canvas. And this was again a kind of tribute to the art of painting. It's just a matter of crossing over the threshold to get from one convention to another, from cinema back into painting.

LEVINE: I'd like to ask you a question and put you on the spot. What do you think of painting in terms of, vis-à-vis, cinema? Obviously, you've stepped into cinema now, in a much larger way than you were with painting—or am I mistaken here? You seem to have committed yourself to being a film-maker rather than a painter.

BREER: Well, actually I have now gone into three dimensional objects, it's called sculpture, and I'm probably more involved in that than anything else right now. It's hard to gauge the depth of these involvements, but I've always done everything simultaneously. I mean, since I started making films, I kept on painting for another five or six years. Gradually, I quit painting. But then I started going into these objects. Mutoscopes were a transitional phase, really.

LEVINE: You feel that you were able to do more with the moving objects. I realize that the sculpture that you do, the moving pieces, in particular, they seem. . . all of your work seems to incorporate some sort of movement. There are pieces that move across the floor; paintings that have the motors behind them; and mutoscopes turn; and films, of course, that move through projectors. And I wondered whether you felt that movies were better than painting?

BREER: I think that even in a painting the clue to what I do has something to do with ambiguity, and controlling ambiguity and making it dramatic. Shapes, relationships are very complex and are played off against each other, so that one shape would dominate another at one point, and in another area of the canvas it would become minor and the other thing major. And these were the elements and the ambiguity was there as a very definite element, even in a static painting. Now, with film, I broke up the continuity of the flow in such a way that sometimes it's hard to tell whether the film is going forward or backwards, and this is another way of using material to express. . . not to express ambiguities but to use that as an element, using the material to. . . to. . . get ambiguity as an expressive feature of the thing.

LEVINE: I noticed, in your last film, 69, there are several objects that appear in an almost rhythmic form. There is something that looks like a plank of wood that goes in an arc and then changes, the way an arc does. But there is a continuous number of what I would call rhythmic forms. And it seemed almost like a break with your previous work. Previously, you had meant to break up any continuation and now this seems to have a definite continuation. Those planks that seem to move in a rhythmic structure. . . You know, that recently, in the last few years, as sort of a movement, I guess you call it, the people who have been working on what they call structural films, and I know that at least one critic has classed you as part of that movement. How do you feel about that?

BREER: I don't know anything about it. I am glad to hear it. I don't know what you mean. You are talking about a movement which. . . What? Structuralism?

LEVINE: . . . for example Hollis Frampton's films.

BREER: I did see Frampton's films.

LEVINE: You have been classed as being like part of. . . like doing that type of work.

BREER: Well, I always. . . My films are basically abstract, and that being the case, the structure is what is left when you take everything else out. As a matter of fact, my films haven't always been abstract. But the practice of synthesizing the film, doing each frame for a film, means that you have to consider where each of these frames is going to be, and this means a lot of attention having to be paid to continuity and discontinuity. I feel that I lean very heavily on rhythms and time structure and the space structure within the frame, too. That's all a question of painting discipline. I think it's been so with my films, more or less. And this last film, it's really a throwback to my first film, which was a geometric film, Form Phases, a basically abstract, geometric question of shapes moving around. And 69 is really going right back there, to 1954, not exactly my first film, but first showable one. My first film was exactly that, an abstract film, 1952, Form Phases. So, I think for me it's just been more of the same. I wandered away from this kind of purism, I guess. Now I am returning to it.

LEVINE: Have you felt that there is any relationship to your work and musical structures?

BREER: Well. . . I suppose only to the extent that one is aware of structure again. There is no conscious relation at all. As a matter of fact, it's one of the things I want to get away from, because I felt that this was what happened in many early films. Fischinger, for all his charm and everything, is sort of Micky-Mousing image to sound. So the weakness of many abstract films, the idea of composing imagery to a track, and this is done all the time, of course, in commercial cinema—in commercials, I should say you are given a track and then you cut the film accordingly—I think it's the. . . for me it was something to escape, to avoid. I always work in silence. What I wanted to emphasize was the visual structure. And sound had a way of taking over. So I always put my sound afterwards. That's my attitude towards it. If there's a connection, it certainly is not deliberate.

LEVINE: I always felt that the visual structure of film was the primary thing, certainly in my own work. And it seems to me that your work, whether there is a track there or not, stands up visually very, very strongly; there is no doubt about that.

BREER: My first films were silent. Anyhow, they were meant to be. And in later films, I have long silent passages, and it makes everybody look back at the projection booth to see if somebody up there died or not. . . I hope they do not do that too often. . . But, anyhow, I do have long periods of silence, helpful silence where the image has to take over.

LEVINE: Well, I think what I'll ask you about now, is how you felt about the new systems that are about to come out which will enable people to buy films in the stores in the forms of cassettes, for the various systems that play through television sets. Of course, there has been 8mm for sale, around. Have you had any of your films on sale on 8mm?

BREER: I had some, in a very modest way. I haven't sold many that way, but it has never been seriously approached. I think that will come. The idea of playing back, through your television sets. . . None of that really turns me on particularly. . . If you want to make money, it's always an interesting prospect. But physically, what will happen to the film and the audience, what happens there, I don't know, I cannot evaluate this difference, I don't concern myself with it, I see a rectangle up there that I'm filling up with a certain amount of activity. Part of my idea about bringing films to galleries was to allow a more relaxed viewing of them, and this does change somehow the way one goes about making a movie. You don't have that captive audience nailed down to their seats in a black room. And I suppose if I knew I was working directly for television—which I have done—I have to take into consideration this different atmosphere in which people are sitting.

LEVINE: Also, you'll never know what's going to happen if somebody buys something that they can play. It's like a phonograph record. And especially with a television screen played back on black and white, it will completely change the whole aspect of film.

BREER: Yeah, black and white, of course, when you made something in color, black and white may be a bad experience. I've seen this happen with some of my films. But I don't know. I feel that if the thing is basically strong underneath, I don't lean so heavily on color or on. . . My films are contrasty enough, I don't think an awful lot will get lost in transfer. It will be just that much poorer, but. . . as long as something is there, that something should be all right. That doesn't bother me.

LEVINE: Obviously, the standard projection of a live screen has a different effect on an audience sitting in a dark room than somebody looking at a television set.

BREER: There is such a huge variation in presentation of films. That's one of the things that as a film-maker you have to get over right away. I've seen my films blown up at Lincoln Center, for instance, I've seen them myself on a four. . . two foot by four foot screen. I think you do lose a sense of scale. You got inside the picture and. . . it's very relative, there are different impacts, and that's good, but it's not something that I can control anymore so I don't worry about that. It's one of the uncontrolled things and I don't work with it.

LEVINE: In other words, once the work is out in the world, it's a separate entity.

BREER: In a sense, the kinesthetic things take place. . . If you make something so personal as a line drawn with your hand, and then it's blown up 1500 times on a huge screen so that the line runs 40 feet across the wall instead of two inches across a card then there must be a different feeling in the spectator, and yet, somehow, that doesn't seem to matter that much. A huge face on the screen is still a face, you know. There are so many other things involved that the scale changes are of relatively minor importance.

LEVINE: I think it has something to do with being used to cinematic language. Somebody sitting in a theater watching a face or a line, knows that it's projected. The modern audience has become so familiar with the conventions of cinema. It's like that interesting example of the Eskimos when they first saw Flaherty's films, rushing up to the screen and wanting to shake their own hands, because they at first seeing motion pictures, they figured that was their live image.

BREER: I understand, in India, there was a town, people would go to this cinema in this town, from distant towns and they found out after some time that many of these people assumed that they were seeing theater. Same situation. I don't think that it would change the impact to know that there was some trick. When they did find out, I don't know what that did for them.

LEVINE: I was going to ask you a question about the fact that in one of your films and in a number of your mutoscopes you use playing cards, and whether this added or subtracted from ambiguity or you're interested purely in the design of it.

BREER: I came to it just by arbitrary choice. In a way, you flip cards, and you shuffle them. Since I always work with cards it was natural to think in terms of playing cards, too. I thought, I could flip anythmg. The point of this is that I got very deep into mixing diverse material and in working with cards and working with discontinuity and changing the image very abruptly from one frame to the next, I got involved with those kinds of tensions. I got to flipping everythmg. I flipped bibles, decks of cards, books. The way I judge the book, like McLuhan's The Medium is the Message, I flipped it. It didn't flip very well, so I figured it wasn't much of a book. This is a little bit silly but the cards just came along; just another thing that you could flip, and were made of bright colors—no symbolic reference there.

LEVINE: I'd like to ask you about the moving things, that move across the floor. I remember, at Rauschenberg's when I first saw them, they were like little flat platforms. They could come to one wall. . . they had motors in reverse. . . then they would keep going in the other direction. And then—I don't know what the—how they progress, but you got to the point where you have these little objects at the Japanese World Fair—they are in the same family, right?

BREER: Well, not little objects. The ones in Osaka, they are six feet high and six feet in diameter. But they are of the same family, they are exactly the same thing. They just got bigger. You saw, you are thinking about the souvenirs that were made from those big pieces. The situation in Japan is the pavilion for the Pepsi Cola company, or as we refer to it now, the "well known soft drink company." The pavilion was, not the building itself, but everything around it, inside and outside was designed by a group of artists, including myself, working through an organization called Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.). We put that thing together. It took us two years and it's operating, as far as I know, in Japan. And that consists of several elements, and one of the things outside is my major contribution, these big things I call floats—other people call them creepies—these large dome-shaped objects. They're motorized underneath by batteries to move very, very slowly. We are talking about film, the way I got into these floats, or at least the connection to film, is obviously one of motion. Ironically enough, these things move, the speed is so slow it's almost barely perceptible. When you're standing there one bumps into you, you don't really notice it, and, of course, with the films, they're ultra fast my films—so fast, there again, you almost don't realize that they're moving, it breaks up the motion so much. In looking back at what I've done, I guess, there is a connection there. I play with thresholds of perception very closely, I think, and in the case of the concrete object, here is something improbable, that it would move, looking at it, and lo and behold, it does. With cinema, it's the other way around.

LEVINE: The reception of these in Japan, I heard you say something like the Japanese felt they were too slow. Do they move in similar speed to the ones on the floor?

BREER: Yeah, they are very slow. The irony of that is, of course, that the reason I got involved with the Japanese project at all was because of the reference made of my objects being similar to the rocks in the temple gardens of Japan. These rocks were supposed to move. Apparently, move. Anyhow, if you sat there long enough and contemplated them. And he thought that this was kind of a poetic equivalent to what I was doing and this rang a bell for me, and when the opportunity came to do something in Japan, I got interested in that kind of trans-cultural situation. The funny thing was that, this other reaction I got after the whole project is over, the fact that the Japanese, ordinary Japanese, in any case, no longer or never did really dig this phase, you know, that this is confined to maybe elite Japanese or to another time in that culture. So I got my comeuppance there, although I didn't ever work with the Japanese, with the Zen idea really, not consciously. No loss of input there.

LEVINE: The actual speed doesn't have that much to do with how you perceive the object, though. But the very fact that it's moving, it could be, I suppose, if they'd be moving at fifty miles an hour, it would be rather frightening, standing near it. . . Something like being on the middle of the Indianapolis speedway with all free running. . .

BREER: This was suggested to me by the directors of this well known soft drink company. . . not really that speed, but to speed them up. It was difficult for me to explain to them that the idea was more of creating a presence, rather than some kind of spectacle, some kind of jazzy situation. The whole essence of these things was in the inscrutability of its motion, the fact that you couldn't predict where it's going. As soon as they're speeded up fast enough to tell where it's going, then it's a predictable situation and instant monotony.

LEVINE: In fact, it sort of reminds me of those old electric cars that used to be out in Coney Island where you'd drive around in circles. And it would take away the whole mysterious quality of the object that moves, but doesn't have a necessary particular utilitarian view in mind, the very shape of them is not utilitarian.

BREER: Yes. Here is a point of things that kinetic sculpture is not something I invented. Pieces that have articulated members that move, a piece of sculpture that has an element that revolves, or something, this has been around for some time and it's a very normal extension of the medium. But, what I hoped to do with these, they're basically inanimate objects. They are rather dumb looking in that sense. They're amorphous shapes, somewhat geometrical, but not too specific. They do look static when you look at them. When you realize that they are moving around, and of course there are several of them, moving in relation to each other, then motion itself is something that is outside of them, not as a part of them. You don't have a piece with something moving on it, but the piece itself is moving, and what I hope happens is that their movement is an essence like the air around them, and in this way, I've isolated motion itself, again. That's what I was trying to do with film, by going back and forth over a flow, the flow of motion, stopping at a time so that you could sense it when it did get into action. This is again maybe a connection between film and me so that. . .

LEVINE: It's almost like a sort of mechanical painting dance. Sort of like free form. Like two of these things could come together and the engines would reverse and then they would go apart.

BREER: That's right. They recompose themselves on this flat terrace, in this case, in Japan. And every case where these run around, they have an autonomy. They do get into situations, they create anecdotes by bumping into things. But as far as formal composition is concerned, it's random, if you like. And this pleases me very much. In a way it's really creating it. Because I started something and then it goes on its way—it's kind of a Pygmalion situation.

LEVINE: Well the idea of kinetic sculpture, as you said, wasn't yours. And there is a whole relationship, but I believe there is something that's really involved in mutoscopes. If you go into film history, this was the first way in which the films were looked at—as little peep shows. Edison felt that there was no future in the movies, they were just little peep show machines, and he, more or less, never really backed his invention, because he didn't think much of it.

BREER: Well, for me, one challenge, as soon as I got into making mutoscopes—I wanted to buy one, downtown, one of the old ones, and the guy that collected them—on 44th Street—he had just sold a batch of them to Walt Disney who was playing with them in his place up there, what its name, Disneyland.. So this guy suddenly raised his price on them. And that got me into making them myself. I decided that "to hell with that, I'll make my own. Of course I had made a batch of them before, in Paris, but when I got back here I thought that maybe I could use the mechanics of the existing ones. Anyhow, the challenge was to make it continuous, and endless, as opposed to a flip-book or a movie, you had a loop situation all of a sudden. And this made for a different challenge in terms of composing something that had no beginning or end. You could stand there and crank all day long. Hopefully by turning it constantly it would reveal new things and so, many of my mutoscopes had very interesting things going on, you can't find the beginning or the end, and this is, you know, a new challenge compositionally. That was one thing. The other things is the physicality of an exposed mutoscope, where you see all the cards. I started sculpting them now, in a sense—the cards have been chopped away on the comers, progressively more and then diminishing again. So, the whole thing looks something like one of those air-cooled motors with the cooling fins that have been sculpted somehow to make room for the spark plug, and so forth. These carvings, of course, when you flip them, when you stop a card at a given point, there is a trigger mechanism that turns it into a cinematic machine—then the change of the shape of the card becomes part of a flowing change, whereas the thing when you look at it static, you see just these sculpted divits on the side of it. I began punching holes in them and treating them as a kind of sculptural object that also had this other. . . that could be. . . this kind of three dimensional movie, if you like, it's like the templates of a boat hull; the bulkheads on a sailboat that change shape, they're intersections in the flowing shape. This is what I got interested in.

LEVINE: They take on different aspects when you use different materials. I noticed in some you use clear, like plastic, in others they were interspersed with red and silver cards, which some had been painted slightly and some had been left clear. . .

BREER: The very excitement for me about the mutoscope is that you can see at the same time, you see the individual almost going into this recreated image, when you flip it. In other words, you can see what goes into the makings of this image you're getting. At the same time that you're looking at the image. And that's why some of the clear plastic ones you can see from one card right through the next like superimpositions.

LEVINE: Well, one thing about being here in the country, at the edge of the Palisades, it's a beautiful place to live. It must be also a beautiful place to work.

BREER: Well, I wish everybody had this opportunity. There is a lot to be said. . . I've always lived. . . In Paris I lived in a city, but Paris is like a country town. No matter where you live in Paris you live in a kind of suburb. Where I am here, it's really a fake country, it's close enough to be a suburb, but it's country enough so that I can go out and sit in the woods here, which I do a lot. Basically, I am a voyeur, and I spend long hours just quietly sitting, very quietly, so I can listen and I don't disturb things. I think this somehow gets into the work and it's important to me, as a matter of fact. I got a bunch of little fish in the pond there. I don't make direct connections very often with nature when I work—direct connections—but I am making an awful lot in my mind, corollaries. . .

LEVINE: I remember the last shot in one film where you come out the door—very quick, almost single frame—in Fist Fight—and the last shot, you see your feet, and then you like pan to this shot of the sun—

BREER: Yeah. I got fed up with my very hermetic situation which I like also. I like to work in tight quarters I've contrived for my stand, and all that, very precise situation I've contrived for my camera and my materials. I have extraneous stuff all the way. I like that. But then I think in that case I decided, you know, I have to break with that completely, once in a while. And I did it very literally there. I unscrewed my camera from the stand and ran while I kept the film running through. I took it off the stand and really, literally walked outside with it, and showed my feet going out through the door—it's kind of literalism, I mean. This is what allowed me to make it, experience it direct, and when you do a thing like that—of course, I'm surprised you noticed that, in a way it's kind of a jolt in there, different from everything else.

LEVINE: I must admit that I didn't notice it the first time. Having worked on the 8mm reduction of it, I saw it a number of times, so I might say I'm not any more perceptive about your work than many other people. But I had an opportunity to see it more times.

BREER: You see, I don't believe that a film should be seen several times to be appreciated. It ought to give the essence of itself the first viewing. Things like that can happen all through the film. I don't count on them being seen, I don't count them as that important, but it was important that I did it myself, that I knew it was in there, that's all.

LEVINE: The fellow sawing wood, that got me the first time. It seemed, really it was an incongruous shot that was included there to break the. . .

BREER: In Recreation. That's it. It's a matter of working in impulses and they come to an end, and when they do, then something else takes place. All my work is—I quite often work in antidotes to what I've done before. I work in opposites. And that's why I jump from painting to film and back again, from sculpture to film, and these are ploys to provoke myself, keep things going, you know, it's always something dangling over there that has to be taken care of, and I drop this and I run over there to take care of that—keep a lot of things going that way.

LEVINE: You've built everything around here yourself, didn't you? Like the animation stand.

BREER: That's some kind of sickness too. I made a synchronizer out of some thread bobbins and I made my own splicer.

LEVINE: Did it work?

BREER: It worked, miserably. But the splicer had a purpose. Like I could make very thin splices with it, so I didn't have to go through A and B rolls. It was one of those cases of doing a lot more work to avoid a little bit of work. I did a lot more extra work. But also a sense of false economy and, in a sense, psychologically important to not be too involved with technology, to sacrifice expressive involvement, you know. I am very leary of cameras, of this and that, I'm not particularly interested—I get interested in lenses and things at various times, but the idea of surrounding myself with an awful lot of apparatus and then sitting down to work is, I think, wrong. I like to keep it very simple.

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