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Julie Orser’s Big Bright World

Oct. 12, 2012

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Julie Orser

Faculty newcomer Julie Orser is starting multiple new chapters in her life.

This is her first semester at Cal State Fullerton, having joined the College of the Arts as assistant professor of art, teaching courses in digital video and photography. Her very first music video — for the rock band Garbage — was released in August and is getting good reviews. She just learned to snorkel for an underwater shoot and has works on exhibit in two group shows that opened in September — one in Santa Monica and the other in Portland.

Orser's videos, photography and multi-channel installations have been exhibited from coast to coast — from New York's Museum of Modern Art to LA's Museum of Contemporary Art — plus numerous points in between and abroad, including Rome, London, Berlin, Helsinki and Seoul.

"Echo of Echo" at the Shoshana Wayne Gallery in Santa Monica continues through Oct. 13 and features her two-channel video installation "Edge of the Woods," which fits with the show's theme to "investigate the complex notion of the copy, doubles, duplicate imagery, remix, reflexivity and multiple viewing platforms."

Orser's work is also part of the “TRUST: 2012 PNCA Alumni Exhibition” at Pacific Northwest College of Art through Oct 21. She is among just 30 juried alumni artists chosen from a pool of 196 to showcase contemporary art, craft and design by the college's “illustrious alumni.”

Music Video Debut

Her first music video is an outgrowth of earlier video work she did for the alternative rock band Garbage, which gained fame in the 1990s. The recent release of the group's first album in seven years, “Not Your Kind of People,” prompted the video "Big Bright World," which Orser directed and edited.

Her images of nature and people in motion, swimming underwater and running through a tunnel, are interwoven with video of lead vocalist Shirley Manson singing while shrouded in a black veil and gown, along with images of a graveyard and religious icons.

Manson "is an absolute pleasure to work with," said Orser, who previously filmed behind-the-scenes footage of the band for a mini- film series she directed. "We really connected; I liked them, and they liked my work."

About directing the music video, she said: "It was really fun to do and a different way of working with a client. It's a very different process, but really rewarding." She also spoke of the blend of "their need and your creative desire and coming to a middle ground."

For her own video projects, Orser hires actors, whom she invites to collaborate with her because “your own ideas aren't always the best.”

Classroom Connection

Her video work and the discovery process it entails both enhances and informs her teaching. “Whenever I'm confronted with a problem, I have to figure out the answer, and that comes through in the class.” She finds the process of students asking questions also can lead to them “figuring it out themselves.”

Since 2006, Orser has been co-director of the ART OFFICE for Film + Video, which promotes a community around time-based art.

While Orser is new to CSUF, she has been teaching for more than a decade. This spring, she was a lecturer in media studies and video at Harvey Mudd College. From 2005-2012 she supervised the New Genres Lab at UCLA and also taught art, digital imaging, video and photography at Scripps College, Otis College of Art and Design and Whittier College.

In addition, she taught workshops and summer session at UCLA, where her staff position supervising the New Genres Lab involved showing students “how to use cameras, audio equipment, how to edit their videos and how to exhibit their work,” she said.

New Genres

“The quick definition of new genres, and this is true at many schools, is sort of like all the art forms that don't fit into a traditional category,” explained Orser, who has made a career of experimentation, both as an artist and teacher.

She spent a year as a film and art instructor for “Life Matters,” an outreach project for homeless youth organized by the UCLA Nursing School, CalArts Community Arts Partnership and Common Grounds.

She also was an instructor in a program for teens introduced to independent experimental filmmaking at the Northwest Film Center.

Orser doesn't hesitate when asked to describe her newest crop at CSUF: “The students are wonderful.” For this visual artist, teaching is “the reason I went to grad school.”

The Chicago native earned her M.F.A. in studio art at CalArts and B.F.A. in photography at Pacific Northwest College of Art. She also studied film at the Northwest Film Center in Portland.

This summer, Orser completed a residency in Helsinki as part of the Tokamak Residency Program, and this fall five or six of her videos will be aired on television in France and Germany by Souvenirs from Earth, a cable TV station broadcasting a 24/7 program of video art, film and music.

“They saw my work in a group show in Germany and liked the work and found me on the Internet and asked to see more pieces,” she said. “It's really a cool thing.” Aside from what PBS airs occasionally, “there's really nothing like it in the U.S. that I know of.”

Next year, Orser's work will be part of the group exhibition “Super 8” at Rio de Janeiro's Museum of Modern Art.

Her most recent honor came at this spring's 31st annual Black Maria Film Festival, which tours the country, including Washington, D.C's, National Gallery of Art, to showcase “fresh short works.” Orser's and her collaborator Jon Irving's 30-minute film, "The Ground We Stand On," which premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in February, won a Jurors’ Choice award at the festival.

By: Paula Selleck, 657-278-4856

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