Wednesday, August 31, 2011


When I first met Malcolm Elijah Welbourne, or just Eli, it was in an 'out' setting, maybe a house party, maybe a show. Anyway, a Facebook friendship was forged, and since, I've been able to have a somewhat sideline view of all of the spectacular art that he was producing and taking part of. Recently, a music video he produced for Pure X's "Easy" was featured on Gorilla Vs. Bear, FADER and other reputable sites. And while, I was very impressed by his work for Pure X (and will surely be when his second video for them debuts in the coming weeks), my eyes keep on going back to his Nitemare Gas cycles I found on his Vimeo.

I liked them so much, I thought I'd e-pester Eli until I got squeezed some questions out of him.

First of all -- what was your purpose behind the Nitemare Gas cycles? What are you trying to convey in them?
Eli: The Nitemare Gas vids were initially used in a sculptural installation piece in which I painted a large gas tank gold and gave the appearance as if it was feeding gas into a pseudo religious altar with a television, candles, small figurines of praying hands, lambs, cherubs... My thoughts were tracing around the ideas of some sort of contemporary alchemy, as if we were using a strange blend of gas' to create what we see on a television.

I liked the idea of different chemical reactions happening inside of a box that gives you an unstable image to look at. Sparks, odd lights, images phasing in and out of focus, etc. So the effect of the videos was actually a product of the format and machine you were viewing it in.

The video itself was intended to be something of a living portrait. I left the prompt for the subjects intentionally vague so there was a degree of self-interpretation and a natural honesty that came through to the camera. Some people were nervous, unsure... some people ate the camera up and posed, got into characters, shot sultry looks. No matter how they acted, it in a sense was an honest portrayal of how one behaves when given a set of circumstances to react to. Just video chemistry. I couldn't have fully anticipated what would come out, so it really was the essence of everyone's effort that made the video, I just tried to display the subtleties I caught.

The scenario I had imagined was a self-induced gas chamber that gives you wide sensation of dreamlike experiences ranging from euphoria, terror, and disorientation. The sculpture was like looking into a crystal ball and peering into the states of others intoxication.

How did you get into making film / art / music... what order did it come in?

I think there was always interest in all 3, and they each influence each other, but my exposure and practice of them was very ordered.

My first interest was music. Started playing upright bass in school orchestra and bass guitar when I was 10, but my father is a musician, and I had been exposed to music all my life. I definitely made it a goal to become a multi-instrumentalist young. Picked up guitar, cello, piano, mandolin, and eventually synthesis which is where I'm focusing now. Collecting vintage synthesizers and pondering sound design/production have been a theme lately, but I value all instruments. I've also been lucky enough to work with the local synth shop Switched On as well. I've played in a lot of various bands around Austin. I'm currently involved with Silent Diane and Sleep Over.

Art came second:
I always was interested in animation and drew a lot growing up, but I think when I was about 16, I started thinking more about conceptual art and analogous relationships to humans ----> images and objects.
Music definitely is a catalyst for my thinking though. Music that inspires me has direct visual connotation on my dome. Eventually, I met some of my best friends in Totally Wreck and our sense of humor and absurdist kind of spirit got channeled into this fucked up art collective based around Internet archaeology and occult fantasy, which really stimulated my interest and gave me people to circulate ideas around.

Video/Film/Photography are a format I'm the most interested in right now. I think that video is one of the most relevant or influential mediums because of how many media devices make it accessible and palatable to human attention. It doesn't have to revolve around exclusive circles or gallery settings, although I do like to prepare a certain experience in which my work is viewed, I like the flexibility of it.
Video is more of a linear, time-based artform which is relative to my experience with music. Photography is also relevant to me in a sense where I can draw upon subtleties of intimacy and activity in a single image.
I feel very young at it, but the most passionate.

What artists in or outside of Austin are you into right now?
Im unsure of how to satisfy this question, but...
Im lucky enough to say my favorite artists in Austin are among my friends. Even if they don't. Ben Aqua, Juan Cisneros, Amanda Joy, Ryan Davis, Scott Gelber, Aaron Flynn, Seth Nemec, Zak Loyd, Melanie Clemmons, Tommy Blackburn, Carlos Rosales Silva, Dylan Reece, and many more. Some of the most interesting art I feel is not made by people who consider themselves artists by trade, whether it's conscious or incidental.

I've found a lot of inspiration from classic video artists like Toshio Matsumoto, Zbigniew RybczyƄski, Nam Joon Paik, and Kenneth Anger.

People creating post-ironic, Internet-based phenomena art like Ryan Trecartin and Ryder Ripps make me smile with their art. Lots of net art surfacing and gaining aesthetic cohesion.

Sometimes I don't even know who it is that is inspiring me with sites like tumblr.... Any random image I want to bookmark I post here.
Photo of Eli by Ben Aqua

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