Petra Cortright"The value came through viewership."
Self-Portrait by Petra Cortright
You said earlier that you played SimCity. Was that the inspiration for your landscape videos?
Yeah, definitely. I’ve always also really liked nature. The house that I grew up in Santa Barbara was on this hill and one side of it had this huge view of the mountains and the other side was the ocean. It was like a 360-degree view. Pretty much every day, for most of my childhood, I grew up looking at this scenery. I guess the landscape stuff that I do on computers seems like a logical extension of that.
Landscapes are also a pretty classic subject matter.
Yeah, I don’t question it too much or anything.
Whenever I look at your videos I wonder how you made them.
I always like that. To me it seems so obvious. For 95% of them, there is no post-production whatsoever, they’re all live. I use webcam software that has live effects. So when they’re being made, it’s like directing and editing and post-production all at once. Most of my work takes 20 minutes to make. They’re almost half performance and then half documentation. It’s all these things at the right time. They’re really playful and sincere, and I don’t really know what I’m doing until after it’s done.
What inspires you to make a video?
When I first do it, its something that I just really wanted to do. I make more videos when I’m restless. I make the still images when I’m more relaxed. I don’t think I can really do good work in Photoshop unless the house is clean.
I read an interview where you said that you felt your daily practice was similar to a painter.
There are some days when I wake up, and I’ll be really in the mood to listen to loud music and fuck around with the webcam. Then there are days when I wake up, and I just want to upload brushes to Photoshop and not talk to anyone and just paint. When I use Photoshop, I’ll usually start with a blank document, which is kind of like a blank canvas. I would never say that I’m a painter because that’s so technical. I don’t consider myself a precise person. I guess that’s why I like computers, because I can be really precise. Except somehow I’ve found a way to mess that up, my desktop is a nightmare—I need to organize it.
In terms of being technically skilled with the computer where do you fit in the spectrum?
I think I’m above average. I definitely know more than the average woman. If I really want to know something, then I usually figure it out on my own by researching. I really have to want to know how to do it, like teaching myself Flash for these pieces that I’ve been working on.
Yeah, with the strippers. I hate Flash so much, it’s the worst, dumbest technology.
How long have you been working in Flash?
Since the end of 2011. And it’s only because I really wanted to work with the stuff.
What about your placement of yourself in your own videos? How did that start?
When I made the first one I really didn’t have so much intent for it as a piece. When I posted it on YouTube, Paddy Johnson wrote about it on her website Art Fag City, which was really weird. I didn’t think about it as an art piece at all, really. It was just this weird video of myself, like an extension of taking a picture of myself.
You were also doing lots of crazy hashtags right?
That got me in trouble on YouTube. It was this huge list of default internet spam keywords that you would put in the index of your website to get more hits. It’s this super, super long, really, really nasty, awesome list —I mean, it’s kind of outdated, because the first celebrities are Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Now I guess it would be Kim Kardashian.
So people would come to your page and see the wrong thing.
Yeah, and they would write super negative comments on the videos, which I was really into. Having anyone take the time on YouTube to say anything at all seemed like a big deal to me. I’m always interested in having people respond to anything that I do.
Even in a negative way.
I’m into the negative stuff. I started getting really into replying to people. Whatever they said to me, I would reply back, but a hundred times nastier. Honestly, the comments that I would write, I can’t even say them out loud. They’re really gnarly language. Whatever tone someone was using in their comment, I’d answer them the same way. It would either be super positive or super negative. If anyone said anything mean to me I would just be the worst. Like really bad things. I feel like the minimum I would say back to people was, “Thanks for the view, peasant.” I was really into calling people peasants. I guess the “thanks for the view” thing was because of the pricing.
You were racking up the value of the video.
Yeah. I didn’t even have the video catalog yet, but I had that in my mind anyways. The value came through viewership.