Excerpts for (Coin)fection
(Coin)fection looks at middle-class moral judegements of those in poverty through the experiences and perspectives of Jeff Harmes, an artist, gardener and panhandler.
Total duration: 00:27:22
Jeff has cultivated a highly decorative garden on a median between eight lanes of road in Atwater Village, Los Angeles, a space where he also panhandles. Jeff’s beautification of this median has garnered much local attention. He has been featured in national and local news specials and is the subject of a feature-length documentary.
Shortly after I began filming with Jeff, Brian, the lead filmmaker on the documentary, informed me that he has the rights to Jeff’s image and voice as Jeff signed an exclusive contract with his company. Brian’s attempt to control the production of Jeff’s image became a frequent subject of conversation between Jeff and I, as we regularly changed shoot locations in order to avoid Brian’s interference. (Coin)fection, was, for example, filmed approximately ten blocks north of Jeff’s median over the course of a single afternoon.
In this video, Jeff and I read from a script that details conversations we have had previously regarding our frustrations with Brian as well as our concerns regarding a mysterious person who has been scalding the plants on Jeff’s median. Here I interweave these two stories, that of the plant serial killer and Brian’s attempts to control Jeff.
Our reenactment of past conversations throws the authenticity of our interaction into question, as we frequently meander off script to present conversation and back again. This juxtaposition between ostensibly genuine conversation and dramatized narrative encourages the viewer to question the veracity of what they are seeing. The work is thus both a documentary and a fictional video in which our scripted dialogue turns the ethnographic into a farce. Through this juxtaposition, our respective social roles (the panhandler, the artist, the documentary filmmaker) come to the fore, emphasizing the ways in which we consciously and unconsciously use, manipulate and aestheticize these roles in order to be seen and heard.