“Make Me a Doorway” Jesse Russell Brooks

Posted by Diva Muanza

Interview with Los Angeles based director Jesse Russell Brooks.

Jesse Russell Brooks Biography 

photo credit : Josh Bovill

What is the meaning behind your film “Make me a Doorway” ?

“Make Me A Doorway” is a compilation of three poems: “Make Me”, “My Silhouette” and “A Lady’s Psyche” written by Alexzenia Davis. She wrote the piece based off a series of in depth conversations that we had regarding personality and identity. How we may construct or naturally define our identity through an intimate relationship and how that effects our perspective of others. The piece focuses on Memory, Language and Relationships.
Poet Alexzenia Davis explores perspective and intimacy during a rush of mixed media footage that visualizes the characteristics of time.  The short film titled is an experimental collaboration with filmmaker Jesse Russell Brooks that investigating the memories of past relationships, what photography makes of love lost and how these reflections transform us.

Our discussion became broader by examining past relationships and of course- photography: photos of past friends, family, lovers, video and film, and how those technologies focus on or augment not only self awareness, but also how we remember those people who pass through our lives. Finally,  I screened two 50 foot reel of film for her.  They both were of a silent women who had modeled for me in New York/ Erika Ewing/ taken 20 years ago. It was then that I believe Davis began to write the piece.
I had known that the piece called for three women/ Though I did not know when or how it would be crafted into the work. Laila Petrone, who is the women applying lipstick, was added near the final stages.  Each woman represents a place in time. Erika in the old 8mm footage represents the past.  Laila, the light skinned women, represents the present. Alexzenia, the speaker, represents the future.  

Jesse Russell Brooks has been Bill Viola’s studio assistant and is the assistant curator of the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art.

Bill Viola “The reflecting pool”

You worked as an assistant in Bill Viola’s studio. Can you share a memory from that experience?

Bill has long been respected as the foremost video artist of our time.  I was a studio assistant for quite a while and the most memorable project that I worked on was “Oceans Without a Shore”.  For this project Viola used HD technology combined with 70s vintage black and white analog surveillance mechanisms.  The project was created and completed in Viola’s studio, Long Beach, Ca. and was installed and presented in the Church of San Gallo in Venice, Italy.  With Viola~ the concept always comes first and how he influences the artists, models, actors, etc, around him during his process is by remaining genuine and uncalculated.  It is the human experience that is of the most, I can not stress this enough, The absolute most important.  The vulnerability and honesty that Viola cultivates must never be mistaken for weakness.  It is strength. The calmness of his work must never be mistaken for acceptance. It is being.  His work is knowing without knowing. Upon the installation in Venice, I remember thinking that I did not understand what we had been making until the moment it was finally completed.  I do not want to be presumptuous, though I suspect that I was not the only person on the team that felt that way.  I always remember Bill saying things like “You must not master every little thing in your work or cross examine every little detail of how you feel.  The constant presence of the unknown is always part of us. Art is not complete on it’s own. It is the viewer who completes it.”

Bill Viola  ” Emergence”

Bill Viola ” Ocean without a Shore”

Website :
“Make me a doorway” Credits 
Written & Performed by Alexzenia Davis

Edited & Directed by Jesse Russell Brooks
Film & Videography: Len Mazzone
Sound Recordist: Paul Gonzales

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11 thoughts on ““Make Me a Doorway” Jesse Russell Brooks

  1. Jo says:

    I would like to know more about your women in this piece, Especially Erika Ewing . What are they doing now?

  2. Phil says:

    Extremely interesting. Bill viola is the most important video and film artist alive. Working with him is equal to saying you worked with Leonardo da Davinci. I’d be interested in what this guy will do next. Viola is making a new video art piece for St. Paul’s Cathedral in England. http://highbrowmagazine.com/bill-viola-interview

  3. Samantha says:

    wow. very cool.

  4. We love the way this piece was written. Brooks is an innovative film director that is having a direct impact on today’s society. Great work!

    • Vivia Ramos says:

      Alexzenia Davis Wrote the piece her website is listed above. I saw the film at The Black Women in Film Festival last week and it think you posted it also it seems to be a really crazy thing I love it.

  5. ellenbroudy says:

    The words by Alexzenia along with Jesse’s filming provide a great finished product. The presentation of the poetry makes an impact on the viewer/listener that is entirely unique. This is a project that is headed in a great direction and I hope to see more from you guys!

  6. Reblogged this on n e w d i g i t a l s c a p e s and commented:
    I found this video to be very interesting and well done. The poetry has a lovely, mesmerizing, flow to it and a haunting sense of self awareness. And all the while questioning … who we are … how do we fit in the world … how am I perceived. Alexzenia Davis I feel is an artist worth getting to know.

  7. This is a fantastic blog. I have seen the work of Bill Viola several times. In the 1980’s and 90’s. Although I have not seen his work recently, I have always admired and respected the beauty, quality and exploratory nature of his work. I am looking forward to spending more time here on your blog Jessie. I am a digital artist originally from Philadelphia. When you have some time check out my blog.

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