Brent Green: An Artist For People Who Don’t Like Art


Lee Tremblay

Brent Green is not a stereotypical Art and Art History lecturer. For one thing, most of the things he said in his afternoon lecture on Wednesday were unprintable due to his liberal use of profanity.

For another thing, Green is not afraid of his audience.

“If you don’t like this stuff, leave! “ Green said. “Kurt Vonnegut said getting mad at a piece of art makes about as much sense as getting mad at an ice cream sundae, which, wow, ****ing Kurt Vonnegut, leave if you don’t like the things.”

Green is a young, self-taught movie-maker. His extensive resume of films includes plenty of animation and live-action, but no time in college. In fact, Green started out as a musician.

“I came out of the music scene and…when you finish a record you go on tour with it, so when I finished my first movie I was like well, let’s go on tour,” Green said.

This is actually part of the experience of Green’s films: live performance. The auditorium was set up with instruments for the musicians traveling with him, and he spoke and sang the narration to his movies as they played, with some technical sound difficulties.

The movies themselves played smoothly, if not exactly beautifully: eerie and surreal images were common throughout the short films. A skeleton petting a crow; flap amputation diagrams; a woman slow dancing with a dog in an empty room; a live action car crash in which a man flies through his windshield and dies and a woman going down into hell to save her cruel son were among some of the scenes shown. All this and more, in shaky lighting, strange colors and vivid imaginings would have been spooky enough. But then there was the script.

“She was getting amputated away, like an apple rotting … She thought she’d never die and I-I-I was pretty sure she would,” Green said in his first film, of his aunt dying of diabetes. He sang a Hallelujah to end it and moved matter-of-factly into a question and answer session.

“I do feel like it’s important when you’re making art to figure out why you’re making it… like to remind people of urgency and a sense of wonder. I had a goal with this film, which was to make my aunt’s life a net positive for the world,” Green said. 

Then an audience member asked how long it took him.

“I was making a bunch of other movies when I made it so I think I shot it over a few days…oh and I had to get taxidermied chickens and tear them apart and run wires through them, that took a few days,” Green said in an estimation of the bizarre events that make up his life. 

For example, there was the car crash he wanted to film in Minnesota.

“No one would sell cars to us, so those are my cars, neither of the people driving drives, so the whole thing is stop motion…and we got the cars running and moved them towards one another and bumped them then moved them away from each other and beat the **** out of them with bats…my friend who works at a car rental place lent us a crane so there was a crane…and then these two hillbillies drive up and say ‘how much you want for the cars?’ so I sold my cars to them,” Green said, laughing at the whole series of events. 

But he’s serious about this work.

“Maybe a film that lasts a few minutes takes me a whole year, and I do think that’s reasonable, and I think that’s the difference between making something that’s fine and something that’s really, really great. Whatever you have made at twenty is going to be what you made at twenty for the rest of your***ing life, so it might as well be something ****ing good,” Green said. 

The Art and Art History Department thanked the Colgate Arts Council, who made the event possible.