Last weekend’s Nordisk Panorama film festival saw the international premiere of Brynja Dögg Friðriksdóttir’s documentary, ‘I Want To Be Weird’, which focuses on the exploits of conceptual visual artist Kitty Von-Sometime. Kitty is perhaps most well-known for The Weird Girls Project, a visual art series that aims to involve women from all walks of life in artistic creation.
I was lucky enough to get the chance to sit down with Brynja and Kitty at the film festival, to discuss art, filmmaking, therapy, and those damn elitist art types that ruin it for everyone else.
Is it difficult to depict visual art onscreen? Particularly here, where you’re working with a lot of video art.
“I didn’t find it really challenging or anything like that,” Brynja says. “But I obviously wanted to show as much as I could of Kitty’s work, in a way.”
I like a lot of the behind-the-scenes shots.
“That’s more to do with the editing,” she tells me. “Most of the behind-the-scenes videos actually come from Kitty. There was someone working with her who shot that footage. What you see in the final version of the film has more to do with the editing – using both new footage with behind-the-scenes shots and the episode videos.”
What was the most difficult thing you found about shooting, then, Brynja?
“There wasn’t any one thing in particular that was exceptionally difficult. But generally, it would be the sound, and being a self-shooting director, and just monitoring practical things like batteries and the sound and everything else. The editing was even more difficult. That was a long and very challenging process. With Kitty, you must also always show up on time and things like that.”
In the film, I got the impression that The Weird Girls Project helped you in a lot of ways, Kitty. But do you ever feel like sort of a therapist for the other women involved?
Kitty laughs. “Hmm. Kind of,” she says, uncertainly. “Some women write to me and want to be a part of [Weird Girls] because they have struggled with an eating disorder, or because they have gone through something like bullying, or a divorce, or they just feel that their life is stagnant. Some do it just to get out of their routine. Essentially, I’m providing the same experience for all of them, but they take their own therapy from it. I just provide this avenue.”
Do you think it has been successful in that regard?
“The only reason I interview the women first,” Kitty explains, “isn’t to select them or to not select them. I never say that someone can’t [become a Weird Girl] after interviewing them. It’s so that I can understand if each individual person has a specific ‘thing,’ so when they’re actually on set I can pay particular attention if someone says they’re particularly shy—I can make sure they aren’t hiding somehow, or that they’re not being pushed too hard. And some of the women out of it have got much stronger body confidence. Some are much less shy. Others just feel more free. It’s always interesting to see what people get from it.”
How did the two of you meet and decide to make this film?
“Me and Kitty first met when she was looking for a cinematographer for her ‘naked’ Weird Girls episode [#11],” Brynja says. “Later on, Adrienne Grierson and Heather Millard—the ‘I Want To Be Weird’ producers—were looking for an Icelandic director and I had worked with Kitty on set. We were already acquainted, so that’s how I got into it.”
So it was a product of that peculiarly Icelandic brand of creative nepotism?
“I don’t know about nepotism,” Kitty says. “but there was a change in the documentary. It was going to be following me a little bit more than I originally thought it would. I was very eager in saying I wanted the director to be someone I got on with. I am the sort of person who doesn’t want someone who is nice all the time, nor someone who is an asshole all the time. I want someone in the middle—which is Brynja.
“There were times, like when she came to Devon with me, when Brynja stayed with me at my family’s home, that I was just like, ‘I don’t want to speak to you.’ And she’d just be like ‘I don’t wanna see you today,’ and I’d tell her ‘I don’t want to see you today.’ So we’d go off and then meet at the end of the day.”
“I don’t do vulnerable,” Kitty admits. “There were even times I said to the producer, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ It’s a strange experience to go through. If Brynja wasn’t the wonderful person that she is, it may never have gotten to the point it is at now. I tried to make sure it was just around my work. [The documentary] never gets to super-intrusive levels of documentary, Kardashian style.”
What I felt came through really strongly in the film was this idea of being an artist without qualifications. What I really liked was the idea that the women involved in Weird Girls also became artists simply by virtue of their involvement. What do you think the potential is for projects like yours to deconstruct this idea of an artist?
“Oh god,” Kitty says. “This is a very complicated topic. I always wanted this project and most of the work I do to be really accessible to people not typically interested in art. From that perspective, some women have come to me specifically because they ‘have never done anything artistic in [their] life’ who are then able to say ‘this is the way I’m going to do it.’”
“It’s a very deep and long and controversial topic, but I really believe that the more that people can be involved in art, and the more they enjoy expressing themselves creatively, the better the world becomes. If that basic idea pisses people off, then they can go fuck themselves, basically, because I don’t see what’s offensive about it.”
Film Review: ‘I Want To Be Weird’ Is Interesting, Lacking In Focus
‘I Want To Be Weird’, director Brynja Dögg Friðriksdóttir’s first film, chronicles The Weird Girls Project, an ongoing art film series created, produced, and directed by British-born, Reykjavík-based concept artist Kitty Von-Sometime. The vibe we get from Kitty, in interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, is of a cool friend-of-a-friend whose contributions to a social setting are always welcome. She’s engaging, intelligent, and has a clear vision and undeniable passion for what she does.