Making Self
A performance by Brett Engle

A conceptual exploration of character identity in art through video, writing, performance, and more.

Making Self paints a fictional portrait of my true self through the creation of 3 characters explored in three media: video, book, and art remnant. By informing my process with research on artists who already utilize fictional persona as art, I created a triadic relationship between my characters in many visual and conceptual ways. The final presentation of this work was an installation that allowed the viewer to interact separately with each character and as a collective whole, encouraging them to compare and contrast the elements presented.

One Lost Dream
1:18 min, 2002
Performed by Brett Engle & Joseph McGreevy
Video by Brett Engle & Tamara Sadlo
Music by Bobby Spiecher

Long ago in a country called America, the people lived busy and complicated lives; most of them working jobs they didn't really like. In their free time their hungry minds would look for ways to pass the time. This caused the entertainment industry at the time to grow and thrive.

As life got faster and faster, real dreams often got confused for made-up ones. Many dreams were dreamt, but quickly forgotten. In those days, there was a lot of unused energy in the air.

These restless dreams still crawl out of the ground to play. Each dream flares with light where it was lost, then makes its way across the land. As alone as they felt, the people of America never understood their dreams were what bound them together. Though they couldn't see each other's dreams - they were everywhere.

Mike and Sonja
1:02 min, 2002
Performed by Brett Engle & Sonja Olson

After Sonja finds out she is pregnant, the character Mike is realizing his place as a father and as a man and taking on the role of the money maker in the relationship. He is an economically disadvantaged white male living in the Midwest. He paints house interiors and exteriors for a living. Mike says he is excited and yet seems nervous by the prospect that his girlfriend is pregnant. They are a young couple who are beginning to make life-changing plans: shopping for an apartment, buying baby clothes, and probably marriage.

"Well, Sonja and I have been together about three years...? Yep, ever since high school. And about three months ago we found out that Sonja was pregnant, and so we're gonna have a baby - well we decided that we're gonna have it, and you know, start a family. I guess for me it's like, I gotta be a man and work two jobs or whatever. It's going to cost a lot, but you know, I'm excited. I'm ready to do this. And, you know, it will work out. I love her." —Mike

1:25 min, 2002
Performed by Brett Engle

you know what
i am sad to see?

(you are
you are)
leaving me

this is haunting,
how you creep
closer and yet
still more closer

as you leave

what a question
you are
i'm in the middle of my notebook
and you are a million miles away

who's to blame?

i am not a crime
and you prosecute
my wealth
my blossom

and in my mind
we lean
back to back
in a wind
It's all babble to them.
they don't know,
they will never understand.

they smile and touch my hands,
but it doesn't help me at all,
not at all.

they try so hard,
but I'll never be like them.
I will never be normal.

i wish I could find peace,
but I see too much.

I use characters as paths of experiences that I have known, but not followed. I intend for this project to present beginnings. As in real life, the way experiences unfold and impress upon us are unpredictable and constantly subject to change. There will always be more elements of a character to explore, just as the differing paths of life extend before any of us. I count myself among the artists who create characters to find new paths filled with possibilities.

For more video, visit my YouTube channel