An Open Love Letter to Van Neistat

Dear Van Neistat,

So I have been trying to write these little fan letters. I use them as a way of researching and understanding those who influence me. But your fan letter. This. Has just about broken me. I have thrown away countless different versions.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://reprage.com/post/an-open-fan-letter-to-van-neistat

+1 i was in the same search loop - stumbled upon the bros years ago. And the last 2 weeks i was visiting casey neistat again. One of his daily vlog caught my attention and i must say i am almost hooked again.
But yes, i was wondering about his older brother Van and using google i came here. Apparently his latest project is to remove all digital footprints and Van is doing a hell of a job :wink:

Greetz,
Barry

Dear Clinton,

Thanks for the loveletter. I am touched. Happy to hear that our movies made art more accessible to you. Upon seeing Tom’s work at his studio in 2001, I felt for the first time that museum artwork made sense to me too. Before then, I really had little idea of why certain things were considered art and displayed in museums, collected by rich people, and priced exorbitantly. I’m still confounded, but at least i have a better handle on why the work of one man is considered art.

Tom is about 8 years older than me which makes us both the Last of the Analogs generation. I was born in the '70s and growing up we had no idea that computers would be ubiquitous in the future. To us they were just toys or gadgets for the rich. 2 kids in my home town had commodore 64s. When the first Macintosh came out there was only 1 for our entire school DISTRICT. It cost $2000 in 1984. I bought my first car in 1992 for $650. Our generation just didn’t really pay attention to computers until much later in life. The first time i ever used the internet i was about 21 years old. I sent my first email at age 22. It wasn’t until computers had video editing capability with the advent of the iMac DV in 2000 that i bought my own. I was 25.

Like many people nowadays, I began my film making by making first-person short videos. My brother Casey followed suit a couple weeks after me, and we partnered up soon after that. My first-person (aka “selfie”) film making culminated with our HBO show “The Neistat Brothers.” Casey continues to work in this new genre. He was born 6 years after me. Maybe it’s an age thing.

After the “The Neistat Brothers” aired on HBO in 2010, i made a few advertisements for some fashion companies, and went to work making more films with Sachs. Since “The Neistat Brothers” premier Tom’s studio and I have made 10 BULLETS, COLOR, LOVE LETTER TO PLYWOOD, HOW TO SWEEP and SPACE CAMP. The culmination of my work with Sachs is our newest project A SPACE PROGRAM which premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, TX last month. It should be out this summer or fall. A SPACE PROGRAM is the first project I’ve edited on Final Cut Pro X as well as my first feature film. It’s basically an hour of Tom’s ingenious gadgetry with a little story so you don’t fall asleep. It took almost 3 years to make. Largely due to the heavy amount of computer work that us analog guys had to endure.

As far as my lack of internet footprint. This a luxury for me. The truth is, though i consider today’s computers and internet a miracle and understand how they’ve improved the lives of billions including myself, i don’t like using computers. I don’t like using the actual devices. Also, they don’t work well for me. Seems they’re always in a state of broken. They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results but with computers insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results.

This explains why i don’t do Facebook, twitter, instagram, vine and the rest. To me it’s more time spent on a device. None of my devices in the history of my computer life have ever worked properly for me. They are a constant broken struggle. Even while composing this post here, my computer won’t allow me to highlight words without highlighting the entire body of the text. I must erase one letter at a time using the delete button. Didn’t happen when i sent an email yesterday, but won’t go away now.

Once, on a particularly bad computer day when my iPhone and both laptops were in a constant state of malfunction, i took a hybrid Ford taxi cab to the airport. One of these new cars that is half computerized and half mechanical. We were driving south on the West Side Highway in Manhattan. We pulled up along side the Intrepid aircraft carrier/museum and the entire car died. The computer that controlled the cab had crashed. The driver, a man from Niger, coasted the car over to the side of the road and powered it down. He waited a few seconds and started it back up.

“Sorry about that,” he said.
I said, "It’s not the car, it’s me. All computers behave like this when i use them."
He said, “In my country we have people like you who have problems with anything made out of metal. If they ride a bicycle, they crash into things. They cannot drive cars.”

Ah, I thought. So it’s just a simple curse. Like when Eve ate the fruit and all hell broke loose.

I’ve since bought 3 typewriters, dozens of books of stamps, and a couple Super 8 cameras. I make a living making digital videos, so i continue to use digital cameras and Macintosh computers. I’ve befriended a core of computer experts who help me in times of need. But the other social media stuff? No thanks. Too stressful.

So thank you, Clinton, for sticking it out and finishing your love letter. It’s comforting to know that our handyman film making has touched someone out there in the cutting edge computer world. Your 3d printing process is sort of the reverse of our analog process. You plug something into a computer and a printer makes it exist in the real world. We make things in the real world and digital cameras and computers make them exist in the computer world.

If you post your email address for me, I’ll contact you personally to get your shipping address. I’ll see if i can’t post you a copy of “THE NEISTAT BROTHERS” through the analog mail.

servidor de usted,

–van neistat
(or an imposter, I suppose)

1 Like

Dear Van,

Your reply to my open love letter prompted a few thoughts.

One of the things I absolutely love about the Internet is how brutally democratic the place is. Anyone with a computer and a spare twenty bucks can build anything they want. The only real limitations are the time and patience you have to invest in a project.

I’m not a rich man, nor am I the curator of a world renowned museum. But I do consider your work art. So I leaned upon the democratising power of the Internet to create a digital museum. It has exactly one exhibit. Yours.

I’m a little shocked by how personal this project became, so much so I feel a little obliged to share a bit about myself. I’m 34, married and have a daughter. We live in the Australian tropics, wedged between the oldest rainforest in the world and the Great Barrier Reef.

Looking back on my professional career, I have spent most of my time working with universities and libraries. National Library of Australia, University of Sydney and the State Library of Queensland. At one stage I even turned down a job at New York University to build a national database for psychology research.

I guess that is a bit of a boasty way of saying I know a little about digital collections. But it has always been collections of things. Audio recordings of native languages for linguistic research. Images of archeological digs around Ankor Wat. Videos of infants learning how to crawl.

This is the first time I have built a collection around a single person’s work. I went about Searching. Reading. Indexing. Just like I would with any other abstract topic. But as the collection took shape, it was a little creepy. This is your art, a reflection of who you are as a person. Someone who, like me has their own fears and aspirations.

It is probably not what you are expecting, and I kind of listened to way too much Talking Heads while I coded it. But as I worked on the exhibit, I found others wondering. Where in the world is Van Neistat? I became committed to the project. This was something that needed to exist. If anything, to act as little bread crumbs for others wondering the same thing to follow.

So take a deep breath. Take a sip of champaign, snack on some hors d’oeuvre for the digital opening of http://van.neist.at/

Sorry. I have no idea what happens at the opening of a new art exhibition. But you should do that before visiting the website. Invite a couple of friends around.

ALWAYS BE KNOWLLING. ALWAYS. Even those annoying digital surfaces,
Clinton Freeman.

P.S. I also took the liberty of removing your email address from the comments here to save you from the spammers.

Wondering where i could find more of Van Neistat´s stories led me to this place on the internet. I just finished watching The Neistat Brothers a couple of days ago, and sh*t it was good! I have been following Casey neistat for some time on youtube and snapchat, enjoying his storytelling. He is my favorite storyteller. It was through the hbo-series and Tom Sachs youtube-page that I recently learned more about Van. And [swear word] that was some great storytelling! It was sooo good! I just want to watch more of that. and faster. Even your reply on this page was great in terms of storytelling. Anyways, I just think there should be more Van Neistat-stories out there on the internet.

http://van.neist.at/ – The comments here explain it a bit better.

Hello Clinton,

Thank you for this public letter. As you say, it is hard finding anything about Van on the internet, now I learned more about Van Neistat and The Neistat Brothers. One question arises, however: Where do you know Van from? Or how did you get him finding and reading this post?
Would appreciate an answer.

Thanks again and Best regards,
Georg

Heya Georg,

I was searching for videos on woodworking techniques and happened upon ‘A Love Letter to Plywood’. It was the first Van film I discovered and it sent me on a Ten Bullets – http://tenbullets.com/ – bender. It wasn’t enough and I needed more. But when I started to Google, I got very confusing results. It took a long time to hunt down more of Van’s work.

This was about the time I started to write this letter. When finished, I tweeted a link to Tom Sachs (Van’s mentor / collaborator).

It was a long shot, maybe it would get passed on? Maybe not. But I figured it would at least be a little digital sign post for everyone else wondering ‘Where in the world is Van Neistat?’

Thanks for your reply, Clinton.
I see, but thats quite interesting, since I guess most people “know” Van from Casey and Caseys videos.
Great to see Tom forwarded your post and again thanks for shedding some light about Van Neistat.

Take care!