Despite the setbacks of an oppressive metropolis, this filmmaker is encouraging artistry within the city he loves
Growing up at a time when New York City was considered ‘dead’ post 9/11, filmmaker Andrew Kass was sensitive to its changing landscape, particularly when it came to adventure and art. “I refuse to be someone who is broken by these aspects,” explains Kass. “This film is a hint that you don’t have to accept the disabling ideas of nostalgia and it’s limitations. No matter how dead you think the city may be, there will always be individuals evolving with it or at least responding to it.”
Lick Your Wounds is the film exploring personal development in the metropolis, as Andrew Kass traces the experiences of filmmaker Sean Vegezzi and Patrick 'Wiki' Morales of RATKING. It’s a city that’s inspired countless novels, films and pieces of art; birthing creatives from Patti Smith to Harmony Korine. It’s spurned adoring odes to its skyline, and damning eulogies to the city that makes or breaks you. “I grew up in New York, and at this point in my life a lot of my most intense relationships, feelings and interests are in some way related to this city,” says Kass. “I think it’s funny how possessive people become over New York, especially when the same city drives so much of their despair.”
The Ruby Pseudo Production paints an honest portrait of New York without the rose-tinted glasses, in itself its own character, supported by Vegezzi and Morales, who he feels a deep connection to both Sean and Patrick, whose stories he knows well. He recalls: “The first time I hung out with Sean was one night in high school where we ran through the emergency exit hatch near Central Park down into the subway tunnel and eventually surfed the train to TriBeCa,” riffs Kass. “We fell asleep facedown in the McDonald's on Chambers Street because we couldn’t go home, since we had both told our moms we were sleeping out. Moving on, we have done just about everything else together since. Almost every night, he rocks me to sleep with his New York history factoids stored in his textbook-like brain, usually after singing Young Thug in the shower.”
The film also features poignant quotes from social psychologist Leon Festinger, who discusses cognitive dissonance, analysing his “social experiment” with adolescents. He says: “Anytime there is insufficient reward there will be dissonance. The general principle seems to be that people come to believe in and love the things they have to suffer for.” For Kass, this sums up the entire experience.
We examine what the city both has to offer and what it takes away, what it encourages and what it oppresses. The opportunity to “play” and “violate” in the city is quickly shrinking. “We have new obstacles and responsibilities on our backs,” Kass muses. Space is a huge issue in New York, and a privilege only for people who have the means and time to search for it, seriously threatening the strength and size of artistic circles. “Being an artist can be a privilege, but for myself, an artist is someone who is uncontrollably concerned with the issues around them and the feelings those issues prompt. I feel like I make work because of the dissatisfaction and loneliness, this is how I deal with it.”
It’s this feeling of dissatisfaction and loneliness that could be said for so many other metropolises across the globe, which isn't exclusive to just the young and creative. It's deliberately vague with what ‘the city’ is. “I want people to feel the vulnerability that I feel, but more so, to realise that these types of feelings are important to explore,” Kass explains. “I do feel a sense of sadness and frustration in the city, but that doesn't mean I don't have fun here, or love it any less.”