Interview Of

Whitney Hess

User Experience Strategist & Management Consultant.

The Cultural Questionnaire.

What’s your favorite line from a movie?

“Jusqu’ici tout va bien. Jusqu’ici tout va bien. Jusqu’ici tout va bien,” from La Haine. It’s such a remarkable thing how shortsighted we can be. With the wind in our hair, floating and free, we fail to notice that we’re hurling towards the ground. The irony of freedom has always intrigued me, that we live in a society that tells us, “it’s the journey, not the destination,” but sometimes that leads us to put blinders on and ignore where we’re headed. I try so hard not to get stuck in the short cycles and to focus on the long cycles, but it’s just not in our nature.

Which movie do you love but would be embarrassed to talk about in a serious, intellectual conversation?

My favorite movie is Stealing Home. On the surface it’s a baseball movie, which is totally bizarre since I don’t even particularly like baseball. But it’s actually a story about an unattainable love, and an undying passion for life despite all the shit life throws at us. But I have a feeling I just might be the only person on earth who gets all of that from it :).

The tune of the moment?

I go through phases, often finding myself going back to the same music. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Simon and Garfunkel.

Name a museum where you’d be happy to be locked in for the night.

Musée d’Orsay, in Paris. No contest. I was once there in the early morning before they opened, on a class field trip. I got to roam the galleries, often finding myself in a room alone with all these priceless paintings that represent so much of our cultural history. It was truly the closest I’ve ever felt to being touched by the hand of God. An odd calm and gratitude came over me in a way I’d never experienced before and have seldom felt since. I was 16 at the time and it was a defining moment in my life. I’d give anything to be there in that moment again.

The three books you’d take with you for a very, very, very long 100% environmentally friendly trip overseas?

Time and Again by Jack Finney, the first book in the Harry Potter series, and I’ll throw in War and Peace. The first two are favorites that I can just get lost in. War and Peace I’ve never read, but if it’s such a long trip, I’d want a long book to keep me company!

You can give two “cultural items” (be it a book, a painting, a movie, a record or anything else), one to the person you like the most, one to the person that bores you the most. What would these two items be?

To the person who bores me the most (I can’t even think of whom that would be!), I’d give the book Ishmael, which I just recently finished. It rocked my world and made me see our society in a whole different light, and in a way articulated a lot of the discomforts I’ve always felt about the way we operate. I’d hope it would give some insight to the boring person on how to live their life with greater purpose. For the person I love the most, I would give them my favorite album, Desire, by Bob Dylan. That album taught me how I want to live. It was lent to me by a camp counselor named Mitch the summer I turned 14 and falling asleep listening to it for the first time was a revelation. I don’t know his last name and I don’t know if our paths will ever cross again, but I wish he knew how much his small gesture has affected my life.

What painting would you steal if you could magically become invisible for a few hours?

Keith Haring’s Untitled, 1982, but I call it Heart. He painted it the year I was born, which I found out moments after falling in love with it hanging on a gallery wall. I once met the people who own it. It’s a 180-inch square vinyl tarp, which probably weighs, who knows, 300 pounds? Stealing it would be quite a task, but I think finding a wall big enough to hang it on would be the real challenge!

Which artist, alive or not, in any given field, would you love to party with for a wild, wild night?

Shakespeare. I bet that dude could get down.