Excerpt from longer project
When you explode the mirror and let yourself be abandoned to the sea, where are you, without mooring, unteethered. In Exploding love, society, cinema are mirrors and the law and violence construct them. It in this mirror of the image, of our narrative that we vision ourselves. In Confession of an Image the question is what is it to make an image, what is this realm of the image and imaging, What happens when incandescent light becomes electromagnetic light when everything becomes seen and imaged. Confessions is an essay film on cinema made mostly of still images and voice. I would shot the film with my sony digital tape camera and record the voice track with separate cassette tape recorder. Both recordings happening in parallel, each with a life of their own and each reflecting the fact that cinema was as much a technological construct. In the digital and in the network environment of ubiquitous recording, narrative, beginning middle and end, all of this would begin to take on very new meanings and usage. Confessions was my end of cinema as a medium essay.
In making Exploding, there were many delays, money problems, control issues – so finding a way to make films took time to find a way to go forward. I turned my attention to writing again while at the same shooting more and more things with these newer and newer small digital photography cameras that you shoot video with.
Already disenchanted with screen writing the last script I had written I wrote first as a short novella as, Talk Show, my take on Nathaniel West’s Miss Lonelyhearts. I wrote it as a screenplay.
While in NYC teaching a class, acting for camera, I realized the students were eager to not simply to do exercises, but to shot a film. After the first class, I thought, I will bring this script and we’ll start shooting some scenes. As we did, I began to take students to different floors in the run down mid town building and shoot. We were making a film, there was no location prep, clearance and brought the footage together in final cut. I could see a film.
Over the next year I made a series of films (videos), one or more a day called Permutations. I made up a set of constraints or rules to make these films. All material had to be shot that day, they would be played as a series of files or loops, in an all at once sequence.
At the same time I was writing what would be my last form film script, Zanzibar. Of course I sent the script out to 10=12 people, some I had written for including Ed Pressman, David Fincher and others. I then tried to get it to a bankable actor.
Several summers later, I was at a lake house in upstate nyc with my small camera, wife and daughter and there I could see the scenario of Zanzibar in front of me. I was Norman, seeing my wife pregnant with child from my brother. I had my wife put on a wig speak through the part. I imagined my daughter as the young pirate and filmed her. I would read voice over lines over the lake about my relation with my fictitious brother. Here fiction and the real and the immediacy of video recording came together. I could see film was in front of me it was a question putting the reality of fiction inside the living moment.
A month later I started reading actors for the parts, but not just readings, enacting the scenes in my home in Brooklyn. I put the two together in my permutations player. Soon I was looking at both the abstracted narrative of the script and a novel construction of form. Whereas in the Permutation each one was a tableaux unto itself, here I wanted to see if I could make a work that had a forward moving dimensions. Here the tableaux would be a sequence, an all-at-once sequence, a sequence where you would see all the shots at once just like permutations but now you would go to the next sequence.
I then went on to make Love and Art which is hard to say exactly where it started. At this point I was shooting little things all the time, and shooting at many art fairs and galleries. And in this I wanted to know, what is it that the artist does, what is it to make art, what is art? So somewhere between documenting the art world, my self asking people what is art and seeing myself in this world, I worked towards inventing a small fiction, just to the side of the real, of an artist who looks at himself and his wife to ask what is love, what is it to love, so love and art, all shot with a small photography camera with video 640×320 and so smaller.
For this film, for example I would be at the Whitney Museum of American Art at an awards opening and since I knew a number of artists I would ask others to video me with them, give them my camera and instructions such as, ‘follow me as I walk up to so and so and talk to them’. I would also interview people, or follow someone who was officially interviewing people or stand about and film people and art works, and well things would happen as I was directing things towards the direction in which they would have narrative sense for the piece I was filming.
While I was in Palm Springs my wife was having a kind of nervous brake down and we had become so accustom to me filming here that I filmed this and used it as the basis for My Double My Self about both a man and a woman falling apart. Again I would record these living situations and along the way invent a bit of story to give the work a trajectory. I was never filming things to take to the editing room to find a story I was always filming the narrative. Of course there were pictorial things that I had shot to add to the works, but the works were always, dare I say scripted, or shot with intention. At this point having Irena and myself in the scenarios, having the art world and extended family, and my home, I could always invent a new scene or retake restage a scene, I would have Irena shot me, and me shot her at anytime and use the real time situation of our lives to roll into the scenario or adapt the scenario to be reinterpreted by the living moment. Or I could use the feeling of a moment there in front of me and adapt it slightly and have some things said that were part of the scenario.
Documentation, fiction, the real, recording, the immediate, the intimate, the authentic became a way to work and so I wrote a new scenario, Atlas and began casting and reading the piece but soon enough I realized again I could not pull off a film that required very specific locations, controlled environments, permits, demanding days with actors and crew. But I wanted to make this film without myself or Irena in the film, with some else shooting it. And so I thought I could set up the film scenario as an acting group or theatre class that goes to the park for a seminar about fiction and the real. In this context of discussing fiction and the real the class begins to enact this fiction which of course bleeds into the real. The park could be used as something utopic, public and parts of it to show both a pristine nature and what was called the Wonka Camp in the outlands or periphery. For shooting it would all be available light and Prospect Park having a great diversity of landscapes, from rolling meadows, to wooden areas, tropical streams, jungle like groves, fenced in over passes would let us move from location to location while being in the same place. All this was good except for our last shooting day in early October. It was already fall weather and though fortunately we had great sunlight the cold and fall clothing throws us of that mid summer night’s eve feeling we had going in much of the film.
The film was finished and titled Paradise. Through the work I felt very close with the actors and continually adapted the scenario to them and our situation. Whereas Paradise was all shoot in a park I wanted now to shot something in Manhattan, in the city, so after a while I discovered an area I likes, the fashion district, 23 street and broadway. With the new zoning, the car traffic had become very minimal and the diversity of the people in the neighborhood very compelling. Taking it’s cues from Raymond Queneau’s, Exercises in Style I wanted at first to make 1 short scenario 69 ways, Queneau did a 100 but I was in love with the Magnetic Fields 69 Love Stories so 69 was the number.
But doing the same thing in a different style 69 ways takes a good deal of control and exactness and this can not happen with out money, permits, control, etc. So I tried to make it a series of interconnected and overlapping stories told in a sense from the perspective of the neighborhood. At this corner today these things happened and here other things happened. 6 girls went to this wig shop and put on wigs, It was all going to be about repetition and difference. Place. I got a 45 min cut of it, but it felt it was cute so except for one scene I started over.
In one of the auditions I had the women actors read lines about woman power sex. It was spring and so I took the actors outside under the trees along the side of my house. I was filming them as I often do and one of them Raimonda, who I had known for a film, but could not find the right part of her asked me if she could take her shirt off to do the reading. Of course I said. The two actors, Raimonda Skeryte and Tjasa Ferme get up on a stone wall, under a tree and fireworks, and Tjasa says to Raimonda, ‘You’re so beautiful,’ they kiss they connect – I am delighted and then Tjasa has to go. But before she does I ask if the two of them can shoot tomorrow. So of course I have to think of something for them to do.
We meet the next day and have Raimonda cast under a spell by a Satyr boy and then she goes at a perfume store where she becomes enchanted by Tjasa and the movie becomes their movie, And so 69 Love Stories became Revolution of Everyday Life. But I am still not sure what the film is. And some point I sense I will never intimately know either of them, so I ask them and a number of actors to take a flip camera I will give them and to go home and make recordings of them selves.
The cameras come back and everything I need to know about them are in these recordings they make of themselves. They are to me extraordinary. Of course they are performative, acted and enacted. And the two modes of the two girls are radically different. One, lets her self be seen, she is a presence for the camera to see. The other presents her self to the camera, addresses it directly, we never see her so to speak, she talks to us, performs for us.
Now I know who they are. And I have the other recordings. Also interesting. So the film will be the Idiots, a collective that gets together to do private and public recordings and together they will argue about what it is they are doing and why. And of course in all of this the two girls are falling in love. Until that is, they see each other through the group that sees them and through them each recognize the great distance between their views of love, revolt and art.
How do we come to know our selves. How it is we construct an image of our selves. This is the question Hilbert asks himself in Exploding Oedipus. There he obsessively looks at old movies his father use to make. And in one of these home movies he sees the image of himself walking away from his mother’s vanity, where she has him found looking on at her drinking at the mirror. She gets up to hit him when his father comes in shooting his 8m camera and in his hotel room with a projector and a sheet on the wall it is this piece of film that Hilbert keeps looping returns to. So to break this film, he makes his own film, he creates a new narrative, a new image, what he calls a post oedipal spaghetti western. And in this film he shots his father dead dead.
With digital recordings and social media we are always constructing an image of ourselves. We are always already recorded and recording and hence recoding. We change our profile, our picture, our story – is this not the project of any psycho – schizo analysis. Of any self knowing. To create an image that is a double of us, that in fact is the only us, the image. A friend of mine introduced me to a website called free cams. But he introduced me over the phone I liked the image of what I thought he described and I knew I wanted to find out what this was and to make a film about it. I asked Raimonda who was so brilliant in Revolution if she would like to join the site and record herself in the process of becoming a ‘model’. Once we worked out the details of getting the right computer, and a flip camera, we then talked about a scenario to give context to her getting involved in this network and what to record. We would meet and we she would bring me her footage. I would not really look at it, asking her for more and more material until I felt there was enough to work with.
Before I started the edit I thought the whole thing a disaster. Like many of all the above projects, I felt it could fall apart any moment, or just not come together. And this happens and happens. In what became Hi, How are You Guest 10497, the actress is never acting with a person in the room with her, it’s just a voice, a text line and though I wanted at first to see the men, she communicates with, when I see the film now I realize, the fact we do not see them or anyone makes the film so strong. To me it is Jeanne Deilman and The Passion of Joan of Arc and Raimonda is brilliant and genuine. I can’t imagine any other way to have made this film but to have Raimonda record herself. Here we see her in her element.
I presented this film as a diptych at the Minsheng Museum of Art in Shanghai playing on a large screen monitor in an intimate corner of the gallery room. In the same room against a wall was projected Raindrop Ecstasy, a short 8 min film. Raimonda is in both films and both have material of her working at the Standard Hotel on the Highland Park. The two films share content and the same actress and in the context of the museum start at any time. That is, you can enter the works at any point. It is not simply that the works loop but that they inter-relate and that they are distributed in time and space. In this way there are any number of beginnings, middle and endings, or perhaps such notions no longer apply and there are simply a infinite number of simultaneous events and views points, both of recording and playback, so much so that they become now indistinguishable. In Raindrop, the characters begin and end at a Karaoke bar entering into an open microphone, not dissimilar to the open video camera of the world wide karaoke of network culture. The network now is a cinema, a karaoke cinema, where we splice ourselves into both the online real-time recording and the archive.
If we go back to my first film Exploding Oedipus shot in 35m about a young man who brings a film projector into his 1 room living quarters obsessively returning to film clips of his youth and waiting to make a film of his own to remake the film of his past and then think through Hi, How Are You Guest 10497 about a young woman who records herself while video chatting with any possible person around the world from her very small apartment, it is as much to me about cinema and how this pervasive networked event of recording has now absorbed the codes of cinema into a new apparatus of an always on recording.
The cineaste must re-write recording, which is of course is the first part of rewriting montage. Just as video re-wrote cinema, and here I mean video, video art and television, the network and social media put an exponent on this. Certain film historians have termed the first years of cinema as a cinema of attractions. Often cited is Edwin S Porter who went from city to city with reels of film. He will would rent a hall, hire an organist, get word out about his show. At the event he would play his recordings in what for that crowd and that evening felt right to him – so each event of projection was unique – there was not yet a highly codified cinematic grammar of shot reverse shot, the eye-line match, relay of the gaze, etc.. This became common viewing with a remote control in watching television and with the lightweight cheap film stock cameras in the hands of Andy Warhol, it was never the playback that mattered but the event of recording.
These two conditions of an always-on-recording and always-on-playback are a now a constant. As such they constitute a new cultural techno-sphere, already having re-written our printing press, soon our politics – a contemporary cinema must inhabit this condition.