January 13, 2002

The last two weeks, I

The last two weeks, I have been consumed by the task of writing a screenplay for a short film that has been percolating/eating at me/distracting me since the late fall. ( You do the math.) I'm thinking of posting either an in-process or a finished version of the script here soon; we'll see. Shooting should take only about three days.


The format a short film takes--as dictated by various film festival submission requirements and a group called The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences-- is proving to be at once constraining and liberating, maybe like writing a sonnet or something. There's enough structure to give ready shape to the ideas and story I've got in my mind.


The movie is set in France (thus my last post about rental cars in France), and explores the lives and views of people living in the aftermath of World War I. It specifically looks at the Battle of the Somme, which was one of the most devastating, prolonged, and--in some ways--pointless acts of violence in the century.


At the time (starting in 1916), it was extremely difficult for people to adequately comprehend the scale of the killing that took place, and it was supposed that nothing could surpass it. Such views were, of course, proven wrong in WWII and since.


While The Somme lives on in metaphor and has specifically been invoked to describe Ground Zero and the killings of September 11, I think the contemporary view is quite removed from the experiences and perspectives that prevailed "in the wake" of 1916.


Hellfire Corner is a tremendous source of current and historical information about The Great War, which still seems to resonate in the UK far more than in the US (as far as I've seen, anyway). When I was visiting the UK for some friends' art opening last October, I saw many Londoners wearing the Flanders Poppy on their lapels, a sign of remembrance for those lost in battle that seems to proliferate in the Armistice Day/Veteran's Day season.


It's odd and unexpected how this writing and pre-prod process is having such a cathartic, mind-clearing effect on my other, "main" project. Like gauging and mapping out a boulder that has been blocking the (clear, I thought) path.

January 7, 2002

A sign that 2002 is

A sign that 2002 is starting out to be a great year: I was looking for rental cars in France (more about that to come), and I found the site for Voditi, a specialty car rental company near Paris. Through their partnership with Europcar, their cars are available at other major French destinations as well. So what? They rent Citroen 2CV's, the world's greatest car. Here is a link to a usenet discussion thread in 1996, which was a fruitless search for 2CV's for rent. Ahh, I remember it well. (PS I finally bought my 2CV in 1996 on Minitel.)

Janet Cardiff at P.S. 1 MoMA: It's rare when a work of art has the power to transform, transport so completely. Forty-part motet is such a work. 40 speakers are arranged in an ellipse in the gallery, each playing an individually recorded member of a choir. The unaccompanied choir sings a work in Latin by Thomas Tallis, a 16th century English composer. [see this National Gallery of Canada link for a more detailed description.]


You move among the speakers, pausing in front of one, trying to hear two or three at once, then move into the center to hear them all. The wall text describes the artist's interest in the role of the individual, the impression of the collective, and the individual's ability to succeed as part of a whole.


Does this adequately explain why every person who entered the gallery became transfixed, practically held captive once they figured out how the piece worked? Or why nearly every single person there looked like their thoughts were a million miles away? Or why almost everyone was caught wiping tears away? I don't think so.


Cardiff's work creates a simultaneous, visceral feeling of both presence and absence. The members of the choir are right in front of us; we hear them, sense them, move among them. But they're not. They're gone. And the work, by its nature, lets us know that they're not there. In this city, at this time (the show opened on October 14), a work that aspired to one level of impact has achieved something almost unimaginably transcendent.

January 3, 2002

How NOT to screen video

How NOT to screen video of farmers baling hay that you shot on your first day of your first location:

1) Watch Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven, in which nearly every scene looks like a Vermeer, a Hopper, shot at "magic hour."[note: this link's a bit random; a blurb on magic hour from a home entertainment center dealer]

2)Watch your own. shot on DV.

You know, I have to say, I started writing this entry before I screened our tape, immediately after being blown away again by Malick's daunting images. I was intimidated, and I expected the stuff we shot to be totally unwatchable by comparison. You know, it's not the case. Our footage is certainly different, very rough in spots, and will probably not win the cinematography prize at Cannes like Nestor Almendros' work did, but it's not bad.

The first third of the tape were exterior shots of the barn/shed and the fields behind my grandparents' house; their neighbor's corral with its tired old horse; and the lawn, huge evergreen bushes and a willow tree in the backyard. (I remember when these bushes were small enough to see through, if not quite over.) There's no sound, though. At all. I remember that.

The middle third is of my grandmother driving through Mapleton, discussing the town and their land and farming as we searched for hay being baled. We'd missed most of the harvest by a week or so, as it turns out, due to scheduling exigencies. She's pretty good. Decades of teaching elementary school show themselves in her clear, descriptive manner.

The last third was new to me. We'd found a crew loading bales of hay onto a trailer, and Jeff got out to shoot them while I went back to get our car. There's an interesting poetry in the footage. Two teenagers with T-shirts and baseball caps and a late 30's guy with a walrus mustache, a paunch, and those glasses that darken automatically when you go outside. It's hot (100+) and it's clearly hard work. Every once in a while, you can see where the guys are hamming for the camera. No way are they gonna be caught on film struggling with a bale of hay. Jeff kept the tape rolling nonstop, so myriad adjustments and setups punctuate the footage. As he jogged towards my approaching car, he said, "that loud sound is the A/C. I could use some water."

The mountains in the background, the cloud-streaked blue sky, the deep green field, these young guys doing essentially 100-year old work that's not so different from that of Malick's farmers. It's encouraging. (and late. good night.)

When my grandfather was still farming, the shed behind their house was where he parked his tractor and combine. It's still where spare parts and empty grain bags hang at the ready and where tools fill the old kitchen cabinets.


This NYTimes article by Becky Gaylord talks about mens' sheds in Australia. There's apparently a book, Blokes & Sheds, by Mark Thomson, who's quoted in the article. Some ideas I liked:


What looks like chaos to outsiders is easily deciphered by the master of the shed. A man can put down a wrench in his shed and know it will stay in the same spot until he moves it weeks, or even years, later...
Men speak of shed coal: layers of things that build up on the floor, shelves and workbench, reflecting the depth of their lives.

January 1, 2002

So we have bought one

So we have bought one car on ebaymotors, which I wrote about before. This morning, I surfed across the ad below while looking for our next vehicle, a Ford F-150 truck. My grandparents have gotten a new Ford truck every year or two for as long as I've been alive, and probably longer. We used my grandmother's truck during our first location in August.


FOR SALE: 2000 Harley F-150
Sweet Truck, moving to dirt road, must sell. Asking payoff around $25,000 call or e-mail for current price. 22k miles, in storage.

It's located in Michigan. Tempting, but unfortunately, even though the 2000 Harley edition has the desirable extended cab (vs. the 2001 Super cab, which is too big), the flareside short bed seems a bit too small, and--most importantly--it's only 2wd. Did I mention I live on the upper east side?

December 23, 2001

This morning on NPR, there

This morning on NPR, there was a commentary about the Christmas Truce, a moment in the first year of WWI when British and German troops left their trenches, met in No Man's Land, and exchanged cigarettes and jam, sang Christmas carols, and even played soccer. This ad hoc truce was unofficial and unsanctioned, and it obviously didn't last, but it was a last vestige of a human, individual, moral approach to war that was rendered obsolete by WWI's technological advances. Paul Fussell, a UPenn historian, called it "the last twitch of the 19th century." Read firsthand accounts of the Christmas Truce here.


This story reminded me of a trip I made in early 2000 with Paul, a former colleague of mine, while we were working in Paris. We set out one cold Saturday to visit WWI memorials to the Battle of the Somme. We set out to visit the British Memorial at the village of Thiepval [note: link is in pdf format], designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. This arch is inscribed with the names of thousands of missing soldiers and was one inspiration for Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial [note: official Park Services websites are currently offline]. In November 2000, Maya Lin discussed Lutyens' influence in an essay she wrote in 1982, right after completing the then-controversial memorial. Read it in the New York Review of Books.


Merry Christmas.

December 19, 2001

Got back last night from

Got back last night from a week in DC, sans video setup, in order to host an event at MoMA that turned out even better than I'd hoped.

The co-creators of Towers of Light, a proposal for an ephemeral memorial to the World Trade Center, discussed the project and its evolution. How it's gone from independent, abstract ideas and visions springing from different needs and visions (restitution, ghost limbs, spatial composition and urban planning) to an emminently realizable, concrete and remarkably cohesive proposal.

The collaboration that has taken shape includes artists Julian Laverdiere and Paul Myoda; architects Gustavo Bonevardi and John Bennett; Creative Time; and the Municipal Arts Society. Given that I know all four instigators and have counted at least two of them as friends for years, I'm especially eager to see this powerful project happen. The Towers of Light link above has a place to share your comments and support (note: They don't need money.)


Also, a photographer whose work I really admire, Philip-Lorca di Corcia, has had three shows, one in New York at PaceWildenstein [sorry, can't find a good link], one in London at Gagosian, UK, and one in Paris at Galerie Almine Rech [flash prevents deep linking...], which was the first showing I know of of his highly influential (i.e., frequently copied) fashion photography work. Check it out.

Cold, drizzly Sunday afternoon=prime logging (and weblogging time). Here is some real-time video screening/logging before I run over to my in-laws' apartment:


Tape 4: Closeups of my grandmother's photographs. Jeff's idea was to have her hold them rather than just to shoot them on their own, Ric Burns-style. Great images, nicely framed with her hands and sweater popping in from time to time. We can insert these cuts in her discussions of the various pics. One bummer: she'd tell some stories while we were shooting the photos, too (she was still miked up); some of these stories got cut off when Jeff'd stop taping a photo and request the next one. We weren't aware enough of what we were getting, I guess.


Shooting along an irrigation ditch, the first one. It was concrete lined, so the water ran much more quickly. Jeff (the cameraman) was straddling the ditch. Several great shots, useful for voiceover, narrative breaks, whatever. Then he suddenly swears at the camera. He flips around, looking through the camera as the rubber eyepiece rushes downstream. "Sht, sht sht," and then there's me busting up laughing, knowing that this eyepiece, which never seemed to stay on anyway, wouldn't be bothering us anymore. A slight, old guy with a straw hat and shaded clips on his glasses comes over to see what's up. "That water comes out over to Center Street, if you want to go catch it," he offers wryly.


First interior shots of one of the dry cleaners. A lot of tight, well-framed images of the various equipment stations, the clothes racks, etc. No people, really. (There were only two working at the time, and we'd made plans to go back the next morningto capture the hubbub.) Reminds me of shots from a smaller, less monumental Jane and Louise Wilson video.


gotta run.

December 6, 2001

An intense article by Dennis

An intense article by Dennis Lim in the Village Voice this week explores the ways film makers depict and deal with grief and absence. With references ranging from the French director FranÁois Ozon to Buffy, a lot of the article discusses Todd Field's awe-inspring debut feature, In the Bedroom, which everyone should run out and see.

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

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Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
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Madoff Provenance Project in
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
To__Bridges__, The Bronx
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
show | beginnings

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Chop Shop
at SPRING/BREAK Art Show
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

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eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
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It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
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Standard Operating Procedure
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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
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"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
about, brochure | installation shots


HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.


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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

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Canal Zone Richard
Prince YES RASTA:
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
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