Category:making movies

Janus Films is releasing the remastered version of Krzysztof Kieślowski's Dekalog in theaters before Criterion releases it on disc. Here is the trailer.

Seeing Dekalog in theaters in the early 1990s was one of the formative cinematic experiences of my life. I may have to do it again. The kids can find their own way back to school.

'Dekalog' Exclusive Trailer: Krzysztof Kieślowski's Magnum Opus Returns To Theaters This Fall [indiewire]
Pre-order Dekalog (The Criterion Collection) for Sept 27 release [amazon]


Blade Runner - Autoencoded: Full film from Terence Broad.

This is fascinating. Artist/computer scientist at Goldsmiths Terence Broad has created a film using a neural network. It "watches" and encodes a film frame by frame, then it re- or autoencodes the film from the resulting data. It's the data equivalent of printing from a negative, or casting from a mold. Except it is not a copy, per se, but a re-generation. Does that make sense? I'm trying to understand and explain it without resorting to cut&pasting his medium blog post about it. The point is, his network generated images from the encoded data that they'd been reduced to. For an entire film.

The film he chose for his algorithmic network to watch and re-create: Blade Runner. Broad goes into some of the philosophical reasons for choosing Blade Runner, but the best explanation comes from Vox, where Aja Romano reports that Broad's freshly generated film triggered Warner Brothers' DCMAbot, which temporarily knocked the film off of Vimeo. It was put back:

In other words: Warner had just DMCA'd an artificial reconstruction of a film about artificial intelligence being indistinguishable from humans, because it couldn't distinguish between the simulation and the real thing.
It all reminds me of the work done at UC Berkeley a few years ago that reconstructed images from brain scan data taken with an fMRI. Which in turn reminded me of the dreamcam and playback equipment in Wim Wenders' Until The End of The World.

As Roy Batty said, "If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes." And now you can.

Autoencoding Blade Runner | Reconstructing films with artificial neural networks [medium/@Terrybroad]
A guy trained a machine to "watch" Blade Runner. Then things got seriously sci-fi. [vox]
Previously: The Until The End Of The World Is Nigh

mekas_warhol_empire_premiere_flyer.jpg

Well this looks very nice. It's an original flyer for the premiere of Andy Warhol's film Empire, being sold by (or at least with the approval of) Jonas Mekas. It will be signed and shipped with a personalized letter of authentication. Which is a nice touch. Otherwise it's not clear to me what the going rate is for such ephemera, whether $1,300 for an 8.5 x 11 handout is ripoff or a steal.

Empire was made on July 25, 1964, but didn't premiere until March 6th, 1965. It was a Saturday, and the screening began at 8:30. [Does that mean it ran in real time? Not quite. Filming at 8:06 and ended at 2:42. Screening the film at 16fps draws it out to 8h5m.]

What's interesting to me is the credit, "by Andy Warhol and John Palmer." Palmer was an assistant to Jonas Mekas, and he is credited with the idea for Empire. [The 18yo had been using the Bolex his mom bought him to shoot the newly lit Empire State Building from the roof of Film Culture's offices on Park Avenue South.] Mekas pitched the project to Warhol and eventually helped run the camera, but it was Palmer who made the movie possible by securing the office in the Time-Life Building and the high-capacity camera needed to shoot nonstop for 6.5 hours.

Palmer's early equal billing on Empire has not survived the Warholian glare. MoMA's collection entry for Empire namechecks Mekas, but not Palmer; the film is credited solely to Warhol. It would be nice to straighten that out, History.

In her Screen Tests catalogue raisonné, Callie Angell wrote that Warhol "gave" Palmer co-director credit "because it was Palmer's idea to make a film of the [newly] floodlit skyscraper, because Palmer worked on the film, and also because his mother, Mary Palmer, donated money to get the film out of the lab."

john_palmer_screentest_253_angell.jpg
ST253, John Palmer, 1966, image: Screen Tests catalogue raisonné

He posed for Screen Tests along with his then-wife, Factory star Ivy Nicholson. Their daughter Penelope was three months old in 1966 when she became the only baby to sit for a Screen Test.

Though he went on to co-direct the tragicomic Edie Sedgwick film Ciao, Manhattan, Palmer's subsequent IMDb credits are primarily as a camera operator. I wonder if there are stories to hear, or perhaps more uncirculated flyers to procure.

UPDATE: Oh, it always gets better. greg.org reader Terry Wilfong sent a heads up for Palmer's interview with Steven Watson in Factory Made: Warhol and the Sixties. They talked about making Empire, including the lab's refusal to return the film without payment in full:

[Palmer] called Warhol from a phone booth. "Ohhh, John, I don't have any money to pay for thaaaat," he said. "It will just have to stay in the lab." Palmer suggested he could try to get the $350 from his mother; if so, he would have to appear on the credits as codirector. The phone went silent for fifteen seconds, Palmer recalled, and than "Andy, in a voice I never heard and will never forget, said, 'Now you're learning.'"

very rare original World Premiere bill for Andy Warhol's EMPIRE 1964 [ebay]

February 13, 2015

The Executioner's Form

utah_firing_squad_installation_2010_nbc.jpg

I think this is the official photo of the firing squad execution chamber for the State of Utah. It was executed in 2010 for the killing of Ronnie Lee Gardner, who had requested death by firing squad. Though the firing squad was banned as a method of state execution in 2004, four other Utah death row inmates who had requested death by firing squad have been permitted to keep their choice. Today one house of the Utah legislature voted to reinstate the firing squad as a method of execution.

The structure consists of a chair made of welded steel square tube and a perforated seat; nylon and Velcro restraining straps for the executed person's feet, chest, and arms; and a height-adjustable steel neck and head brace, which has a piece of black impact foam where it hits the base of the skull, and a strap.

The chair is welded to a two-tiered pedestal; a steel plate box is bolted to a larger, painted wood box below. The top of the steel pedestal is not level, but is angled slightly toward the back. It is inset on the sides, and appears to have a small lip at the rear edge. A black painted wooden step is aligned with the chair, and is slightly shorter than the wooden pedestal.

A screen sits behind the executed's chair. Perhaps it is affixed to the wall. It comprises fourteen pieces of 2x4, painted black , and arranged vertically and set into an angle iron frame; and two half-width panels of steel, hinged, and kept open at an obtuse angle with locking brackets on top.

The spaces on either side between the platform and the rear screen panels are filled with sandbags. The sandbags are black nylon, cinched at the top with the tops all facing out. Nine sandbags are stacked vertically on each side and held in place with a single vertical nylon belt, and with horizontal nylon belts tight between every two sandbags. The 9th sandbag on top is lashed separately. At least three sandbags are propped diagonally against this stack to act as buttresses, bringing the total to 24.

December 9, 2014

Jetty With A View

Jetty, dir. Skylar Nielsen, starring Julian Sands

RadioWest, the local public radio talk show on KUER in Salt Lake, devoted an hour to Spiral Jetty this morning. Most of the time was spent talking with art historian Ann Reynolds, Dia's Jetty curator and Utah liaison Kelly Kivland, but there were segments from local earthwriter Terry Tempest Williams and director Skylar Nielsen. It was the debut of Nielsen's short film Jetty, commissioned by KUER, that was the hook for the discussion. Jetty had been conceived and shot one morning in September when the actor Julian Sands was coming to town to do Pinter, and he wanted to visit the artwork, which he'd heard about from his friend in LA, Michael Govan.

But this is all backing into the story. Which nonetheless feels necessary, because it was a fascinating and perplexing conversation that, the main guests' credentials notwithstanding, felt utterly detached from the art [historical] context, and its theoretical discourses. Instead of that construct, Spiral Jetty exists, in a public place, in the open, in a culture, and that is Utah. Utah is the site. Which makes the art world the non-site, I guess?

First, they didn't discuss Robert Smithson's film Spiral Jetty at all. Reynolds made one reference to a photo of oil derricks, but that was it. Which is amazing. In 1993, the last year before it resurfaced, curator Robert Sobieszek wrote of Spiral Jetty "coevally manifesting itself as a sculpture, a film, and a text," In practice, though, for two decades, the film was the work; the site was irrelevant. This perspective reflected the physical reality of the submerged, i.e. basically lost/destroyed, sculpture, far off in BF Utah, which, New York and the art world were central, check out the view from up here, and Utah's marginality was the self-reinforcing reason Smithson had picked it. With the re-emergence of the jetty, the enlightened pilgrimage through the chain restaurant cultural desert to the abandoned, entropic wasteland kicked in.

If this morning's discussion was any indication, Spiral Jetty has been pulled to Utah's bosom and squeezed, hard. Redeemed from its oil-drilling & tar-seeping failures, it is a manmade monument at one with nature that offers spiritual solace and communion with the land, sky, and water. It is experiential above all, an engine of personal transformation and enlightenment for all who walk or contemplate it. Reynolds' top tip for visiting Spiral Jetty is to camp out there. And if you can't at least spend 24 hours. Kivland, whose first visit to Spiral Jetty was in October 2011, with Nancy Holt, as part of the lease renegotiation process, agreed, and committed to visiting for the long haul. [Note: there are no facilities for camping at Spiral Jetty, and all the land you hike on is privately owned. Is Dia contemplating some infrastructure to turn Spiral Jetty into a more Lightning Field Experience?]

Smithson's pseudo-mystical writing is used to support this reconfiguration of Spiral Jetty into a devotional labyrinth for psychic discovery. Tempest-Williams gave perhaps the most highly evolved expression when she talked about how the submerged Jetty gave her solace when her mother died in 1987, and how it walking its re-emerged path with her adopted Rwandan son gave courage that life will go on when she finally visited it, in 2011. Which, I'm two degrees from Tempest-Williams and respect her and her work, but this strikes me as a pristine example of her ability to refit something, anything, into a deeply felt reflection on the landscape of her self.

sands_jetty_through_the_lids.jpg

Or maybe the apotheosis here is actually the Jetty film, created seemingly on a whim, with a helicopter and a dronecam, when the radio folks heard their famous actor/guest wanted to visit the site. In 3-minutes Nielsen puts Smithson's film through a Fincher filter, with distorted titles, non-spatial edits, and Sands trudging around the landbound jetty, literalizing the Smithson text he intones in a voiceover:

On the slopes of Rozzle Point

[AERIAL SHOT OF SLOPES]

I closed my eyes and

[CUT TO FAST ZOOM ON SANDS STANDING AT APEX OF JETTY, EYES CLOSED, ARMS OUTSTRETCHED TAKING IN THE]

the sun burned crimson through the lids.

[ZOOM TIGHT ON HIS FACE]

I opened them

[SUDDENLY OPENS EYES]

and the Great Salt Lake was bleeding scarlet streaks.

Then "improvising as he saw fit," Sands begins reciting lines from "The Windmills of Your Mind":
Like a circle in a spiral
like a wheel within a wheel
never ending of beginning
on an ever-spinning reel
It reminds me of nothing so much as Sands' portrayal of George Emerson in A Room With A View, who climbed a Tuscan tree to shout his creed and the Eternal Yes to Nature herself.

Actually, I saw A Room With A View as an impressionable freshman in Salt Lake City, though I wanted to be Freddie. And I was the only one in the packed theater to laugh out loud at Daniel Day-Lewis's garden party scene. I may have to reshoot this movie.

rwav_poppy_field_kiss.jpg

Oh man, or just mash it up.

"Mr. Sands, Mr. Nielsen, and Mr. Fletcher fly out in helicopters to see a view. Utahans fly them."

"I have a theory," said Judi Dench's Eleanor Lavish, "there is something in the Rozel Point landscape that inclines even the most stolid nature to romance."

Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty [radiowest.kuer.org]
Jetty, dir. Skylar Nielsen, starring Julian Sands [vimeo]
Behind the Scenes | Spiral Jetty [vitabrevisfilms]

October 22, 2014

Two Hands

serra_hand_catching_lead_still.jpg

It hadn't occurred to me at all until yesterday, but a still of Richard Serra's first film, Hand Catching Lead (1968) suddenly reminded me of Felix Gonzalez-Torres' 1992 billboard, "Untitled" (for Jeff). [the installation below in a Frankfurt U-bahn station was for MMK's 2011 show of G-T's work. (what is up with your impermanent links, MMK?)]

Untitled_For-Jeff_1992_mmk2011.jpg

As if the association couldn't be any more un-Serra, the title of that show, "Specific Objects without Specific Form," was co-curated in Frankfurt by Tino Sehgal.

But in a 1973 interview with Liza Bear originally published in Avalanche, Serra dismissed intention and emphasized experience:

The focus of art for me is the experience of living through the pieces, and that experience may have very little to do with the physical facts...Art's a state of being, and it's continuous. You're not just an artist when you're making art.
And in his talk at the Hirshhorn in 1994, Felix recounted how, regardless of whatever his intention for the image, the reactions to a billboard with an open hand varied dramatically depending on the culture and context in which it was shown.

Normally this is the point in a blog post where I make a profound or definitive conclusion, or at least a witty wrapup. But I put all my effort into the title, and so I have none.

August 15, 2014

l'Autre Jetée

image.jpg

We went exploring the Camargue today, and came across these giant mounds of salt being processed south of Salin de Giraud, which looked a lot like the ones in Doug Aitken's app, commissioned by Maja Hoffman's LUMA Foundation in Arles. It turns out to be next to some evaporation fields which are the color of The Great Salt Lake at Rozel Point, the color which inspired Robert Smithson to choose the site for his most famous work. This panorama shows these two artists' fields together for the first time.

image.jpg

The obvious thing, then, is to combine the two landscapes, creating a spiral jetty out of mounds of pure salt in the pink evaporation ponds. It won't last, of course, but that's what entropy's all about, and public art. To the extent such a word is applicable in this site and situation, the LUMA Foundation is the obvious partner and platform to make this Phantom Spiral Jetty appear.

Nayland Blake just posted this on his always eye-opening tumblr Knee-deep in the Flooded Victory. Abstract in Concrete is a 10-minute short film by John Aravonio, which pairs reflections of neon signs in the rain puddles of Times Square with a jazz/classical score by Frank Fields. The date given on this recent YouTube upload is 1954. And it is credited to the United States Information Agency.

Which is just nuts.

OK, this is quite good. Tom Murphy 7 just released ARST ARSW, all the dialogue of STAR WARS Episode IV: A New Hope re-edited into alphabetical order.

I just watched the whole thing while clearing my inbox, and it is surprisingly interesting. Surprising, I guess, because the concept's instant graspability seems seductively complete. You think you get it.

Auerbach_Alphabetized_Bible.jpg

Tauba Auerbach's Alphabetized Bible (2006) [above] is a bit like that. By alphabetizing the letters instead of the words, Auerbach atomizes not just the meaning of the text, but any hope of meaning at all. It becomes an object made of symbols, signifying nothing.

But that's not what Tom 7's film turns out to be. Even chopped so finely, the text, plus the film image and sound, still carry a lot with them. And since the fulltext of Star Wars saturates people more fully than the fulltext of the Bible, the experience of watching ARST ARWS is one of constant recollection and recognition. It feels like watching an actual movie, even though its structure has been obliterated. Not obliterated, but replaced. And that structure turns out to have surprises, tension, and meaning of its own.

arst_arsw_a.jpg

To be honest, it starts out slow and kind of muddled with "a," a word that barely gets its sound right in 201 citations. The first real drama, as Kenny Goldsmith noted, comes with the 20 mentions of "Alderaan."

arst_arsw_here.jpg

arst_arsw_there.jpg

I did not expect it, but "hey" [19], "here" [67], and "there" [51] were very exciting, appearing in scenes of recognizable cinematic immediacy.

arst_arsw_father.jpg

"Father" [12] was almost always said with unhurried purpose, which makes sense, but not with any systematic foreshadowing, which would have been brilliant. [And not beyond notice. According to Wookieepedia, Lucas tweaked the audio in a line of Aunt Beru's for the 1997 Special Edition: "The line 'Luke's just not a farmer Owen. He has too much of his father in him.' There is a slight pause before she says father and the word "father" is changed to sound more worrisome." There are, however, no pauses in ARST ARSW, so this change is difficult to register here.]

arst_arsw_sir.jpg

arst_arsw_threepio.jpg

And there are a couple of standout solos [no pun]: C3PO's "sir" [44] aria gets a response a few minutes later when mostly Luke mostly screams "Threepio" [13]. And though it's only said once by anyone, Han really makes "worshipfulness" count. Tom 7 himself notes that "lightsaber" also only appears one time. "Death Star," meanwhile, is two words, and so it dissolves into "Death" [6, but at least one is "death sentence" from the cantina], and "Star" [11].

Like any good film, ARST ARSW leaves you wondering how it was made and eager to see what comes next. The project has yet to appear on Tom 7's site, but I expect the making of involved some tricky data scrubbing to sync each word with each clip. I'm guessing the subtitle file was used, but anything beyond that's still in the movie magic category for me. [update: YOW, in the YT comments, Tom says he labeled all the words manually using purpose-built software!]

What I would like to see, though, is the data. Now that every word is synched to every clip, it can be released for remixing. Turn Star Wars into a database for generating whatever text you can imagine.

This has already happened, of course, with news footage, where there's a whole genre of YouTube videos of remixed presidents saying things they didn't originally say. The ultimate example for me is still Dan Warren's 2011 breakthrough, Son of Strelka, Son of God, a mythical epic woven out of Barack Obama's audiobook recording of Dreams of My Father.

If Tom 7's process for turning movies into words can be scaled, we won't need to stop at Star Wars; we could turn every clip of everything into the raw material for anything.

ARST ARSW: Star Wars sorted alphabetically. [youtube]
Son of Strelka, Son of God, by Dan Warren

christies_skateboarder_guyton.jpg

Personally, the thing I remembered about Carol Vogel's puff piece a couple of weeks ago for Loic Gouzer, organizer of "If I Live I'll See You Tuesday," Christie's Edgy Sale, was that she'd used the word "seminal" twice in one sentence. But if I were an artist whose painting was being used as Exhibit No. 1 to illustrate it, I could see how the headline might catch my eye, too: "For Those Who Can Afford It, Christie's Is Selling Anxiety".

The sale was supposed to be a "mould-breaking auction," a "risky operation" meant to "shake things up" with artworks that "capture the raw angst" that the current "generation of rich embryonic collectors" are all hot for.

wade_guyton_fire_studio_07.jpg
image: burningbridges38/s IG

Christie's own idea of raw shakeup: a promotional video skateboarding video, showing skate pro Chris Martin tooling through the galleries and the back of the house, passing works and staff along the way. It was the most brilliantly ridiculous thing ever. For a day. Then someone pointed out embryonic auction star Parker Ito's own YT videos of his skateboarding around his studio. And someone else ran the numbers and realized that many lots were presold via third-party guarantees/irrevocable bids, so the actual angst of the evening's outcome depended entirely on one's own market ignorance.

wade_guyton_fire_studio_03.jpg
image: @burningbridges38's IG

Until Wade Guyton entered the game. Wade's 2005 painting Untitled (Fire, Red/Black U) had a starring role in the sale, the video, and the Anxiety article. And last week, as the video racked up views and scorn online, Wade introduced some real anxiety--by making more than a dozen new paintings, identical to the one at Christie's, using the same digital file. He then posted the images to Instagram. They stream out of his trusty Epson inkjet printer, are strewn across the studio floor, and flutter in the breeze like a fiery curtain on the wall.

wade_guyton_fire_studio_02.jpg

When she declared a slightly bent & restored aluminum painting destroyed last year Cady Noland reprogrammed all her remaining work, instilling collectors with the fear that the tiniest nick or bump might render their precious object unsaleable. Similarly, by revealing even the hypothetical existence of infinite digital replication--so far, all he's done is post pictures of canvases to Intagram--Guyton has stripped away the presumption of uniqueness, and has seized his work back from the outsized speculative frenzies that swirl around it. And the greatest part is that he did all this just days before the big sale [where he doesn't have anything to win, and much, potentially, to lose].

As Jerry Saltz wrote, "Whatever happens tonight, I admire an artist willing to tank his own market by flooding it with confusing real-fake product." And except that there doesn't need to be anything fake at all about the resulting works, I completely agree. This is awesome. [Even though it didn't slow down the sale one bit: Untitled sold for $3.5 million, a record. So win-win, depending on what actually qualifies as a win here.]

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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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Category: satelloons

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Social Medium:
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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
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