Category:making movies

Four words that I, for one, ever expected to type in this sequence, but here we are.

After Long Resistance, Pynchon Allows Novels to Be Sold as E-Books [nyt]
Thomas Pynchon on Kindle someday, but not yet [amazon]

Usuyuki, 1981

Alright, Katy Martin, who made two incredible Jasper Johns films in the late 1970s when you were practically a kid. Uh, actually, yeah, that's about it. Just watch them.

Harvard's Sackler Museum just opened a show yesterday, "Jasper Johns/ In Print: The Crosshatch Works and The Logic Of Print," which features several complex, multi-screen prints Johns made in 1977-80 at Simca Print Artists in New York. Martin's Super 8mm films documenting the making of are included in the exhibition.

Silkscreens (1978) is a hypnotic performance film showing the printers' rhythmic routines as they create the 27-screen print, The Dutch Wives (1978).

On her website, Martin mentions folks like Yvonne Rainer, which makes sense, but Silkscreens also makes me think of the 1974 film Humain, Trop Humain, if Louis Malle had shot it in an cramped printing studio instead of a Citroen factory. Great stuff, and with a great, remixed, found/ambient soundtrack by Richard Teitelbaum, which, according to folks who know, like John Pyper, would drive actual printers crazy.

The other, longer film, Hanafuda/Jasper Johns (1977-81), combines footage of Johns himself working on two print editions, Usuyuki and Cicada, with audio excerpts of his interview with Martin. Johns kept complicating my notion of silkscreening as a very photomechanical process by repeatedly and extensively painting right onto the screen.

Whether it's calculated or sincere, Martin's unassuming questions seem very effective at getting Johns to talk. And after getting so much out of him, my favorite question is the last one, which is only in the published transcript, and which he tries, too late, not to answer:

KM: And then I wanted to talk something about meaning but

JJ: About what?

KM: Meaning. In the work. But I wasn't sure how far to go with that. But I can't help thinking about meaning to some degree.

JJ: Well, you mean meaning of images? I don't like to get involved in that because I--any more than I've done--I tend to like to leave that free.... The problem with ideas ís, the idea is often simply a way to focus your interest in making a work. The work isn't necessarily, I think-a function of the work is not to express the idea.... The idea focuses your attention in a certain way that helps you to do the work.

While everyone else is cavorting on Tom Sachs Mars, I'm home, watching this rather entertainingly deadpan documentary short about the approved color palette in Sachs' studio. I imagine it to be a highlight of the new assistant orientation seminar.

COLOR. By Tom Sachs [and film by Van Neistat [youtube]

image: JJ Films

The thing is, everybody in Iceland has a monster truck. Or a big ol' van with balloon tires and a four-foot lift kit. The country only got a paved road in like 1979 or whatever.

But easily the coolest part of Jacob Jørgensen and Henrik Lundø's 2010 documentary, Space is Process has to be the scenes where Olafur and his crew are traversing the Icelandic moonscape in a convoy of SUVs, climbing mountains, fording rivers, backing up the edge of glacier holes, etc. etc., to gather images for the photo grids and such.

I hope there's an entire bonus disc of this footage on the DVD.

In his voiceover, Eliasson clears up a question I've always meant to ask, and confirmed something I've come to think about the photo works. First, the question:

Each grid of a particular natural feature is the subject of its own expedition. Which means he's hunting them down as a batch, or as he put it, "documenting a little story of a phenomenon." I'd wondered if this is how he did it, or if he shot and shot and shot, and then sorted and sifted, letting the typologies emerge out of the data.

But there are also photo grids that explicitly document a specific place or time, too; that follow along the course of a river, or a walk. Or the passage of a cloud overhead. So typology and biography--autobiography, in a way--are very close together. In System is Process, Eliasson does exclude the idea that his photography is somehow about [sic] getting in touch with his roots or his homeland or whatever.

But his deployment of story and narrative fits with how I've come to read the photographic works generally, as markers, documents, of the artist's encounter with and passage through this particular landscape. Which happens to be where he's from.

All this insight is then crowded out by the image of a giant, white Land Rover/armored car with--holy crap, is that a glass geodesic dome turret on top? I am sorry, Donald Judd's Land Rover, but you're gonna have to park on the street now. Because this spot is reserved.


Aha, there it is, tiny, in the extended trailer for the film.

Space is Process screened at the DC Environmental Film Festival []
Space is Process extended trailer via martin køhler's vimeo [vimeo]
Previously, suddenly related: Richard Serra Suburban []


We came out of the Hirshhorn tonight after the surprise [to me] screening of Space is Process, a 2010 documentary about Olafur Eliasson, only to find they were testing Doug Aitken's Song1, a 360-degree projection on the barrel of the museum.


I had been worried about how well buff-colored aggregate would hold up as a projection surface, but I tell you, it looked pretty great. Amazing, even.

And seeing it suddenly makes you wonder--and by you, I mean me--why doesn't the Hirshhorn project things on the surfaces of the buildings more often? You know what, why not all the time?


And that leads to the next logical question: what should be projected on the Hirshhorn?

Song1 is a hypnotic, laconic, melancholic sequence of closeups of an LA Basinful of people singing "I Only Have Eyes For You," intercut with abstract CG motion graphics. Its narrative doesn't seem anywhere as complex as the multi-screen Sleepwalker, projected on MoMA, but it seems thoughtful, and definitely works as a beautiful proof-of-concept.

But. So.

What else is going on the Hirshhorn Channel? The potential [or maybe the temptation] for agitprop and politically charged artworks seems either irresistible or anathema, depending no how involved one is in wooing Congress. The Hirshhorn and the Smithsonian at large are likely not interested in actually biting any hands that feed them.


And starting Thursday night at 8pm, that strategic non-engagement pact will be on view from the Mall in full, dazzling force.

As part of his study of the art of editing, and to do good for all mankind, the actor Topher Grace recut Star Wars episodes 1-3 into an 85-minute prequel which focuses on the transformation of Anakin into Darth Vader. Paul Sciretta attended a secretive screening of the Grace Edit, and prepared a detailed write-up for Slashfilm. Given what Grace had to work with, the remix sounds pretty good. But then there's this:

Before the film screened a trailer for another film Topher Grace is remixing -- Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of a Third Kind. I'm not sure that film needs a remix, or could even benefit from a remix, but am interested to see what the experiment will look like. After that, Grace hopes that other actors, editors and filmmakers will run with the ball, produce and showcase remixed films on a annual basis within this private community.

Jason Reitman has been directing live stage reads of classic film screenplays at LACMA, showing how a filmmaker can make different choices with an interesting cast can completely change a written screenplay. This seems like the next evolution of that, but also an exercise in storytelling with the use of crafty editing. I'm not sure I completely understand Grace's motives in creating this film, but I enjoyed it regardless.

Close Encounters has already gone through several notable edits, as Spielberg tinkered with it. [The director himself considers the 2001 Collector's Edition to be the definitive version.]

I'm kind of fascinated with this idea of using commercial films and their inputs as raw material, and especially with seeing people inside the Hollywood bubble, who are likely to be indulged rather than sued, softening up the crowd. I may get around to making my shot-for-shot remake of Gus Van Sant's Gerry yet.

Topher Grace Edited The 'Star Wars' Prequels Into One 85-Minute Movie and We Saw It [slashfilm via umm,

March 5, 2012

Ladies Love The Mylar

This is fantastic, a 1955 industrial film by E.I. duPont deNemours, Inc. about their miraculous new plastic film, Mylar.

I mean, first off, it's Mylar, so satelloons and Warhol balloons and everything else about the future.


But then there's the film itself. The Mylar trampoline and trapeze--with acrobats. The circus-y knifethrower's assistant in satin hotpants and beret, doing her ur-Vanna Whitest by turning the painted bullet point signs around.

February 8, 2012

Douglas Gordon On Painting

Got posts stacked up like flights at LaGuardia, but I can't get past these paintings by Douglas Gordon [right?] coming up at Christie's London sale next week.


They're 1-m square monochromes of acrylic housepaint with a text and date that's a reference to a work by another artist. Gordon did these particular paintings around 1993, the same time he was working on his awesome, breakthrough film installation, 24 Hour Psycho. Which, in retrospect, makes it a tough year for a Douglas painting to get much attention. But yet they kind of nagged at me.

And then as I found one of the only discussions of Gordon's paintings, in a 1993 interview with Thomas Lawson for Frieze, it sounded slightly familiar. But of course, I'd not noticed it much, if at all, at the time. Here's part of that discussion, which segues so nicely from the one project to the other:

DG: The idea is that these paintings, the way I imagine them, do have a 'transcendental' aspect, although I hate that word. Part of the background here is the whole range of 'endgame' painting theories, you know, like the Peter Halley/Sigmar Polke/Gerhard Richter positions, and also the Last Exit stuff that you wrote. These 'thinking' painters were important to me, partly because of the whole fuss about 'Glasgow Painting' in the 80s.

The paintings that you have seen have come about as a result of the attitudes and strategies that I had developed through working outside of a studio; you become steeped in a research, which isn't based on physical materials.

I was in a show in New York a while ago, and it turned out that the space was the old Betty Parsons Gallery. So I did some research on the place and started making lists of the paintings that had hung on those walls during the 40s and 50s. I ended up making a series of paintings that related directly to these works by people like Ad Reinhardt and Ellsworth Kelly. But although this series came out of a response to a situation, the thing about painting in general is that it satisfies a desire to make work free of a specific context.

TL: I think I'm hearing you admit that you actually make paintings on spec, just like a studio painter would?

DG: Yes. You've found me out. But my premise is to take the field of painting as a context in itself - you know, you say the word 'painting' and hundreds of expectations or prejudices come to mind. It's obvious that my interest in painting is not so much in the practical, physical side, as in the idea of it.

I'm interested in the fine line between my intentions and the perceptions of others; that moment when someone encounters something and realises that there is more to it than meets the eye. I'm interested in the moment when someone opens the letter, recognises that it is for them, and starts to wonder why they got it, and what it really means. The same can happen with these paintings: someone sees the piece that uses the title of a Baldessari book and thinks, well, yes Brutus did kill Caesar. But in 1976? And isn't this the title of another artwork, by someone else, somewhere else, and so on? I would say that all of the work plays with recognition and expectation in this way.

TL: Is there a particular pay-off with the paintings if you crack the code, or is it enough to know generally that these texts refer to works by other artists not on show here? Is it enough to know that there is a clue, without needing to know what the clue is?

DG: I don't think there's a particular pay-off. People who don't recognize the text as a title to a specific piece of art can still have a certain intrigue to play with. If you didn't know that Slow Motion 1969 refers to a piece by Robert Morris, I think you can still find something that will resonate. Maybe people who aren't trapped in an art history background can find more.

TL: Do you fetishise your material? Are they well made stretchers, well prepared linen grounds, and all that?

DG: I don't make a big deal of production values. The paintings simply have to be clean and pragmatic so that there is nothing about them to distract from the ideas they contain. I use available materials and choose colour from a standard household paint chart. I just want the paintings to appear as neutral grounds, no drips, no spots.

TL: I don't know. By the time you get done they'll be agitated with blobs and cross hatches, and you'll be talking up a storm about expressivity.

DG: Probably. Working with shaped canvases, and everything. The paintings are an important project for me, alongside the other things. I'm interested in the 'big' media. All those traditions with too much baggage. For instance, I've been interested in film for a long time. I always wanted to make an epic as my first film - a real movie, not Super 8 or anything. I thought it might be interesting to take an existing film and re-make it. I wanted a picture with a story which was very familiar to a broad audience; so I started to work with Psycho. What I decided to do was alter the narrative of the original by making it 24 hours long, and without sound.

Sounds crazy, but it just might work!

Hello, It's Me! [frieze]
Feb 16, 2012, Lot 241: Douglas Gordon, five paintings, est. £50,000 - £70,000 [christies]

I think part of my fascination with Google is the way it is reprocessing the way we see the world. It has its own way of looking, and that, it turns out, is what we see.

Timo Arnall's Robot Readable World goes wide and deep, documenting the "robot eye aesthetic" through an awesome collection of "found machine-vision footage."

Robot Readable World, (5'09") by Timo Arnall [vimeo via city of sound]

This 1963 episode of I've Got A Secret pops up periodically. From this week on Boing Boing to Alex Ross's 2007 blog post searching for Karl Schenzer.

And it is, indeed, pretty interesting. John Cale was recently arrived in New York City--Ross notes that he got a ride down from Tanglewood in Iannis Xenakis's car--and still a couple of years away and a stint under LaMonte Young's sway from forming the Velvet Underground. John Cage enlisted him and some other sympathetic pianists to perform Vexations, an epic 1949 composition by Erik Satie, for the first time. That was Cale's secret. Schenzer's was that he alone stayed for the entire 18-hour performance.

Of course, Cage himself had appeared on I've Got A Secret in 1960, giving a raucous rendition of his composition, Water Walk, while dressed, typically, like a Methodist minister.

Three years later, Cale and Schenzer also exude a buttoned-up, Cageian seriousness, but what caught my attention was Schenzer's namecheck of the concert's sponsor, the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, which Cage and Jasper Johns had just launched.

By 1963, I guess these folks were becoming better known, and certain of them, particularly Johns and Rauschenberg, were selling a fair amount of artwork. Yet as soon as they had two nickels to rub together, these artists were using the money to support and propagate the work of their fellow artists.

And it really amazes me to think that the cultural factions of the time were still so close together that this avant garde crew could turn up on a network TV game show. John Cage may have turned up at some point in the intervening 30 years, but it's very easy for me to imagine that the first mention of Erik Satie on CBS was also his last.

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Since 2001 here at, 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 that time.

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about this archive

Category: making movies

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Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
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Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
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Chop Shop
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eBay Test Listings
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It Narratives, incl.
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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

Standard Operating Procedure
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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
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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
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HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
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Canal Zone Richard
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
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