Category:making movies


In 1997 Douglas Gordon surreptitiously videotaped two hours of Andy Warhol's Empire during an installation in Berlin. He called it Bootleg (Empire):

'I did a version of 'Empire', which was called 'Bootleg Empire', it is almost like the amateur version of the auteur masterpiece -- it's very shakily done. I lived in Berlin for a while and I went to see Warhol's 'Empire' and I thought 'I may never get to see this again', so I filmed it for an hour went to the pub and then came back and filmed it for the last hour. So mine only lasts for two hours -- so it's like 'the best of' or something. But quite often my version is seen with his films in exhibitions, which is kind of funny as mine is slightly more dramatic as it is shaky and there are shadows of people walking in front of the camera.' (Jean Wainwright 'Mirror Images' (Interview with Douglas Gordon) Art Monthly, Dec-Jan 2002/03, No. 262) [via a new path]
In 1998, he released Bootleg (Empire) as a video edition of eleven. For whatever reason, maybe because he has the word "bootleg" in the title, it's often referred to as an homage. How many intellectual property battles could be dodged if everyone made sure to use that word, I wonder.

Anyway, one of the Bootleg (Empire) editions didn't sell Friday at Philips de Pury. The estimate was $30-40,000.

And the details seem confusing. The lot description says "installation dimensions variable," as you'd expect from a Gordon. But when another of the edition sold in 2000 at Christie's [for $9,400], the description said it was "for view on monitor only." The Christie's edition also contained two tapes, a VHS and a Beta, but the duration is given as only 62 minutes, not two hours. Philips doesn't bother to provide the duration information in their catalogue, but the piece was two hours long at the Guggenheim's "Haunted" exhibition last fall.

So far, I can find mentions of at least three other Bootleg works, all of which predate Empire. Bootleg (Big Mouth, Cramped and Stoned), use slowed down, slient concert performance footage from the Smiths, the Cramps, and the Rolling Stones, respectively.

Wow. It's amazing how awkward and wrong this original ending to Alexander Payne's 1999 feature Election seems. According to Peter Sciretta at Slashfilm, this six-minute segment comes from a VHS transfer of an original work print found at a flea market. The ending tested so badly, Payne went back to shoot additional footage for the more satisfyingly harsh ending he released.

Sciretta notes that there's never been any discussion of another ending to the film, but hey-ho, It's right there in Payne's and Jim Taylor's original script.

Watch The Never Before Seen Original Ending of Alexander Payne's 'Election' [slashfilm via matthew clayfield]
Previously: I co-hosted a MoMA Film Dept. party for Alexander Payne in 2003. more recapping here.

May 13, 2011

Shh, Don't Speak.

From Dennis Lim's brief Q&A with Gus Van Sant at Cannes, where Restless is [finally?] debuting:

We did silent takes of almost every scene so we could maybe use them in the editing. Terry Malick apparently shoots silent takes so he can mold what he wants out of the scenes. But with our takes we actually created a silent version because we had enough material and we realized we could -- maybe it'll be on the DVD. Everything is there except the dialogue -- all the sounds and music, and you hear all the footsteps, but there's nobody talking and no lips moving. They're the same scenes, but it has the distance of not being dialogue-driven. It's the exact same love story but it plays like a different movie.
It's funny, because Gerry and Elephant only have like 10 pages of dialogue between them anyway.

Previously: Gus Van Sant's go-to guy, the 2003 interview with producer Dany Wolf


Not quite sure what to make of this, but this image showed up this morning on the golden livestreaming page for Man Bartlett's piece, #140hBerlin.

And though maybe he wasn't even born when it came out, it immediately made me think of... Sandra Bernhard's 1990 performance film, Without You I'm Nothing


So yow, I just watched that clip on Which, while it might offer Man some programming, if not costuming, ideas, also ties into Berlin's own history.

And wow, I just listened to Bernhard's cabaret cover of "Little Red Corvette" for the first time in maybe a decade, and damned if it isn't one of the most American things about America this American has ever heard.

#140hBerlin runs for 140 hours through May 17. []

"One idea could be using mirrors so photographers could do their jobs out of the president's sight line, the White House's Earnest said."

My mind is blown and I am still picking up the pieces after contemplating the possibility that White House photographers might be instructed to shoot using mirrors so as not to disrupt the president's line of sight.

I mean, the compositional challenges pale in comparison to the artistic compositional goldmine that such an environment would provide. I mean, just imagine. Here's one AP shot I didn't post the other day about Sforzian backdrops at Fort Campbell. Check out how the floating reflection of the camo netting draped over the crowd barrier, which is picked up in the teleprompter:


With mirrors, photos of the president would be like rainbows, visible only from the single specific angle that aligns the lens, the mirror, and the face.

Street photographers would suddenly have an edge. Lee Friedlander, traveling with the President:


I've slowly been making my way through Kierran Horner's analysis of Andrei Tarkovsky's The Mirror in relation to Gilles Deleuze's concept of the 'time-image.' I had just gotten to this part when I found the AP White House photo policy story:

Left alone, Alexei locates and sits in front of a large mirror hung on the wall. The next shot begins stationary behind Alexei, facing his reflection in the mirror, and the camera slowly pans in over his shoulder, focusing ever more tightly on his reflection, until, gradually, the reflection becomes the sole image of the frame, staring back toward the actual Alexei.


There is then a sharp cut to reveal a medium close-up of Alexei sat contemplating his reflection from the opposite angle. This shot/reverse shot dynamic and the 'eye-line match' are common to most conventional cinema, establishing an object, or person, as perceived by a character from their point of view.


As David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson describe it 'shot A presents someone looking at something off-screen shot B shows us what is being looked at' (2004: 303). However, as in this case, the 'eye-line match' refers conversely to an interaction between two characters, here, the actual Alexei and his virtual counterpart. It is as if he is reacting to/with his reflection. This dialectic can be read as representing the Deleuzian 'crystal-image':


'In Bergsonian terms, the real object is reflected in a mirror-image as in the virtual object which, from its side and simultaneously, envelops or reflects the real: there is a 'coalescence' between the two. There is a formation of an image with two sides, actual and virtual. It is as if an image in a mirror, a photo or a postcard came to life, assumed independence and passed into the actual, even if this meant that the actual image returned into the mirror and resumed its place in the postcard or photo, following a double movement of liberation and capture.' (Deleuze 2005b: 66-67)

I see Barack Obama as Alexei. And a virtual presidency. Can you begin to imagine what kinds of images this would produce? Forget the stunning conceptual aspects for a minute; has anyone at the White House thought through the political implications--should we call them the optics?--of not permitting the cameras' eyes to gaze upon the President directly?

Maybe not mirrors, then, but what about one-way mirrors? Is that what they're thinking? Put the photgraphers on the darkened side of a one-way mirror. Fortunately, there's only 225 hours of Law & Order-related programming on basic cable each week to communicate the absolute trustworthiness of anyone speaking on the mirrored side of the glass.


Before getting too fixated on the complications of presidential imagemaking, though, it's worth remembering that the White House is already a supremely weird place for photographers to work. Go back to 2009, just days after President Obama's inauguration, when the NY Times' Stephen Crowley pulled back the curtain on the surreal and utterly staged 12-second tradition known as the "pool spray." These are the images whose authenticity is suddenly, apparently, of such great concern.

Previously: WH beat photogs upset at staged photographs they don't take

May 3, 2011

Could Be?

via Eyeteeth | "File under: This could be art"

Can't tell you how awesome this is. I would pay cash money to see the biennial that shows it.

I'm getting pretty comfortable with my love affair/obsession with the US Pavilion at the Expo 67 in Montreal. I mean, it's got Buckminster Fuller; Alan Solomon curating gigantic paintings; photomurals; and satelloons, what's not to love, right?

So seeing Design for a Fair, the 1968 promo short film by Peter Chermayeff is awesome just as it is. The vintage footage and photos are some of the crispest I've seen, and it really is pretty crazy on a whole bunch of levels that this thing existed at all.

But maybe the greatest thing--even better than the giant graphic designed flags that look like a lost Ellsworth Kelly, as if there wasn't enough giant, escalator-optimized, actual art already--and even better than the sheer soft power/propaganda play that was so drop-dead awesome it won the future for the day--is the voiceover.

Because the whole thing really sounds like Chermayeff's idea. Every last bit of it, dome to nuts. It's fantastic. Chermayeff, of course, is an architect and exhibition designer, and his former firm, Cambridge Seven Associates, or C7A, was contracted by the US Information Agency to produce the US Expo entry.

And so, as Chermayeff tells it, they knew they wanted a 3/4 geodesic dome, so they ordered one. And they wanted some giant art, so they ordered that. And the moon stuff, and the Hollywood and all the happy parts of American culture.

Now I don't doubt a thing; I'm sure that's exactly how it all went down. It's just that that's not how it's typically remembered. Architects only remember Fuller; the art world only recognizes Solomon and the artists, not the venue or the show or the implications of it; and everything else is artifact and prop. [And the poor lunar photomural, I've hardly found anyone remembering that at all.]

The historical focus is either on the general awesomeness of the spectacle and mood, the political context and propaganda, or on the parts in isolation. What Design for a Fair reminds me of, though, is the visitor's experience, the carefully orchestrated messaging, and the reality that it was orchestrated by a contractor working to a brief provided by the USIA. It was a government-funded gesamtkunstwerk, a massive piece of installation art before the fact, and probably one of the most cost-effective public diplomacy efforts of the Cold War era. It literally seems unimaginable today.

This is basically the funniest Oskar Fischinger post you will ever read.

Oskar Fischinger's Love Machine [lacmonfire]

People often ask me, "What is it that makes your Google Street View Art so different, so appealing?"

Actually, no one asks me that, they just send me "Hey, look!" emails with links to Jon Rafman and Michael Wolf. But if they did ask me, I'd probably go off about Bergson and the flaneur's gaze and Deleuzian notions of cinematic time and the panoptic surveil--

"Hey, look! Shiny object! Want that!"


Seriously, chrome that bad boy in an edition of 5, please. I'll keep the AP.

via Behind The Scenes with Street View [youtube]

Before I talk about Microworld, the 1976 industrial film made for AT&T by Owen Murphy Productions, let me just state the obvious, and get it out of the way:

We are long, long overdue for a comprehensive, scholarly retrospective of William Shatner's spoken word pieces. The mandarins who keep our cultural gates should not be able to just drop a masterpiece in our laps on their own whim, not we who have known "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" for decades. I give you three months, and if I don't see any movement, I'm taking the curatorial matters into my own hands.


OK. Microworld. Holy crap, who made this thing? Owen Murphy Productions, who made several other films for Bell Labs over the years, including Incredible Machine (1968) which screened as part of the film program [PDF] at "The Machine As Seen At The End Of The Mechanical Age," Pontus Hulten's 1968 exhibit at The Museum of Modern Art. [that's the show with the exhibition catalogue with the crazy, stamped metal cover.] Owen Murphy probably needs his/their own retrospective, too.

[11/2011 UPDATE: Thanks to Robin Edgerton, who has been working on the AT&T film archive, for pointing out that the correct title was Incredible Machine, not The Machine, as MoMA's press release had it. You can watch Incredible Machine online.]

That will give us a chance to appreciate the backlit photomurals


and the rather incredible prop circuitboard dioramas. [I left the timestamps in for easy reference.]


Shatner marvels for us at the minute intricacy of circuitboards reduced to eye-of-a-needle-sized microchips. Microchips which are apparently still designed in large-format, paper schematics.

Which are drawn. With a pen. By a [computer? punch card? stencil?] controlled mechanical printer.


Holy crap, people, this is a drawing.


Turned into a backlit transparency, but whatever. A DRAWING.


Jean Tinguely's Metamatics drawing machines, we know. Olafur Eliasson's studio folks set up that acoustic drawing machine at Tanya's in 2008. [Wasn't there also a thing with pulleys that drew on the wall? Who was that?]

Anyway, just saying, there are--or were--amazing drawing machines creating amazing, massive drawings, in the service of America's most advanced scientists and engineers--who apparently didn't bother keeping them? Where are they? What are/were they? Do any survive? What else could they be used for? I think I must find the answers to these questions.

Thanks to Beau [aka @avianism], who points me to pen plotters and their adaptation and creative deployment, apparently in the last few years, by artists such as Douglas Repetto, whose drawing below, is part of the chiplotle group on flickr.


Chiplotle is a Python library created by Repetto and Victor Adan at the Columbia University Computer Music Center which allows you to code for and operate pen plotters from a laptop. The future of the past is here.

UPDATE UPDATE And whaddya know, via @johnpyper, there is a show of the Spalter Collection of computer code-generated art right now at the deCordova in Lincoln, MA, which includes, of course, Stan VanDerBeek, who worked on early animation and computer graphics languages at Bell Labs.

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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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Social Medium:
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