PRIVATIZING PUBLIC WEALTH
M O N E Y C H A N G E S H A N D S
WHEN THE PSYCHOPATHIC FATHERLAND
TORTURES, MURDERS, MUTULATES
RAPES, STARVES, DISPLACES,
LIES AND can it be? STEALS,
NOT ONLY AS IS THOUGHT
FROM USA KIDS
NOT YET BORN. CHINA
INVESTING IN DOLLARS
ENABLES OUR STEALING-CLASS AS
THESE PRETEND-WARS FOR EMPIRE
GO NOWHERE, A LESSON LEARNED
ATTACKING KOREA AND VIETNAM.
MORE OIL IS NOT THE OBJECTIVE,
TIGHT OIL IS WHAT'S PROFITABLE;
DRAINING USA OF ITS WEALTH
IS THE OPPORTUNITY UNDER
GUISE OF PROTECTING IT.
WAR ITSELF IS THE
MONOPOLIZATION OF WEALTH.
The old cowboy movies were manufactured on the cheap for audiences choosing to be lulled by repetition, as in a house of worship. The same sets were rented film to film, with either one crew leaving as another began or overlapping as they progressed through the expected scenes against the expected backgrounds. I imagine an old soiled script handed back production to production.
The actors had almost all seen better days, some starring in major films -Johnny Mack Brown, William Boyd- but only John Wayne would rise again. They served a need, these movie-staples, for small-town America and far beyond. When I was a little boy in the 1930s my work-weary grandfather would take me by the hand and we'd walk to the Marcy where each week -in Williamsburg, Brooklyn- a Yiddish talkie was paired with a Hopalong Cassidy.
Cowboy movies presented a truthful picture of America -to a point, reached when the truth would have been intolerable. After all, the movies then as now function to chase away boredom and to buoy up hope. We depend on The Muse Of Cinema, lovely lady, to fly to the rescue and switch endings from where logic would lead. The far-fetched is an accomplishment and The Happy Ending the cleverest invention since life-after-death. European art movies might choose to burden with facts but we look towards the future brightly smiling, fortified by steady helpings of movies. Delusions don't grow on trees and for the desperate people of The Great Depression they were worth the few cents admission.
With minor variation and spiced with bits of actor-invention the weekly sermon kept to the following script. The town is owned, supposedly behind the scenes, by the slick saloon-owner who rarely does his own killing. Bubble-headed mayor and cowardly sheriff cross from respectable to criminal at his command. With a trim mustache at odds with historical styling, well-dressed, virile and smart, the saloon-owner can never have enough; he is the Devil and of course the recognizable landlord / villain of early melodrama, forcing his attentions on the virginal Girl. The townspeople foolishly drink and gamble away their hard-earned money on the floor below the saloonkeeper's office, with it's backdoor and backdoor activity, like sending out masked thugs to hold up gold shipments. Easy women, often with good hearts and willing to betray the saloon-keeper when the time calls for it, move through the crowd and entertain onstage, butting out rears invitingly, kicking up legs lest the drunks not grasp that the splits will continue above their legs. Against this drain on town prospects, the goodfolk, hardworking and churchgoing pioneers, can do nothing. Elections are rigged and the very occasional hometown protester who makes a stand is gunned down. The setting is ready, as the movie begins, for the two-gun Stranger to enter. He will clean up the town and hand it over to the Feds before moving on, further West, his job not yet done. The Girl, still a virgin, will faithfully await his return.
You can see the appeal of the sermon. A chump's dream served up weekly with handsome leads and clownish sidekicks, snorting horses and instances of extraordinary horsemanship, set amidst wondrous hills and valleys and what were known then as wide-open skies. They stare ahead, the movie-congregation, and gallop (hear the sound of horses in the word? gallop gallop gallop), slug and shoot up their enemies, even win a swell-looking proxy mate. "Heaving a sigh of relief", it's been another saturday night at the movies, between rounds of endurance.
WHY I MAKE FILMS
It's my health, how I manifest myself, my function. I suppose I could paint or write now that I have retirement money from teaching (dollars, so who knows how long they're good for), but cinema for two eyes has hardly been explored free of the need to capture attention with story. I'm working now on SEEKING THE MONKEY KING and there's no story and no stopping but lots of open space inviting investigation by active minds.
I could instead fight the oligarchs (George W. Bush multiplied), their mercenaries and religious dupes. Beyond brutal they're stupid, destroying conditions necessary for even their own lives. That they've won. What's left to us is a rushed consciousness-gathering by way of art, each work going further than what's been.
USA has always been in bad hands (just discovered our Revolutionary War was fought in defense of slavery). Now we have fink Obama in office expanding Bush's wars. Few Americans care about what's done to our "surgically targeted" millions. The busy others, let them drink oil.
To go out in a blaze of consciousness, how smart is that? Chances are that we, some of us, are freaks of reflection in an otherwise mindless universe and so a white-hot peak would be our proper sign-off signature. It won't be noticed but what the hell, artists have to expect that. Enough that we hit maximum consciousness and call it a day. Poor monkeys. Our bad end was in the "God-given" premise of life itself, the moment it was determined that the living shall eat the living.
DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF
My eye-doctor -ophthalmologist- Dr. Esposito tells me to stop reading The NY Times, stop following the news. It's popping blood vessels behind my eyes. Can I do this? And what of my other cheerless reading? like learning after a lifetime of bamboozlement that the Revolutionary War against Mother England was fought in large part to defend the institution of slavery.... I have to take her seriously.
It's not that I can do much about what I learn. The blood vessel popping must be coming from frustration at what little if anything I can do. I have to direct my reading along calming paths, I actually have to if I mean to keep living and seeing/working. Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman? The Left voices recently discovered on the web? A disgraceful change of life's in order if I mean to continue.
AMERICA AT WAR, THE HOME FRONT: FILM OPENING
THE SOCIAL NETWORK
opened that night. Good movie,
but distance isn't what it used to be
and all these wars tend to disturb
the wind is free, the tides and sunlight.
Bechtel and Carlyle don't like that, no.
Nor, of course, does Exxon or BP.
But let's aim to convert, anyway,
whatever they demand
for allowing us to.
It's got to be cheaper
the cost to us of these
invasions and occupations
and payoffs to foreign gangsters.
USA is exceptional not in being owned by a wealthy few -that's common among the nations and for USA goes back to the split with England when some of the richest colonists sold the chumps a rebellion to preserve slavery. (See the book SLAVE NATION). What's novel is that we can say so. Can't do that in China, for instance.
The vote? Actual understanding of issues could be tested, with each test score the value of the vote, but how likely is that to happen? Elections will continue to be won by ad agencies.
We only went to the movies. Can't anything be done without guilt for what's done in our name? I like the mafia offer: pay for protection and they leave you alone. Let's pay off the bigger mafia, if they let us, the corporations and finance and their representatives in government. Please just take the money and have a good time. No invasions, please, no occupations.
THE CYCLONE SERIES
In my live performances with film, sequential frames were examined and related with the aim of producing both lifelike and very strange moving images in 3D.
Filmed objects seemed to be moving onscreen while, in reality, the two film-frames stood arrested in the gates of a pair of stop-motion projectors. Movement would be continuous and in one direction (not back and forth) but without moving to anywhere (unimaginable until seen) until manually shifted by the active projectionist. The programs were rehearsed but volatile, with every performance a mix of known and unpredictable developments. After 25 years I stopped working with film and began projecting transparent paintings on acetate, again creating 3D scenes that could be seen as such even by one-eyed viewers but larger, deeper, and even more fantastic as the viewer Rorschached content onto abstractions. The first projection device was called The Nervous System and the second The Nervous Magic Lantern. Some of these live performances have been recreated on the computer and are available as video.
The projected images in both systems were interrupted and made to flicker by a spinning shutter, the source of the illusion of movement and change (in spite of the near-static actual state of films or painting). Minute changes in relative placement onscreen of the sequential film-images, and slight changes in the positioning of the painting within my Magic Lantern projector (with no moving parts other than a shutter), appeared on-screen as active forms in deep space. Vast space in the case of the Magic Lantern, with perspectives possible from everywhere as we circle the synthetic scenes that often take on the look of wild and desolate places, from below and above, from all sides, and with "zoom" approaches to any area.
I wish to pursue a combination of both these systems, to bring the optical changes wrought by the passing edge of the spinning shutter to images drawn directly from life. The idea is to apply the effectiveness of The Nervous Magic Lantern, as it operates on my painted acetates, onto scenes of actual objects in their native complexities of space as recorded in both 2D and 3D.
Digital still-photographs, extreme close-ups of flowers, the insides of fruits, etc. will be made from a number of close camera positions. In each position a series of stills will be clicked off as a propeller-like shutter, fixed to the camera-support, shifts along its arc at measured intervals, so that the photographed object can be seen afterwards to emerge out of and then return to darkness. Each series of exposures will be repeated many times on the computer to make it into a movie, into pliable moving images that allow for the further investigation of depth possibilities. It isn't simply that things are shown in depth but how we see in depth is explored and the knowledge added to, experientially if not scientifically (by way of art experience rather than charts and measurements).
The rhythmic shutter interruptions will be softened and the depth illusion enhanced by replacement of the black intervals with repeats of the same sequence of photographs in their complimentary colors. My hope is to take viewers to the limits of recognition, to strange worlds rooted in the familiar. The moving 3D images, derived from 15 killobyte still photographs, will have even more detail than is supported by BluRay and, although there will be BluRay editions and presentations, for really large-screen venues capable of supporting the information, such as I-Max (The Nervous Magic Lantern was successfully performed for the public at the London I-Max in December 2008), performances may proceed directly out of a computer for both standard Polaroid 3D versions -with viewers wearing 3D spectacles- and my own system of repetitive cyclings that do not require any such aids. Giantism will be a quality of these projections. And because there often will be very small interocular distances between activated picture-pairs, things pictured will appear enormous. A flower can compete for size with King Kong, and the empty spaces between and around subjects will also take on this exaggerated scale. The pull of gravity will hugely accompany a look-down (with both eyes) between flowers. Water splashing into a sink, as a photographic subject, will offer oceanic adventures.
I should add to this summation of my formal interests, my inclination to help bring about the end of capitalism. Of course persons will have no say about this, never have and never will, but as art is so involved with mindfulness I tend to think there's a value in acknowledging the foulness of the capitalist arrangement. It will go when heedless exploitation makes the planet unliveable for everyone and A Better World will not follow, only a still more brutal one if that's possible and only for a short while. Sometimes a subject will afford me some expression of this inclination (obviously CAPITALISM: SLAVERY and CAPITALISM: CHILD LABOR) but it would be a mistake for anyone controlling funding to consider this a reason to withhold funding. Most of what I do, akin to working with math theorems, leaves no place to voice objection. To the extent that horror is expressed please consider it a helpless and sterile cry of anguish.
So now we know that the fame-name that David, later Dennis Kaufman chose for himself translates to "Spinning Top", words suggesting his busy mind and the excitement of setting forth in the new post-capitalist USSR. J. Hoberman in his April 13 Village Voice review of this MoMA series suggests another meaning: permanent revolution. Was Vertov already considering the odds against fulfillment of the socialist dream? Thomas Jefferson had come out for further revolution in USA -another and another- for whenever this country required the clearing out of gathering rot, the way a house must be cleaned and then cleaned again. If alive today he would at the least be demanding that Wall Street give back the money and would definitely be championing Wikileaks.
Stalin may have talked sense to Vertov, like a big brother. The enthusiast would be broken and would apologize -standing in the killing field- for his youthful experiments.
Is the title THE MAN WITH A MOTION PICTURE CAMERA or is it MAN WITH A MOTION PICTURE CAMERA? Big difference. One refers to the movie-lead we watch surmounting all physical challenges, always with the same shirt; the other speaks of mankind gifted with a new, revolutionary tool -no less than Guttenberg's press or the discovery of explosives. A tool of observation and memory, of thought construction and art and of much else, including mind control, distraction, surveillance. There's no end to it. A moving picture, life on the fly -captured- to an extent. Where does one go from there? We just saw photos of President Obama and staff watching live the assassination of Bin Laden. It could've been in 3D. Now John McKay tells us the original Russian title (Vertov, a poet, chose his words carefully), is PERSON WITH A MOTION PICTURE CAMERA. Not so lilting in English maybe but already a revolution, acknowledging equality of women -worldchanger right there- but also speaking to the individual.
In his earlier KINO-GLAZ and later ENTHUSIASM the Constructivist impulse pictures people as robotic. The line of bent-over marchers, the reality of work (I had thought I knew work, then saw what it actually was, is). Yet glimpses of actuality can't save them from being parts of cinematic sentence-structure. They are encouraged to change religion from the old world-enslaving one to up and coming Communism but whether genuflecting or raising a fist, mass-mechanism prevails. Vertov considered himself an anarchist-individualist but there's little of the fellow-recognition one would expect this to prompt. An idea of The People takes precedence, of Types in place of persons. PERSON WITH A MOTION PICTURE CAMERA is less of a poster-art. And it has the advantage over the other films in that, according to brother Mikhail, they ran out of raw stock during production and weren't allowed more. PERSON is incomplete and incoherent, less a statement therefore and more of a poem, with lines of development left flapping in the wind. I haven't seen LULLABY but I'm thinking this is the most engaging and loveable of Vertov's works.
Excitement over his discoveries had moved Vertov to be doctrinaire, which seems to have been the style then with manifestos pronounced on everything. It was not enough to clarify an art of one's own, Vertov knew he was onto something and his way had to be The Way. And that was nothing less than to, so he said, catch life unawares and then somehow structure this flapping and wriggling life without resort to theater, to jewel thieves and detectives and Cinderella stories as he put it. Un-selfconscious behavior was the quarry; very odd when you think about it. He was to literally put such behavior under the microscope and under attack by his own hyper-consciousness. Not for the first time in history -there had been Pieter Brueghel The Elder- was the normally unseen behavior of the everyday the focus of such blazingly intense scrutiny but now it was to become the raw material of the most organized cinema possible, down to decisions about placement of a single frame.
Others might film "on location", imbedding fantasy into reality; trafe! the equivalent of background music in documentaries. He put down his disciple Eisenstein for using images drawn from actuality, like the Odessa steps, to support fictions. And yet -duplicitous fellow- he himself was drawing on what he knew of music construction, of rhyming poetry and of course the results were also fictions. Real life don't got rhythm in the way he constructs. And the messages: we see a line of little kids, the smallest Marxists imaginable, enthusiastically pasting up signs reading Don't Buy From The Private Sector, Buy From The Co-operative. These little kids have a perfect understanding of the need to cut out middle-men, not that they can read.
Tell us another one, Dziga.
Surely no news to him that any black and white rectangular shot plucked from ongoing multi-dimensional reality is no longer what was filmed but, far from it, is an abstraction. Unaware passersby, drunks, people boarding trams are forcibly enlisted, wrenched out of their tracks via editing to advance the revolution. A sequence of flat screen-shots can be read, sequenced and re-sequenced to say or imply anything, as Vertov shows when shots of the very film we're watching are spread out on the cutting table! Like God stepping in front of His creation, his wife and assistant-editor Elizavita Svilova appears and how often do you think that happens? the movie telling you it's a movie!
But that's it: "It's only a movie." Meaning: put aside all thoughts of reality however muddled or misleading Vertov may have been about this. Yes, he preferred to work with fresh behavior instead of stage gesture. And still arrived at artifice. Selection! Placement! And as Peter Kubelka stressed regarding his sound-usage: arbitrary audio-visual juxtaposition. Vertov is as much into contrivance as Vladimir Nabakov. What's more, Tom Gunning says he wouldn't have denied it.
Let us step back a bit.
Take God. We might imagine God saying "tree" and, instead of a word, the life of a tree over time, from its roots in the Big Bang to its dispersed molecules in a dissipating dustcloud, and perhaps all the lives its presence impinges upon in the way an actual life is leaned into and leans into others, issues from His mouth. We can imagine such a thing, sort of. But mortals can only beat about the bush pointing out aspects of reality, shaky snapshot approximations. Mortals are fated to be poets to one degree or another, alluding to reality. And PERSON WITH A MOTION PICTURE CAMERA moving along with its bursting energies and sense-defying sequencing of shots held together by little more than glue and rhythm is nothing if not sublime poetry. Cinema was Vertov's LSD. The Kaufmans realized some of what the sequential-frame camera could do and, with film brought into further focus by editing, they were lifted. Jews, kikes, mockeys, furtive Christ-killers, Clark Kent no more! Possibility was theirs. They would do nothing less than give artistic order to fugitive appearance, to the infinite sputter and smear of accident making up the everyday. The nerve of it. You have to go to Braque and Picasso for a comparable eruption of ambition, then jump to Pollock. Vertov and Svilova pick up on Griffith's cutting, accelerating, gathering, bringing the audience to spasm. In this case not to convince us of the redemptive power of the Ku Klux Klan but to present tawdry Odessa convulsing into The Future. Obedient to an idea.
And to the extent he does make a statement his art flies over their heads. This while delivering numbing poster-messages to those attuned to his art.
The camera behind the cameraman shows fearless Mikhail doing Harold Lloyd stunts in the course of capturing the city. A real hero compared to most actors. Yet Vertov refuses to acknowledge that actors can offer the camera more than stage clichés, that a smart actor will comment on the person he plays, a sort of essay on the run. Then there are semi-actors that can't help but bring their life experience to their roles. What a breath of air it would been to have Jean Harlow pass through one of his machine-epics! Or to have a young Marlon Brando pull spontaneous behavior out of himself under the sway of abstract expressionism. Jack Smith thrilled to the bad acting that could so reveal an individual, the screen skewering them in their exquiste pretensions, and I valued above all the mysterious territory of transition between behavior and performance, when the dancer offstage puts down her coffee cup and moves onstage and into her dance. I had wondered did Vertov give brother Boris a hard time for filming Jean Vigo's sublime theatrical films? the anarchist ZERO FOR CONDUCT, humanist L'ATALANTE? John McKay says no, happily, that he appreciated the films.
One has to question Vertov: is this a mentality that -attaining power- could banish Laurel and Hardy? A mentality that has to qualify every moment of a film in its reach for greatness, leaving no place for whim? for divine meaninglessness? For perfectly useless mere existence on holiday from the driven cosmos.
We understand: impoverished war-demolished Russia was scrambling to survive, those that mock films extolling the tractor don't understand. There were real enemies at the gates. WW1 ends and Western armies including USA invade on the side of Jew-killing White troops, holy armies that would play a significant role in rousing the Nazis. (Churchill publishes statements saying the Revolution is Jew-directed.) And immediately following their enormous losses in the Great War the Russians must defend themselves from suddenly-united world capitalism. They do, but they will never be allowed to experiment free of threat and that threat will distort the entire enterprise so that Russians today hate the memory of the great experiment and seem to prefer their crooked oligarchs. It will distort Vertov's cinema. ENTHUSIASM for instance is a brilliantly contrived monstrosity, a humorless and airless powerhouse convincer. Work! Produce! Or we die. Which was in fact the case.
It is great and Vertov is great. And that's what's lousy about Vertov, too; why outside of PERSON he's hardly any fun. I've been warned against saying this but allow me to describe a baseless whim of a theory: I blame Vertov's personal problem, the need to be The Greatest -Eisenstein's fame just killed him- on the sperm. The sperm must contend and triumph over millions of its brothers in being first to reach the ova, the female egg. If successful, that same desperate thrashing of its tail instilled into all its being will operate beyond a successful birth. Men contend with each other -dismissing women as not even in the contest- to again be first, after their personal experience of triumph in overtaking the womb; that is, they contend with each other by force of habit. They will go through hell to be first, to stand apart as a great man instead of a miniscule nobody among the countless, exactly the original drama repeated in a larger and further life-dimension. Greatness is beyond morality, which changes according to circumstance. See how American patriots, led by a moron, converted to admitted torture practices in a day. Every listing of great men of the Twentieth Century will feature Hitler, still revered as fulfiller of Providence. Unthinking obedience to this built-in drive for individual or national (via identification) greatness will probably cut the human adventure on this planet short to the point that we may have ten years of history ahead of us instead of thousands, with the loss of all the scientific advances thousands of years would mean. In cinema what saves America's greatest movie is that it's about this sort of driven nut, Charles Kane. Griffith and Stroheim were similarily infected with bumptious greatness and used up their welcome. Most of us understand on some level that these great ones desire to fill all of space with themselves and that they must be deserted and abandoned if common life is to continue. They must be laughed off the scene, as Griffith was, as Stroheim was. McKay writes that Griffith's unpopular masterpiece INTOLERANCE was a hit with Soviet intellectuals including Vertov. Eyepopping and unbearable, posturing and boring, it couldn't be greater. Infection set in in Moscow and Vertov had it bad.
I stress Vertov's Jewishness as well as his great-man hangup, even though the change from David Kaufman to Dziga Vertov says it pretty thumpingly. Elevation to supreme cinema artist was to be liberation from victimhood in the Pale. From witness to church-led pogroms in Bialystok when a child to his parents' murder by invading Germans during WW2, he was not to forget for a moment his perilous marginality and the insult of outsider status. When the Party he had so invested his hopes in ultimately accused him in the postwar years of "Cosmopolitanism" he was defeated; the man who had gone through everything was done in. The motion-picture camera had in fact failed to lift him beyond 2000 years of one-sided mythic holy-war. And now, condemned again as rootless, it was clear that even the chimneys hadn't been the end of it.
After rejection of half a dozen film-ideas he withdrew from the field and died, a sick and
FRED WORDEN MADE ME DO IT
Free-view is no problem for me. I've been crossing my eyes for thousands of years in order to combine adjacent 2D images (related just so, angled viewpoints about 2 1/2 inches apart, the average distance between our eyes) in order to see 3D. When Fred said he couldn' do it it signalled trouble. FAIR AND WHITE was completed in 2010 but along with my other free-view pieces it sat on a shelf. I had a reliable audience of three: Azazel Jacobs, Mark McElhatten, Ray 3D Zone. Ray may have legally made 3D his middle name, he's written books about it and loves it so. Visit his site online.
Funny glasses. Stupid glasses. This calumny particularly directed at red-cyan anaglyph specs. Polaroids are a later development directing opposing light patterns one to each eye with a slight diminishing of light but no change in color. Light run through a gray polaroid filter will travel on stratified as if passing through minute venetian blinds. One formation will pass through another filter fixed at the same angle while the filter blocks off light-lines of an opposing angle. Opposing polaroid filters must be placed before twin lenses projecting twin left and right prints in tandum. Images must be placed with complete accuracy onscreen, a metal-surface screen or else the polaroid effect will break up. The prints must be identical twins in terms of length or they won't remain in synch; if a repair and shortening of a few frames is required on one strand the exact removal of just those frames must be inflicted on the other. Easy to understand the reputation for headaches with so many factors for a projectionist to consider.
Anaglyph 3D is easier and cheaper but there's the collision of colors. Any screen will do and it's no problem to broadcast in two superimposed colors. Color spectacles are cheaper and opposing color images can be printed in superimposition on one strand of film. The poor man's 3D, it's been with us since the 1800's. Quite a discovery, that there are opposing colors and that they make possible the simultaneous seeing of two different but related pictures. We're supposed to think it especially stupid to be seen looking through anaglyph lenses. Elegant to peer through expensive sunglasses but you're a 'Fifties throwback with anaglyphs, one of those sillies in the audience eating up Bwana Devil.
Hollywood is responsible for 3D's bad rep. To begin with by making mostly lowbrow 3D movies but possibly also via a campaign of mockery of anything 3D. Early audiences may have expected movies in deep space, imbued as they were with experiene of depth photography from the ubiquitous handheld or fixed stereopticon. But the new industry wasn't technically up to providing large seated audiences with depth phenomena. Viewers would have to be distracted, satisfied with something else. Cheap theater, stories, good-looking actors and even geniuses. No-one asked why is Charlie Chaplin flat as a sheet of paper. We learned to read depth-cues in cinematography and imagined the world. Money was trading hands and there was no need to upset the arrangement with technical innovation. The stereopticon was laughed out of general usage.
Architecture and sculpture, landscaping and other depth-arts that didn't depend on illusion naturally hung in there. The few times that 3D movies were attempted the word "gimmicky" was attached to it and unprepared projectionists did the rest of the damage. But nothing was attempted beyond verisimilitude, illusion was never investigated for presenting us with the visually impossible; say, things going from solid to open or the far coming forward of the near. Nothing to embarrass sense-mechanisms and make us mindful of our tentative grasp of physical reality and how our particular sense organs condition that reality. I think this recent return is here to stay. Electronic cinema simpifies the process, relatively speaking. The lenticular screen doesn't even require specs and there's still the hologram waiting to hit big. Sports and games and of course porn even more than narrative movies will make it a mainstay. Illusion will easily make for even more delusion and will have wicked results politically, will confuse children and those older "innocents" like the Tea Party folks even more than they are.
Will 3D art-cinema be taken seriously? Maybe. We'll see.
Ken Jacobs 5.12.11
beaten old man before he was old.
A word on propaganda. I read a book on the subject. It said smart propaganda doesn't lie, it marshals truth selectively, like a successful and well-paid lawyer, a goniff. Griffith had been painstaking in furbishing his racist propaganda with exacting replicas of places referred to, supposedly supporting his argument with fidelity to actuality. President Woodenhead Wilson spoke of THE BIRTH OF A NATION as "history written with lightning", this from the President who figured he could double the US army by dividing it into one black and one white. We know the movie can only be evidence of itself, of movie-making, and not of any history beyond itself. THE BIRTH OF A NATION is an illustrated argument pulling on emotion rather than logic for a union of white Christian men, the glorious nation, to arm against engulfment by supposedly less-than-human others seeking retribution, compensation, and the white bodies of their women. (Tom Gunning speaks of the eradication of the Neanderthals by Homo Sapiens as the first genocide.) The average white, trapped in a grotesquely lopsided economy then as now, is meant to obsess over a threat to his ficticious racial purity and to his manhood. BIRTH OF A NATION is a picture in the same way that its companion piece TRIUMPH OF THE WILL seemingly documents reality but in fact is opera, ornately staged. We struggle towards a picture of reality -see how every baby pushed in a stroller is all eyes and deep concentration- and the movies offer pictures for the taking, expertly pre-assembled. Unfortunately, realism in movies is more often damn lie-ism, counterfeitism, and even reality itself, constrained via editing to convey messages whether ill or well-intended, is bull.
After John McKay's stunningly detailed lecture the thought occurred that Dziga Vertov's story was an essence of 19th and 20th century aspiration. After all he saw and experienced, war, starvation, and small minds determining who can make a film, even Stalin's take-over of the revolution, he could still generate hopefulness; that's a gift. Realizing his editing inventions with his beloved Svilova had to be joyful but beyond that, what a fix to be in. Jonas Mekas also has this gift, which I can only assume goes back to copious mothers' breasts. It can't be anything rational.
My own mother's parents had been Jews in Odessa. They escaped my grandfather's 20 year induction, as a Jew, into the Czar's army. Could they have recognized their former hometown in this wild picture? The streets are there, many startlingly candid shots of daily life, but whence this feverish excitement? The cameraman dares anything, films anything. A baby being drawn from a woman's open vagina, wow! and not by Brakhage fearing for his life while making WINDOW WATER BABY MOVING and barely able to screen it until the 'Sixties, one of the forbidden films initiating Underground Cinema. No, this cameraman is out there in 1929 inviting us all to leave the dark ages and acknowledge the facts of life. Double wow.
That birth to my thinking is the central shot of the movie. The movie in its entirety restates the event and could have been named THE BUNDLE OF JOY IN OUR FUTURE. Its very presentation of women as full persons proclaims the new era; consider only Svilova's role at the editing table instead of serving at the dinner table. And yet.... foolish movie, foolish Soviets, thinking to defy capitalism! Eat Thy Neighbor-ism. The acquisitive impulse that led to convincing faceless others that smoking was harmless and relaxing and tells them today there are no consequences to planetary pollution. The movie, so exuberant, so inventive, inspiration to so many film-artists everywhere yet so thoroughly defeated in its social ambitions, for even thinking to escape capitalism deserves the irony of presentation in this Rockefeller-endowed institution. (From Trump or Bush one can expect bupkis.)
I would say more, about Bradley Manning, about my own civic hopes to erect a monument to the shit-eating grin, but I'm afraid of the Patriot Act. See what Morris Berman says about it in DARK AGES AMERICA, page 227.
Ken Jacobs greatly assisted by Flo Jacobs, NY MoMA 5.12.11
3D films, videos and Nervous Magic Lantern performances by the artist are being presented this week starting tomorrow, May 13 at Anthology Film Archives.
OPTIC ANTICS The Cinema of Ken Jacobs, edited by Michele Pierson, David E. James, and Paul Arthur, is published by Oxford Press.
The 440 minute STAR SPANGLED TO DEATH starring Jack Smith is available in MoMA's bookstore or at starspangledtodeath.com; "Best Experimental Film of 2004", Los Angeles Film Critics. Other works available at Tzadik.com, Electronic Arts Intermix, Re.Frame, Film-Maker's Co-op.
Bradley Manning, crucified by USA
as a warning to others
believing in freedom of the press.
we would prefer to be less ignorant,
less murderous, and less implicated
"The Nazis lost World War 2." That's nice, and
we only absorbed their rocket program.
The Nazis live on, literally in the CIA,
and in America's gangster quest
for world domination, every bit
as racist and brutal. Read
DARK AGES AMERICA
by Morris Berman, 2006.
Voters won't have the heart to re-
elect Obama and Republicans
will celebrate their "mandate".
Some Republican crazy
and the military
will then rule for a while,
as The Empire's offshore bases close
because no-one wants our paper money.
Time now to clear out.
Italy's cool -oops; Berlusconi.
Ok, no place is perfect but this one
has been thoroughly subverted and not
by commies or any designated enemy,
by smart insiders who know the ropes
enabled by those too out-of-it
or too fearful to object.
THE TOPLESS BATHING SUIT
KICKS OVER THE DOMINO THEORY
WHEN THE TOPLESS BATHING SUIT
KICKED OVER THE DOMINO THEORY
KICKING OVER THE DOMINO THEORY
A movie taking place in Vietnam today recalling the Sixties in USA (with Fifties roots, Seventies ebbings and transitions), incorporating recordings of the period, events, movements, personalities; including style "excesses" in response to then-recognized government criminality and loss of State legitimacy and command.
Everything turns on the Democrat/Republican elevation of Clarence Thomas to The Supreme Court, in preparation for the Reagan reaction. Explicit Neocon plans to end "The Vietnam Syndrome" and resume US aggression, without mention of the disproved Domino Theory, our Official Modus Operendi for decades. 9/11 on schedule and resumption of The Empire.
DAY AND NIGHT was photographed with a still-camera with close-up attachment. Two close images were taken, with the subject -a heather plant- on a turning platform. The heather blossoms are tiny, on average less than 1/4 inch in size. Color was augmented and transformed via computer. Movement was computer-created by way of an editing-formula of my invention (patented) by which 3D films can be made from 2D imagery exploiting similarities and differences between two adjacent film-frames. Active 3D events appear that impossibly continue in one direction without change, my name for them is both silly and fitting: eternalisms.
CAPITALISM: CHILD LABOR is drawn from a stereograph from the late 1800's. Matched close-ups of the twin (but not identical) originals are seemingly spun and sequenced, set to a soundtrack suggesting a factory din. As with DAY AND NIGHT the 3D illusion can be experienced without spectacles; the screen, in fact, will achieve depth seen with only a single eye. (A warning generally precedes my films made with a similar marked flicker, warning off viewers afflicted with epilepsy or other unusual brain conditions.
Innocent movie-goers never given a chance, captured.... in 3D video, while other Americans invade, bomb and burn to protect our freedoms (to invade, bomb and burn). Civilians, far from war, their thoughts as well. Distance protects their serenity, their amiable enjoyments. Monsters.
Innocent movie-goers never given a chance, captured.... in 3D while other Americans invade, bomb and burn to protect our freedoms (to invade, bomb and burn). Civilians, bodies and thoughts far from war. Distance protects our serenity, our amiable enjoyments. Innocent monsters? Perhaps.
To Howard's grateful friends (my sour grapes),
"One hand washes another." Guttenplans exact words to me some thirty or forty years ago when I requested a show at Millennium. Years had gone by without an invitation but now that Flo and I were concentrating on performance we needed venues or the pieces would get no air at all. Poor Howard was not letting an opportunity pass and asked for a show of his own in Binghamton where I'd been teaching. "I'm a filmmaker, too, and you never invite me to Binghamton."
Suddenly Howard's many screenings in Europe became understandable. How was it that someone of no interest as an artist in USA -except, it seems, for other lone hands looking for a partner- embodied the USA cinema avantgarde for so many Europeans? Reciprocation can be a foul thing. "Howard Travelplan" Jack Smith had called him.
That Jack himself was often presented at Millennium showed how unconcerned Howard had been during Millennium's early struggles to survive. Jack (mad at me) chose to betray his socialist leanings to become the only known filmmaker to walk past picket lines when priest Michael Allen fired me and put his beloved Stanton Kaye, my undermining assistant in charge, thus ending the Millennium as a state-sponsored experiment. Love, love, love. We had depended on volunteer work but Howard's connection was only as visitor to the Open Screenings where he would show the same cut-up black and white store-bought pornography. During the restructuring of Millennium outside government, New School, and St. Mark's Church support, he was nowhere to be seen and it was only after Flo and I left the place secure and working, for others to carry on, did he make his move. Director Gary Smith had spent $5000 on used 8 and Super 8 cameras and Howard was able to convince the then-Board this was reason to replace Gary with himself. Bylaw rules would be changed to allow Howard to stay Director beyond one or two years. And that's how a despot is born.
I had been convinced when MOMA celebrated Millenium at 25 that keeping it going those many years was an accomplishment no matter what and said nothing to rock the boat. I think it was then that Howard even gave us a show and we presented XCXHXEXRXRXIXEXSX at Millennium. Look through the history, the wall photographs, ads and articles: no Ken Jacobs, though we were around and often attended shows. Howard Travelplan, however, never showed in Binghamton.
I said some of this last night when it became apparent that Howard had prepared by calling in people for the vote who thought they owed him another smarmy favor. They hadn't been around while Millennium was dying but could be depended on to put his name (and their own name: John McGovern!) on the ballot. If he weighted the Board he was back in charge, it had always worked. The runty despot would again call the shots.
I had to marvel when we took off at his practical cleverness but it wasn't Howard that we had returned to get going again. I thank the many people who have written, Bradley who came panting after us. Ladies and gentlemen: fucked again. With this walking and talking wart back on the Board there really is no possibility for Millennium. If there's a God in Heaven it surely amuses Him to see the wart consume the living.
We support "family values" in America, a code word for the dynasties (common families tending to disolve beyond a single generation or two). We refer to the owners of this great and once seemingly inexhaustible landmass, the landowning Rockefellers, publicity-shy Mellons, to mention but two of the very greatest, but also to the Bushes and perhaps even more recent distinguished families who may not possess land so much as money, lots of money, or land no longer necessarily in America. Their holdings spread with an inbuilt momentum. Each dynasty is of course in tense contention with the others, an apportioning of the country more significant though less obvious than the States. Intermarraige is a marvellous device for dissolving borders should contention build up and the examples, in their durability, of the British Royal Family or Royal Family of Japan remain instructive.
Born winners like Mitt Romney may toy with the Presidency when achievement becomes all too predictable, inventing their adventures. Unfortunately this dodo is another crass personality, like W, laying himself open to embarrassment. But soon the family will again enfold him, more wealth will cover his tracks, and the subdued hum of ownership prevail.
There is a point at which a new dynasty gets a nod from the club and passes beyond attention of the press, a point at which total freedom -and who is not for freedom?commences. As long as one does not bump up against a fellow dynasty everything becomes possible and the vices may flower. It was perhaps an error of the Murdocks to move towards world control of the press, they made personal enemies of the jabbering class, but they do represent a new international dynasty, a dynasty for our times! and surely the club is making a place for them.
SPOOKED, OR WHY CUBISM TURNED GRAY
What did Pollock mean, speaking of some element in a painting as "working"?
The implication is that the part had to be doing something, it doesn't seem to have been enough that it was fitting, a lovely detail placed in a lovely painting. "Working" seems a mechanic's term. But what could a painting element do, if it was to comply with Pollock's demand, other than work with other working parts? To produce what? baby paintings? Nothing on the canvas would actually be moving.
Changes can be produced. Okay, but where? Not on the canvas surface itself. Changes can only happen in the viewer's understanding of where and what things are. In the painting as idea.
Painting as decor had to wait for the decorators, who know about color swaths and how to liven up a wall. The sad truth is that many paintings that were ideas were enlisted to serve as decor before Warhol arrived to introduce the pure signifier of wealth, aka the fashion statement. Serious painting as decor had meant reducing an idea to matching the furniture, mutely waiting for a mind to attend it. True, such a trophy might also broadcast the economic clout of its owner -like dangling a live slave in one's rec-room, but better the development of the painted or squeegeed void, a pricey rectangle. Any serious architect would tell you a wall should be a wall and not a portal. Or a bulge in place of a wall since many abstractions can move forward, in our understanding, the same distance as they recede.
But an assistant-produced oversized-print of a retouched photograph of an artfully made-up celebrity holding a pose allows its owners to bask in their opulence without impinging on consciousness. Its very blandness allows it to cling obsequiously to the wall, just where an idea might be fretful and fuming.
Illusion, optical or conceptual, is at the heart of the sort of painting that interests me. (If illusion is all we can know, why not arrive at some pleasant way of living with it?) We build a concept of the 3-dimensional fullness of a flat canvas, one that avoids or minimizes life-representation, from a spatial reading of its parts learnt from real-world experience. Of course one knows this is purposeful misunderstanding! a sort of play-understanding in the same way there's play-acting. The viewer is not fooled into believing a work has an actual three-dimensional existence but goes along with its stated (in painting terms) idea of itself, like temporarily giving credence to a story. Both visual artist and understanding recipient agree on the illusion as illusion, and especially with non-representational illusion does it become possible to create a 3-dimensional painting in flux. Parts can be seen in more than one way and where and what and how they function with each other can change. In this still-new idea of painting, dynamic flux replaces the traditional peak-moment of representation.
Reconfiguration of parts, reconception in the viewer's mind! Particularly in the painting's depth implications because these are exactly what is not so apparent in a good and resistant 2D painting. (Yes, we sophisticates don't want it easy and are not drawn to an obvious 3D pushover.) We scan the object for telling details and gather clues towards an imaginative entirety, on the way discovering contradictions that revise our conceptions! A form we understood to be in one place can be seen in another -also in another? affecting how we think of its neighboring forms and so we must reconceive. Every paint-detail in a context of other paint-details suggests a particular dimensional shape and location in our line of vision. A form's 2-dimensional shape, like a shadow on a screen, may tell us very little about its 3-dimensional existence, where it could be leaning or extending this way or that way in depth. What appears as a point may be the end of a long thrust into depth. Context tells us the part a form plays in the interdependent depth-idea, yet context will change if only one detail refutes the idea we are building of what we are seeing. We are following a work of imagination after all, picking up on visual suggestions. Going for a mental adventure in a forest of planted contradiction, we ourselves must experience changes. Flexibility is called for, calm (calm!), and a trust in flux as the enduring condition of existence generally. Maybe this is what Matisse meant by promoting his paintings to rich buyers as easychairs to recline into.
The Cubists wanted maximum spatial ambivalence so local-color indicating object-identity had to go and slightly tinted grey monochrome came in. Restlessness of form came at the cost of vivid color. Antic combined with sepulchral and we had the advent of the jumpy cadaver. Also, Cubists may've been emulating/imitating the movies, drained of color but shot from this angle and that. Well before the Keystone Kops, concurrent with Cubism, the movie-screen jumped around madly. Cubism was a better acknowledgement of the presence of flux in modern times and to modern philosophic approaches to reality than Futurism, which was no more than paintings of things-in-motion directly imitative of the photo-picturing of time by Marey, with Futurist paintings no more objects-in-flux than what one saw in the museums. But in the hands of Cubists the slippery object sunk and rose out of flat paint, the entire field could revolve and the time-process of seeing made it so. (One of the enduring stupidities is the idea that painting does not involve time.)
The Cubists wanted to animate their paintings, to "breathe life into" them. Anima, breath. God breathed life into handfuls of clay, so we're told. The Abstract Expressionists also sought restlessness, elusive identity. Me, too.
Film is most often recording and infinitely valuable as such. Originally called "photoplay" the story-film competes with our personal dream-lives; where we end and the movies come in we can never know. But influenced by painting before it succumbed to marketing, I've been interested in what's vital or can be made to be vital within the techniqes of cinema itself. Most often I do use life-recordings but they have to endure all sorts of pryings and probings and adjusting to the medium. I get ideas as to where things can be taken and if an idea is crazy enough, off we go. Crazy is the territory artists must push into though preferably without losing themselves. My 3D, for instance, can never be taken for granted as simply a space where things can happen. It is what's happening. It asks for application from viewers, concentration and work on their part and the reward is revelation. Something happens, intrinsic to cinema yet never seen or experienced before. But a live mind (which is a hungry mind) must meet it.
Peter Kubelka speaks of how a life can only live off other lives; meat must be fresh, for instance, torn from its brain but still alive. Fresh cinema today! Get it while it's steaming....
I've been an animist for a long time. My criteria has always been is this painting or film or poem et cetera dead or alive? Has the transference of life been successful? or the electric cracklings for naught and only empty form on display, the leavings of someone going on their skills but less than excited about immersing themselves in the work, outasight as we used to say. People must imbue their art with who they are, a Picasso is what we call a work by Picasso and its where we can actually meet the person posturing in those awful photo-portraits, as corny as Dali.
The word spooked in my title: meaning, taken over and inhabited by the undead, and meant in the nicest way.
SON OF HANKY PANKY
After years of hospitalization, with brief hope-filled respites when my mother would return to Williamsburg only to sleep and sleep, Janice/Jerry Rosenthal/Jacobs died at age 27. I never was sure of her name yet rarely if ever called her Mom or Mommy. I liked her, though, and when she was home slept alongside her. Awake before her in the morning I'd listen to the street-sounds, pushcarts passing with steel-rimmed wheels
2012, and we are well into The Even Greater Depression. "This is where I came in, in 1933", I tell friends. But the only reason to even approach the subject here, USA as pirate lair and all that, is for the graphic possibilities.