November 15th, 2006


Seasonally expressive

It's November, and you have Novemberitis, don't you? Season affective disorder. A deep sense of emptiness, abandonment and futility which only art or tantric sex can fill. Well, what are you doing for the next fourteen hours? No, we're not going to have tantric sex. I'll tell you what you're doing. Here's the thing. You're going to spend the next fourteen hours watching -- and being utterly lifted and inspired by -- these seven two-hour films by the wonderful Robert Ashley. He made them in the 1970s with composer friends like Philip Glass, Alvin Lucier, Pauline Oliveros and Terry Riley. The first hour of each piece is an unconventionally-filmed interview, the second a music performance.

You're going to do this and, like the man in the early Laurie Anderson song "Structuralist Filmmaking" (one of my picks when Kenneth Goldsmith from asked me to select my Top 10 Resources from the site last month), you're suddenly going to realize that -- well, let me print the whole lyric:

"I had this dream, and in it my mother was sitting there cutting out pictures of hamsters from magazines. And in some of the pictures the hamsters are pets, and in some of them hamsters are just somewhere in the background. And she's got a whole pile of these cedar chips -- you know the kind, the kind from the bottom of hamster cages -- and she's gluing them into the frames of the pictures. She glues them together, and frames the pictures and then hangs them over the fireplace. That's more or less her method. And suddenly I realize that this is just her way of explaining to me that I should become a structuralist filmmaker. Which I had, you know, planned to do anyway."

That's right, these fourteen hours are going to make you a structuralist filmmaker. Or whatever, you know, you had been planning to do anyway.

Speaking of Laurie Anderson, though, if you're seasonally sad you might want to avoid France Culture's two part Laurie Anderson sound diary, Nothing in my pockets. Although it's interesting to be a fly on the wall as Laurie goes with Lou Reed to Sri Lanka to try ayurvedic massage, it's somewhat depressing if, like me, you love her early, funny pieces.