Saturday, September 5, 2009

Alan Berliner - 09/07/09

Alan Berliner was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1956. He is an experimental documentary filmmaker who makes work that is both honest to his experimental/artistic vision and popularly accessible and appealing. His work often stems from some subject of personal interest - his family (specifically his father in "Nobody's Business"), his insomnia ("Wide Awake") and even his own name ("The Sweetest Sound") - but Berliner has a natural ability to find the universal in the particular and so his work never seems unknowingly self-centered. The New York Times describes Berliner's work as "powerful, compelling and bittersweet... full of juicy conflict and contradiction, innovative in their cinematic technique, unpredictable in their structures... Alan Berliner illustrates the power of fine art to transform life."

interview with Alan Berliner

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Chess - Thursday 09/03/09


"I don't believe in psychology. I believe in good moves." - Bobby Fischer

" Man is a frivolous, a specious creature, and like a Chess player, cares more for the process of attaining his goal than for the goal itself." - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Morals Of Chess


Benjamin Franklin

The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions, for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it. By playing at Chess, then, we may learn:

1st: Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action, for it is continually occurring to the player, “If I move this Piece, what will be the advantage or disadvantage of my new situation? What use can my adversary make of it to annoy me? What other moves can I make to support it, and to defend myself from his attacks?”

2nd: Circumspection, which surveys the whole Chess-board, or scene of action, the relation of the several Pieces, their situations, and the dangers they are repeatedly exposed to, the several possibilities of their aiding each other, the probabilities that the adversary may make this or that move, and attack this or that Piece, and what different means can be used to avoid his stroke, or turn its consequences against him.

3rd: Caution, not to make our moves too hastily. This habit is best acquired by observing strictly the laws of the game, such as, if you touch a piece you must move it somewhere, and if you set it down, you must let it stand.

Therefore, it would be the better way to observe these rules, as the game becomes thereby more the image of human life, and particularly of war, in which, if you have incautiously put yourself into a bad and dangerous position, you cannot obtain your enemy’s leave to withdraw your troops and place them more securely, but you must abide by all the consequences of your rashness.

And, lastly, we learn Chess by the habit of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs, the habit of hoping for a favourable chance, and that of preserving in the search of resources. The game is so full of events, there is such a variety of turns in it, the fortune of it is so subject to vicissitudes, and one so frequently, after contemplation, discovers the means of extricating one’s self from a supposed insurmountable difficulty, that one is encouraged to continue the contest to the last, in hopes of victory from our skill, or, at least, from the negligence of our adversary, and whoever considers, what in Chess he often sees instances of, that success is apt to produce presumption and its consequent inattention, by which more is afterwards lost than was gained by the preceding advantage, while misfortunes produce more care and attention, by which the loss may be recovered, will learn not to be too much discouraged by any present successes of his adversary, nor to despair of final good fortune upon every little check he receives in the pursuit of it.

That we may, therefore, be induced more frequently to choose this beneficial amusement in preference of others, which are not attended with the same advantages, every circumstance that may increase the pleasure of it should be regarded, and every action or word that is unfair, disrespectful, or that in any way may give uneasiness should be avoided, as contrary to the immediate intention of both the parties, which is to pass the time agreeably.

1st: Therefore, if it is agreed to play according to the strict rules, then those rules are to be strictly observed by both parties, and should not be insisted upon for one side while deviated from by the other, for this is not equitable.

2nd: If it is agreed not to observe the rules exactly, but one party demands indulgences, he should then be as willing to allow them to the other.

3rd: No false move should ever be made to extricate yourself out of a difficulty, or to gain an advantage, for there can be no pleasure in playing with a man once detected in such unfair practice.

4th: If your adversary is long in playing, you ought not to hurry him, or express any uneasiness at his delay, not even by looking at your watch, or taking up a book to read; you should not sing, nor whistle, nor make a tapping with your feet on the floor, or with your fingers on the table, nor do anything that may distract his attention, for all these things displease, and they do not prove your skill in playing, but your craftiness and your rudeness.

5th: You ought not to endeavour to amuse and deceive your adversary by pretending to have made bad moves and saying you have now lost the game, in order to make him secure and careless, and inattentive to your schemes, for this is fraud and deceit, not skill in the game of Chess.

6th: You must not, when you have gained a victory, use any triumphing or insulting expressions, nor show too much of the pleasure you feel, but endeavour to console your adversary, and make him less dissatisfied with himself by every kind and civil expression that may be used with truth, such as, you understand the game better than I, but you are a little inattentive, or, you play too fast, or, you had the best of the game, but something happened to divert your thoughts and that turned it in my favour.

7th: If you are a spectator while others play, observe the most perfect silence, for if you give advice you offend both the parties: him against whom you give it, because it may cause him to lose the game, and him in whose favour you give it, because, though it be good and he follow it, he loses the pleasure he might have had if you had permitted him to think till it occurred to himself. Even after a move or moves you must not, by replacing the Pieces, show how they might have been placed better, for that displeases, and might occasion disputes or doubts about their true situation.

All talking to the players lessens or diverts their attention and is, therefore, unpleasing, nor should you give the least hint to either party, by any kind of noise or motion; if you do, you are unworthy to be a spectator.

If you desire to exercise or show your judgment, do it in playing your own game, when you have an opportunity, not in criticizing, or meddling with, or counseling the play of others.

Lastly, if the game is not to be played rigorously, according to the rules before mentioned, then moderate your desire of victory over your adversary, and be pleased with one over yourself.

Snatch not eagerly at every advantage offered by his unskillfulness or inattention, but point out to him kindly that by such a move he places or leaves a Piece en prise unsupported, that by another he will put his King into a dangerous situation, etc.

By this general civility (so opposite to the unfairness before forbidden) you may happen indeed to lose the game, but you will win what is better: his esteem, his respect, and his affection, together with the silent approbation and good will of the spectators


It is still in the conception stage, but I am working on a project involving an unscripted "lecture" on learning (specifically operant conditioning) to be delivered during the course of an informal chess match. I've chosen the chess game as my shooting "location" because it is often considered to be an educational tool and yet it is a silent pursuit, making it an unlikely situation for dialogue. I am exploring the undercurrents of competition in the teacher/student dynamic; two people who are necessarily at odds, pitting wits and employing strategy to survive and prove oneself.

Clay Stop Motion Chess Game

Six Books – 09/02/09

Six Books – 09/02/09

- Fiction: The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster

Juster explores the imagination by way of a transformative journey. While I do not consider myself to be a fan of fantasy I can appreciate the fantastic. I particularly like the idea of how something can become fantastic when juxtaposed with something ordinary. Milo is ordinary, living a humdrum existence and seemingly immune to his own imagination. It takes a series of events and a suspension of disbelief in order for Milo to overcome himself enough to drive headlong into the unknown. This book relates to my work in that it deals with the ideas of aided (in this case reluctant) self-discovery and the physical journey as an emotionally transformative process.

Juster, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth. New York: Random House, 1961.

- Non-Fiction: Landscape and Memory – Simon Schama

I was taken with this book years ago simply because of the title. I liked the idea that memory could have a location or be held within a landscape instead of just within the mind. I didn’t read the book at the time because it is pretty heavy with history and I wasn’t willing to pick through the information to find something of use. When I took the book up this time, it seemed suddenly more accessible. Schama is concerned with man’s impression of and on his environment. He explores landscape as a work of the mind, “a repository of the memories and obsessions of the people who gaze upon it.” This is relevant to my work because I am looking for foundations upon which to apply the layers (voice, sound, hopefully the human figure) of my work. I hope to broaden my scope beyond the up-close and fuzzy… to the far away and out-of-focus (?)

Schama, Simon. Landscape and Memory. New York: Vintage, 1995.

- Painter: Gerhard Richter: Landscapes

I am interested in a lot of Richter’s work but his handling of landscapes is particularly captivating because of their emptiness, unreality and illusory qualities. They’re all on the verge of disappearing – like the locus of memory. Looking at them I imagine human figures interacting with the landscape, voices telling the story of what happened there – or what happened once, somewhere else. I particularly relate to Richter’s desire to take a classical form – the landscape painting – and make it expand beyond mere depiction. Richter writes, “Painting is the making of an analogy for something non-visual and incomprehensible: giving it form and bringing it within reach.”

Elger, Dietmar ed. Gerhard Richter – Landscapes. New York: D.A.P., 1998.

- Photographer: Eileen Neff: between us

Eileen Neff originally took photographs as studies for paintings, the medium in which she was formally trained. I think that is the appeal of this work to me as I feel that my short films (at this point, anyway) are studies in human interaction and experience. The landscape appears again as a preoccupation for Neff and she often collapses the barrier between interior and exterior spaces, sometimes layering the two to abstract effect. Her work often references poetry and literature as well as having cinematic qualities – all of which make it particularly interesting to me. Her images manage to be both ordinary and transcendent – an effect to which I aspire.

Neff, Eileen. between us, Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, 2007.

- Sculptor: Joseph Cornell – Navigating the Imagination

Editing film and video has a lot in common with collage or assemblage; both seek to bring together elements – often disparate – cohesively and to illuminating effect. Cornell’s sculptural collages are fascinating to me for their nostalgia of artifact, use of metaphor and abstraction, and juxtaposition of object, picture and text. It is not surprising that he was influenced by Surrealism and went on to make experimental films. His boxes are rich with narrative potential, each one a story in itself or a scene from a larger narrative.

Hartigan, Lynda Roscoe. Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination. Salem,

Massachusetts: Peabody Essex Museum, 2007.

- Multi-Media (filmmaker): Abbas Kiarostami - Taste of Cherry (film)

Walking with the Wind: poems

Kiarostami’s work is haunting, deep and wide. I had not discovered his poems until this assignment and I am intrigued by their simplicity, vivid imagery and haiku-like brevity. His poems, like his cinematic compositions are simple but evocative. Each poem is a picture or a meditation that quietly paints a world-view. In Laura Mulvey’s essay, this quietness or “stillness” is explored. I am drawn to Kiarostami’s work not only aesthetically but thematically as well. He takes on grand human themes and emotion but explores them in deceptively un-dramatic ways. Taste of Cherry grapples with life and death – and virtually nothing happens during the course of the film. A man goes for a drive. A man will commit suicide. These are parallel events in the life of this man – not of equal significance but somehow of equal weight.

Kiarostami, Abbas. Walking with the Wind. Boston: Harvard Film Archive, 2001.

Mulvey, Laura. Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image. London: Reaktion

Books, 2006.


Hi Anne,

Lots of first posts here on Herzog...wonderful.

I have a request as far as formatting future posts. If you can try to consolidate all of the information into one post, it will help keep the blog more organized and easier to read/ search as it gathers information. Your Herzog entries come up as 10 individual entries/posts. You can imagine if we continue on this style of information input for two years the blog could end up being thousands of posts and confusing. It is possible to embed more than one video and image into a single posting which would lower the number entiries (Herzog would be 1 single but expansive post).

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Werner Herzog - Biography - Monday 8/31

Werner Herzog (Werner H. Stipetic) was born September 5 1942 in Munich, Germany. He is primarily a filmmaker but has also writes prose and screenplays, directs operas, and acts. He is considered to be of the German New Wave Movement (along with Fassbinder, Wenders and others). Herzog takes an unconventional stance on filmmaking, particularly that of the documentary ilk. He has a great dislike for cinema verite and believes that facts do not denote truth. He aims to express an "ecstatic truth" in his films and often blends documentary and narrative techniques to accomplish this goal. ""Film," Herzog insists, "is not the art of scholars, but of illiterates," and it is not surprising that his work has aroused contradictory responses. Those who are fascinated by his awe-inspiring landscapes and enigmatic heroes see him as a poet whose work is haunting, sublime and mysterious; others see him as a mystic-or worse, as a mystifier - whose films are regressive, self-indulgent and naïvely romantic."

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe - Les Blank - Monday 8/31

while this is not actually a Herzog film it's relevant to me in so many ways...

Herzog - ecstatic truth & poetry - Monday 8/31

Herzog - Kaspar Hauser (question of logic) - Monday 8/31

Herzog - Kaspar Hauser (smart apple) - Monday 8/31

Herzog - "Stroszek" - Dancing Chicken Clip - Monday 8/31

Herzog - Nobody Wants To Play with Me (part2) 1976 - Monday 8/31

Herzog gets shot with an air rifle - Monday 8/31

Herzog Interview on Henry Rollins Show - Monday 8/31