Monday, September 28, 2009


Milestones is a 3hr 30 minute long docu-drama about a network of 60's radicals in 1975. The radicals are all friends of the filmmaker, I think. They are approaching middle age, and are still invested in "political struggle" and "alternative lifestyles" ("counterculture"), but seem increasingly aware of being marginal / inconsequential. I enjoyed the film, especially the more fucked-seeming characters.

I felt comparatively far less fucked.

The DVD was regionally encoded for France, so I had to watch it on my computer. The sound was so bad in parts that I could not determine what was being said. The picture likewise, was extremely shitty. I watched the whole thing in one evening, in two sittings, after dragging my couch over to my desk to make it more comfortable. During part of the film I was reading about Robert Kramer on his website. Robert Kramer died in 1999. I doubt he ever made much money from his work; I doubt he will ever reach a broad audience. His story seems as much a part of the viewing experience as anything happening onscreen. He is / was, as his characters are, totally committed to his lifestyle and cause, and totally fucked, career-wise.

I had heard about the birth scene from Milestones from my friend beforehand, so I was sort of expecting it to happen and vaguely dreading it. At around the three hour mark the pregnant character goes into the hospital and there is some dispute over which kind of room she is going to get, the expensive one or the cheap one. There is a very long build up to the actual birth, with shots of them soaping up the pregnant woman and her breathing. I was growing anxious and a little bit uncomfortable, and considered skipping ahead. I stuck through it though. After the baby came out everybody in the room kind of broke into celebration. My eyes were watering. It was an amazing feeling that I had never felt before while watching a movie; probably the same feeling people try to describe after they have seen their loved ones give birth - the 'miracle of life' feeling.

I would recommend Milestones to grad students, political activists, underground artists and writers, and anybody who has held an ideology that is irreconcilable with participation in economically generative activities.

If you are interested in Milestones, email me your address and I can mail you a French region burned DVD.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sarah Anne Johnson

Sarah Anne Johnson was a Yale photography grad student at around the time, I think, that Yale's photography school was 'incredibly well regarded.' Not that Yale is no longer strong, but I feel like there was a photography thing that was happening in the art world around that time that was very Yale-driven.

*I don't feel qualified to talk about photography*

Seems like there was a Jeff Wall type thing going on, a "constructed," "photographs are like paintings" thing, and then a Wolfgang Tillmans thing, which was something else, a messier thing, not as concerned with what is inside the frame and how to manipulate that.

I think Sarah bridged those two things, the Jeff Wall thing and the Wolfgang Tillmans thing, in a way, with her Yale thesis project. She built dioramas of situations she recalled from her experiences as a tree planter in Northern Manitoba and mixed them with actual documentary style photos from planting. The show was hung in a less traditional manner, with some photos bigger than others, and some on top of the others.

The show received a positive review from the New York Times. Later the photographs were purchased by the Guggenheim.

This success, to my mind, is the only occurrence of representation of 'tree planting' in a high art, sophisticated, international context.


Sarah's success and her story allow me to think about the interpretation of 'tree planting'; how the art world responded to 'tree planting'.

I feel like one of the primary concerns of my film will be "finding a marketable film," or "finding a marketable way of representing 'tree planting' to people who do not know anything about tree planting."


I recently went to Sarah's new show with my camera. It had been listed on Jerry Saltz's "fall shows he is looking forward to" list, and I figured I would go there and try to talk to Sarah and her gallerist about tree planting.

I think things are really coming together for the film. I am continually pushing myself into situations that make me incredibly uncomfortable, and it feels really good.

I will be travelling to Vancouver, Prince George and Oregon in October.