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Monday, February 2, 2009

A Necessary Music Portrays Strange, Eerie Roosevelt Island on Film - And Wins An Award At Rotterdam Film Festival!

Still Image of A Necessary Music from Rotterdam International Film Festival

Remember A Necessary Music - the participatory public art film project that was filmed on and about Roosevelt Island last spring? According to the film's producers Beatrice Gibson and Alex Waterman:
A Necessary Music is a science fiction film about modernist social housing. A musically conceived piece, referencing the video operas of Robert Ashley, the film explores the social imaginary of a utopian landscape through directed attention to the voices that inhabit it.
Blogger More Milk Yvette reports that A Necessary Music:
... won a Tiger Short Film Award at the Rotterdam film festival - began with the camera moving horizontally across Manhattan, continuing out over the water and arriving, between Manhattan and Queens, at Roosevelt island. Home to the kind of historical conjunction that is god's gift to psychogeographers, the island's history combines a nineteenth century insane asylum with a little known Philip Johnson modernist social housing project.

Once on the island, Gibson's moving camera became more stationary, showing a series of still, sometimes repeating shots, of the island bus station, a near empty residential street, and the view back across the water to Manhattan. It established a sense of the island's atmosphere, whilst also highlighting the formality and constructed nature of what we were seeing. Roosevelt Island became a set of carefully composed images that puzzled rather than revealed its character. Or: Roosevelt Island was filmed in a way that physicalised ideas, ambitions, and hopes embedded, say, in Johnson's social housing project.
Ms. Gibson explains how the idea for the project got started:
I had ridden past Roosevelt Island on my bicycle and been immediately struck by it. Ive always been fascinated by modernist architecture, social housing in particular, and the island completely seduced me. Combining ideas to do with music, from listening, to scoring, to collective production, with ideas to do with ethnography people and place we set about at producing a film about the island
After viewing the film my first reaction was that A Necessary Music continued the fine cinematic tradition of Dark Water in portraying Roosevelt Island as a dark, strange and weird place. Ms. Gibson addressed that issues in this interview for the Rotterdam Film Festival:
What was the audience you had in mind?

I’m really not sure to be honest. i think mostly i was thinking of the islanders as it primary audience, i suppose the art world too if i’m really honest.i wanted to make a film with them and about them, that they might get something from. i think they did. the residents who acting in the film all came to the opening at the whitney and they loved it, i think it was quite special for them. we screened the film on the island as well and had a Q&A. it was an odd affair. some people hated it. they felt it completely misrepresented the island. they assumed that we would make a documentary, although we never said anything of the sort.
I think they felt let down that it seemed to be something else. they thought it was ugly and asked why we hadn’t filmed in spring when the flowers were out. others loved it and defended it, they said that we
were artists and that we had made a film about and against documentary. it caused quite a debate which was a great result, we should have filmed it really, included it. next time.
On balance, A Necessary Music was an interesting film and the producers were very nice people so congratulations on their award.