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Meet the Makers
Thursday, May 17 – 6:00 PM
The New York Public Library: Donnell Library Center
20 West 53rd Street – New York, NY – 10019
www.nypl.org – 212.621.0619
Filmmakers and multi-media artists Lynne Sachs and Susan Agliata will discuss their originally-conceived web-based, interactive project Abecedarium: NYC. An abecedarium is a book designed to teach the ABC’s; using this as a model, this interactive website is a semiotic exploration of NYC in the form of 26 one minute videos, and mounted on The New York Public Library’s web site. Ms. Sachs will also present and discuss some of her cine-essay works.
Recalling the mystery that the alphabet once was for all of us, Abecedarium: NYC uses animation and original video material to explore evocative relationships between words and their meanings. Inspired by the complex and dynamic history of books designed to teach the alphabet, Abecedarium: NYC encourages participants to reflect on the history, politics, and culture â€“ both above and below ground — of New York City through the exploration of a series of 26 unfamiliar, yet intriguing, words and their definitions.
Funded by the New York State Council on the Arts.
Susan and I ascend by car and then by foot to the top of Staten Island today, over 400 feet above sea level! We are not far from the comfortable, Italianate homes of Staten Island. The trees are looming, and we feel exhilarated by the sense of accomplishment that comes from reaching this burrough’s culminant point! To our surprise and joy there is actually a small, wood sign designating Todt Hill as the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard below Maine. In pursuit of a NYC-specific visualization of this word, I am becoming much more aware of the topography of our city. Now when I am looking from the Brooklyn Bridge across the harbor to the telephone tower on Todt Hill, I am able to imagine the lush, verdant hilltop woods below.
I just wanted to share a great experience I had on a shoot yesterday for Diglot.
Down the street from my apartment in Queens there is a fabulous street cart vendor aptly named King of Falafel & Shawarma who really does have the best of both.
The owner is an extremely exuberant Palestinian-American man who makes it his business to know everyone in the neighborhood.
I will be editing the footage and hope to have it up soon but in the meantime I wanted to share some still images with you all.
Just go to this URL for a photo gallery: http://www.abecedariumnyc.com/042807.html
For the most part, culminant is a root word meaning the highest point, though some older dictionaries allow this little, mono-syllabic word to stand all by herself. Susan and I like the sound of culminant and have invested an enormous amount of weight for the word in the rubric of Abecedarium:NYC. We are going to photograph the highest natural point in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island and the highest human-made point in Mahhatten (Of course with the Twin Towers gone, itâ€™s the Empire State Building).
The highest point in Brooklyn is Greenwood Cemetary. Today, I realize that our decision to make the shooting of culm a five-Burrough wide project has become absolutely daunting! I used to be almost deathly scared of cemeteries. When my girl scout troop offered to sweep autumn leaves from the grounds of the Memorial Gardens in Memphis, where I grew up, I begged to be excused from this odious good deed. I take my trembling nine-year-old daughter Noa to photograph the Revolutionary War statues in the cemetery. As we wind our way up the only real hill I have ever seen in our burrough, we realize that from this vantage point near 8th Avenue and 27th Street we are looking straight across the sky at the tops of buildings in downtown Manhattan.
See the map of this post from 500 25th St.
Another morning with a diglot, a Latin-rooted word that sounds more like a rare flying animal than a multi-lingual human being. Today I follow an Argentinean film archivist as she organizes a collection of 16mm films. I am appreciating the international quality of life here in New York, how easy it is to find a diglots who sometimes move with great effort and sometimes with astounding ease between the different worlds in which they work each and every day.
By choosing the word bibliomancy, I have forced myself to think long and hard about the investment we as humans have in the written word. Twenty years ago, I made a filmed entitled “Following the Object to Its Logical Beginning”, so I guess I’ve been fascinated with the power of the thing for a long time. With bibliomancy, the thing is the book and the book, in most cases, is holy. But, for those of us secular folks, committed to the magic and the mystery of telecommunications, the holy book has become the telephone book. It offers us access to the identities and locations of millions of other people â€“ people we might marry, people we might meet on a bus, people who are rich, people who are brilliant, people who are almost destitute, people who are no longer people but whose names still remain in the book. Faith in the book implies a belief in its ability to lead us to divine awareness, maybe even to see into the future. The shooting of a film for this word takes us to a basement where Susan Agliata and I photograph the flipping of a Manhattan telephone book while my daughters fan a feint breath across the pages. Later through Flash animation, a hundred names will tumble from the page.
I spend the morning videotaping a Chinese accountant who finds it absolutely hilarious that I have any interest whatsoever in her daily meanderings between Cantonese, Mandarin and English. When I tell her she is a diglot, a person who speaks two languages, and that this is something very special, worthy of â€œdocumentaryâ€? attention, she seems both dismissive and charmed.
I love factories, so I feel lucky to spend three hours in the world famous Steinway Piano Factory. It is almost impossible to believe that such an old world institution, producing some of the most sublime musical instruments on earth, is flourishing in the middle of Queens. Here hundreds of craftsmen hammer, bend, glue and tinker with the wood slats and the keys that comprise one Steinway piano. During our three-hour tour, we witness the meticulous step-by-step process. We record the musical cacophony created by the creation of these renowned musical instruments. These sounds will become our second sound addition to the audile archive of New York City noises to remember.
On a cold winter morning, Susan Agliata, my Abecedarium:NYC collaborator, and I visit this surprising burst of sculptural splendor. Modernism meets camp here mid-week, when no one else seems to remember that a symphony of East River wind chimes are beckoning the birds, the boats and the muses. With our microphones in hand, we reach up to the clouds and listen to a lovely, twisting, mobile sculpture as it produces exquisite, rhythmic, bell-like tones. This is our first of many Abecedarium recordings. We will create a sound map of New York City in which our website users will travel from burrough to burrough exploring this metropolis with their ears.