March 31, 2010 § Leave a Comment
The age of the Internet has allowed people to create connections based on many different factors — political interest, sexuality, religious interest, hobbies, even favorite TV shows. Imagine the digital implications for social order if we included citizenship as one of the options.
We no longer allow geography to control who we can talk to, what entertainment we can partake of, what news we can read, what food we can eat or what goods we can buy. Why in the world do we still adhere to this arcane rule that we should be citizens of the country that we were physically born in?
There are lots of reasons to advocate other modes of citizenship, but the biggest one is political disagreement — and what a waste of time it is.
Not agreeing with your country’s politics is a major pain, as any Republican who opposed health care reform can tell you. It’s going to grate on them every time coverage is not denied them because of a pre-existing condition — and who can blame them? Wouldn’t it be nice if these Republicans could just live in a country where they don’t have to organize rowdy tea parties in order to have their voices heard?
Progressive liberals can surely see things from the Republican point of view in this matter. Wouldn’t they be happier just to live in a country that had a public option? Who wants to battle for this when you can just sign on somewhere else?
The one thing that could solve this problem — serious state secession movements — aren’t likely to happen anytime soon. Despite the wishes of some of us, neither Texas nor New England will be splitting off into conservative or liberal independent countries anytime soon.
I think we can all agree that the political tug of war is exhausting and does not often result in anything any of us actually want. The health care reform is just the latest example of that. Wouldn’t it be nicer to live in a country that you agreed with and leave the perpetual political tugs of war behind — one where you could expend that energy toward the positives of your personal life?
Imagine that — living in a political and economic system of your choosing, not based on the luck of the womb.
This is where the Internet helps out. In such a worldwide system, there would be your country of citizenship and your country of residence. The lucky ones would be residents in the countries they choose to be citizens of, but practicality dictates this won’t happen for everyone. Regardless, your rate of taxation, the way you vote, your health care rights, investment regulations — everything having to do with the process of citizenship — would be handled through your online citizenship account.
Offline, you would be responsible for adhering to the laws of your country of residence when outside of your house or apartment. Inside, it’s like a consulate — part of the soil of your country of citizenship.
Let’s say medical marijuana is legal in your country of citizenship — that’s the law that applies inside your home. Outside your abode, you’re might just have to suffer the pain of your malady if your country of residence says you must.
Each country would have its estimated capacity of citizenship, because some would be quite popular. There would be waiting lists, with tiers of citizenship choices taken into account. Let’s say you wanted Canada, but it was all full up — you had to wait for someone to cancel citizenship or die. You could, say, become a citizen of Sweden until such time as a Canadian slot opened up.
You might even be able to have a little fun with it. Maybe you choose to be a citizen of the United Kingdom, but with a sub-citizenship of Scotland. You could then join the Scottish secessionist party — that is, the Scottish Nationalist Party — and should Scotland ever get to split off, you could then become a Scottish citizen! It’s like a computer game that only requires marginal participation in the game play.
Savvy countries might even create virtual space that less resembles Facebook and more Second Life, where citizens can inhabit an animated virtual country of citizenship.
Say you pick Greece, but you don’t have the means to move there — you’re trapped in Pittsfield. There would at least be a sunny, romantic virtual Greece that you could log onto when the New England winters get you down. This would also provide an opportunity to design a personal avatar adorned in the native attire of your country of citizenship — more fun to an already thrilling process.
Of course there will be some countries that won’t fair so well, like Nigeria or Pakistan or Colombia. Free market citizenship might make them more competitive in order to get those citizens — maybe special deals on human rights, or investment opportunities.
Even if your average Nigerian isn’t able to swing citizenship in the United States, certainly there would be openings in Lichtenstein or Greenland, which are surely just as nice and probably far less of a hassle.
Come to think of it, I might even opt for Greenland. Even in virtual citizenship, I prefer small groups.
March 29, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Artist Erin Ko’s work centers around China — and now some of her creative time does as well. Ko currently has a show in Beijing, following a residency in the city — and there’s much more to come.
Her show, “Free Money,” is featured at Imagine Gallery in Beijing through March. She resides locally in the Eclipse Mill.
Ko’s imagery pulls from the classic Maoist imagery that Americans equate with the old-fashioned communist era of the mid 20th century and mixes it up with symbols of good, old-fashioned American consumption. In her work, you might encounter a mash-up of American and Chinese money or the encroachment of McDonald’s emblems on the propagandist imagery of the communist government.
Ko says the remnants of these images are only really seen in China as kitschy tourist items — a consumer commodity that speaks to her larger thesis of the transformation of Chinese culture into something closer to the American one she grew up with.
“It’s the kind of imagery that seems to hit a nerve in the American psyche,” she said, “I think because people are still from 1950s and before, they have this notion about communism — even to the degree that they don’t know how to separate that from socialism. They don’t really know what these things are, and so I feel like it’s a very easy way for me to get an emotional reaction.” « Read the rest of this entry »
March 27, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Eddie Campbell has made his mark all over the world of comics with his distinctive and evocative, scratchy drawing style that reached its fullest potential in “From Hell,” Alan Moore’s epic and meticulous fictional study of Jack the Ripper. The later — and dreadful — film adaptation of the graphic novel proved just how integral Campbell was to the presentation with its inability to replicate the tone and animation created by his visuals.
Campbell’s life work, though, is a series of autobiographical strips and graphic novels about Alec McGarry, the artist’s alter ego, a heavy-drinking Scotsman with a philosophical air. Campbell’s “Alec” stories unfold like a beat poet verse — immediate and wandering, in the exact moment of which it speaks, and snaking in such a way that it allows the present to wind itself around the poem as it searches for the future. This tactic allows the reader to pretty much live Alec’s life alongside him, in the same philosophical and drunken haze that he brings to his own experiences.
The massive “Alec: The Years Have Pants” — 640 pages covering 30 years of a man’s life, released by Top Shelf Productions — collects years of Campbell’s stories in one volume, a sprawling documentary of the life of an accomplished artist and storyteller that lays itself out real time.
The earlier stories, which chronicle Alec’s years as a young drunk having flings, drinking too much and earning money as a sheet metal worker, happen in real time, without the knowledge of what would become of the boy. That immediacy is part of the power behind the storytelling. With each subsequent installment, it’s up to Campbell to draw the connections himself — literary retrospect doubles for the way the mind builds its own themes in a personal recollection.
Campbell’s improv poetry style of narration creates a variation of word association that utilizes actions and ideas in order to make sense of it all by mixing it up. It’s all presented in the cluttered mien of an amiable drunk sitting next to you at the bar, doing his best not to jumble the events as he attempts to relate them.
The collection takes us through the decades to Alec’s later — that is, current — years as an artist and family man, thus widening the circle. As such, the Alec stories are a beer-fueled — and later on, wine-fueled — “Finnegan’s Wake” for the autobiographical comics set, and one that deserves much attention beyond the world of graphic novels. It’s garnered the attentions of NPR and the Boston Globe as a major and brilliant autobiographical work — let’s hope the real world continues to notice.
March 27, 2010 § Leave a Comment
There is something jarring about the intimacy of John Porcellino’s “Map of My Heart,” from Canadian publisher Drawn and Quarterly. It’s not any big revelations that give it that quality — rather the earnestness about his life’s smallest moments, as well as those observed regarding others.
Porcellino offers slices that usually have no punchline — nor denouement of any kind — and in their open-endedness perfectly capture what each moment of life is like for any of us. At no point does any person know what comes next, and Porcellino’s narrative captures this reality, creating little isolated sections of our larger, conscious movements that put an artistic microscope on the specific emotions of that specific moment.
Porcellino’s tales are realized not only through his spare journaling, but also brief zen-like fables and moments of spare poetry. Setting the tone for his work, though, is his simplistic cartooning — to describe him as unskilled is not an insult, merely a hint at the outsider quality to his work that makes it more vibrant. Any strip in “Map of My Heart” is the sort of thing you might find rendered on a stray piece of paper you find in the street, or in a box of someone else’s recycling that you decided to rifle through in the hope of find old New Yorker issues. It’s this quality to the artwork that gives the book a feeling that we are not meant to see this work, that these are entries between Porcellino and himself — and that only strengthens the allure.
Porcellino began self-publishing his King-Cat Comics in 1989, the beginning of the ‘90s zine boom, and this collection captures well the spirit of that do-it-yourself era that predated blogs. In this manner, it’s not only the autobiography of some guy, but also a chronicle of a medium and movement that passed as quickly as it came.
March 22, 2010 § Leave a Comment
For a while there, it seemed like Johnny Cash was relegated to being a remnant of your grandparents’ pop culture — yet another old country singer delivering the same old Nashville clichés as any other.
But in the early 1990s, he hooked up with producer Rick Rubin — at the time best known as rap and metal producer — and began to record tracks for what would become his most important album in years — “American Recordings.” This not only reinvigorated his career and creativity, but also re-established him as the brooding man in black who is constantly on the run from his own darkness.
Johnny Cash was cool again.
It’s probably no mistake that in the 1990s, even as Kurt Cobain self-destructed in real time in front of everybody’s eyes, that the dark heroes of yesteryear were being trotted out as relevant again.
Frank Sinatra certainly benefited greatly from this — all of a sudden, he was getting his due with the younger generation, and the troubled Sinatra of the Capitol years was the Sinatra of preference. “New York, New York” was to be ignored — “Angel Eyes” was to be embraced.
Dean Martin found himself in a similar situation, thanks to a biography by Nick Tosches that framed his life and his psyche within the American mystique of booze and mobsters. The problem with Sinatra and Martin — and others who got the same opportunity during that decade — was that they weren’t prepared to match their revived cool cache with new work that seized on why the public had decided to look their direction again.
Johnny Cash, on the other hand, rose to the creative challenge and won, remarkably.
It’s Cash’s persona as not only a dark rebel, but also a can-do one, that defines German artist Reinhard Kleist’s graphic novel biography of the singer, “Johnny Cash: I See A Darkness,” published by Abrams. Tracing Cash through his childhood and up to the concert at Folsom Prison — then taking a leap into the future and ending with the Rick Rubin sessions — Kleist captures a man burdened by his ghosts and acting out in his life, but not letting those problems stop him from focusing on his great talent and harnessing that into opportunities.
Kleist rolls out Cash’s life not just as a series of actual events, but as a psychological and artistic space in which Cash inhabits the stories that his songs tell. Through dream-like sequences, Cash does kill a man in Reno just to watch him die — he does battle the world after being named Sue, and he does run from ghost riders in the sky who chase him down.
But that’s the power of Cash — and any great singer — the ability to make any song their own, to put it in a context where the emotions or experiences related in the lyrics sound autobiographical. In this way, a good singer is not just a good storyteller but also a good actor, and Cash was able to play the role of the Man in Black to great effectiveness.
But as Kleist makes clear, the role also had a way of taking over, and it’s this struggle that is at the center of Cash’s story, as well as the artistic endeavor to balance the role with the man, to utilize the role that is within the man to create great work while not letting it also pull the strings of the personal life.
That is why the “American Recordings” sessions are so important — Cash finally achieved that balance and control after years of dipping to both extremes. Kleist does a wonderful job at telling the story of a man through the incidents of his life, but he does a better one at capturing the flavor of his soul.
March 19, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Filmmaker Penny Lane has taken her experimental video-making and passed it along to her students at Williams College — as with any good experimental art, she was surprised by what her students came up with.
Lane’s class, “Experimental Television Production,” gave her the chance to pass on her expertise in the area — and discover how differently those younger than she viewed television as a medium.
The students created the experimental comedy show, “The Mountains,” which aired on Willinet Community Access and can still be viewed online.
“I really think that the students were unconsciously thinking about what television is in the age of the Internet,” said Lane, “because what they really made was a lot of Internet videos, and they could show each one separately — each one stands on its own.”
“The Mountains” was the result of Lane’s efforts to teach her students traditional live television production in their Williams studio and the students’ decision to ditch the formal lessons in favor of a format that reflected their generation’s standards.
“They were good, and they learned it, and they did all the exercises, and then they pitched their show to me, and it had nothing to do with the studio, absolutely nothing,” Lane said. “I was like oh, OK, so you don’t want to do anything in the studio, and they said, ‘No, it’s kind of outdated. We want to do a reality TV show.’”
Specifically, the students wanted to do a collection of shorter comedy videos that were strung together — they later worked on a framing device for the show — rather than the more traditional cable-access type format, like a public affairs discussion show or some form of call-in show.
Lane — who viewed herself more as an advisor on an independent study than a teacher harnessing her students into a set curriculum — helped them divvy up into groups to arrange the production and usher it into reality. While the format of the show didn’t turn out quite as she expected, the spirit of the creativity did.
“You have this impression that television is slick, and you have this production value that’s required, and all these rules about what TV can and can’t be, and I really wanted them to embrace the cable-access aesthetic — the DIY, whatever you can do is what you can do, embrace your limitations and make something of them anyway kind of idea — which is not an idea that my students are used to applying to TV,” Lane said. “Maybe to video, but not to TV, so they were really excited that there was a local station where they could make work that would air it. It became very much about ‘experimental’ in terms of not being bound by what they thought TV was.” « Read the rest of this entry »
March 18, 2010 § Leave a Comment
The basic conundrum of modern life can be summed up in one absurd proclamation: I’m starting a blog about how I don’t spend all my time online.
Becoming an anti-Internet Luddite certainly has its appeal, but what’s the point in doing it if no one knows you are doing it? Self-satisfaction is great, sure — moving off the grid should be its own reward — but making your actions known seems to be the No. 1 reason anyone does anything anymore.
The glut of “My Year” books speaks to that — has there been a “My Year Offline” memoir yet? If there hasn’t been, there should be — in fact, it would be a brilliant opportunity to “live Tweet” the year spent offline and compile those into a book. That book would probably be owned by Google, however.
Saying you are going to live offline at this point in modern history is a bit like saying you refuse to breath American air if you live in Cleveland — it’s just the atmosphere; it’s neutral.
The Internet is indeed nothing more than a communicative networking tool, like The Bible is just a book — it’s what we do with it that counts. Being online was not so much an issue 10 years ago, when the Internet existed, and was enthusiastically used, but did not encompass the whole of our daily existence. Nowadays, it creeps in everywhere. E-readers — otherwise known as the next big gadget — come equipped for Internet access, so that now you no longer have the burden of concentrating on what you read; you finally have something to divert you away from the object of your attention.
You also don’t have to pay attention to your basic surroundings, thanks to the various smart-phones available. Though it’s still minority behavior, it’s common enough to notice people out in public, walking along and texting at the same time. Would it surprise you to find out that they while they are outside walking, they are checking to see what the weather is like? It wouldn’t surprise me, and that speaks to the essential problem here: It is no longer enough to feel the weather yourself; you need an expert to tell you the temperature and conditions. That makes it official — like blogging about being offline.
There is no newspaper of record anymore — just a World Wide Web. It’s Google that I’ve been struggling with most lately. They give you free and nicely functional e-mail, the trade-off being that they can scan your correspondence for data. They give you online programs for spreadsheets to crunch your numbers and documents to write reports or stories or whatever — in other words, taking your offline life and putting it online.
Through Google Calendar, your plans and actions are made trackable. Through Google Buzz, they are trying to take whatever mundane conversations happen through services like Facebook and Twitter and transfer the smalltalk to their own network.
They have two different ways to read the news — that is, take in current information, thus leaving an electronic trail of your interests — through GoogleNews or Google Reader, take your pick. Through their convoluted Google Books effort, they are trying to compress all world data into one centralized virtual library, so that even the moments usually spent browsing among the dusty stacks in private will soon be done through their network.
Sound paranoid? Maybe. But I should point out that I am typing out these thoughts even as I live in a country that fights almost every centralized service that comes its way, from income tax to national health care. The only thing we are terrible at standing up against is the consolidation of our media, and that includes the Internet.
We live in the sort of era where having a Yahoo e-mail, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a WordPress blog, all count as little acts of defiance that keep one company from consolidating all the digital parts that make you. Google might own all world knowledge, but it doesn’t have to own every aspect of your life. There is a certain power in fragmentation.
Much like The Bible, even if Google has started off as a well-intentioned boon to mankind, there is no control of its trajectory in the future. We don’t have access to its documents, spreadsheets or calendar, and therefore no say in who has access to our private lives a century down the line.
The question is: If we are able to chatter about the demise of our personal space in Google Buzz, is that the same as actually having that personal space — or do we just perceive it that way?
March 17, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Like “Village of the Damned” without the science fiction element — and with a lot more darkness — Michael Heneke’s “The White Ribbon” presents a small-town drama in which the children seem to be at the center of the intrigue. Unlike that film — and most others — Heneke prefers not to spell things out, but instead to allow suspicion to loom around the story like an ominous mist.
Set in a small German village just prior to World War I, “The White Ribbon” presents a community with the appearance of order but with seismic shifts that threaten to crumble the surface, shaking the stance of the solid citizens who depend on its surety.
The film starts with a strange assault — the local doctor, while biking home, is overturned and injured badly. Sent away, the mystery does anything but unravel — in fact, it sits right there where it happened and barely moves forward. The police investigate, but frustration quickly sets in when the only witnesses — women — can’t give their accounts the righteous coherency the investigators desire.
From there, mysterious events dot the landscape over the course of the next year, told partly from the vantage point of the schoolmaster (Christian Friedel) and partly from intimate exposés of the private lives of the families he serves, offering more context for the viewer, though fewer solid answers. The schoolmaster attempts to pursue his own heart, even as those of everyone around him sink. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 12, 2010 § Leave a Comment
The performance troupe Phantom Limb is set to combine puppetry, dance and music to recount the Antarctic adventures of Ernest Shackleton in the show “69 Degrees South: The Shackleton Project.”
Following a developmental residency at Mass MoCA, the show will premiere at the museum Saturday, March 13, at 8 p.m.
The troupe is lead by Erik Sanko, a former member of the Lounge Lizards, and installation artist Jessica Grindstaff. Music for the piece will be the result of a collaboration with the Kronos Quartet.
Shackleton famously set out to conquer the continent of Antarctica in the early 20th century and met with a disaster that was all the more remarkable for the fact that no one died, but he was part of several expeditions approaching the South Pole and gathering scientific data.
Phantom Limb’s interest in the expedition was to examine both the site of the exploration and the nature of that act, especially in context of the human reaction to disaster.
“Obviously the moment of crisis for Ernest Shackleton was, the moment when he tried to cross the continent of Antarctica, there was an early freeze and his ship was stuck in the ice and ultimately crushed by the ice and it sank,” Grindstaff said during an interview this week. “We’re looking at what is the moment of crisis now, and climate change is what we’re looking at, among many other things, like the financial crisis.
“There are many things going on in the world, but even in the past month or two months, even as we started working on this, there are these natural disasters happening all over,” she added. “We can argue whether they’re related or not related, but what we’re really interested in is the way people come together around a crisis and how you react to it and what you bring — and what is gained from it, rather than what is lost from it.”
The duo is also fascinated by the juxtaposition of exploration a century ago and currently — it still requires the same amount of bravery, but the method and intent has changed. Previously, exploration was an act of discovery, often for the purpose of mapping an area. Nowadays, Antarctic exploration centers on research, much of it in regard to climate change. Once the providence of hardy adventurers, it’s now a field dominated by scientists.
“Physically, the nature of exploration has changed because of advancements in technology, and during the era of Shackleton, the explorers were out there in the environment they were interested in — as much as they could be without causing themselves physical harm — and collecting data,” Sanko said. “Now the scientists are certainly excited to be in the environment as much as they can, but they can access the data remotely, so their relationship becomes one step removed from the actual physical environment. They set up probes and monitors in these much more inaccessible spots than men of Shackleton’s era could reach. For instance, under the sea ice or in the volcanoes. The scientists now have a relationship with the technology as well as the environment — and they can do this year round, depending on the weather conditions.”
Part of the duo’s development for the show involved a visit to Antarctica, through a grant from the National Science Foundation, which offers artists and writers the opportunity to work alongside scientists. It took Grindstaff six months to fill out the application — its complexity is largely due to the fact that artists need to fill out the same information as the scientists who apply.
“I thought to myself, first, that there’s no way I’m going to get it because it’s so difficult, but I also thought that if I don’t get this, then I have to give up in general, because I gave it everything I had, and if I gave it everything I had and it wasn’t good enough, then it was going to be pretty upsetting,” said Grindstaff.
Sanko and Grindstaff were required to go for the Antarctic summer, which is roughly October through February, making their way to New Zealand and then taking an Air Force cargo plane down to McMurdo Station, where they would stay for three weeks.
“I felt it would actually be helpful for me to go and see the topography in person, and particularly to see the light, and also, though it sounds kind of hippie, to feel the energy of the space,” Grindstaff said.
She had read not only Shackleton’s firsthand account of visits but also those of other Antarctic explorers, and found that they always mention an “otherness” that they felt, as if another figure were there with them. She wanted to encounter this for herself and do her best to translate that for the stage.
“These guys were walking across this continent, and on their death bed they always mentioned that they felt another presence,” Grindstaff said. “You can interpret that in a lot of ways — I’m not a particularly religious person, so I didn’t go the God route, but I wanted to go see if I could see what that was or feel what that was and get a sense of what was happening. Almost from the point I got off the airplane, I got it. It’s very indescribable and hard to put into words, so it’s a good thing that I’m an artist, but it’s probably going to be hard to translate onstage.”
Another purpose for their visit was for Sanko to record the sounds of the continent in order to incorporate them into the musical performance. Eventually, they hope to include a turntablist in the performance to play the sounds live with the music. More immediately, the Kronos Quartet wants to replicate the sounds with its instruments.
Sanko has synesthesia, a disorder in which the senses are confused, and this helped him experience Antarctica very differently from the way others might. For him, as well as other people with the condition, colors are perceived as sounds.
“In being a musician, this was a great advantage, or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it,” Sanko said. “Visual palettes, to me, are very immediately translated into this audio palette, and it helps me very much in guiding the tonality. Even though people think of Antarctica as mostly white with some speckled dark spots, it’s a really rich, nuanced color scheme there. Because it’s so narrow, in one respect, you start to see so many subtleties and variations in there, both texturally and from a hue perspective. To me, that’s super rich and cool to draw from, harmonically.”
Sanko said the condition has become less pronounced as he has aged — experiences for him were far more intense as a child — and his years living with it have created an ease of use for him. Capturing the colors that he hears still takes a lot of work.
“A lot of it is just ‘Oh it has to sound just like this’ — from the way that the colors move and the way that the landscape is shaped, it writes itself,” he said. “Having said that, there’s definitely a lot of work that I have to do shaping that. It’s not easily translatable. It’s very vague. It’s very pronounced in a way, but it’s very amorphous. It’s more like a feeling than a specific group of notes.”
During their stay in Antarctica, the duo got to meet firsthand the modern-day explorers they had been giving so much thought to in their work. McMurdo’s population is composed of military in charge of facilitating the station, scientists doing research and a large support crew. Sanko and Grindstaff found them all inspiring.
“We met all of these people, all totally brilliant and interesting, from the janitors to the scientists,” Grindstaff said, “because most of the people who are there are interested in science, and that’s why they chose to be a cook there or whatever.”
The visit gave Sanko and Grindstaff the opportunity to learn firsthand about the subjects of research, which yielded a lot of information about the landscape beyond their initial experience. They were also able to observe the movements of scientists in order to incorporate those into the choreography of the dancers in the performance.
For Grindstaff, it was also an opportunity to come to terms with some prejudice she had about the current state of exploration, but she returned with feelings that will only add to the performance as it takes shape.
“I went down there with a little bit of an attitude — ‘Oh, humans, we always have to explore everywhere and be up in everyone’s business, whether it’s the penguins in the ice or the Afghanis’ — and I left with a totally different feeling about it,” she said. “There’s just so much respect for the continent down there. Their goal is to leave zero imprint on the land. People are so serious about what they are doing that there is nothing recreational happening down there, though I guess there is a little bit of a bar that sometimes people go to. But it’s serious business, and there’s fascinating work being done.”
March 6, 2010 § 3 Comments
Filmmakers Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor are both anthropologists based at Harvard University — she is curator of visual anthropology at the Peabody Museum; he is director of the Sensory Ethnography Lab.
Their new documentary film, “Sweetgrass,” captures the change in the American West by documenting the last sheepherders on Montana’s Beartooth Mountains to make a practice of driving sheep onto protected federal lands for summer pasture.
Barbash and Castaing-Taylor were teaching in Colorado when they heard about Lawrence Allested, a rancher in Sweetgrass County who had told someone, “I am the last guy to do this, and someone ought to make a film about it.” That was enough to grab the couple’s interest.
“As anthropologists, we really were interested in this idea of people clinging to tradition against all sorts of really difficult odds,” said Barbash in a recent interview.
“The sheep drive itself almost takes the life out of people, and this is a family that has been doing it for years and years and years despite the difficulty, because at this point they’re doing it despite the fact that it’s not really economically viable. They hang on to the tradition, and they’re taking a significant amount of pride in that,” Barbash said.
In 1930, the area had 30 bands of sheep with a head count of about 90,000 over the summer. By the time Castaing-Taylor went to scope out the cinematic possibilities, there was only Allested with his one flock of 3,000 sheep in the mountains near Yellowstone Park.
Castaing-Taylor visited during lambing season to meet the farmers and farmhands, which resulted in packing up their family for the summer and start filming.
“They put me up in an old sheepherder wagon from frontier days outside their house for a few days,” Castaing-Taylor said. “When we got to the end of the road and I went up to the top of the mountains with them, I was aware that this was an amazing place — it was so powerful and beautiful, so remote, that there was definitely a film there that was interesting.” « Read the rest of this entry »