Ken Jacobs

Andreas tells me the Berlin audience for SPIRAL NEBULA started as a couple of hundred people and ended as five. That's for a work Flo and I and computer-assistant Erik think of as accessible. Now I either go into the dumps or imagine myself taking a place somewhere alongside Cézanne.  There was a great Cézanne retrospective in New York some years back, so great it was advertised in the subways. The museum teamed with people.  Could it be that so many had broken the code of Cézanne, such a struggle for me to do? I might have gotten nowhere without returning again and again to Earl Loran's book, CÉZANNE'S COMPOSITION, even as it simplified his accomplishment to a sort of pin-ball game for the eyes, deflected from one precisely turned plane to another back and forth in virtual space, insistently contradicted -this was perhaps the most important thing- by the presence of his hand, of brushstrokes on canvas, constant emphasis of the picture plane. But here in the museum were thousands all a'buzz.  Esthetic mind-games had become the rage! Oh, golden age. You had to be close, right there amongst them, to realise the talk was of shopping.  They were masters of parallel conversation, faces turned one way, thoughts another.  They were sunning themselves on Cézanne -the high-status thing to do- while preparing for a truly enthralling activity.
And then maybe SPIRAL NEBULA is just boring.  And the five that remained are the puzzles, with  their own crazy reasons for giving it time.  I'll never know.  I've met with self-deluded artists thinking they were accomplishing something while they weren't.  We looked again last night at Mamoulian's LOVE ME TONIGHT, and, when baby-sitting recently, at Robert Altman's POPEYE. Wow. I like to think I'm adding to the repository of mind that is art, doing what I can, but I'm often awed -we also looked again at RULES OF THE GAME- and have to accept that what I do, this delving into space-time contradiction, can only feed what may be an acquired taste, the idea of it passed along and built on by a lineage of odd ducks.  It's a fascination with the limitations of sense perception and how we can be deceived, and isn't that a peculiar pastime?  For me it's deciding to have fun with our predicament of being animals that learned to rely on limited but useful sense data as we strove to survive on a blindly hurtling globe.  Recognized contradiction is freeing ("Things ain't necessarily so", the devil sings in PORGY AND BESS). But for people to pick up on the work they have to have made the plunge into this territory and that take's time, luxurious time, and a certain philosophic disposition.
Sometimes I think of sending an earlier work that is in fact politically explicit, STAR SPANGLED TO DEATH, off to someone I admire who brilliantly and tirelessly writes and speaks against fascism -Amy Goodman of the radio program DEMOCRACY NOW- but I don't expect a willingness on her part -maybe I'm wrong- to play along with its formal innovation. Busy people often assume "plain talk" in cinema is the canned effects, with background music, of the standardized documentary. Yet it matters how we address each other and those techniques of manipulation diminish the receiver to mechanistic response, the last thing I want in my audience, my fellow human. I make films for grown-ups, on my own level, who all too often want to be left alone to relax at the movies. "I'm going to respect you whether you like it or not!", I might've shouted at that Berlin audience if I was there.
That said, I must admit that between corporate gangster globalists and religious believers and the grazing shoppers I don't expect that we'll survive another decade.  In STAR SPANGLED TO DEATH I say, "Despair is collaboration with the enemy", but it's getting to be a thin pose: I am collaborating.  
Now that I'm comfortably retired from teaching, I make art because it keeps me occupied and I can get away as much as the shoppers from thoughts of Bush-Cheney getting away with murder. I can avoid thinking what  a feeble contrivance is this America despite so many extraordinary voices in it saying what's to be done; they're too extraordinary, and the thing wasn't designed to protect itself from take-over by an oligarch class.  Exception to oligarch rule was a spasm of the 1930's. Republicans only mean to normalize America, with its stink of dead Indians and shackled slaves and imperialist practice going back to day one. Most of what I do doesn't provide for political content, no more than research in science. Art is airy gesture. Art is pure experience. Art is our attempt to attain tragedy before we're engulfed in murderous macho stupidity.

Ken Jacobs 2.28.07 NY