Henry Hills, 1985
Henry Hills’ Money (1985) is a fourteen minute collage film of split second shots of performances by and conversations with experimental musicians, poets, and dancers in public and intimate spaces of Manhattan.
The indiscriminate and energetic mix of music performances, poets reading from books, and dancing combined with performers’ conversations and the bustle of the streets enacts the mutual conditioning of cultural production with the structures of lived experience. The confluences of lived experience, peculiarly intense in urban areas, form the consciousness for producing music, poetry, and dance which in turn materially constitute culture’s institutions in the superstructure and the subjects produced out of them.
The split second shot technique lifts the performances and conversations from their source coherences into atomized gestures. The atomization emphasizes intrinsic qualities of shots, near stills analyzable by photography aesthetics while simultaneously gesturing toward their implied temporal sequences. Subjects’ personalities are developed through heavy repetition of scenes and subjects. The atomization of language emphasizes the vocabulary of the experimental arts culture of the place and time determining the culture’s concerns, such as “capitalism” and “Soviets.”
The atomized language signifies through scattershot accumulation and excess (“chaotic” “whatever” “sync”) as well as organization into passages by compositional intention (“sequence” “in this film” “is based on” “colors” “innocence” “mistake” “broken up” “space” “and” “kind of a weird head”). Compositional intention is non-linguistically asserted by formally humorous sequences, such as a montage of laughing and a sustained switching between a joyous dance by Yoshiko Chuma and David Moss shaking a sheet of metal.
Money is a formal and representative joyous affirmation of counter-hegemonic experimental arts culture: “the” “analysis of this” “you know” “I don’t know” “you know” “anti” “capitalist society.”
Next commentary: Barrett Watten reading at the Kelly Writers House, November 15, 1999.