writer, editor & strategist

Rock n' roll and Juan Recamán will save my soul

Added on by Sara Distin.

Either the birds are chirping this fine morning or my ears are still ringing. Really, I’m buzzing still from a combination of sights and sounds of my yesterday. My morning started with a viewing of short films/videos by Juan Recamán and evening ended with the loudness that is Brooklyn metal band Goes Cube. Yeah, no one would peg me as the type to listen to metal but I was out to support a friend and loved the show just the same.*

I’m not going to pretend I’m qualified to write about any sort of music but I can’t compare the videos with the show, an unseemly pair, even if you ask me, without writing about both. I'd also like to be clear that I'm not comparing the work of the artists, of Recamán and the members of Goes Cube, but rather the cumulative experience of the videos and the listener's experience of the show (if that doesn't make sense now, hopefully it will soon). So here goes…

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(This is a still photograph from Recamán's website as I don't yet have the capacity to post a video, so please go to his website to watch the clips.)

The Recamán videos I am so enamored with are “portraits,” mostly, with one exception that I know of, of Americans who are relative strangers to Colombian Recamán. The lack of an established relationship coupled with the obtrusive black box that is a hand held camera remarkably yields sincere and elegant videos. In particular, the Reading Room series in which Recamán, “while wondering around… use[s] video as a tool to dig inside into [people in the library’s] minds, at least for a short time;” and Brigitte, in which Recamán is “concerned about finding a structure that mirrors Brigitte's feelings, so viewers can hold, confront and reflect on Brigitte’s persona,” offer an understanding of humanity that borders Greek tragic/comic greatness. Pay attention to the moment, in the opening of the web excerpt of Brigitte, when a rose vine attacks Brigitte and she pushes on leaving the branch trembling after her. Recamán has the good sense to keep filming the branch rather than following his subject and I promise, this small decision will knock your socks off.

(sticker designed by Sarah Pedry)

As Recamán is required to work as a "slipping glimpser," (I am fearful already that I will overuse that reference) listeners at a Goes Cube show are likewise obliged to stay with the moment; in all the chaos, the "stomping... and booming," the smashing and destroying, (like I said, I'm SO not qualified to write about music, relying on the good words of others) that is Goes Cube, it's possible to find a little peace, if you give it a chance. Willing departures from recognizable rhythms into absolute distortion are rewarded by comforting returns to familiar territory, even if you were just introduced to that territory by Goes Cube. It requires the listener to leap (though not necessarily off the stage as David is apt to do).

But the leap is similar to the one that Recamán and his participants are making in the videos. Their leap is so great, however, that we could compare the resulting works to Robert Frank's seminal book, The Americans.**

Recamán is capturing the current, post 9-11, state of America, also as an outsider, as Frank recorded the past, post-WWII America. Jack Kerouac's words about The Americans, "The humor, the sadness, the EVERYTHING-ness and American-ness of these pictures!!" apply, I think, to Recamán's videos. Kerouac further rejoices:

Robert Frank, Swiss, unobtrusive, nice, with that little camera that he raises and snaps with one hand he sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world.***

Substitute Juan Recamán for "Robert Frank", and Colombian for "Swiss," if you will.

Are you smiling at the stretch here? Is it a stretch? I guess we will see as Recamán keeps working... and I keep smiling. Funny thing, you know, people smile at a heavy metal show.

*Minor confession: this was my second Goes Cube experience.

**I'm pretty sure Recamán mentioned Frank as an influence when speaking to our class at Pratt... He was a lovely and charming visitor. We were graced!

***Kerouac + deKooning = acquaintances/friends, no? I think this relationship may be fodder for future reading, researching, writing...