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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Two Greens, Unrelated

Photo: Gayle Laird
Known separately for singular performances combining cinema with live musical accompaniment and narration, self-taught animator Brent Green and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Sam Green (unrelated) make their Next Wave debuts with a collaborative program, Brent Green and Sam Green: Live Cinema, at the BAM Fisher, Dec 7—10. Foley sound artist Kate Ryan and a band comprising Brendan Canty (Fugazi), James Canty (Nation of Ulysses), and Becky Foon (Silver Mt. Zion) perform live alongside the cinematic proceedings: flickering stop-motion forays into the Southern Gothic from Brent, engrossing documentaries about provincial dreamers and doers from Sam. The result is a unique live art experience that fuses the energy and immediacy of a rock show with cinema’s immersive storytelling capabilities.

Adriana Leshko: Could you each briefly describe the work of the other?

Sam Green: I always come back to the word “protean” in describing Brent’s work. His live cinema work is so powerful and odd. He narrates but he’s really just singing his pieces. Brent is one of those artists who is channeling something: his work isn’t calculated or premeditated. He’s tapping into some weird rural Pennsylvania thing that goes back to his family. Brent and I take turns narrating short films in this piece, and I’m both intimidated and proud to follow him.

Brent Green: One thing I really love about Sam’s work is his insatiable curiosity. His journalistic background [Sam has a master’s degree in journalism from University of California Berkeley, where he studied documentary with acclaimed filmmaker Marlon Riggs] drives him deep down rabbit holes, where he encounters... new rabbit holes. And dives into those. I was at his studio a couple weeks ago, and he showed me an entire file of watermarked pictures—he was enamored with the watermark. He cares about things no one else cares about. Until he tells you about them and makes you care about them, too.

AL: How did you meet and how long after that did you decide to work together?

SG: We met at a Creative Capital retreat probably in around 2006. Brent was a puppy. We came up with the idea to work together much more recently. In my memory Brent suggested it, and I thought it was a good idea to put together a program of our short work. That may not be how it came about, but that’s my memory of it.
 

Photo: Gayle Laird
BG: We first discussed working together last year, but nobody thought it was a good idea until after our first show.

AL: Did you have a model/inspiration for what became Live Cinema?

SG: This program that we are doing is pretty unique. I’ve never seen anything like it. But my own live cinema work has lots of inspirations, including a top ten cinematic experience at an R. Kelly Trapped in the Closet viewing and sing-a-long.

BG: Sam and I have both been touring our films live for years. I came out of the music world and starting touring with the band Califone the day I finished my second short, Francis in 2002. In the music world, when you finish a record, you tour with it; I figured that’s the same thing you did with a film. I have no idea why Sam started doing live cinema. He likes to travel?

AL: What is your relationship to performance as an audience member? Do you see a lot of music shows, dance, theater?

SG: My partner is the choreographer Catherine Galasso and I’ve gotten a sense of the performance world through her. Although the film and performance worlds are contiguous, I’ve always been struck by how radically separate they are. They are truly separate worlds. It’s been fascinating to learn about performance and especially the history of downtown dance and performance in NYC. I do go see a lot of shows.

BG: I don’t see many things, but I do love hanging out with interesting people and what makes this show really great is the whole room—audience and band—all feel like they’re just hanging out.

AL: Who is your ideal viewer for this engagement?

SG: I literally would be thrilled to see any kind of person at this show. And I’d be especially thrilled to have a wide range of folks, from teens to 90-year-olds. I guess whoever it is, I would hope they would be able to give themselves over completely to the experience since we worked really hard to deconstruct the conventional cinematic experience and make something much more engaging from its parts.

BG: Obviously, people who read a lot and are slightly tipsy (enough that they think it’s okay to talk to us in the middle of a film).

Brent Green & Sam Green: Live Cinema comes to the BAM Fisher Dec 7—10, and great tickets are still available.

Adriana Leshko is senior publicity manager at BAM.

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