Wednesday, June 4, 2014

St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore

St. Michaels.

Frederick Douglass.

I don't yet want to look to the details that I remember from Frederick Douglass' narrative. I know this is the place where he was sent to be broken as a young slave.

Driving in across Delaware, then the Eastern shore, almost midnight, alone on these drizzled, misty back highways.

I can feel the strangeness of the land. It is dark. I can feel this place where he was, without the sabotage of the present and daylight.

5 hours earlier, I was with Larry Johnson, my friend and former student. He brought up President Obama. I asked him how it felt, the election. In his even keel way, Larry indicated it was huge and followed with a short anecdote.

His Grandmother said that she finally felt like an American. He welled up and lost it. His grandmother's grandmother was a slave.

As I drove from Coop City in the Bronx, where I met up with Larry, down to the Eastern Shore, I felt it in me. That calm. I could feel my body clearing...the intensity of traveling into an unimaginable history. One that has remained in me since reading it over 20 years ago.

Tomorrow, I will sit with it, going to sites that may yet be unmarked...The farm where the young Frederick Douglass was to be broken, the place where he grew up, the place where he was born...hold in the memory of this extraordinary man. And for a short while, feel the land where he came to be.

I can't imagine what that means...those words. Broken.

Though Douglass survived and was not broken.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

the recipe as dancing formula - remembering and creating

Last night I was reading my friend Milton Brasher-Cunningham's bookKeeping the Feast: Metaphors for the Meal. This passage on page 36 resonated with me in particular: 

"Whether a kitchen or a congregation - or any other organization - when we gather ourselves in groups we move toward codifying the way we do things, creating rituals and recipes to make sure we do things right. Often, I think, the things that become written in stone or scripture on recipe cards began as metaphor of discovery and imagination - statements of faith - but, once passed down, become statements of the status quo, because perpetuating the institution rises higher and higher on the agenda. I'm not sure there's any way around it.

But we don't have to succumb to it."

As I read it, I thought of Mao and the histories related to his rule in China - the desire to keep 

revolution alive and the horrors that came out of his attempts.

Today, September 11th helps me think of our place in the world and the wars that have come since 2001. On that day and the day after, I experienced many things including the events in this video.

I heard Jimmy's words and they resonated with me, tapping into the question of the cycle of history. Jimmy was irreverent and poignant in a way that made me record him for over an hour and spend 10 hours with him the next year. That day, his words and the volume of his voice felt like screaming at a funeral. Something rang true nevertheless.

And his words are still very much worthy of consideration as we continue to remember and make meaning of that horrible day.

I remember the lives lost on that day.

I question the cycle of history we are in that is part of such a horrific event.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Golden Dragon

In the last few months I have been thinking about some work that I left off in 03 just before I started my last business.  It's interesting having some freedom of mind now...the pieces are coming back as if 8 years haven't gone by.

I've been thinking about a piece called Golden Dragon which is a video of the sidewalk from my Brooklyn apartment in which I witness the bounds of the world of a 5 year old boy whom I know from the local Chinese takeout.  I started cutting and manipulating the raw footage about a month ago after an 8 year hiatus.  I'm going to cut the pieces I shot of "Austin" on the sidewalk along with all the other life.  As he gets to the outer bounds of his play area on the public sidewalk below my window I am going to mark with a dot of color.  Over the course of the sped up video, he will play and the invisible wall of his world will be built for us to see.

Around the same time, I shot a bunch of random one take videos that interested me and merely for that reason will post a couple in following posts.  Maybe it will be a way for me to start talking to myself about this again.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Retrospective Inference: 9/11/01 - 9/11/11 in the shelves at The Scrap Exchange

One enters The Scrap Exchange, a labyrinth collection of wires, mirrors, books, scraps, fabric, test tubes, almost any item you could imagine.

The Scrap Exchange is a place where value is given to scraps - throwaways gathered, presented and fashioned for sale, then chosen by a shopper for subsequent reuse.  The space creates an extraordinary experience in what would might seem the most mundane.  People who shop enter a realm of discovery, creation, innovation to use and reuse, matching the quotidian with the creative.

In this context I have embedded several audio visual elements on the shelves in different sections of the "store."  One may stumble upon them, one may not, as they are embedded with other audio visual items that are actually for sale, the shopper may not know that the elements of the work are not for sale,  creating the potential for a kind of unexpected happening.  The entire space, including the included the added audio visual elements offers the viewer the chance to become aware that something out of the ordinary is at work, maybe a piece of art on the shelf, maybe an unedited film, maybe a cross reference of song to borrowed film, maybe a line that angers, incites or rings true.  Or maybe not. 

In this case, each of the added elements relates to September 11, 2001.  Are the visitors to the space, in this mode of activity,even in the smallest way, undermining the kinds of behaviors that lead to such tragedies?

The audio visual elements themselves offer an experience in their own right.  I am presenting a borrowed song, raw footage that I shot on September 12th, 2001 on the streets of Manhattan and a two composed video works that have played as elements in other installations that I have created.  Each has a different feel, like the extreme and contradictory feelings of the day, offering comfort, defiance, anger, the desire to act, sadness...

As a way of considering and remembering the events of September 11th, 2001 and the cycles of history into which we are born, you may find audio and video as you venture through the Scrap Exchange.

The title of this site specific presentation is Retrospective Inference.  The work is by Leon Grodski de Barrera and is tailored to the experience of the Scrap Exchange.  The work includes:

-- The Scrap Exchange, its shelves, barrels, collections, pathways, inciting one to meander, as a body and in the mind, and to create and re-create.

-- Swift Nude _____, (video loop) by Leon Grodski de Barrera.

-- Raw Footage, (video app. 40 min) Walking in NYC, September 11 & 12, 2001shot by Leon Grodski de Barrera

-- Great Balls of Fire, (video 6:30) by Leon Grodski de Barrera, co-edited & co-produced with Pearl Gluck, featuring James E. Jones

-- Boeing 737, (audio 2:40) a song by the Low Anthem

Monday, June 6, 2011

Remembering that we sometimes have to forget all habits & current life to know who and where we are & where we want to go and be.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Select footage of art installations.

Miss Saigon Photoreal Helicopter Animation from US Tour

Helicopter Sequence Produced by Leon Grodski de Barrera of The Sushi Bar

Contact Leon Grodski de Barrera at for rental of DVD for North American productions of Miss Saigon.

Show directed by Mitchell Lemsky
American Producer Big League Theatricals
Executive Producer Cameron Mackintosh
Animated by Jesse Seppi of Tronic Studios