Frederick Abrams

The Underground Cathedral


Q. Can you talk about “Antenna Man?”

A. As I said, I didn’t know that this would be a film at first and in some ways I really regret that I didn’t have a video camera for certain moments such as when I met Antenna Man. But then this made it a very interesting challenge because I made a segment of the film based on the only five photographs I took of him that I felt were useful. Based on those five photographs and the recording I fortunately have of his voice, as well as playing his saxophone, I made this part. Our conversation is a complete fantasy about time and space. He talks of traveling, not just physically, but through different “time warps.”

The conversation began accidentally when I was standing on a platform of the New York Subway with my little digital Walkman recording the general sounds. He noticed this, approached me, and looking at the microphone in my hand asked, “What is that, secret shit? What are you, a reporter or something?” I replied, “Nah, I’m an artist.”

This immediately disarmed him and we became engaged in a spontaneously bizarre discussion of being from another planet. We played with this idea, but in fact we were in a way commiserating, agreeing about something in our own lives, but as I reflect on our talk I realize that we were discussing the sense of loss of one’s origins and the struggle to conform to society while having a place and means of retaining one’s own identity.

If I can try to describe how he looked, he was a young black, bearded man wearing an army jumper suit, he wore sunglasses, a cap on his head and out of it came two plastic “antennas.” There was a big badge on his chest with the letters, “CIA,” and he carried a saxophone. He told me that he was working on a rap project called, “Colors in America,” and that he was practicing in the underground.

Throughout this part I would make these juxtapositions of “reality” versus the fantasy of our conversation. At one point he asks, for example, “Have you been to the second plane?”

I replied, “Not lately.” Where he talks of being from the “Seventh Galaxy, from the Fourth Planet Vibration,” I superimpose him as a ghost-like figure over a stairwell that leads one into the underground and the number 7 over an illuminated colored globe that denotes NY Subway entrances throughout the city.

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