Frederick Abrams

The Underground Cathedral


Q. Would you like to talk about “Metro Boulot Dodo?”

A. This was another one where I made an entire part based on a few photographs, in this instance, two of a dark skinned man, as is Antenna Man, playing bongos with wooden spoons while seated on a platform of the Paris Metro. I also animated him very simply. Just his hands and arms move in perfect rhythm of the recording I made of him with my DAT Walkman.

The background in the other animation flashes very rapidly from the actual background in the metro to another that is very abstracted almost like a jungle.

Around that I use scenes from the metro and a mouse on the tracks of the Berlin U-Bahn, which could have been a mouse in Paris or Tokyo.

He also sings, “Monday we work, Tuesday we work,” and he repeats this phrase throughout the five days of the work week, then he continues, “Saturday we go shopping, Sunday we rest at home.”

For each day there is a scene of a worker ranging from men drilling into concrete to a floor sweeper. On Saturday a man is seen outside buying flowers beside a large metro map at an entrance stairway and on Sunday a man is seen sleeping on a seat of a metro platform. Meanwhile, this very primitively minimalist musical statement is accompanied by the lush sounds of violins, marimba, wood bass and percussion.

Q. And “Moving Spirit?”

“Moving Spirit” begins with a still image of two musicians performing inside of a Paris Metro train. At the same time there is a recording of them actually playing jazz music with two other musicians, as they carried their instruments into a train. They played non-stop from outside to the inside and I followed them in the train, photographing and recording them simultaneously. Their music then fades into my own, what I think of as something like “techno jazz.” This particular composition proved a complete departure from the classically structured composition in “The Tunnel’s End.” I spent three months working on that single piece, laboring over every single note, but “Moving Spirit’s” music was all improvised. Visually, this part enters a series of scenes and images photographed or videotaped during several visits to Paris between 1989 and ’96, all on the platform of the station named, “Bonne Nouvelle” (Good News). Thus came to me the idea of creating a part which ironically presented “The Good News.”

So this begins with an animation of the typically dark blue tile sign with white lettering on the walls of most Paris Metro platforms, which floats across the first still image of the jazz musicians into center screen and fits neatly into the white tile wall of its origins. The very elaborate brightly shining graphics at the beginning of TV newscasts came to mind, and I thought it appropriate to defer to this yet utilizing an image from one of the oldest metro systems in the world. From that point, this sign became juxtaposed in ironic ways with the continually changing posters which are seen beside it.

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