Saturday, October 20
7 pm -- SOLD OUT
9 pm -- SOLD OUT
$20 members + students
A LIVE DOCUMENTARY BY SAM GREEN
The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller
with live music by Yo La Tengo
Academy Award–nominated filmmaker Sam Green returns to the ICA with the Boston premiere of his new “live documentary,” The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller (2012, 60 min.) featuring indie rock band Yo La Tengo.
Can one person change the world? End poverty? End war? R. Buckminster Fuller—20th-century futurist, architect, engineer, and inventor—experimented tirelessly to find out what one single person could achieve on behalf of humanity. The film explores Fuller’s utopian vision of radical social change through a design revolution. A collaboration between Yo La Tengo and Sam Green, the band’s performance provides the soundtrack for Green’s images and narration. Drawing equal inspiration from old travelogues, the Japanese Benshi tradition of silent film narration, and TEDTalks, the life of Buckminster Fuller has never looked and sounded so beautiful.
Sam Green tells us about The Love Song and working with Yo La Tengo
ICA: What is it like to see a "live film?"
SG: I call The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller a "live documentary" and sometimes people scratch their heads when they hear that. In reality, the piece is a cross between a film, a piece of performance art, and a really fancy lecture. The way it works is that I narrate the piece from the stage and cue all sorts of images from my laptop that are projected onto the screen— there are still photos, moving images, and some interviews. And on the other side of the stage, throughout the piece, the great band Yo La Tengo are performing a live soundtrack. So it's all the elements of a film, but it's done live. The great thing about this form, and the experience, I think, is that it's extra special—it'll never happen the same way twice. We travel all the way to the ICA to perform, and you come all the way to the ICA to be in the audience. You sit in a big room with strangers, you turn off your cellphone (hopefully!), and when the lights go down, you give yourself over to this experience—it's the magic of cinema. The screen will be big, the seats comfortable, and the music will completely wash over you. My hope is that it will be a funny, poignant, moving, and at times, delightful experience!
One of the things that inspired me to get into making these "live documentaries" is that I'm pained by the way that we're sometimes encouraged to watch movies these days. There's an assumption that a movie is the same whether you watch it on a big screen or on your tiny laptop (while doing a Facebook status update), and I don't think that's the case. The context in which we watch a film, or listen to a piece of music, or view a piece of art makes a huge difference in our experience of the work.
ICA: The Love Song offers a portrait of the visionary inventor, architect and designer’s life. As you researched Fuller’s life and work, what resonated with you—or perhaps even surprised you?
SG: I was surprised, and also intrigued, mainly by two things: 1) the fascinating nature of Buckminster Fuller's personality, and 2) the striking relevance and aptness of his ideas today.
Bucky Fuller was a one-of-a-kind person with enormous amounts of energy, ambition, idealism, and smarts. He was truly larger than life. There are just so many great details about him: he would wear three watches on his wrist because he traveled so much—one watch with the time in the last place he had been, another watch with the time in his present location, and the third watch with the time of the place he was next to travel to. Fuller was kicked out of Harvard twice! At one point in his life he got kind of heavy, so he went on a radical diet of eating only meat which he stuck to for several years and you can see from the photos, he definitely thinned down. Fuller once gave a huge lecture series called "Everything I Know"! It was 42 hours long, and he didn't use any notes.
In terms of Fuller's ideas, he was talking about sustainability and resources from as far back in the 1930s and 40s. He believed passionately in a "design revolution," and the idea that by building things move efficiently—by doing "more with less"— we could more fairly distribute the world's resources. It was—and still is—radical.
ICA: Tell us more about Yo La Tengo’s involvement in the film.
SG: The piece was commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. They put together an exhibition on Fuller and asked me to create a live documentary. I've always been a big fan of Yo La Tengo's music, but a couple of years ago, I saw them do a live soundtrack for a program of films by the French surrealist filmmaker Jean Painlevé. It was sublime— the music and films together were like nothing I'd ever seen before. It was so beautiful and haunting and exhuberant—it's still one of my top five cinematic experiences. So I knew that they had a knack for movie music. Anyway, when SFMOMA contacted me about this piece, I thought that YLT might be a good fit. I got in touch with them and after some back and forth, and a few meetings, they said yes. I was thrilled.
We created the soundtrack in a very organic manner. I sent them sections of video and they put together songs. We sent things back and forth and eventually got together in their practice space in New Jersey and put the whole thing together. It was much more of a collaborative process than the normal film director-composer relationship, and I think the final soundtrack is much better because of that. But the truth is, the piece isn't set in stone. It's constantly evolving and will continue to change over time. We've been tinkering with the very end—it's actually a complex interplay between the image, my narration, and the song they play, and we have high hopes that at the ICA shows, we'll nail it.
David Henry, ICA Director of Programs, describes the event in this short video.