Archives for category: experimental film

These are the manholes that surround the DuSable Museum in Washington Park. I scoured the grounds on foot and on bike. I could only find one labeled “EL.” Now I look for the EL manhole all over town. I can’t find any more.

If someone spots one, would you please let me know?

Just returned from Chicago for an absolutely beautiful fundraiser organized by Shannon Stratton and her fab staff at threewalls, and Dr. Daniel Bergen. My friend, Carrie Schneider, introduced me to the guests and nearly brought me to tears with her generous description of my work.  We had a great time. Especially after I busted out the Sun Ra Marching Band Capes.

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I met some wonderful people that night that were new to me and of course got to hang out with dear friends like Ivan Lozano, Doug Ischar and the gracious host, Dr. Dan Bergen. I am so grateful for all of the support, and kindness that was lavished on me. And I am especially grateful to Shannon Stratton,  poised and amazing threewalls  staff and the artists who donated work for the silent auction:


Paul Chan

William Cordova

Jamal Cyrus

Torkwase Dyson

Kianga Ford

Kira Lynn Harris

Lauren Kelly

Rodney Mamillian

Adia Millett

Robert Pruitt

Carrie Schneider

Pamela Phatsum Sunstrom


Ishmael Randall Weeks

Amazing and wonderful artists and humans, all.


See you soon Chicago!




The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band Fundraising Campaign has begun!

Check out our promotional video. I hope it inspires you to give us a little kick!

Thank you for all of the support thus far!

And cli k here for a link to the site to see what kinds of goodies await you!

Thank You,

Sending much love from Outer Spae!


Bertrand Goldberg is best known for designing the round stacked platter Marina City complex in downtown Chicago.


Bertrand Goldberg with the model for River City.


But his career was long and varied. And as I learn about him, one thing that is clear about his base philosophy is his belief that architects could shape our world for the better – create structures and systems for better living.   Because of my regular visits to The Velvet Lounge, I had ample opportunity to admire one of Mr. Goldberg’s Utopian jewels from the “L” platform.


View of the Raymond Hilliard Homes from Cermak-Chinatown "L" platform


The honeycombs are luminous at night and comforting in the day. The Raymond Hilliard Homes is a city commissioned Public Housing complex. Commissioned in 1966; with construction completed in 1967.  Of course the striking contrast between the beauty of this form and the punishing brutality of the typical housing complex is quite stunning. Goldberg himself felt very strongly that the poor need not be punished for being poor by being forced into  hostile containment rather than functional and inspirational housing. As stated by Goldberg in a 1965 promotional piece, “their architecture must meet them and recognize them, not simply store them.” (1)


Photo taken shortly after the structure's completion.


The complex was designed to house elderly residents and families in the belief and hope that the wisdom of the old could be shared with the young. Indeed the housing complex is still a comfortable mixture of young families and the gracefully aging. The outer shell of the building supports it, hence the quote in the title. The inner core of each floor, apparently has a common space.

This structure is about 44 years old and yet it still eclipses, in its aspirations for the future, the majority of contemporary public housing structures, and it still functions as a comfortable home for its residence.

I visited the complex and wandered its grounds, but was not granted permission to photograph the landscaping and the residence who barbecued, sunned on benches or played in the jungle gym.

The truly spacial discovery however was the tiny amphitheater that is integrated into the landscaping.

Even though this site is not open to the public, and is very close to the first solar flare march, I find it an ideal site to pay homage to one of Chicago’s most honored creatives – Fred Anderson. His place, The Velvet Lounge, is just down the street from this place – you can see the honeycombs from the club’s front door. With anyluck, our march will be approved soon, and Solar Flare Arkestral Marching and will be performing A March for Fred Anderson.

The thing that sealed the deal for me is Goldberg’s connectin to San Diego!


La Jolla Theater


His design for what was called “The San Diego Theater” but what was, I suspect, intended to be The La Jolla Playhouse at UCSD, is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a shame it was never built. The designs and speculative sketches did, apparently, win awards in their day.

Lovely speculative drawing by Goldberg for the San Diego Theater

Certainly the most wildly expressionistic of his unbuilt projects was his design for the San Diego Theater, a 1969 community theater to be built in La Jolla, California. The three stage complex, along with its classrooms and set construction areas was to occupy a vast serpent-like structure of concrete sprayed steel bones, its biomorphic profile undulating over the hills.

UCSD prides itself on modern architecture. Somehow this proposal did not survive the vetting process. Typical, and disappointing. It would be so nice to have a little bit of this amazing Chicago architect – this Utopian dreamer – in San Diego.

I have neglected the blog! A combination of transiency, spotty internet access, and  no time have kept me away. Apologies to loyal visitors!

There is much for me to share. I’m going to be firing off many many posts  this evening – and one VERY BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

So please do keep checking back. In the meantime, check out the last object I made before leaving the threewalls studio.

Back in June, I made an exploratory trip to Chicago just to check out the scene before the residency officially began and to try amd make some contacts/alliances/sense of things.

One of the first indicators I got that this project might be viable was making contact with the great Edward Wilkerson – an AACM musician, composer, and all around pillar of the jazz community in Chicago. Mr. Wilkerson shared with me a story that has stayed with me and built itself into an object in my mind. He told me that though he never worked with Sun Ra, he was hired to make a recording for Alton Abraham, Sun Ra’s business partner and manager. He described showing up at the YMCA and wacthing Abraham tape a bunch of cardboard boxes together, stand them up in a circle, place a microphone in the middle, and then recording the musicians he’d hired to play inside of the giant cardboard ring around this microphone. (Wilkerson tells the story better – I hope to get his version on disc soon enough.)

The cardboard structure immediately suggested a sculpture to me. I am not a sculptor (as the images and video below surely reveal), but I was completed to make this object that Abrahams had created as a makeshift recording studio.

Once the things was done, Shannon Stratton and I stared at it. We watched Humo the Cat sniff around it, and then I decided that I wanted musicians to record inside of it. That will definitely happen on my next visit to Chicago. But we had to take the thing down so that the next threewalls artist, Kelly Kaczynski , could install her show.

Here are some images. Shannon was very amused by my wrestling with 50 lbs of cardboard and made a very embarrassing video of me being clobbered. Thankfully that video has not surfaced. Below is the dignified version of events.



Future recording studio... Alton II- Wilkerson Transmission

I’m breaking my own rule. The Carousel Microcinema was formed to share the time-based  media art of artist whom I admire. Now threewalls has graciously invited me to screen some of my past works for the Chicago community. Since the turnout for the first Chicago Carousel was so great, I’m hesitant to change course now. I hope you can make it. It’s free! Click over to the Carousel Microcinema site to read more!







Come Join us.


click here for more information

I had a cold drink of water with musician/composer LeRoy Bach the other day. He was talking about his idea that Sun Ra’s most radical experimentation was expressed through the way in which he recorded the music. LeRoy explained that Sun Ra would often place the mic so that a very small and subtle thing could be experienced, through the recording medium, as a very large and expansive thing.

I think this is a brilliant observation. The quest is to find ways of applying this technique to video, in conjunction with Julie Perini”s ideas about relational filmmaking for the project that is brewing here.

Sun Ra album cover never printed - except in a brilliant drawing by Robert Pruitt...

These speculative sketches for  Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band Uniforms  play on the costume design you can see on Sun Ra and his arkestra, but also attempt to produce a unity and order so essential for secret societies when the make public demonstrations of power and venture into the public. We must understand, when we see the arkestra, that even if we don’t know who they are – they do. And they know what they are doing.  Also, in consideration of the likelihood that the arkestras would be staffed by young people, there is an attempt to preserve the hard fought dignity of youth and, well, just be cool.

I am on a quest to find out who styled and dressed Sun Ra’s Arkestra in the later years. I know Sun Ra made many of the early costumes himself; but there is film footage of a man wrapping Sun Ra into some glittering fabric, and twisting a wire bracelet onto his wrist. I really want to know who that man is.

It is amazing how some forms of labor and creative production are completely overlooked by historians and hard-core fans. And very interesting how only now the theatricality of Sun Ra’s live performances is coherently understood not as simply a show, or gimmick, but as the visual component of his cosmological equations and communication systems. If anyone knows who the arkestra stylist was, will you PLEASE let me know?

The Colors.
This project embraces the processional as a celebratory disruption applied in the interest of creative thought and inspired actions, as well as the recognition and celebration of important lives whether that life belong to a teenager on the debate team, a community leader, the shoe shine man, the pre-school teacher, or the mayor. I gravitated towards the colors of orange (yellow) and blue (aqua) because of the way in which each colors is popularly understood across many cultures and social groups as invoking suggestive emotions rather than symbolic iconography, say like red, or white.

I read somewhere that the color orange makes folks hungry. I don’t know about this, but I do believe that people who experience color as more than just aesthetic determinants but also as sensual cues, receive orange as a stimulant for creative action. Orange invites people to dive into a task with enthusiastic abandon (so that makes sense in relation to eating). It is also considered a gateway to change and signifies exploration of the new. And orange is a silly color, I think. You can’t really wear orange when you are talking business – burnt orange maybe, but a blazing solar flare orange? Perhaps not. Orange is for reveling, playing, making, instigating. Destabilization is a good thing and a necessary thing in the production of visual art.

Now the color blue enters into more fraught territory. I don’t even have to mention the ay in which politicians and social engineers cling to the color blue and apply all manner of meaning and agendas to this universal hue. Fortunately for the color blue, it’s bigger than that.
Blue is our world reflected back to us  -literally. Our entire understanding of our physical and metaphysical world  is embedded in this color. His color cannot be claimed or codified any more than an indigo plant can do anything but grow.

Indigo Plant

chemical structure of indigo pigment

But I do think many folks experience the color blue as a relaxing sensation. Blue invites detachment – not disengagement, but perspective. This is very important when one is trying to communicate complex or difficult ideas. Blue is a natural conduit color, it creates connections and pathways – spaceways. Blue is the color that makes two conflicting colors get along. Blue is as fundamental as a bass line, as constant the north star. Blue belongs to no one, and all. And it really likes orange. Look how they pop when the sit beside each other.

Five marches, five Sun Ra tunes, arranged by five established Chicago composers! If you are a musician who marches, if you love Sun Ra – if you just plain love performing, join the SOLAR FLARE ARKESTRAL MARCHING BAND and be a part of an exciting public arts program. All performances will be in the month of August 2010.
Facebook a message to Kelly Gabron for more information!