Tuesday, July 10, 2018 at 7:30pm
Babette Mangolte's The Sky on Location

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Introduced by Alex Klein

The Sky on Location, Babette Mangolte, 1982, 16mm, 78 mins

The landscape is not seen in its postcardish grandeur as captured in the photographs of Ansel Adams, nor through its shapes as in a Cézanne or Constable painting, but rather the film captures the mood of the landscape as in a Turner painting. The film attempts to construct geography of the land from North to South, East to West and season-to-season through colors instead of maps.

- BM, 1982

The idea for the film came while I was traveling in 1975 on buses roaming the West. Spending often a night in the bus I was leaving a sunset in Arizona and waking up by sunrise in Wyoming. I noticed that the color of the sky changed from North to South and that color shift was what I tried to capture starting 1980 and 1981 when I shot the footage that became The Sky on Location. The unmapped vastness was compelling. I went off the road, slept in the wild and exposed myself to the elements, to feel in my muscles and bones the weariness of the first emigrants who crossed that land. Can we imagine how somebody sees some unknown and awesome thing for the first time? For once my foreignness was an asset in making a film. I had no prejudice or misconception like the ones I heard from a friend born in Douglas, Arizona, who, when I told him I was going to trace the four seasons in the landscape of the West, replied: “But there are no seasons in The West." He was wrong. The colors if not the shapes change radically from winter to summer, specifically the color of the sky.

I think landscape moves because the sunlight moves across it. And if you can capture the changing light you have transformed the land and the way we look at it. Although I shot mostly static shots I could evoke movement by fast cutting which is easier to do with static shots than panoramic or tracking shots. At first I had decided to shoot only spaces that were untouched by man-made structures and also that were totally emptied of humans. But distance and scale were difficult to show in shots that were never connected to a known dimension. The image of something that is a boulder could be just the image of a small stone. I included some human figures here and there that suddenly created the surprise effect of distance or proximity. You need scale to understand what you see and jolt your viewer. A shot that suddenly revealed the vastness or smallness of what you saw was needed to create that jolt.

The three voices are essential to break any possibility of contemplation and complacency and introduce the energy and excitation of being there. It also permitted to establish how much what we see is conditioned by what we know.

- BM, 2004

Alex Klein is the Dorothy and Stephen R. Weber (CHE’60) Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania.

Tickets - $8, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.