Proposal towards an Installation of Epiphanies

Epiphanies is the name of a film I spent more than a dozen years producing, based upon a special text I have been writing over these past three decades. In James Joyce's theory of the short story, we remember, the epiphany is the encompassing climactic moment that functions to illuminate the entire story. In my own stories, likewise entitled Epiphanies, I have tried to suggest the same momentous quality within a single sentence, which is to say that my epiphanies are meant to be so evocatively sufficient that the remainder of the story, neither ahead nor behind, need not be told. Collected together, these climactic moments (within otherwise nonexistent stories) provoke a fictional experience that is not linear, but spatial; not sequential, but thoroughly discontinuous; not nineteenth-century, but twentieth. No story in Epiphanies is more important than any other; no story is intentionally connected to another. In context, none is merely transitional. Another aim was to exploit the freedoms of its open-ended form to touch upon the fullest range of human experience--to write perhaps the most universal fiction ever written.

Wishing to extend this narrative principle into film, I decided that, instead of making my own climactic moments, it would be better to find Epiphanies in outtakes gathered from other filmmakers. Had I shot my own footage, I figured, the style of a single cameramen or director would inevitably impose a consistency utterly contrary to my purpose of making each sequence a distinctly separate entity, as well as contrary to my desire for universality. So, thousands of feet of 16 mm. film, in a diversity of formats and styles, gathered from the widest variety of sources, were viewed to find the few hundred feet that I have so far used. For the soundtrack, I drew upon individually processed readings of my stories, by a cast of fifty readers; so that while the stories heard never compliment the stories seen, the soundtrack and visual track are esthetically similar, not only in unending climaxes, but in utter discontinuity. As of 2000, I have nearly four hours of 16 mm spliced film (which has never been printed or copied), nearly four hours of videotapes in three formats (U-Matic 4 X 60'; a single VHS at EP speed; two VHS at SP speed); four hours of audiotape in several formats (including audio-only continuous VHS).

The work is so various and abundant that people viewing it tend to come away with 1.) a sense of a whole and 2.) moments, either verbal or visual, that particularly appeal to them. In my experience, everyone has his or her favorites, usually for personal reasons (and whether these favorites are visual or verbal often indicates much about his or her perceptual outlook). In other words, the film Epiphanies is so expansively open that the only quality I as author/artist can expect viewers to perceive is its esthetic theme: The exhaustive experience of the experience of story. Anything else any viewer takes away is, literally, his or her own to possess.

As the film becomes longer and more various, it becomes, in truth, more impossible to view in conventional ways. Several people who have seen the same version-in-progress twice have asked me if "the second film differed from the first." This indicates not trickery on my part but a quality peculiar to Epiphanies: A film so rich in discrete parts simply cannot be assimilated thoroughly in a single sitting. With this problem in mind, let me suggest that it is best viewed in situations where members of the audience can enter and leave as they wish, confident that they could return at any point without difficulty. While they have, it is true, missed certain episodes, they would not, upon their return, in any sense feel lost. In that case it would be more appropriate to show the film continuously in public spaces where people could stay as long as they wished, perhaps because they had time on their hands. The possibilities that come immediately to mind would be waiting rooms at airports, hotel lobbies and other semi-public places (even movie houses) where moderately sophisticated people would be pleased to discover footage not just different in quality from what they normally see but also more interesting than Musak and yet less demanding than a book. If anyone reading this proposal has any specific ideas, please contact the artist/author. Thank you.