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    Ingram Marshall + Jim Bengston – Alcatraz + Eberbach

    Ingram Marshall + Jim Bengston - Alcatraz + Eberbach

    You know how some DVDs boast a slide show as a bonus feature? Well, on this here Alcatraz + Eberbach job, the whole dang thing is a slide show! Hell, in its total running time of 48:09, there ain’t a real, honest-to-goodness movin’ image to be found anywhere! But, that’s okay, because this is some serious minimalistic ART, pal. There’s no need for a bunch of extraneous frames to clog up your brain. If you’re just looking for a regular old “video,” then head on over to YouTube, you heathen! Yeah, it’s safe to say there are a few videos on there. The rest of you well-heeled city slickers can just sit right down inside your home theater, plop this DVD into your player and enjoy the first piece, “Alcatraz,” from 1982.–Grandpa

    Okay, settle down, Grandpa! Settle down. I’ll take over this review. Back in the dawn of the ’80s, San Francisco (by way of Mount Vernon, New York) composer Ingram Marshall and Norwegian (by way of Chicago, Illinois) photographer Jim Bengston got together and recorded with microphone and camera the reality they found around themselves within the infamous penitentiary on Alcatraz island in the San Francisco Bay. After going their separate ways, they collaborated through the mail on an audio-visual piece until everything felt right.

    While the sounds* move from lyrical arpeggios on the piano to austere environmental noises including slamming gates, footsteps, talking voices layered up and repeated, and quiet chants, the accompanying photos of desolation fade from one to the next so slowly that they appear to be double exposures. This important (non)point provides a fluid interplay between the sights and sounds, allowing the artists to avoid a forced, stiff feel. As the weathered walls, empty cells, and menacing knives superimposed over a dirty bathroom combine with the stark music, all kinds of questions enter my mind. “Is this why the Big Bang occurred–why the universe was born? So brutality could one day flourish? Throughout the cosmos, in the enormity of the space-time continuum, on how many other planets have epic civilizations with scenes of such severe reality unfolded?”

    While touring the piece “Alcatraz” like a rock band in Europe in 1984, Marshall and Bengsten happened upon what looks like a rural small town church called Kloster Eberbach in Germany’s Rhine Valley. Actually a monastery, its stately interior with elegant arches, nice stone floors and a modest amount of weathering in the form of blotchy walls and tangled tree branches provide a downright pleasing atmosphere for all kinds of pleasant birdsong and bells smeared out into head-nodding drones. Compared to the grim claustrophobia of “Alcatraz,” “Eberbach” is a sunny walk in the park. Both works are available here for the first time on DVD, with surround sound, to boot! Not that Grandpa and I would ever know, as that city-slicker surround sound is way out of our league! *Fortunately, if you want to just listen to the music of “Alcatraz” with no visuals, it’s available by itself on an old New Albion CD.

    Label: Starkland Catalog Number: S-2019 Format: DVD Packaging: Digi-Pak Tracks: 2 Total Time: 48:09 Country: United States Released: 2013 More: Amazon, Discogs, Other Minds

    Text ©2014 Arcane Candy

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