Michael Nyman

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Art Talks - Michael Nyman - by John-Paul Pryor

Oct 25th, 2010

Nyman With A Movie Camera is a unique visual experiment that radically resamples Dziga Vertov’s fly-on-the-wall snapshot of life in Russia in 1929, and provides a glimpse into the preoccupation with human existence that drives one of our greatest living avant-garde composers. Taking Vertov’s original masterpiece, Man With A Movie Camera, as the basis for his film, Nyman has frame-by-frame replaced the original images with footage from his own extensive film archive, which has been shot all over the world. Although almost a century separates the two artists, both share an interest in shooting ordinary people unawares in the hope of capturing some kind of truth, and there are stunning parallels in both their process and results. Today we preview an exclusive clip and speak to Nyman about his experiences remixing Vertov’s classic film.

Michael Nyman: “Vertov’s principle of shooting life caught unawares is something I subconsciously reproduce in my own work. What I generally do is have the camera watch someone for a few minutes in a kind of unbroken sequence, such as a drunken man trying to tie his tie on a train at seven in the morning, but the situation with Nyman With a Movie Camera is that I parallel and replace each and every image in Vertov’s s film in the same sequence that he does – I follow his editing rhythm. The interesting thing is that in the original film there is a kind of narrative, and obviously the scenes have been mostly shot in one or two places at more or less the same time. The purpose of my film is not to present the same kind of coherent narrative that the original does – my stuff has been shot all over the world – so it does actually tend to fracture. In my archive, I found parallels with Vertov’s film but I set myself a rule that I wouldn’t set up a shoot just to find the equivalent. I do have little windows of the original just to show the incredible parallels between something I happened to shoot and something he shot. It’s a strange attempt at coherence though, because although in many respects the film is contained by the parameters of Man with A Movie Camera, the result is a kind of incoherence. It’s interesting that since I started composing music, I have always sampled and remixed the work of other composers, which in art is what the Chapmans did with Goya, and what Picasso did with Velázquez. This film is me doing that in a much larger sense visually, and with much more thrilling material.”

Nyman With A Movie Camera Is Touring Film Festivals All Over The World. Preview available here: http://www.anothermag.com/current/view/571/Michael_Nyman

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