I enjoyed previewing the full length video for Sufjan Stevens’s “The BQE” [2007 / 50 min.]. The full CD-DVD version captures some really amazing moments, beyond what is show here. But the video on this page at least gives you a taste of some of the main elements that make this work special: three-panel presentation, original music score, abstract urban montage, and hoola hoops.
It was done on commission from the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the 25th Annual “Next Wave” festival. Sufjan collaborated with Malcom Hearn and Reuben Kleiner to make some really bold visual cut-up of urban landscapes, Koyaanisqatsi-style. It is a “cinematic suite inspired by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Hula-Hoop”, but it is also part of a larger collection of inter-related works that all work together to form one package:
“[This work] might be best described as a grand creative franchise-incorporating movie, symphony, comic book, dissertation, photography, graphic design, and a 3-D Viewmaster® reel-in which a songwriter’s interrogation of one of New York’s ugliest landmarks expands athletically to forums and formulas outside of the song itself. In fact, the BQE is everything but a song. First and foremost, The BQE is a self-made home-movie documentation, exhibiting how all the architectural colors of Brooklyn and Queens are fabulously intersected by this ramshackle artery of highway traffic. Shot renegade style on do-it-yourself film cameras, the animated footage of grid-lock crisscrossing the brick and mortar of Brooklyn flickers and cascades Koyaanisqatsi-style on three simultaneous screens. The 16mm cinematography (heroically shot by Reuben Kleiner on a 1960s Bolex) utilizes time-lapse photography, in-camera editing, slow motion, and post-production mirror effects to transform urban blight into a splendor of graphic compositions. The BQE is also accompanied by an idiosyncratic musical soundtrack (composed by Stevens for band and chamber orchestra), evoking a romanticized musical choreography of perpetual motion vs. gridlock.”(More)
I wasn’t as impressed with the graphic design elements. And they probably could have found some more dynamic hoola hoopers. But the video and music are real works of art and those other aspects are just icing on the cake. This is certainly an interesting bit of creative meta-media that’s worth a look.
Interlude I — Dream Sequence in Subi Circumnavigationfrom Asthmatic Kitty on Vimeo
excerpt from THE BQE – A Film by Sufjan Stevens
Photography by Reuben Kleiner and Sufjan Stevens
Edited by Sufjan Stevens
Order now at Asthmatic Kitty Records: asthmatickitty.com/the-bqe
The BQE is available as a double-disc format (CD/DVD), which includes the original 16mm/8mm film (in widescreen “triptych” display), the original motion picture soundtrack, a 40-page booklet (with extensive liner notes and photographs), and the stereoscopic image reel (playable in all View-MasterÂ® viewers).
Click the image to read the Pitchfork review with photos:
World Premiere of Sufjan Stevens’ “BQE” [Brooklyn, NY; 11/01/07]