October 21st, 2015 · In The Sweetness of Time

Behind the Scenes: Tom Kalin and Doveman

In prepartaion for the premiere of thier collaborative live exhibition environment for Performa 15 titled My Silent One (In The Sweetness of Time), Tom Kalin and Doveman (Thomas Bartlett) reflect on their work and share a preview video that will be featured in the exhibition.


My mother died March 17, 2009 and in the following months, I woke each dawn to photograph the sunrise.  She’d been an early riser and I clung to this shared gesture for comfort.   Thomas Bartlett and I were just becoming friends, and when he released the 2009 Doveman album, The Conformist, I responded to his intimate arrangements and spare lyrics.  Over the next four years, My Silent One accumulated -- a discrete film for each of his eleven studio tracks. The Conformist captures the quicksilver shifts of the heart from breathless young love to the wounds of a broken relationship.  My challenge was to find visual and rhythmic corollaries that reinterpreted the songs, which become, in my series of films, a meditation on time and ultimately death.   The imagery spans 27 years and is populated by the people I’ve known and loved, some living, some dead.  The elegy extends to the medium. In the last of these years, my once commonplace super-8 camera was rapidly being turned into a nostalgic artifact by high-resolution cameras, and Kodachrome, with its lush palette and grain, had already been lost to the market forever.

In 2014, when I was invited to participate in the Andy Warhol Film Project, this immersion in Warhol’s films was like a shot in the heart and directly inspired the imagery of In The Sweetness of Time.  I decided over the next year I would shoot five minutes of footage for each of 144 days.  Thousands of high-resolution still photographs were later stitched into moving image.  There were nights under freezing stars or in the gloaming high over the skyscrapers of Manhattan.  I photographed eighty people and animals while they slept and learned the pulse-quickening magic of photographing fireflies and the night skies.  Thomas was by now a fixture in my process and we traded footage and music back and forth, gradually building this body of work.


Seeing the first films Tom Kalin made for My Silent One was an uncanny experience because I realized that, without knowing it, I’d been involved in a very intimate collaboration—that Tom was engaged in an intense and fruitful conversation with a past version of myself. These films unlock something that was hidden inside my songs, make legible their secret agenda. That collaboration grew into a friendship, and In The Sweetness of Time grew out of that friendship, a shared marking of time and tabulation of love, loss, and mourning. It also reversed the collaborative process, with me composing music in response to Tom’s images.

        Tom Kalin / Thomas Bartlett



“Then from those profound slumbers we awake in a dawn, not knowing who we are, being nobody, newly born, ready for anything, the brain emptied of that past which was life until then. And perhaps it is more wonderful still when our landing at the waking-point is abrupt and the thoughts of our sleep, hidden by a cloak of oblivion, have no time to return to us gradually, before sleep ceases. Then, from the black storm through which we seem to have passed (but we do not even say we), we emerge prostrate, without a thought, a we that is void of content. What hammer-blow has the person or thing that is lying here received to make it unconscious of everything, stupefied until the moment when memory, flooding back, restores to it consciousness or personality?

--Marcel Proust, In Search Of Lost Time, Volume IV, Sodom and Gomorrah




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Tags: Category: Behind the Scenes