alex mackenzie : mediaworks

onlooking, 2002

super 8mm film/flash website
7 mins/variable length loop, 2002
Commissioned for a web art project created by Paul Levine entitled Raising the Dead (available in permanent internet archive here, courtesy Rhizome). The project is “a heart-breakingly personal meditation on the loss of my brother, a reflection on universal themes of family, death, loss and mourning, and a demonstration of the difficult process involved in shaping grief into art.” (Paul Levine).

With Onlooking, I created a kind of emulation of one of my live three-screen Super-8 performances. Using refilmed video footage I took at the unveiling of the headstone ceremony at Richard’s grave, as well as filming footage of stills taken at the morgue and various other items, I organized the materials into three screens with triggers that resized, tinted and darkened the screens. The text is also triggered, and reads across the bottom of the screen as follows:

I videotape the unveiling of Rich’s headstone.
Paul asked if I could.
I guess he figured since I was his close friend and interested in film and moving images, I would be the man for the job.
In some ways it was a relief to have something to do, to feel useful.
In other ways I felt completely apart from the event, even a little ostracized.
The non-Jew, fulfilling the task the Jew cannot.
But no one gave me a dirty look.
No one asked me to stop…
I ran ahead of the pack to film them as they approached the grave site.
I videotaped while Paul’s father and mother broke down uncontrollably at the grave.
I tried to get a good shot of the Rabbi obscured by the crowd.
I filmed little Micheal and Miriam as they grew weary of standing still.
I moved around the area trying to frame without seeming too interested in framing, trying to maintain as much gravity and respect as you can with a video camera in hand, in a cemetery...

When Rich died, Paul took Polaroids of his dead body.

Of his face.

Because it’s all in the face.