Friday 1 July 2016

shuttle 15: colouring

'"Transparency, ah, there's the miracle". Transparency, the legacy of the desert where there is no colour, but where the light is large, open, with a transparent quality in which all colours are present at the same time, as possibility. In the desert, Edmond Jabès says to Serge Faucherau, "nothing is there as simply blue, but as a possibility of blue". And just as piling on colour leads to transparency, so "we pile up images and images of images until the last, which is blank, and on which we all agree"' (Rosmarie Waldrop, Lavish Absence: Recalling and Rereading Edmond Jabès, Middletown CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2002, 99)

'The wonder of the heat is metaphysical. The very colours - pastel blue, mauve, lilac - are the products of a slow, geological, timeless combustion. The mineral quality of the earth breaks through the surface in the crystalline flora. All the natural elements here have known their ordeal by fire. The desert is no longer a landscape, it is a pure form produced by the abstraction of all others' (Jean Baudrillard, America, London: Verso, 1988, 137)

'The plane drones away. Closing the hood of her car after putting in the water, Daria looks up, squinting, then drives off toward some purple-mountained majesty - a majesty that Antonioni, at one point, had thought to change. Production designer Dean Tavoularis was in Barstow with his painter, Roger Dietz, engaged by the filmmaker in conversation about those distant 'lavender grey' mountains.

"Can you make those red, from there ... to there?" Antonioni asked.

Tavoularis said to Dietz, "What about a crop-duster?"

Tavoularis: "I checked around and there was a bi-plane, kind of à la North by Northwest. And I said: 'Get as much red powder sent from LA, from Hollywood, as you can', and Roger put the red powder in the big bins for the chemicals they would normally use, and I instructed the pilot. 

Watching through binoculars, from where the camera would be, as the plane made several passes over the mountains, I noticed no particular change. 'Do it again', I said. Again, no change. Then, 'What about liquid? Can we get another plane that has a liquid system instead of powder? And can you get red dye instead of red powder? Rust red dye?' So we did that with another plane. I watched again with the binoculars ... 

I did try. I made a valiant effort. I explained to Michelangelo, and I had a couple of photographs to prove it. I don't think he expected that the mountains would ever change. Just wanted to see somebody step up, wanted to see somebody try. That was the important thing. That's what a master is. Life isn't about winning, it's about trying"'.  

Extract from Murray Pomerance, 'Zabriskie Point', in Michelangelo Red Antonioni Blue: Eight Reflections on Cinema, Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011, 163-4

Images from the making of Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point (1970); at the bottom, a still from the end sequence

For artist Juli Kearns' detailed three-part descriptive synopsis of Zabriskie Point, with numerous stills and assorted clips, see her Idyllopus Press site here

For an earlier post about Los Angeles, 'Let it shine', see here. For an earlier post about light and the colour blue ('Light'), originally written for Forced Entertainment's Marathon Lexicon, see here

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