During 2012, I produced a short film about Phill Niblock – a minimalist composer who has been living in his Chinatown loft since 1968, and hosting concerts there for nearly as long, under the auspices of his Experimental Intermedia foundation.
For me, the loft represents a part of New York history that has all but vanished: The vibrant downtown community of the 1970s and 80s has been driven to Brooklyn and beyond by the soaring real estate market.
Nonetheless, Niblock is still going strong – and his work is arguably even more vital considering the displacement of his neighbors.
My documentary was released online by The Wire magazine in early 2013, before being screened at the Bronx Documentary Center in NYC.
In June, I curated a cinema night at the loft itself. This presented a memorable opportunity to view the work in the unique space that it documents. The event was co-organized by my friend Mayeta Clark, who also screened a film, and we put together a diverse yet coherent program based on musical and cultural themes.
The Voladores ceremony involves four men hanging upside-down on ropes from high poles, spinning down to the sounds of a flute and drum played by a fifth man who performs on a small platform at the top.
The easiest way to understand is by watching – the video includes stunning footage from a GoPro sports camera. A short version was broadcast on BBC World News in October, as well as being released online.
An extended directors’ cut was featured on Roads & Kingdoms as part of a full multimedia documentary with photos and text.