Found Footage, on Location: Phil Solomon’s Last Days in a Lonely Place

Gregg Biermann and Sarah Markgraf

Why would any artist already known and respected for a style that continues to beguile audiences change course radically? The personal and professional risks are high and new methods likely difficult and time-consuming to master. Relatively late in his career, however, Phil Solomon in Last Days in a Lonely Place (2007), and two other recent works, welcomes these risks. Not only does he forgo the earthy chemistry of film for the electronic cool of digital video but his “found” text of choice is Grand Theft Auto 3 – San Andreas (2005), a video game immensely popular with teenaged boys, and not likely considered the stuff of art. Solomon’s move into the worlds of virtual space, computer graphics, and popular culture is especially impressive because his previous works, rarefied and subtle, have been so enamored with the physical properties of film.

Phil Solomon was first exposed to American avant-garde films in the 1970s—at SUNY Binghamton—when college professors in newly formed film studies/production programs were initiating young film students into the most revered experimental films of the 1960s and 1970s. But while indebted to the older generation (most of them aesthetic anarchists, doubtless wary of their sudden scholarly status), Solomon has never been satisfied just to repeat their experiments. His films Remains to Be Seen (1989), Clepsydra (1993), The Snowman (1995), Psalm II: Walking Distance (1999), and Psalm III: Night of the Meek (2000) all substantially augment aspects of “materialist” films and film “poems” in an unmistakable personal style.

It is odd that Solomon’s films have been written about so rarely, especially because of their remarkable and unprecedented treatment of found footage. While the concept of appropriated images has been thoroughly parsed in the discourse surrounding postmodernism, Solomon’s use of such images is seldom discussed. This remains true, even as his works continue to influence the next generation of young filmmakers.

What Solomon does with film—both “found” and not—is downright mysterious, to the point where other filmmakers have repeatedly asked him to reveal his methods, including Oliver Stone’s editor and cinematographer, who sought help with JFK (1991) and Natural Born Killers (1994). Solomon’s signature, still safely stowed in the avant-garde, plays frenetically with the patina of chemically distressed film emulsions that project their own worlds of layered mystery and secret meaning. In his hands, magnified particles of emulsion in subtle relief explode with effervescence, while Brownian noise patterns flatten pictorial space, blur found images’ identities, and soften montage. Distinctions between found imagery and Solomon's own original film recordings   disintegrate into a unified visual field. Solomon virtually severs the already tenuous threads between found images and their original contexts. What results is a hypnotic succession of shimmering landscapes, spasmodic abstractions, and half-recognized figures.

In shifting from photographic to computer-generated images, Solomon leaves behind the camera equipment, real world subjects and physical locations required in more traditional cinematography. 3D game graphics are created from virtual models made up of coordinates plotted in a purely theoretical space. Absent, unreachable, and indeterminate—for they exist in the invisible electronic workings of a machine and in the split-second choices made by a user, no two game sessions the same—video games leave one literally empty-handed, but for the joystick.

In Solomon’s new video works, however, this very empty-handedness provides the unlikely focus, the mysterious inscription, and, ultimately, the sad moments of meaning. Rather than abandoning the narrative element of the video game for total abstraction, Solomon composes ghostly tableaus that trace the edges of stories long gone, dreaded, or never to be. These compositions also convey Solomon’s own layered and complex positioning in relation to his work: he is a detached observer, an analytic presence, and a personal part of it.

Solomon’s interest in found footage still prevails in these new video works, but instead of old films, the found imagery in all three comes from the polygonal geometry and texture maps that comprise the virtual cityscape of Grand Theft Auto 3. Dubbed “San Andreas,” this enormous urban sprawl combines known elements of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas to create an imaginary, though familiar, world. Through built-in commands, a player can use the joystick to adjust his/her point-of-view within the vast manufactured world of the game. The player can enact astounding shifts in perspective with the slightest of finger movements, from 360-degree sweeps, to bird’s eye views, to close-ups on faces.

In making his new videos, Solomon entered into the game as a player, situating his point of view  within the boundaries of the programming, as all players do. Solomon made his own unusual and deliberate shot compositions and then recorded them on digital video. In this way, Solomon could act as an entire virtual film crew, able to do things – such as elaborate dolly or crane shots – usually available only to live action feature film directors with large budgets. Solomon even surpassed conventional shots and entered into the realm of the impossible, dispensing altogether with the rules of physics to get particular shots.

Solomon's use of game imagery as found footage is notable within the context of avant-garde cinema. It departs sharply from  the collages of old films commonly found throughout the history of avant-garde cinema . In these familiar mixtures of found film, the found material usually carries with it a strong sense of the original film it came from and its corresponding time period. Irony, a psychic distancing technique, is often either the goal or by-product. These juxtapositions of film footage from obviously different original sources are often employed as a way to expose the manufactured quality of the work in question—and, by extension, of any film work.

                  In Solomon’s new trio of works based on Grand Theft Auto 3 a different complexity emerges. It is not exaggeration to call it a new paradigm of found footage aesthetics. In this new model, the 3D spaces of video games allow artists to shoot virtually “on location,” creating a closer connection between artist and found materials because the artist actually collaborates with the game to create found imagery. At the same time, the shift in source material from film to computer graphics dematerializes the source, putting it several removes from the artist and his/her world. Solomon’s previous work with found film required working with it as an object in the world, lighting the gelatinous clumps of reticulated photochemistry in his optical printer like miniature film sets. Now, his found video footage is invisible to the naked eye, present only in minute fluctuations of electricity.

Rockstar Games Ltd.’s Grand Theft Auto 3 is named after the most famous fault line in the U.S.: the San Andreas Fault. Solomon’s gestures toward narrative in his new works are themselves “fault” lines: they enact the process of emptying; they drain their ambiguous source of coherence; they bottom out into indeterminacy. These narrative ghosts are the cracks and spaces—the fault lines and outlines—that haunt potential narratives.

This use of narrative fragments is one way that Solomon transforms the hard-edged game experience of Grand Theft Auto 3. There are others. For example, the unaltered game provides players with a pastiche of contemporary cultural artifacts through assaultive immediacy, sly satire, and extreme violence. But in his playing of the game, Solomon avoided the embedded missions and their associated modules of narrative, and instead recorded hours of material in which he explored the narrative “outskirts.”

Solomon also transforms original scenery and characters with varying digital effects, again softening edges visually, but not necessarily thematically. Layers of constant rain, fog, mist, smoke and/or fire render images ambiguous and sometimes semi-abstract. 

The initial moments of Solomon’s eventual Grand Theft Auto series can be traced back to when he taught a class in postmodernism at University of Colorado - Boulder a few years ago.


I noticed that cinematic space was becoming unreadable to me, and assumed that this was because of the influence of gaming, so it gave me an excuse to walk into Best Buy and pick up a PS2 [Play Station 2]. I literally had not played—nor really seen—a game since Pong in the seventies. . . . It was truly a revelation.[1]


Solomon played the game first without intending to make art from it. The shift from game-playing to art-making occurred during a visit from the late filmmaker and close friend of Solomon’s, Mark Lapore, to whom this series is dedicated.


He loved visiting me here in Colorado and goofing around with the surrealism and craziness of the GTA series, not actually playing the game, but going off road, so to speak . . . . We were both naifs in a strange land and found many beautiful things in the outskirts.[2]


As Lapore saw artistic possibilities in the medium, the two eventually made Untitled (For David Gatten) (2005) together. Sadly, Lapore’s visit with Solomon was his last. Soon after Lapore’s unexpected death, Solomon completed a second video, Rehearsals for Retirement (2007), putting into play a potential series of works using Grand Theft Auto 3 as source material. Rehearsals for Retirement extends the elegiac tone of Untitled into more mournful territory, and Michael Sicinski calls it “a condensed-temporality death dream.”[3]

Of the three works now completed, however, Last Days in a Lonely Place (2007) is the most complex and apocalyptic in mood. It provides the focus for what follows: a description of some of the most salient moments in this significant new work.

A low rumble is heard in the blackness that opens Last Days in a Lonely Place. Is it a drum roll? Thunder? The sound is as ambiguous as the visual field. When the first tableau fades in, we see an institutional building and a silhouetted female figure who runs off frame, strangely marking this opening with an immediate departure. Rain has saturated the scene from the beginning; thunder and lightning suggest a gloomy noir feel. Individual raindrops come down in delicate bursts; Solomon has slowed down the speed of the video game action to create this explosive effect, a small suggestion of a large theme to come.

As the initial shot tracks warily in toward the building, viewers may recognize the façade as Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, or rather, a computer-generated simulation of it. The visual tension between the real and the simulated from the very start of the video has an uncanny quality that will persist in the work to come. The presence of an observatory from the opening also offers a layer of self-referentiality—we are all observers of this work—but we are outside the building. What is to be observed (and how) is yet to unfold.

The opening shot may also trigger a viewer’s memory of having seen it before in the iconic Nicholas Ray film Rebel Without a Cause (1955). But here, rather than in bright Technicolor, the image is desaturated and treated with a variety of digital effects. The texture is almost filmic, with the original clean edges of the video game significantly compromised and softened. (Solomon sees the effect as an analog to black and white reversal film stock.)[4] The regularity of its dither pattern, however, exposes it as a computer graphic, evoking a slant similitude, and an “already seen” quality.

The first words in the audio mix are jarring because they are so unambiguously apocalyptic. We may recognize that the spoken text comes from Rebel Without a Cause; and, if we do, multiple layers of simulation are revealed: the game itself, the fiction film, and the simulation of the planetarium show within that film, which somewhat casually depicts the end of the world. (Solomon omits the lecturer’s final line in Ray’s film, a cursory “That’s all.”) It is hard to say whether this layered similitude softens or accentuates the terror of what we already know: the inevitable end of the Earth and the inescapable end of our own lives.


For many days before the end of our Earth, people will look into the night sky and notice a star, increasingly bright, and increasingly near. As this star approaches us the weather will change, the great polar fields of the north and south will rot and divide. The seas will turn warmer. The last of us search the heavens and stand amazed, for the stars will still be there, moving through their ancient rhythms. The familiar constellations that illuminate our night will seem as they have always seemed: eternal, unchanged and little moved by the shortness of time between our planet’s birth and its demise.


And while the flash of our beginning has not yet traveled the light-years into distance, has not yet been seen by planets deep within the other galaxies, we will disappear into the blackness of the space from which we came, destroyed as we began in a burst of gas and fire.


On the word “blackness,” we return to the image of blackness, this time followed by a fade in to what appears through fog and rain to be an enormous bridge. (We learn later that this is the Golden Gate Bridge, but we are not sure where we are at this point.) The words “burst of gas and fire” accompany a semi-abstract extreme angle shot of falling water that, illuminated from an unknown source, resembles an explosion. A barely noticeable aircraft in the distant sky flies ominously across the screen. These strange and disorienting tableaus in the opening minutes of the video cast us into what seems a indistinct time and space held together tenuously by an apocalyptic voiceover.

The opening image, the observatory exterior, fades in again, this time closer. Last Days in a Lonely Place seems to begin again, undercutting usual narrative order. Starting again is also what video game players can do each time they play. The camera tracks slowly toward the black doors of the building while the same dispassionate voice continues, then over their threshold and through to a murky depth. The voice:


The heavens are still and cold once more. In all the immensity of our universe and the galaxies beyond, we will not be missed. Through the infinite reaches of space the problems of man seem trivial and naïve indeed, and man existing alone seems himself an episode of little consequence.


In the watery darkness a swimmer emerges--both human and froglike. This solitary figure treads water, evoking the anxiety of being lost in boundless space. Solomon’s vaporous palette creates a twilight space, a limbo between waking life and sleep, between survival and extinction too, if we take a cue from the voiceover. Already, two minutes into this 21-minute piece, Solomon asks us to confront the things people fear most: loss, loneliness, death.

From out of the dark waters, another weighty image appears in more rain, one that will return later in the video as well: a movie theater façade with a lit but empty marquee. With stars on the sidewalk in front of the theater, this must be the game’s version of Hollywood Boulevard. The movie theater, like the observatory, is a building we go to specifically for the purpose of seeing things on a big screen. Both also seem in this video to be unused, perhaps empty, perhaps abandoned, just as the female figure in the opening scene abandons the frame. Viewers may draw a historical connection between Solomon’s new kind of found footage and the old ways to see images on a big screen. The age of video games is an age in which such buildings are becoming obsolete and are starting to crumble into contemporary ruins, eventual archaeological sites.

The presence of movies—classic Hollywood movies and others—extends throughout Last Days in a Lonely Place in other ways too. Many of Solomon’s visual compositions evoke scenes from well-known films such as Vertigo and Rebel Without a Cause; some are almost exactly as they appear in the original, while others are echoes. What is the purpose for these hybrid graphics, which are sometimes processed to emphasize the banding and other artifacts of digital graphics that make them look primitive, and at other times refined to show viewers stunning moments of verisimilitude?

Maybe the hybridity has to do with the question of Solomon’s audience and its composition. Will the audience for this work be relatively homogenous or relatively hybrid? The question of audience haunted Rebel Without a Cause too. In that film, after the observatory show, a policeman remarks to the lecturer “There’s your audience,” referring to a group of hoodlums (who were, in fact, in the auditorium) hanging around the observatory. The lecturer’s reply: “Oh, I don’t think so.” The same question could be asked of Solomon’s new work. Is his audience the gamer, the old movie buff, the serious film critic, or the avant-gardists? or all of them? Is it even possible to find a new audience, and if so, how?

The mixed graphics that waver between verisimilitude and artificiality have another function: they create an unstable sense of reality in Last Days in a Lonely Place. This technique emphasizes the essential qualities of the digital medium, just as Solomon did with the older technology of film in his previous works. Aesthetically, Solomon does not let us forget the birth out of absence and lost-object status that is inherent to this medium. Throughout this video, tangibility is mourned. The 3D spaces of video games reflect the current age’s perceptions of depth and multi-layered space; the space of the classic Hollywood film is evaporating into mist and will soon no longer belong to the time we occupy.

Even the title Last Days in a Lonely Place is compound, consisting of the titles of two stylistically different narrative feature films: Gus Van Sant’s Last Days (2005) and Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place (1950). These two films haunt Solomon’s work visually, aurally and thematically. Both films are about the loneliness of an artist: a post-punk rock musician in one and a Hollywood screenwriter in the other. They also hold personal significance  for Solomon, as he describes in the following:


I studied with Nick (Ray) a bit and so did Mark (Lapore)- at Binghamton…studied is too strong - hung out and listened to his public lectures, which were great, sad and anecdotal about Hollywood. I didn’t really appreciate him until much later –the Nick that I knew is the one in Wenders’ Lightning Over Water -- that’s the exact time period from Binghamton… One of the last emails Mark ever wrote to me: “Saw Last Days. Truly a film about nothing. I loved it.” Mark loved Cobain and I think was  - dare I say – moved by his narrative, including checking out.[5]

The soundtrack of Last Days In a Lonely Place offers yet another reference to death through the voice of the marginalized character played by Sal Mineo (murdered in his 30’s) in Rebel Without a Cause. He is the only one to die in that picture; he is also the loneliest: “What does he [the lecturer] know about ‘man alone’?” he says after the observatory show in that film.

In a later sequence, the camera, above what appears to be the Golden Gate Bridge, defies physical laws and plunges directly into the bay. We hear the frightened Mineo’s question: “Jim, do you think the end of the world will happen at night time?” The question here is unanswered, but later on in the soundtrack, we hear it repeated and followed up with James Dean’s reply.

As an interior shot dominated by the diagonal lines of light streaming through Venetian blinds dissolves in, the film noir tone takes a sudden turn to the exotic cyber-punk tenor of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982). The overlay of crosshairs on the surface of the video image suggests a paranoid point-of-view shot, an unsettling reminder of the video game source., which is a brutalAre we looking through the scope of a sniper rifle or the viewfinder of a camera? Either way the viewer becomes a “first person shooter.” game The exoticism, which is a staple of tech noir, is reinforced when Indian music appears on the soundtrack; its reverb shifting in subtle sync with the image. As the camera pans down, the picture becomes a geometric abstraction charged with a strange and beautiful power. The music slowly softens into the distance as the image dissolves into a series of mysterious interiors and vistas.

Solomon’s soundtrack clearly mirrors the concept of found footage: it borrows bits and pieces of audio from other sources and recontextualizes them in an original mix, one of multiple layerings. In another example of the sophistication of Solomon’s mix, otherworldly voices and bells borrowed from Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice (1986) accompany an almost photorealistic image of fog moving through trees. In the following shot, the fog remains, this time in a tableau of a desolate tract in which a bulldozer sits next to a large stump – another suggestion of worldly destruction. Tarkovsky’s haunted voices color various other nocturnal scenes in Last Days In a Lonely Place, including yet another return to the Griffith Park Observatory where a lone female figure stands silhouetted in the rain. (Is she the character who left so quickly before, now returning to reclaim something she forgot? Does she now return to bear witness to the ruins of an older culture?)

A shot that follows a barely visible male figure making his way to a car in a wooded area recalls Ray’s film noir, In A Lonely Place. This visual echo is aurally intensified later in the shot when we hear Humphrey Bogart’s voice describing a woman’s murder: “You put your right arm around her neck. Now you get to a lonely place in the road and you begin to squeeze.” Those familiar with Ray’s film may remember the loneliness of the self-destructive protagonist, a washed-up screenwriter for Studio System Hollywood movies who is psychologically destroyed by the end of the picture. (Is this character the solitary man at the writing desk who subsequently appears?) Solomon’s narrative is interrupted here by a sharp knock on a door—usually an ominous sound and here no less so—and a cut to an interior area with a stereo and couches. This space looks only barely lived in.

A shot from beneath the Golden Gate Bridge mirrors a famous composition in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). “I love that piece of land up there. Look to the left by the streetlight - looks like a headstone and a broken fence. You can't believe what I had to do to get this exact composition,” says Solomon, referring to how he had to negotiate the various obstacles programmed into the game Grand Theft Auto 3 to get the shot he wanted.[6] The shot is worth the effort spent, especially for those familiar with Vertigo. It is here that Madeleine (falsely) attempts suicide by jumping into the bay. But here the scene is empty, and we are unsure what might happen or has happened. Has a suicide occurred? Will it occur? Or is Solomon commenting on the fading relevance of Hitchcock, once the most analyzed filmmaker in the academy? Perhaps we are meant to remember Jimmy Stewart’s obsessive character in Vertigo, who grasps desperately after something (itself a fantasy) already lost.

This shot gives way to the interior of a hearse carrying a coffin. As the vehicle moves, a streetlight illuminates the back window, which has been smashed. Then Solomon cuts to the front of the vehicle driving down Hollywood Boulevard, swinging the camera view around it with impossible precision. And then the view fades out suddenly. We hear a sigh on the soundtrack with the appearance of the next image. A figure sits at a writing desk, and the audio mix contains the mournful sound of church bells (a funeral? a reminder of mortality?); we hear a voice mumble “I remember…when” several times. The voice is from Gus Van Sant’s Last Days, and it is the Cobain character who is speaking. Who is our writer? Is he writing a suicide note (said to be true of Cobain)? Is the old-fashioned image of the writer writing longhand at a desk becoming a relic? Is the writer someone who is now excluded from the movie business? From Solomon’s work as well?

The Sacrifice is invoked again in a shot of the interior space from before that lasts almost a full minute. Over that span, the cold interior space, which seems like it is from a vacant house, begins to burn. Eventually fire and smoke engulf this room. In Tarkovsky’s work, the protagonist is under the perhaps outlandish belief that by making a sacrifice he will save the world from an immanent fiery apocalypse – so he burns down his own house. Here, there is no such conceit or explanation.

Flames flare up in some of the other places too: after the house comes the forest, then the movie theater with the hearse parked in front of it. Who has set this fire and why? The hearse and movie theater both become part of the funeral pyre. The presence of death is so strong that we have trouble teasing out whether anything in this work is not dying. The film medium seems on its deathbed; the movie character references are to those who die, as characters and in real life; a major part of the voiceover is of Earth’s apocalypse. The death of filmmaker Mark Lapore is felt too, perhaps also Solomon’s thoughts of his own death. He would not be the first artist to contemplate such a thing and to bring such contemplation into his work.

Solomon’s next image is the wooded area. A shadowy figure moves over the crest of a hill and departs. The next cut reveals the strangest image in the entire piece: in a long shot that again recalls a scene from Vertigo, two felled trees motivated by an unseen supernatural force quiver and spin.

Soon after, we see an extremely sad tableau: a figure stands alone in a dark room looking at an empty bed with two pillows. Is he grieving the loss of a lover? Is this a deathbed? The camera slowly tracks around the figure while remaining fixed on him. A dim light from the window over the bed illuminates it gently. Who is this figure? This longing, perhaps grief stricken character seems an unlikely element of Grand Theft Auto 3. As this image fades out, the ominous chords from the soundtrack of Rebel Without a Cause fade up. The image that fades in is the domestic interior, this time through crosshairs.

Again we hear the familiar lecturer’s voice from Rebel Without a Cause:


Long after we have gone, the familiar constellations that illuminate our night will seem as they have always seemed, eternal, unchanged and little moved by the shortness of time between our planet’s birth and its demise. Orion the hunter, one of Ptolemy’s constellations and the most brilliant in the heavens: Cancer the crab.


The voice is made to pause here after the word “Cancer,” the disease Lapore suffered from. The ominous strings continue as the domestic interior dissolves to a seascape at night. Strangely minimal birds fly over it as Mineo’s unanswered question --“Jim, do you think the end of the world will come at night time?”--is this time answered by James Dean: “Uh-Uh, at dawn.” While the reply sounds profound, both here and in Ray’s film, it is a posturing James Dean who gives it gravitas. No one knows the answer to the question, and no one will be able to record it afterwards anyway. But while Ray’s film ends at dawn, granting Dean (as Movie Star) a kind of prophetic status, no such logic and no such prophets prevail in Solomon’s work.

At this moment a brilliant sunrise washes out the picture. We see pure white. (Is this the suggestion of dawn? It is too ambiguous to say.) Solomon then pans down into the water revealing the hearse again, now submerged. The dread evoked by repeated images of the hearse and coffin is plain, but their cartoonish quality evidences a dark sense of humor. This scene slowly dissolves into the final tableau of the piece. The female bather returns, this time sitting on a steeply sloped rocky shore, gazing out at the seascape.  Searchlights scour the terrain as strange geometric shapes float above stormy seas. This image has something of surrealist painting in it – a touch of Tanguy or DiChirico. Solomon holds on this final image for at least a minute and then fades out.

By the end of Last Days in a Lonely Place, we realize that Solomon’s montage is neither random nor logical. Rather, it is a tracing of story scenes--the Griffith Park Observatory, the Golden Gate Bridge, a movie theater on Hollywood Boulevard, a forest, a lonely interior—of characters—a female swimmer, a figure at a writing desk—and of objects—a hearse, a coffin. As tracings, Solomon’s  tableaus allow viewers both to experience absence as well as to make their own associations. This is also what gamers do: create their own narratives from the raw materials given to them by the game. Solomon offers narrative openings—perhaps beginnings, perhaps endings. In this way, the work moves ahead more like a dream than a story told in a fully conscious state. The images and people we see are imbued with the suggestion of multiple layers of symbolism.

With this new video Solomon brings avant-garde cinema even more squarely into the contemporary cultural arena. Solomon is not the first person to make movies out of material shot from a video game. There are, in fact, many examples of these other videos on video-sharing websites. But what Solomon brings to this endeavor, and what the young practitioners of “machinima” do not, is the sensitivity and creative potency of a veteran avant-garde filmmaker informed by years of dedication to personal cinema. Much of the current avant-garde cinema has struggled in recent years to move beyond the bounds it has constructed for itself. Some veteran avant-garde filmmakers today have looked to new technologies, but most have difficulty producing videos that rival their films. At the same time, certain young filmmakers remain orthodox, feeling like legitimate artists only if they work with codified materials, techniques and strategies.

                  With a personal history of collaborating with the seminal artist Stan Brakhage, who was fiercely committed to film and had distaste for the quality of the video image, Solomon too felt the pressure of self-imposed boundaries:


I started to feel like I was in a trap that I had set for myself and was now committed to making a certain type of film. This [video game] brought me back to my boyhood in so many ways… It really did offer me another avenue for creativity that was completely new for me. I also wonder if Stan’s [Brakhage] leaving may have freed me up in the same way that Mark’s death inspired the urgency of the works. As I said I feel like these pieces are tapping into where I left off BEFORE I knew about all this… It is probably the closest to who I really am if I had never discovered the world of avant-garde film and were still in my 16 year old room listening to sad moody songs.[7]

Solomon says of this new work:


You know, I never really think of myself as an avant-garde anything, these days (alone in my house here in this quiet burb with nothing around except my stuff) or part of a movement of any kind (though of course I am). I am just interested in the work at hand and not how it fits into the larger picture—not sure I even believe in such a thing anymore… And I never think about advancing the media, etc. The war is over.[8]


His doubts are paradoxical because Solomon could not have made these videos without being deeply involved in the avant-garde film tradition. At the same time, the pieces have been made in the true spirit of the avant-garde because they substantially break out of standardized ideas of experimentation, and they wander through unmapped territory.

By confronting contemporary technologies, Solomon has demonstrated that they offer new ways of seeing and new ways of investigating cinematic form. Despite this weightiness, Solomon did not begin this project with the idea of making serious art. It began innocently enough as just having fun with a friend.


[1]    Phil Solomon, email message to authors, May 22, 2008.

[2]    Phil Solomon, email message to authors, May 22, 2008.

[3]    Michael Sicinski, “Phil Solomon Visits San Andreas and Escapes, Not Unscathed: Notes on Two Recent Works,” Cinema Scope 30, 2007.

[4]    Phil Solomon, email to authors, May 22, 2008.

[5]    Phil Solomon, email to authors, May 22, 2008.

[6]    6        Phil Solomon, emails to authors, May 22, 2008.

[7]    Phil Solomon, email to authors, May 22, 2008.

[8]    Phil Solomon, email to authors, May 22, 2008