Standing Nymph and Man (2017)
A hybrid video project based on the ornamental and sonic history of the Fine Arts Building and the Studebaker Theater.
In the film Standing Nymph with Man, the Fine Arts Building in Chicago is the protagonist rather than the subject. Originally designed by Spencer Beman in 1884 as a soundproof structure for the Studebaker Company (horse carts and automobiles), the building has for many years been home to artists' studios and services for classical music. This sonic history and presence is constantly evoked in the film's soundtrack, which brings to the forefront the reverberant acoustic qualities of the building. Another invisible yet audible presence is the occasional voice of the building's cleaning woman who relates her personal encounters with the building. Her voice is in counterpoint to the elevator operator's whistling, a leitmotif in the soundtrack that we hear only in reflection, since we only ever see him from behind. This insistence on an invisible yet highly palpable acousmatic presence creates a rich sonic world that embraces the film's visual mixture of live action footage and LIDAR animation. These visual techniques focus on the details of both the surfaces of the building's interiors and its three-dimensional forms, tying the intimate upper floors to the first-floor theater, uniting surface, volume, material, reverberation, and resonance, and articulating historical traces that surpass subjects or authors. Anonymity, in fact, permeates both the building and the film, from the anonymous painting that gives the film its title, to the cleaning woman who chooses to remain anonymous in the film's making, to the numerous lesser known musicians practicing their craft in private behind closed doors that nonetheless allow the seepage of their intermingling music into the resonant hallways of the building.