Always, the multiple emotional frequencies and resonances of Lewis Klahr’s animations are what tune me in. It’s not necessarily the choice of images that produce these sensations, but how they are framed, activated, and put into motion. The camera zooms in, figures skate through the frame, backgrounds slide by, time expands and collapses, bits of backstory are suggested. Yet, there is space left around these elements and strategies that invites memories and histories outside the frame to fill in some of the arcs.
I just rewatched April Snow (2010) to write some words for La Furia Umana. During this viewing on my laptop, text messages popped up on my screen from a text program I forgot to quit. They merged with this viewing of Klahr’s work and framed this collage – a collapse of past and present, of self and memory, instigated by the messaging window, carried by this animation, and now dealt with in this document.
So this is where the story begins, or it does in April Snow. The shutter opens and we fade up on a fabric, an implied curtain is pulled aside, revealing a cityscape that we move through into an interior psychic space of our protagonist. We witness a bad boy giving up his bad ways for love – He don't do the wild things that he did before– set fittingly to “Out on the Streets”(1965) by the 1960s melo-operatic girl group, The Shangri-Las.
Klahr’s camera work is the central strategy that propels us from a courtship into domestication. He doesn’t wear those dirty old black boots no more. Personal transformation and time are linked in April Snow. As one of the many male stand-ins for our protagonist emerges from the bottom of the frame, we see a new man resurfaced. As he enters a scene set in a shoe sales room, he’s arriving in a new present that is devoid of dirty and old black boots.
Maybe we should take a moment to ask some questions about our own paths and sequences and soundtracks to this point? He used to act bad, Used to, but he quit it. Most importantly, what are the camera movements that got us here? We come up for breath in the animation as The Shangri-Las song fades out. This transition is punctuated with a text message on my laptop screen from my old high school sweetheart.
“Sam shattered her ankle on Monday, needed emergency surgery on fri to make sure she recovered before baby due, anesthesia made baby's heart drop so they emergency c sectioned 6 weeks early. He's 6 lbs 5 oz and doing really good.”
Enter Bruce, Dan’s newborn, into this world, and into this story along with Dan, an old flame. I should mention that little Bruce’s namesake is The Boss. Now, we move into the second part of April Snow, set to the Springsteen’s song, Racing in the Street (1978).
We return with song and to images of meat, potatoes, beer, and socks. Racing in the Street is written thirteen years after Out in the Streets. Time has passedand our protagonist has had time to develop other habits and routines. We re-enter this story, having left the city and settled down in the suburbs. The old boots of the previous section appear, walking or even running, but are soon replaced by the wheels of the car that is tinkered upon again and again in the garage.
Some guys they just give up living, And start dying little by little, piece by piece. The tires are the foundation of a vehicle that carries our protagonist’s narrative along. We move from the car to the escape that it holds – blurry landscape and abstract industrial textures streak by, locating us in a stream of time.Tonight, tonight, our highway’s bright. But is it? The car accelerates; it crashes out.
The animation ends with protagonist swimming away from the shore at night. Tension has been growing at home, both in the animation and in Racing in the Street. Bruce sings, Tonight my baby and me, we're gonna ride to the sea, And wash these sins off our hands. I think of The Shangri-Las as a doom and gloom band, but this line from Springsteen fits in aptly with this genre.Returning to The Shangri-Las, it’s already known that this transformation isn’t going to pan out. But he's not the same, Something about his kissing, That tells me he's changed, I know that something's missing inside.
These images too were swimming through my mind as I dig up an earlier message from Dan and his partner Sam for their baby shower. They followed a similar trajectory of moving out of the city and starting a family. But their baby shower doubled as a noise show and the wild things and those dirty old black boots along with resisting normative gender models are part of how they are discovering and defining how they build their family.
I’ve seen Klahr describe April Snow as a mix tape. Making a mix tape is to build a pathway through various times, hopes, sorrows, loves, and losses. It’s a form of collage that builds new narratives and frequencies through merging tracks from our present, our past, and stories outside of our frames.