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Hyacinth Fire (1989)

Black and White / Color

40 min


Featuring: Steven Griffith and Carl Johengen

Original text from poems by Robert Duncan, with permission from the estate of Robert Duncan

Score: by Douglas Cohen

Performed by Buffalo New Music Ensemble

Piano: Michael McCandless

Oboe/English Horn: Paul Schlossman

Percussion: Robert Schulz

Narration:Rodney Sharman

Digital transfer by Gordon Nelson, The George Eastman Museum, Rochester NY, USA

Witnesses point how we, in our passion, fast as foxes,
Caught and devoured and scattered the flesh
Of our common body; accuse us of cruelties in nature
And blood.  And now it is winter.
I, too, remember how fiercely, relentlessly,
Drive we the blind split between us. I rise
In the night and hunt in the streets
That are emptied, suddenly vast
And filled with the dreary remain
Of past obsessions. 

  – From Witnesses by Robert Duncan

AIDS is a marker for the gay community; it has changed us forever. It is now difficult to remember a time before. When I created this film, it was a time of great confusion, my boyfriend had died two years earlier, and I was not dealing with my precarious position. This film responds to those days of confusion, fear, and acceptance. Hyacinth Fire is a response film to Brose's 1986 film An Individual Desires Solution.

Time is dissolved; history is once again our mirror. The past is our future. The continuous stutter of remaking ourselves. To be born again and yet again renewed and destroyed. All timelines are frozen and crystallized into reflective images. This is the nature of the film Hyacinth Fire. Images are compressed and isolated. They pass very slowly and create their own world void of time and place. It is an inner world of mystery, longing, confusion, and fear. The images reoccur, dissolve, and are superimposed with slight variations. With the sound composition and text, I’ve attempted to create an atmosphere where the viewer has time to explore the images, make connections within themselves, and question their feelings.

There are phobic visions and a multiplicity of meanings in Duncan’s poetry that transforms into new metaphors when viewed in the context of gay male consciousness during this time of AIDS. The title refers to the Greek myth of Hyacinthus, who was Apollo’s mortal male lover whom he accidentally killed, and from the blood of Hyacinthus, the hyacinth grows. This myth is an apt metaphor for the AIDS crisis and its effect on gay men.


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