At this year's World Wide Video Festival one of the video diaries of GEORGE KUCHAR was shown: The Thursday People. It was a film documenting the slow death of his former student, the filmmaker CURT MCDOWELL, suffering from AIDS. CURT was confined to his bed and his friends visited him every Thursday, keeping him up to date with what was going on in the world around him. A tragic tale, lightened, but not trivialised, by KUCHAR'S sense of humor, told in the underground style of the 60's.
Is the thing recording? The meter doesn't react.
Testing, one, two! Pah, pah.
What you remember about Thursday People is the style. Who exactly dies and why, I don't know. All that's not really so important. The daily grind, the atmosphere of it, that's the most impressive thing about it, the nonchalant way in which it's filmed, the lack of pretence.
I think, uh... that he uses the camera like a kind of dictating machine. If you're driving along in the car and you’ve got one of those things in the glove compartment...suddenly
you have this great idea, or you're bored, stuck in a traffic Jam, so you just start talking a load of crap into it.
It actually makes things happen, too, that machine. KUCHAR makes people do things,
just by walking around with that camera of his... people are sitting around at home,
totally bored, then somebody with a video camera comes in, and before you know it
Bam! Action! You know, like, ah ... shit, we gotta do something, say something.
Yeah, and the same goes for him, too. He gears his whole hie to fit in with the video. If the camera's on, he's got to do something.
He's probably not even capable of doing anything unless the camera's on. Can you imagine, he's sitting around, bored out of his mind, thinks What can I do ? .. ah,
yeah, I'll do that shower scene again. Yeah, that's it, that's the stimulus. Boredom, pure and simple.
Amazing, when you think about it, how it gets you, though. His stuff really excites
me, much more than all those pretentious art-for-art's-sake videos, Only water, water,
water. Trying to produce something artistical. This stuff makes you feel like you're inside somebody's skin, living their life with them.
Burp! Uh, yes.
Scratching yourself, having a shower, eating a hamburger, it all looks a bit distasteful,
doing all these banal things. But that's life, and it's this banality which he records.
That sort of thing usually gets cut. If somebody says, God, I stink like a pig, I'll just go and have a shower, or something like that, everything comes to a halt, you wait 'til they get back, have straightened their clothes, etcetera, and then uh ... the ball starts rolling again. KUCHAR is far more honest where that kind of thing is concerned.
That... that kind of things...
that acknowledging that it actually happens. If you're going to record your hie, showering, eating, talking crap, feeding the at, it all has to be there.
It's very personal.
It's like those home movies, everyone can make this kind of video.
]eeze, I think that's awful, that it makes you think Yeah, I could do that, too... and
that that's why it grabs you. You feel like you could be one of those guys he's filming. I
mean, it feels real close. You don't need to know a whole lot of technical stuff, this kind
of video is for everybody - it's a sort of democratision...
..of the medium.
Something like this you can only do with a small video camera, simple and handy.
It's a medium that almost offers no resistance. Nowadays you also get these FUJI uh...
BOD, shut up, get in your basket!
...those throw-away FUJI cameras. You just stick one in your pocket, and there y' go.
...so simple, you just press the button.
Yeah, Bam! Got it! You can take it everywhere with you, dead handy.
A real gadget.
If you're bored, or feel a bit awkward in a situation, in a cafe with some people, for instance, you just whip out your gadget and Bob's your uncle.
Maybe that's why he took his camera to that party. Ah, I dunno, maybe I got the wrong
end of the stick, but I don't think that the party had anything to do with the dead film-maker. KUCHAR doesn't really know that many people, he's a bit of an outsider. It was one of those ethnic minordities parties, dunno why. But anyway, I figure he didn't feel so comfortable there and that's why he walked around with his camera, to protect himself, sort of.
I think all of his stuff is about Fear, the fear underlying everything. Like, uh, he has
really long scenes with only his curtains in them, he's showing the world he lives in, completely cut off from the outside world. At one point, he's spying on a bag lady
through the curtains, talking to his cat at the same time, saying Now just you watch
out that you don't end up out there on the street like that. He depicts the world as something hostile, with his house as a kind of bunker.
And when goes outside he takes his video camera with him as a way of protecting himself from all forms of direct contact. He wants to arm himself against everything in the outside world. It's the fear ofAIDS...
That's why he tries to escape death by pinning his life, squirming and wriggling onto a piece of videotape.
Yeah, that the need to preserve, to document, is the result of a kind of mummy
complex, with which he tries to exorcise his fear of death.
What's up, BOD, is there a mouse in the kitchen?
But maybe it's just a sort of hysterical compulsion to film everything. This guy
films too much, really, when you think about it. You spend half your life watching a replay of the other half.
It reminds me of a guy I met, can't remember his name just now, this kid had made a sort of environment, an art "installation" of his own life, with his bed, his hifi, his guitar, and so on. He told me he'd made the recording of his life into a full-time occupation. He filmed himself, watched what he'd filmed, then filmed himself while he was watching what he'd
filmed, what his reactions were while watching the video. Can you imagine? And you can go on repeating this process ad infinitum.
You get to the point where the medium dominates your whole hie. You record your
life in order to preserve it, to achieve a certain immortality, and while you're doing
that, you stop Living. The mummy complex recoils upon itself, backfires. You
want to be immortal, so you film yourself Even when you're dead, you, your image
will always walk and talk. The irony of it all is that you have no more time to Live, II you do that. You're the victim of your own mummy complex...
...a video victim.
translation DEBORAH FFOULKES