Bill Morrison

Bill Morrison

The Film Archaeologist

Things fall apart, but they are also reassembled and given new life, in an enlightened form. Meet the New York based artist and filmmaker Bill Morrison in this interview about his haunting experimental collage films 'Decasia' and 'Light is Calling'.

Bill Morrison works with archival footage in various stages of degradation, cutting the footage to original music made by different composers. The music isn't background music, but works “in tandem with the images”, Morrison explains.

Morrison works with layers of reality – archaeological layers of time – looking for moments of exquisite decay happening to the film on a chemical level. In 'Light is Calling' (2004): “you're seeing this narrative that was shot in 1926, you're seeing all the different things that have happened to the film since then, and how they relate to each other.” Based on a scene from a deteriorating print of James Young's film 'The Bells' (1926) which was optically printed and re-edited to a composition by composer Michael Gordon, 'Light is Calling' is a meditation on the nature of random collisions.

“There are two different ways of looking at decay, you can look at decay as just part of a cycle, instrumental in reforming your life, and you can also think of decay as the end, and something to be feared and avoided at all costs. Both attitudes are embraced in the film,” Morrison explains. In his research Morrison is looking for “shadows of moments” to be frozen in time. You are looking at things which have survived in a enlightened form, he says.

'Decaysia' (2002) is a collection of old shots on nitrate based film in various forms of distress cut to music composed by Michael Gordon. The found footage shows people in various stages of ecstasy, transcending their bodies. The bodies are rotting, but the spirit transcends, and lives on, Morrison explains. When people were filmed they had no idea about the context of the film. The footage has taken on it's own life. Morrison adds that it's also a conversation with digital media – because nobody knows how long digital footage would have survived. The old analogue film footage has persevered into a new form, and the spirit is still intact.

The award winning American artist Bill Morrison (b. 1965) is best known for his experimental collage film Decasia. Morrison's films have been screened at festivals, museums and concert halls worldwide, including the Sundance Film Festival and The Tate Modern, London. Eight of his titles have been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. His work with Ridge Theater has been recognized with two Bessie awards and an Obie Award. Decasia, his feature-length collaboration with composer Michael Gordon, was noted by J. Hoberman of the Village Voice as "the most widely acclaimed American avant-garde film of the fin-de-siècle." The director Errol Morris commented while viewing 'Decasia' that "This may be the greatest movie ever made."

Bill Morrison was interviewed by Christian Lund.

Camera: Steen Møller Rasmussen
Edited by: Kamilla Bruus
Produced by: Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Supported by Nordea-fonden

  • Nástio Mosquito

    'Mama Africa' is a Construct

    In this short interview Angolan artist Nástio Mosquito discusses his provocative video work, in which he through three blazing speeches addresses the legacy of the western logic of ownership and debt, not least regarding a construct like ‘Africa’.

  • Nástio Mosquito

    What are You Willing to Die for?

    Angolan artist Nástio Mosquito has been dubbed “the future star of the art world.” He here talks about his invigorating multidisciplinary practice, which investigates universally human characteristics in a teasing, polemic and humorous way.

  • Bill Viola

    Cameras are Soul Keepers

    When video artist Bill Viola was 6 years old he fell into a lake, all the way to the bottom, to a place which seemed like paradise. "There's more than just the surface of life." Viola explains. "The real things are under the surface".

  • 11 Artists

    on Photography

    “We are so oversaturated with images, so it’s about one question: Can I hold you - can I get you to look at an image for longer than a second?” Watch Catherine Opie, Wim Wenders, Jeff Wall and 8 other artists on the power and potential of photography.

  • The Story of Marina Abramović & Ulay

    Legendary couple in performance art – Marina Abramović and Ulay – lived together for 12 years and made pioneering work as a duo. In this extraordinary double interview the artists look back on their relationship – from their first meeting in 1975 until now.

  • Marina Abramović

    Electricity Passing Through

    For more than 50 years trailblazing performance artist Marina Abramović has used her own body and energy as her main artistic material. In this powerful interview, the artist looks back on her radical practice: “It was like the first woman walking on the moon.”

  • Wang Shu

    Architecture is a Job for God

    The Chinese architect Wang Shu’s buildings – a crossover between traditional Chinese culture and large-scale modern architecture – have earned him prestigious awards. “Democracy means a really diverse society,” says the architect in this inspiring interview.

  • Margrethe Odgaard

    Colour Diary of New York

    Becoming more aware of your surroundings can “open a new dimension inside as well as outside yourself.” Meet award-winning Danish designer Margrethe Odgaard who has trained herself to register the world through colours.

  • Nick Cave

    The World is my Skin

    Have you ever wished that you could put on a suit which would open up the imagination and take you to the world of your dreams? In this video artist Nick Cave presents his wearable sculptures, the 'Soundsuits', made from discarded everyday materials.

  • Gerhard Richter

    In Art We Find Beauty and Comfort

    “I don’t really believe art has power. But it does have value. Those who take an interest in it find solace in art. It gives them huge comfort.” Gerhard Richter, one of the greatest painters of our time, discusses beauty in the era of the internet.

  • Daniel Libeskind

    Tribute to New York

    “If you took the whole world and collapsed it into one little ball, you’d find it here, in this city.” Daniel Libeskind, world-renowned architect behind the new World Trade Center site, gives tribute to his city in this short and colourful video.

  • Marina Abramović & Ulay

    A Living Door of the Museum

    Standing naked in the main entrance of a museum, facing each other while the audience passes sideways through the small space. Legendary performance artists Marina Abramović and Ulay share the story behind their poetic work ‘Imponderabilia’.