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Live and On Film: The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller

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Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sam Green and indie rock legends Yo La Tengo brought their "live documentary" on the life and work of Buckminster Fuller to Boston for two performances at the ICA on Saturday, October 20. Similar to Green's earlier Utopia in Four Movements, The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller features live narration over a collection of projected archival images/footage and new filmed interviews, all backed by live musical accompaniment from Yo La Tengo.

Originally commissioned by SFMOMA as part of their spring 2012 exhibit The Utopian Impulse: Buckminster Fuller and the Bay Area, the documentary is made up of what Green described in a post-performance Q&A as "about ten sections" that he can swap in and out for different performances. In this way, he's able to highlight Fuller connections in cities that have them, and the performances stay fresh from night to night.

The overall effect of Green's genial narration and the live music (written specifically for this film) is lively, endearing, and surprisingly dramatic at times, considering the subject is an eccentric architect and philosopher who dreamed of solving the world's homelessness and hunger problems through design. Asked by a teacher in the audience whether he has plans to release video of a performance, Green stated that it's really the kind of thing you have to experience live, and he's right -- filming it would flatten it out and fix it in time in a way that feels entirely counter to the nuances, textures and fluid energy that make it work so well live.

In putting the film together, Green spent some time going through "about 2 percent" of the Dimaxion Chronofile, the Fuller archive housed at Stanford University, which contains published and unpublished works, sketches, schematics, letters, photos and films, as well as every receipt, list and bill Fuller obsessively saved over the course of his life. Choosing what to extract from this behemoth collection for a 60-minute film seems like an impossible task, but Green has managed it, producing a coherent and engaging portrait of Fuller and his passionate striving for a better future.

Those of us at the 9pm show were lucky to be joined in the audience by Peter Chermayeff, Cambridge architect and designer (with his team the Cambridge Seven) of the USA exhibition for Expo '67 in Montreal, housed under Fuller's iconic domed pavilion. Green uses a section of Chermayeff's film Design for a Fair in Love Song, and he invited Chermayeff to the mic after the screening to talk a bit about working with Fuller: a special treat for audiences in Boston, so close to where Fuller was raised and is buried.

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Bonnie B enjoys talking with non-artists about art. She excels at non sequiturs, has a last name no one pronounces correctly, and tweets as @6x6pix and can be found here - https://instagram.com/6x6pix/.

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