Buckminster Fuller – SFMOMA

I’m deep into a new project that I’m very excited about: the SFMOMA is opening a show next month called “The Utopian Impulse: Buckminster Fuller and the Bay Area,” and they commissioned me to put together a multi-part documentary project about Fuller and SF. I’m going to post regular updates about the project here, and hopefully it’ll be an interesting window onto the process. The research is really interesting and great fun, and I’m excited to share some of this stuff.

When you work on a film, you end up having a similar conversation over and over:

“What are you up to these days, Sam?”

“I’m working on a new project about this guy named Buckminster Fuller, ” I say, and at this point in the conversation I usually look at the other person’s face to see if there’s any recognition – if the name the means anything to them. There’s a whole range of responses, from stone-faced and no-bells-ringing-at-all, to “oh, isn’t that the Geodesic dome guy?” to an enthusiastic: “I totally fucking love Buckminster Fuller – that’s excellent.”

If you’re reading this and have no idea who Fuller was, just take a quick look at Wikipedia – he’s definitely worth checking out. He was a fascinating figure – a designer, architect, visionary, and utopian. And like Joseph Cornell or Jean Painlevet, Fuller was around for a long time – he started working in the 1920s and continued all the way thru the 80s – and spanned a bunch of different eras. Fuller is definitely having a moment of being rediscovered, perhaps because his work has such a striking resonance today.

So the two main pieces I’m putting together for SFMOMA are a live documentary and an installation. The live piece is called “The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller” and it’ll combine live narration and powerpoint live score, a lot like my previous “live documentary,” “Utopia in Four Movements.” I’m really excited that for this new Fuller piece, the band Yo La Tengo has agreed to do perform the live soundtrack with me. (I’ve always been a big YLT fan, and I still have very powerful memories of the live show they did with the movies of Jean Painlevé at the Castro way back in the early 2000s. It was one of the most sublime cinematic experiences I’ve ever had!)

“The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller” will premier at the SFMOMA on May 1, 2012 as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival. (A warning: you better get your tickets early – it’s definitely gonna sell out. I don’t want you to be to be texting me a half-hour before the show asking if I have any extra comps!)

The other part of this project will be a multi-channel documentary installation about Fuller and the Bay Area. I’m putting together a 20-minute video that will be projected on a super cool sculpture that’s being built by the SF projection company Obscura Digital. My pal and collaborator Todd Griffin is doing the music for this one.

This piece will be part of the exhibit at the SFMOMA, which will open on March 29th – yikes, that’s not very far away, so I gotta sign off and get some work done. But like I said, I’m going to post updates here – I hope you enjoy.