German artist Anselm Kiefer took over a closed silk factory in Barjac, France, both to create art and construct a massive complex to house and display it. It must be a fascinating place to visit. Kiefer creates huge canvases and sculptures, and some of his works occupy their own specially constructed buildings. He also tunneled under some structures to create his own catacombs, which are meant to be explored as part of his opus. Reportedly, it's a very theatrical experience to tour his array of art and architecture, and it makes sense why filmmaker Sophie Fiennes set out to make the documentary Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow. It succeeds in tempting a viewer to consider a pilgrimage to the site, but as a film it feels too long.
Kiefer and his assistants are diligent laborers who work with massive canvases and sculptures using heavy construction equipment including industrial cranes. They build square concrete huts they then stack in towers. They melt metals into liquids and cast them over piles of dirt to create sculptures with organically rendered surfaces. For art materials, they shatter large panes of glass and dinner plates with a robust energy for both destruction and construction.
The best part of the film is a long interview in which a journalist talks to Kiefer about his ideas. Kiefer reveals a remarkably broad view of time and space, imagining his works stretching from the minuscule to the infinite, like single-cell organisms evolving over millions of years, or comparing boulders he places in his work to meteors hurtling though the vastness of the universe. He is fascinated by the lead plates on the top of the cathedral in Cologne, Germany, which over time have become heavier at the bottom, suggesting their solid form is a matter of temporal illusion. The reporter is very familiar with Kiefer's work and ideas and not everything is explained to the camera, but it's an illuminating conversation nonetheless.
The rest of the film is mostly silent. The opening scenes slowly pan over Kiefer's buildings, tunnels and work, and it is more than 17 minutes before a human being appears or a word is spoken. Fiennes' approach makes sense as an effort to capture the entirety of the compound at Barjac, but at times, it also is like watching paint dry. One can admire her attempt to do justice to Kiefer's work, but she could have been similarly successful in an hour. The film needs more of Kiefer's voice, but even with its spare approach, it's an intriguing look at the artist at work. Tickets $7 general admission, $6 students/seniors, $5 Zeitgeist members. — Will Coviello
Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow
5:30 p.m. Friday - Thursday
Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center, 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 827-5858; www.zeitgeistinc.net