Nothing Happens for Long
Nothing Happens for Long is a collaborative short film project by Jonn Herschend and Andrew Leland, commissioned by the Oakland Standard at OMCA. The film presents interviews with real OMCA visitors describing their ordinary (even banal) experiences at the museum. These stories were then reenacted by professional actors.
Part One of Nothing Happens for Long
Nothing Happens for Long is not a parody, though it was conceived with an affectionate belief in the entertaining and comedic possibilities of serious art. The film seeks to uncover and celebrate the poetic and transformative power of a museum’s quiet, overlooked moments.
Visitor stories were solicited in June 2011 and the film was shot on location in August. The project will unfold online over the course of six weeks. The trailer was released November 1, 2011, followed by the first installment on November 15. Nothing Happens for Long features the stories of George Chen, Sarah Lockhart, Maggie Stern, and Torreya Cummings.
More about the film:
Complaints about the destructive effect that the proliferation of portable digital media has had on contemporary attention spans are now as omnipresent as the offending earbuds and iPads themselves. “Surely something must lie behind not just Muzak in dull or tedious places anymore,” writes the narrator of David Foster Wallace’s posthumous novel about the spiritual implications of boredom, The Pale King,
but now also actual TV in waiting rooms, supermarkets’ checkouts, airports’ gates, SUVs’ backseats. Walkmen, iPods, BlackBerries, cell phones that attach to your head. This terror of silence with nothing diverting to do. I can’t think anyone really believes that today’s so-called “information society” is just about information. Everyone knows it’s about something else, way down.
He might have added museums to his list of public spaces that now come outfitted with engaging—and diverting—multimedia displays. This isn’t to deny the clear educational benefits that interactive museum design offers to its users. Who could argue against the value and joy, for example, of the interactive foley sound exhibit in the OMCA’s history gallery? Or the pleasures of keeping up with an OMCA art gallery docent on Twitter? Indeed, museums can’t survive without attracting and engaging visitors of all ages, and these digital installations are unparalleled tools for the job. But despite the unimpeachable value of museums' central attractions—the technological innovations, the blockbuster exhibits—some of the moments of greatest resonance and depth in a museum happen seemingly by accident, in the quietest and least focused junctures. They happen not necessarily when we find ourselves in front of the painting or exhibit we came to see (though certainly moments of transcendence happen here, too). The moments of greatest museological enrichment and excitement happen, as Walter Benjamin has it in the epigraph above, “when we don’t know what we are waiting for.”
Museums are the great secular churches of contemporary culture. The grand architecture, open spaces, and deep wells of silence create an atmosphere that’s conducive to transcendence and revelation. But like the church, these moments of transcendence often arrive at the least expected moments, buried somewhere amid hours of boredom, wandering, and waiting. The most passionate lovers of art will find themselves with sore feet in a room filled with indifferent paintings, wondering how soon they can reasonably go to lunch. Fishing is another appropriate metaphor: No one expects to sit in a boat for just a few minutes before they make a catch. It requires hours of half-attentive waiting before the line jerks.
The goal of Nothing Happens for Long is to ferret out these quiet, empty, normal spaces that museums are particularly good at creating, and that are an unglamorous but necessary part of the transcendent experience of visiting a museum. By reenacting these moments, the film will capture some of museums’ essential weirdness and richness. The allure of abnormally exciting or blockbuster attractions is what brings visitors through the doors of a museum. But “the normal,” Gertrude Stein writes, “is so much more simply complicated and interesting.”
Nothing Happens for Long was produced with the crew listed below.
Director: Jonn Herschend
Producer: Andrew Leland
Line Producer: Max Fink
Production Manager: Thurman Bradley
1st Assistant Director: Bill Pope
Director of Photographer: Shane King
Director of Photography, Interview Unit: Malcolm Pullinger
Camera Assistant: Elia Vargas
Stills: Lenny Gonzalez
Key Grip: Joe Mullen Best
Key Grip, Interview Unit: Holly Lindberg
Boy Grip: Kevin Lawrence
3rd Grip: Dean Snodgrass
4th Grip: Adan Pulido
Hair/Makeup: Marta Camer
Production Assistants: Nicolette Hall, Caitlin Kirkpatrick, Sarah Masterson
Craft Services: Max Schroder
Actors: Adrian Anchondo, Naseem Badiey, Abby Wait
Child Actors: Eli Holland, Ian Janson, Nicholas Karr, Blake Levinson, Claire Levinson, Sasha Manus, Denna Nouri, Kian Nouri
Wardrobe for Ms. Badiey provided by New Factory, Friend