Reaching for the Doors to Paradise
(2024, with Jaroslaw Kapuscinski and Nathaniel Johnson)

In Reaching for the Doors to Paradise, viewers behold the peculiarly entrancing spectacle of a crowd passing in opposite directions just outside a subway station in Queens, New York. Some exit and some enter the station, but all pass through the swinging glass doors as they do so. Though the scene was originally captured in a single long camera take, your eyes move within it at extreme close-up as the moving hand of one person after another is followed. You encounter all sorts of hands as they reach for the door handles or push against its glass or balance a cup of coffee or nudge a pair of glasses back into place. All these hands come near us not only because they are seen in the close-up but also because they loom in 3D space. That space is aswirl with moving contours, colors, shadows, and reflections, making a sort of visual music that we become aware of through the phrases of piano lapsing to periods of silence that make up the soundtrack. Though the visual shot is continuous, the onset of a piano phrase makes for a kind of cut as it refocuses our attention. And as that phrase fades to silence, it’s as if it passes into the imagery itself, the eye somehow listening as it looks. This helps to elevate the passing scene of an ordinary day into a more exalted realm.

The footage was shot well before the Covid pandemic, which hit New York City first and hardest. Nowhere did it claim more lives than in this section of Queens. As we figured out how to make this film, which took us far longer than it might appear, we realized with great sadness that a number of these spellbinding hands must have belonged to people who lost their lives in the pandemic.. And so while we did not initially conceive it this way, we have come to regard the work in part as a requiem.