Ulysses in the Subway (2016

3D DCP; surround sound; 1 hour.​

Ulysses in the Subway is a collaboration with the legendary Ken and Flo Jacobs. It will embody itself in two ways: as an hour-long 3D film and as an immersive VR installation.

Evoking Manhattan’s vast subway underbrings to the eyes what normally goes only to the ears.

What you hear is a recording of Ken Jacobs’s somehow heroic exploration of the midtown subway lines and stations, followed by his triumphant re-emergence to street level and ascent to his walk-up loft, where Flo awaits him. Odysseus returning to Penelope.

What you see are extraordinary detailed animations that reflect the fact that for every 1/24th of a second, there are 2000 audio samples recorded. Each frame, then, is built from these 2000 sources. Built: that is, constructed in 3D from more than 20 different ways of algorithmically analyzing and visualizing sound. So that while the sound is always pictured accurately, the way it’s pictured can switch on a dime. These switches re-tune your eyes and ears; you perceive the world anew.

The image/sound synthesis turns fleeting presences (voices, footsteps, steel-drum performances) into oddly epic events. At key moments a frame might freeze on the screen so that the viewer’s eye can freely wander through the unbelievable complexity of a moment of everyday life.

A subtext of the film is an Edison film of the NY subway from 1905. Re-rendered in 3D, that film surfaces unexpectedly from time to time, the past making itself felt in the present. Its ghosts, too: for the fleeting images of long-gone passengers on a subway platform mingle with the sounds of passengers today.

Ulysses in the Subway received its premier as part of Forum Expanded at the Berlin Film Festival in Feburary 2017; shortly afterwards, it received its US premier at The Museum of Modern Art as part of the Doc Fortnight festival.