"Flushing," April 5th, 2015, Studio 10 Gallery, Brooklyn. running time: 01:08:46.
Matt Freedman: Well, thanks for coming. This is the last day of the show. I think Tim and I really expected after the first night that we'd be playing in front of a couple of people a night. So we only prepared seven shows. So there's really nothing to see today. But, um, it's been kind of amazing experience. Or when do you think that? And Natalie and Brittany and David and Paul and John, all the people, Jude and Caroline and worked on it.
it's been kind of a incredible experience and yet almost all of the stories out of my head and almost all the drums out of Tim's a studio in one place, the sea, what would happen and now we know and we don't have to do it again. Um, but, um, we didn't expect, uh, that the, uh, because we don't think ahead that well, the last two nights of the, the performances would be on Passover and Easter Sunday. Um, but we rallied and if you look in your seats, you'll find Afa Cayman and uh, and chocolate, chocolate bunnies and things like that because there's nothing that really sets up a show better than hiding candy in the seats.
So your attention will be correct and there's grass, there's, yeah, there's grass. If you can't enjoy this show, you can't really enjoy any show, although that's up to us, I guess. So I guess that's enough said. As we were saying on Friday night, I was, I trying to sort of set up the story of Passover, uh, which of course is linked to the story of Easter Passover being, um, the last supper it test, it was a Thursday that year, uh, and the crucifixion on on Good Friday, which reduce, don't understand at all. And then Sunday, uh, Christmas is the resurrection. Why did I say Easter? Christmas? See, I'm not in my comfort zone here. I know it has something to do with birth or rebirth to death. It's all about this big cycle. After, uh, after, uh, after Christmas. Yeah. Long after Christmas. And, and, and, and Jesus off the cross, he's in, he's in the cave.
He's told everybody he's going to come back. And then Mary and Mary and some other friend go to the cave with some wine and some spices rub down the body and they're arguing about who's going to have to roll the rock away from the front of the cave. And then there's this guy sitting on the rock and it's already rolled away and you may or may not have had wings, but he said, you know, I rolled the Rockaway. Jesus got up and left. And um, that's basically where the whole story sort of starts to get legs. Um, yes, in some, in some cultures pass the word. Passover and Easter are synonymous, but we make a serious distinction, uh, between the two. I was thinking about the problem of how we understand this story and sort of brought the difficulty. They start cosmological difficulty of understanding.
There's sort of a resurrection from the dead was brought home on Friday night when our friends Jack and Mary said that their daughter Ellie had come back from Sunday school. I haven't heard the story of Easter and she said, uh, based on the information she has about six or seven, I guess based on the information that she gathered from the story, Jesus was a Zombie and which is kind of understandable conclusion to reach given our present state of cosmological awareness. But it did make me think a lot about the difficulty of translating inside of our understanding of prosaic understanding of the world into this, of metaphysical mysteries that are bequeath to us. For example, the problem of the father, the son and the holy ghost and loved the diagrams. They'd come around this like the idea that this is God, then there's a father, the son, the Holy Ghost.
And then this is like not, this is a not, this is a not, and this is a positive in a positive and you have to sort of think of these as kind of simultaneous existence instead of one and one and one equaling one. It's one times, one times one equals one. We went into this material sometime earlier. I won't go deeper into it, but it, um, it did make me think about the problem that I had, especially as a child nylon like alley, trying to understand, um, how language developed into a kind of embodied feeling, I guess were one of a better word. I wasn't raised particularly religious household, but I did read a lot of junk books and I somehow felt like a joke, a properly constructed joke was I kind of a formula that would induce a reaction, like a prayer of some sort, but in a much more secular and so immediately satisfying and level.
So I read lots of jokes and I would tell jokes that I didn't understand the same sort of way. If you could like memorize, I had Latin prayer to God, somehow there would be a seat, a consequence, even if you didn't understand. In fact, the mystery of the prayer was greater if you didn't understand what you were saying because there was a possibility that it was a transcendent statement as opposed to like don't rain on the crops or something like that. I tried to, uh, put these, this theory into a action by writing letters to my agent, grandparents who lived in Miami beach who may recall is the same grandparents who walked across Europe years before from the town of dog shits and they ended up in Miami Beach, which is a nice, nice, nice lifecycle to take. Um, they didn't speak, they spoke English, but the sort of nuances of the language I think were things that they weren't that interested in.
So once a week for awhile, I would sit down at this old typewriter and I would copy out junks from the, uh, the book of the book of Humor, young person's book of humor. I had, this is before a certain level of political correctness, uh, head developed. So there were one of the most popular, biggest sections of this joke book works a little more on jokes. And what did the Moron say that moment? And so I remember the one that I typed out to send to grandparents was no, why did a little more on throw a clock out the window. And there's this, I think they even had an illustration of a little more on throwing a clock out the window. And the answer is because he wanted to see time fly and at many levels, I totally just didn't understand that joke. How I like to have the metaphor of a clock standing for time, time flying as an idiomatic expression.
I didn't know, but it was in the joke book. Therefore it had to be funny. And there seemed to be some sort of circular logic involved in the idea of throwing and time and timing. Anyway, I typed it up and I sent it off to my grandparents and they wrote back and told me how much they enjoyed the joke. Um, and I don't think either one of us got it. I don't know if they ever got it. And now that once I got it and I understood all the well anyway, that grand, the grandparents who came from dog shits arrived and in the, in the, in the country in some time before, um, sometime before world war one, um, and years later as a grandson, Jude and I moved to Williamsburg, New York into a loft on hope street. Uh, which type, many of the lofts, especially at that time, was a factory building.
It had been a factory is still had all sorts of models from the, from the, the facts from the emas had been a shirt factory before we were there. But down below there was a belt factory stamping belts, 24 hours a day. It's very picture picturesque, you know, get love space are very cheap and Williams or back then, and I thought it was particularly ironic that you know, where you were moving back to an old, a sweatshop pretty just a couple of generations of Jewish immigrants had worked in these sweatshops and this was an old Jewish neighborhood. Our friend Tony was writing a column for the village voice at the time about called shelter where people would, and she'd visit various people and talk about their colorful places. So she wanted to come right about our space and she looks around and I'm sort of telling her this general story about grandparents and, uh, you know, artists and sort this, this nice sort of circle of life story.
And she being a good journalist sort of leaps on this angle and cringe constructs, a kind of, uh, an incident narrative that she sort of suggests is true in the story as opposed to perhaps, um, uh, outright claiming to be true, which is that we were living in the sweatshop, working as artists that my grandmother had worked in a hundred years before. Uh, we made for a very entertaining story. Um, but when my father read it and you say, I already tell you what the hell are you talking about? Your grandmother never lived in New York. She never worked in a sweatshop. Um, but I think it could have been truant. Must've been true. There must've been some artists who lived in a sweatshop that generation before had been occupied by some relatives and there was like a larger truth perhaps who served by the sort of manipulation of our family history in this small and slightly deceitful way.
Not that the art, I don't believe the article actually claimed that this was my grandmother, but she had an artful way of posing. The question is this interview session. And I had this sort of admit that there's a possibility that my grandmother's goes was in the art studio and I'm sure my grandmother wouldn't have understood the art we were making any more than either one of us understood the Moron joke. But, um, my mother actually was a Bohemian in that same neighborhood 30, 40 years before I was there. In the end of the [inaudible] around 1950, she moved to New York and she lived with a bunch of her fellow Reed College graduates in a home untailored street, which is in southern Williamsburg. Um, just on the other side of the, of Broadway from the place has gotten very fancy and she was an aspiring playwright. And a part time nurse on Ellis Island.
Um, at that time, Williamsburg, the southern Williamsburg was still beginning, was filling up with refugees from the Holocaust. A lot of, uh, hostage families who are in this neighborhood and that the, on the sidewalk in front of her house, there was a young man named Armand Gross who had, this is probably the most unusual part of the story. He sold gasoline for cars on the sidewalk. Yeah, there's like a pump and cans of gasoline and like almost all the other, all the immigrants in the neighborhood. Uh, that time he had, he had a numbers tattooed on his arm. He told stories about how, um, you know, at Auschwitz they were lined up, actually, I don't know what your town, which camp it was at, but he was on one side of a fence and his father was on the other and when the guards weren't looking, his father waived him across the yard to join the line of people who were exterminated.
And that's how he got through the war. But he was mostly interested in hearing their stories. And that was the world outside of this very closeted, a universe that was a hostage lived in, uh, surrounded by their rabbi. His rabbi was Rabbi Schneerson, who went onto become while he was for them already, the all powerful leader in it, and later became the sort of embodiment of their messiah. But he would, I mean his whole entire life was supposed to be focused on what the rabbi said and to even ask these two young Jewish but highly secular women, what their lives were like was a great, um, transgression. He fell on his part, but he, he'd wanted to hear more of these stories and they would tell stories and he said, oh, he could talk to them until he got married. And then after we got married, there could be no further contact between them.
Um, and eventually within a few months he was married. He invited them both to his wedding and they sat up in the balcony or wherever and they watched all the, uh, the men dancing with each other and below. And then that was the last they ever saw my mom. But she, um, she describes Williamsburg at that time as being a place where you would, she could walk home from the Marcy Avenue, stop to her house, you know, anytime of night or day and there'll be people dancing on the street expressing their, their religion through prayer and dance in song. Um, Williamsburg at the time that I was living there was in this transition. I remember the first weekend I was there, I went to a bar still on one of the few bars. It's still quite similar to the way it was back then, called it, I think it's Chesterfield.
Anyway, we were sitting at the bar and the bartender was hooked telling us the story of this neighborhood. He saw that we were doing, this was over 25 years ago, anyone into the history of this immigrant neighborhood that had been first where a lot of Germans had been. And then a lot of Italian families and Dutch and he's an African American. And then the Jews were coming and then then the, uh, uh, pose and the Caribbean families. And now the artists are here. Um, and you're just another group, you know, and you'll be here for awhile and then when you make it thick, you'll move to Larchmont underwear, whatever everybody else goes. And we'll still be here. Uh, but it's good that you're here because that's how neighborhoods work. And oh boy. I mean even back then we thought, no, this is going to stick me a slightly different immigrant populations than what you're expecting.
But I don't think we understood well is huge. A sea change was about to take place. Um, but eventually it caught up to us in our own, uh, our own time in, in, in, in Williamsburg came to an end, not because we could move to Larchmont, but because we can no longer afford to live in Williamsburg. That's how we met. We started sort of foraging out as everybody did, looking for places in Greenpoint and then moving out the l, I mean at this time we looked at, we looked around here when the building across the street was still being developed by our friend rob. And we want a great lack of foresight. Didn't agree to buy into the buildings he was developing here. And we moved farther and farther out until finally, Jude saw an advertisement in the New York Times for a religious building for sale, um, which we probably, well we went out, you know, it's nine stops out.
Um, and there was this sure enough, this building. So the good is I stayed calm, I goudas Israel and it was sort of falling apart. Um, but, uh, when we went inside, uh, the sort of irrational part of both of our minds sort of immediately clicked as like this and that. It was a huge building. It had stained glass windows on either side, has chandelier's in the middle. It had the purists filling up the front and had a little beam and the back here and really pray and, and was selling for like less than an apartment in Williamsburg Wood. And we stole a little bit of the a wall. It looked like it was drawing, just to make sure it wasn't all as Vestus. And it turned out it was, it was, it was, it was cardboard and it wasn't, uh, it wasn't the richest shool in the world, but it was big in, we thought it was finally a building that we could afford and we would so surf camp out.
We were safe from all the waves of gentrification and we would see what would happen. The people who are selling the building, the congregation isn't, not very many people left. They had clearly the building had been neglected for about 25 years. They had been meeting in the basement, uh, because a million, the 10 men that you need to have a service couldn't possibly fill up the big space above a, and a rabbi was a man who claimed to be a rabbi, was walking from Crown Heights every Saturday and holding services and that was the rock. He said, well, we can sell you the building, but we have a bit of a lawsuit going on with the rabbi claims. It's his building. Every time any religious building is sold, you have a fight of some kind. And the rabbi said that it was his building. It was a, it was a, it wasn't an ongoing, it was a working synagogue and they couldn't sell it.
And we were sort of a party to this. And, and we signed an agreement that breed rent this building out to the rabbi for a year. He could continue to hold services. So just sort of show our good faith that we weren't there to flip it and turn it into a high rise or something. Um, and they were sure that this was not going to last, that the, that the rabbi didn't really want any money, but, so we agreed that we'd met a few of them. There's a man named, uh, Potok, Tucker Tucker. He was, he was like, he's the only, only living member of the congregation who still live within walking distance. And he began telling us stories about this neighborhood that would never been, uh, compellingly Jewish neighborhood. Uh, there just for a lot of merchants on Marcy Avenue who shopped there. And he'd had a little shop there and he immediately began telling stories about the time, the greatest drama in the history of this synagogue, which is around World War II.
He had a shop that sold a dry goods and he described how it was a German neighborhoods. This whole area was basically had been built on breweries at the turn of the century. And then after the prohibition had come in, uh, the breweries went away, but the community stayed. And it was the center of the German American Boone, the sort of Pro Nazi German, uh, social centers that were, um, uh, active, very active in, uh, all over the United States, especially, uh, before the Germans invaded Russia. But, um, he described how people would come in and his German neighbors, we come in in the middle of August in 1939 and they would be buying heavy woolen underwear. And he didn't know what they were doing with this, uh, product in the middle of August until a few months later when the German army did in fact invade Russia. And you realize they were all sending long. John's back from Ridgewood to Germany for their relatives in the, in the German army who needed to keep warm on the advanced to Moscow, which didn't work out so well for any of them.
But, uh, and so he retaliated by like having his heavy rolls of fabric fall down on them whenever they walked into the shop. Um, the trial itself, um, dragged on for days and days. Uh, we were not a party to the trial. It was a student was brought by the loan rabbi and his and his lawyer against the, the board of directors. And I talked a little bit about this a few shows ago and I, I apologize if this gets redundant. Basically, most of the stories alive you've heard because if you've ever sat down, I've probably tried to tell you this story because it seems like it's the most interesting thing I can say. And so I say it over and over again, like any crank, but in any case, the trial was quite a remarkable event. The, uh, there was a presiding judge who had a little white mustache and a bald head. He looked okay,
Don't worry. He'll tire out soon.
So he sat at this big is that this big desk and then this very tall, thin balls, a lawyer for the, uh, for the Senate, for the synagogue. And this and his partner was a little short fat man with a mustache are going to one side and then the sort of mid size, heavily bearded, a lawyer for the rabbi, uh, stood on the other side and they argued back and forth and back and forth. Um, at one point I said to Judy, you know, as it, as a Jew, I was embarrassed because they would like having this unseemly fight about this building. And this man who looked like the sort of epitome of American wasp waspish niche was sitting in the middle of probably going away. At one point, this guy, we started saying, according to Tom Malek law, the building is ours. And he said, look it, I got the Queens, I got the Queen Statue of Reality State law here.
And that's all I can rule on here. Monday to lawyers for the, for the, uh, for the synagogues board. We're actually very pleased to see this guy. Turns out he was on there. Tom had reading club, so he was an, he was an insider to the whole thing, was quite, um, quite a colorful moment, especially when an old man, 90 year old man was called to the states and weren't very many people left who had actually been active in the synagogue. But this was a man who was a but doctor who had been, um, he didn't raise in Italy and uh, had it's forced to serve in some, in the Italian army, I believe is that I need my, you don't know, I'll say it wasn't the Italian he was, he came to United States after the war and settled in Ridgewood and I became a member of this congregation and then became a member of the board.
And under here was, he was up there for like hours of being cross examined mostly about details of the, uh, the charter for the synagogue. The synagogue was actually quite pleased because they, they're always worried that rabbis are gonna try and make off with the building. So they'd written very strict rules about who could and could not be a member of the congregation if they thought would frustrate the little rabbi who was trying to get the building. But anyway, at the end of the hours of cry of conflict, uh, they decided that this, uh, the lawyer for the Lubavitcher Rabbi decided to try another tact, which was basically since the a little plutocrat judge could decide anyway he wanted, he just needed to find some reason to, uh, make it seem as though there was a plausible reason not to turn this synagogue over to whatever new purpose it was going to be put to.
So he said, you know, uh, you know, what's gonna Happen to this building if it's sold? And the doctor said, yeah, I hear it's going to be sold to some artists. And he's the bar. How does that make you feel? I mean, this building is very close to your heart. He says, yes, I came here after the war. I raised my sons here at their bar Mitzvahs here. It's very important to me. And he said, well, you know what artists do? And they're going to have all sorts of wild parties and orgies and naked people running around and in the sanctuary.
it's both. Yes, it was very much. Yeah. Well the old man said it's a building. The building is that anybody can ever see shool anywhere. And at that moment I realized that, you know, judge slub laugh does it, it's true. It's like it's just the building, but they weren't done yet. They called me to this stand and, uh, because, you know, they thought they could crack me and they, they put me up there instead of Jude because I'm Jewish and she's like the epitome of a Shiksa these, that maybe this will be, we'll look like we're more, we're more likely to be, um, uh, sympathetic to the traditions that were, uh, usurping if you know that you was there somehow. So, uh, so I get up there, I mean, I'm feeling pretty thrilled about this moment. I mean, how many artists get to go on trial in a, in a, in a synagogue and be cross examined by a man with a long beard.
So I got up there and I'm sworn in. And then the first thing he says is, Mister Freedman Freeman, he drops the d, which is a very important thing to do. And in my family certainly happen. You've dropped the D and you sound less Jewish, you know, and you try to pass as free men instead of Friedman. And she says, Mr. Freeman, and I say Friedman and you know, he says, so are you Jewish? And I had been, I'd been prepared by the lawyers not to answer any question for the count of one 1002 1003 1000 so I wouldn't say anything stupid and jeopardize the case. So he says, you're Jewish. And I go.
So I figured it was safe to say, yes, I'm Jewish. And at which point the judge blows is tough and says, no, you can't ask that man his religion in American court, the religion has nothing to do with anything. And then he turns to the judge, the lawyers, and says, why didn't you object? You're supposed to object when somebody asks a question like that. And they said, oh, we couldn't hear him. And so he yells, essentially says, speak up so people can hear. So I still having that problem. So I say, so let gets off the table and then the next thing they ask is a sheer an artists. I said, yes. And he goes, so you make naked people.
And so I'm counting one, but this time they'd leap up and go, we have checked, you can't ask a man if he's makes naked people in. And the judge says sustained. And he says, and then he turns to the lawyer and he starts to lecture him on this point of law and he says, what they do in the synagogue is no business of yours. They're artists. They're like, their job is not to make you happy that our job is to explore the world as they see it. They could make naked people, they could make generals on horseback, they could even run an escort service. I don't know why he threw that onions, but I got from naked people, the men on horseback to escort service. But it was a pretty compellingly broad list of things that we could do. And so the guy said, okay, and he sat down and then the judge turns to me and he sort of says, by the way, do you make generals on horses?
And I live is kind of stunning question. I could honestly say yes I do because I had actually made a general, but of course being a contemporary artist, I'd made it an ironic general on horseback. It was very small. There's a series of very small bronze generals on the, and of course they were all naked, but so actually this piece did satisfy almost all of the criteria that you set up for it, for legitimate art making at the time. Except it was never, it was never utilized in an illicit solicitation organization. Um, eventually the judge did find in favor of this, of the, of the, of the board of directors and they allow the building to be sold to us. And uh, they even booted the little rabbi out for his, you know, for the year that he could have stayed in the synagogue selling. I mean, he didn't have any money.
So he basically set up a, a little, a Shabbat House up the street, and he's still there. 15 years later. He comes on every high holy day when he comes every Friday. And he shoves the little circular from the Messiah, the same Schneerson who was the rabbi for Armand Gross, who, um, my mother told about the larger world, you know, live to become their messiah. And he was the man who was duct taped to his face, to the briefcase of the lawyer who came in for the trial. But then every Friday, Schneerson who continues to publish a weekly newsletter, 10 years after his death, proving his, you know, his supernatural status, uh, it's delivered to our doorstep. And then on every, uh, every, uh, every Hanukkah we get a new Menorah and, uh, every passed over he brings Moxa. So all the Masa that you're sitting on along with a delicious chocolate treats Kim's from indirectly from the, uh, [inaudible], uh, through our synagogue to you, um, and dust and other story is closed.
Um, as we, we moved into the synagogue and we began to take, we didn't have wild parties. We didn't have a very nice Thanksgiving party the first weekend, the first thanksgiving, everybody kept their clothes on and brought over potatoes and green beans. Um, I still, well, but for the first, it hasn't happened too much recently, but certainly for the first decade at a time we were there. Uh, people would come and ring the doorbell. Often all the people were, had some history with the museum. Our friend Wendy, or who's an artist who many of you know, whose father and grandfather grew up in this neighborhood, came by Irving. And he stood on the Bema, which is the platform, uh, in front of the Ark, uh, and uh, told us how he had recited his, uh, his bar Mitzvah, a passionate portion right from that very spot, some 70 years before.
And he began to tell us stories about, um, the neighborhood as he grew up in his grandfather had been a glacier headed glass shop, uh, on a fresh pond avenue a few blocks away. And it was true. I then in the 19, late thirties or early forties, there would be these rallies. He's Pro Nazi rallies and he remembered standing across the street from his, uh, father's glass shop and the speaker was standing in front of it telling the crowd that was chairing that someday they would hang Moshe Hershberg cause I was named, uh, from this lamp post. Um, and in fact they were going to hung him in effigy. That's night. And so there were another, a woman I, Gloria Green came by with our friend Richard, and she'd been a school teacher in this, uh, in the synagogue in the 50s. And she had more stories to tell.
And uh, uh, in fact he drew two men came somewhat later to look around. And then the third brother who was, um, couldn't calm, I think he did in the Vietnam War. And then there seemed to be some story about the damage done to him in the war, but they were, they were very, one was an architect and I can't remember what the other was. And they were, I remember we were up on the women's balcony, a little sort of looking out over the, a space that had once been this of the sanctuary was now filled with our artwork, telling various stories. We began telling the story of the olds, um, Joel doctor who had said it's a building and before we could get halfway through they said, oh, that's our father. They were the boys who had been the route, you know, but there wasn't much more to that story.
But it's true also from that same, uh, that same, the same uh, balcony aloneness. That's not the alone is dark jumped from the balcony or are you, is that, is that, is that the flying dog? So Alanna came with low. That's the only dog I know that survive the lead from a woman's balcony. And I would not have survived. I mean, you can see this is not a, a s the sturdiest dog and well, but he managed the land in the middle of all the sharp pointed things in the studio on a small bag of Styrofoam.
And, um, you let us such a shriek, I don't think then tiny bike straight down. I've never seen, I've never seen a dog move so fast. You get off a synagogue. She was fine. Although stress. Um, one thing that we did do at utilize the space was doing a number of performances. Um, there's celebrate our 25 years together, juvenile stage, they football game, uh, where I embody the, uh, entire St Louis, uh, the New Orleans saints. And she was the, uh, the Indianapolis Colts the night, the 2010 a bowl or friend Joe's here was the, uh, uh, astonishingly efficient a and our friends and Sabrina and Gabriele, we're also referees and I'm, Brittany was here basically. I don't think we've made too much progress in terms of our collaboration since then. But anyway, we played this wonderful Superbowl game where we had the TV going and we were playing the same games that they, the points as they were scored on the real, um, in real time we would reenact these things.
We were sort of operating on this sort of principle that in the bore Hayes story Menard somebody rewrites the Don Quixote story word for word, uh, with the premise that anybody can, uh, who's a super of Anthony can overwork anybody who's a trash can keep the door, can write about Spanish, can the doors, but, uh, to try it the same story 200 years later, 300 years later as a French intellectuals and much greater feat. So his, the absurd premise of this story is that a man is rewritten Quixote, a couple of chapters of got word per word. So it seems to be the same story and yet it's entirely different because it's produced under different circumstances. So we thought that we could make a much more interesting football game is middle aged artists than the actually highly trained athletes could do playing the exact same game. Um, I was not a premise that was investigated further, but it did leave us eager to do something new with the space. And since we were sort of in the habit of sort of confronting these sort of iconic forms of American pastime that seemed like the next natural thing to do, uh, in a space like this, I have to turn it into a football stadium, was to make a movie there.
And it being a big crumbling old religious building with a Jewish history. Uh, and me going for sort of the low hanging fruit, it seemed like if we could make, we could make a horror movie. Uh, it seemed like this was a space ripe for a kind of a ghost story of some sort. Um, I just seen the film a carnival of souls, which is sort of a wonderful, very low budget, 1960 era movie about this woman. Uh, it's sort of an anti resurrection story, I guess. She's know this young woman and her friends are driving through a town in their, in their, in their car and another car of fast talking. Young men pulls up beside them and challenges them to erase and they, they go racing through the town. Uh, and then he come to a trestle bridge outside of town and that, you know, they're sort of trying to, they're trying to stay on this bridge and then the, the women's car veers in, flies off the, uh, off the bridge and crashes into the river below. But finally you got your photo, these skills together here.
Alright. Um, so don't worry, they're underwater so that they're trying to find the car and they can't find the car and they've given up for dead when suddenly the woman, one of the boats, the moment you see sort of the camera sort of betrays that she's our star because she's close to the window and she has long blonde hair and she comes out of the, uh, she comes out of the, uh, of the river and climbs onto 11, and she sort of soaked and she's a local builder. She doesn't remember how she got out of the car, but she seems to be fine. They dry her off. And then she has a church organist and she, she, this is a town where they build organs and the organs are sent to, uh, congregations that, that have purchased them along with a trained organised apparently. And so she has been assigned, uh, to a church in Utah outside Salt Lake City in a couple of weeks and she insists she's okay.
Uh, and so she, you know, she drives through the night too from Kansas, I think, too, to Utah. Um, and the music is very creepy. In the middle of the night, she suddenly started seeing these sort of visions is sort of man with like dark, dark lines and resigned, sort of appears in the window when she swerves off and she's the sort of googly figures and she gets to this town and she checks into a, into a house boarding house and she's staying in the boarding house and she's going to church and playing the Oregon. And she sort of being pursued by this creepy guy next in the house, in the room next to her. Uh, and she sort of fending him off and she's having big containers have divisions of this sort of strange man with his, uh, dark under his eyes outside of town. She'd noticed this enormous pavilion, uh, uh, sort of empty space in this old, uh, kind of fairgrounds.
And she asks, I, uh, the minister about that, and he says how he describes his history. It had been a fairgrounds and then it had been, uh, some kind of a tabernacle and now it was abandoned. Uh, she tries to go out there with her doctor and she, so see if he's drawn to this thing. She doesn't know why, but she can't stay away. Um, and she's kind of antisocial. She's not really mixing with the congregation as ministers getting sick and tired of her act. And she beginning to sort of have these moments of, uh, so I've been visibility. She feels like people can't hear her or they can't see her. She's seeing these, these, these, uh, these all these dancing figures. When she goes to the carnival place and they're, they seem to be backing into her and she's running away. She takes it.
She invites this man to stay with her because she doesn't want to be alone. But then the monsters, this creepy figures show up and she chases them out and she goes back to the, to the carnival place and she goes inside and then the everybody's dancing while they pursue her and she comes running out across this sort of field and they're running after her and then they all close in on her and the screen goes black. The next morning the people from the town come out and they see her feet sort of in the mud and then they stop. They don't know what happened to it. And then there's a kind of a jump cut from that to the, uh, the river from the town she came from and they finally found the car and they're pulling the car up out of the mud. And inside are all three bodies that she's been dead all the time.
And she was a ghost. And it's like, I think a lot of David Lynch and George Romero are influenced by this. Obviously there's a kind of, uh, uh, oh Henry or night gallery, a twilight zone cross. It's a very simple story, very straightforwardly tall. And I thought, I can do that. We could figure out a story like that. Um, and I began writing a script trying together all the elements of the story lines that had sort of accumulated thus far in this neighborhood, this a synagogue in a German neighborhood with all these, uh, threats that are sort of accruing around the space. Um, and occurred to me with, you know, without too much heavy lifting on my part, that a Golem would be the, uh, the ideal sort of creature that would sort of turn this ghost story or mystery story into something. Um, interesting. Golem is, may or may not know, is a kind of supernatural creature created out of clay by rabbi under times of great duress for a congregation.
It's not clear if this is a folk tradition or fiction tradition, but the first story is about Golems sealer appear in the literature in the mid 19th century about this rabbi, uh, from, uh, pride 1550 or so. Uh, he, uh, he created a gallon in response to some of the pogroms in the area out of clay, this tremendously powerful figure that protects the people, uh, but because it has no soul and it has to be animated by the word of God. And then he, um, it begins to run marketing and he has a d animated by taking the word of God and turning the word for death. And then he takes it apart and puts it into a million pieces and he puts it up in the balcony of the, uh, of the synagogue to array to wait the next time when another great holy man can reassemble it and protect the people in times of trouble.
So unite, try, they start piece together, a story that we could tell using this idea of a Goldman. Um, since we were a little bit short on ideas or resources, we like, well, we would, we have the story about two artists who move into a synagogue and her, um, pursued by a goal, but then we thought that was too close to us. So we have the artists die in the first scene. And then have a young woman come to, uh, try to investigate what happened to the dead artists because we actually have a young woman living in the building with us named Ella. And Ellen was a musician, uh, who was kind of a charismatic person who was up for anything. And she told us something after a week or so, I'm being in our building. She's, uh, she's that sort of stuck with me.
She said, do you know, my friends think is funny that I'm living in a synagogue because I was born and raised in Auschwitz. Uh, and we thought, well, it's not exactly funny, but it is interesting that you would make this transition from living here. So we turn the story into a story of, uh, Ella, this woman with her sort of, I kind of, I sort of at somewhat tortured path, which our actress didn't really have about, uh, coming and trying to reconstruct this. And then it became, it kind of deteriorated into a kind of a potboiler about the art world and trying to like, and then the Golem is there somehow, but the Golan was really a little old man who is based on, but our friend Mr potlicker looked like and then there's ghosts and all sorts of things. And I was accumulating all this stuff and I wrote this story and they wrote it again.
But I realized I probably was never going to be able to make a movie out of this because I lacked the organizational skills to actually make a story, but I could make the prompts. So I began making prompts. I like the helmet for the, I decided it would be too much trouble to actually make a golden, but I could make a goal on that was sort of in armor of some kind. And then I wouldn't have to, I could have anybody wearing the armor and besides, I could make armor more effectively than I could make a full rubber suit for my goal. And so I made that. And then I made a, I made a sword and then I made an a glove out of iron, uh, because I've just been reading about this very interesting characters, man named Gottesman. Burlington who is a seven, 16th century German mercenary night who had lost his hand in combat is about 20. But he continued, you had the sort of state of the art prosthetic hand made from south that was sort of articulated, uh, and he could continue to fight because you could, it could be set to hold a sword or to set to hold a pan. He became a poet. I'm going to try to draw, I kind of MCS Sherry so he could see this is, it's, it's not me where he is the spirit of love.
Then blitz. Winton was a very interesting character. He, despite his very, uh, despite his, uh, his profession, you lift up ripe old age and um, wrote many plays, got into lots of fights, um, and live to actually become a very fairly famous character in a, in German culture. Gerta wrote a play about him a couple of hundred years later utilizing him. As far as the flower of a German, um, or kind of a knighthood or manliness, uh, and it gives them a kind of a heroic death, even though he actually lived to be about 80. And there's a famous scene, the high point of this, it was really a potboiler apparently this play with like a big hit, he was full of gun knife battles and fights, but it's almost unstageable cause it so many characters, so many scene changes. But at one point he sort of in a town that's surrounded by a bunch of enemies and they were calling him to re to uh, to retire or resist or somehow to concede to them.
And he says, I have great respect for the bishop outside town. But as for the general, he can kiss my ass or lick my r's is what he said, which became a kind of tetra is like, you know, I'll be back. Years ago everybody was saying, kiss my ass, kiss my ass. It became enter this, I don't know if it entered the, uh, the vernacular that point to the point where we use it all the time or it was called the Swami and curse. A lot of people said it. Uh, because from 10 clear weather kissing, it seemed to be true that, uh, in medieval times exposing your rear end to a danger or to like an evil spirit was a way of wording it off. I don't know if that has anything to do with the way that we, uh, currently, um, but when you're moving somebody who actually reenacting this, but they, so the iron glove became, as you might expect in such a charismatic image, uh, most utilized many times in the Russian German military history, there was a ponds or division was named after the iron glove.
They committed many atrocities and they themselves may have been the victims of a postwar closety, uh, at the hands of American soldiers who captured them. A number of u boats were Nate had the iron glove, uh, in Sydney on them. Um, but I probably put more in more info, more attention in the iron glove as a, as a tool of the Goldman I should have. But I really enjoyed making love glove and I got to have it live again. Um, but the, the play really wasn't going anywhere, but I accumulated all of these props for it. When, um, another friend of ours, Fred Valentine, who has a gallery or a studio and gallery nearby in Ridgewood asked if I would be interested in doing a show in his space. And that time, all I had been doing for a year was making props for this movie. So this was the, I think also about the time when there was that interesting show at Moma of all of this stuff from the Tim Burton movies and it's like, it was like a, you know, sort of an inventory of all the girls in goblins and his thing ever.
It seems like such an absurd idea that I proposed that we make a show in Fred's gallery of a movie that had never occurred. Uh, and so it was sort of, anyway, you get the idea, they sort of Iran. But as I'm tying in the story, I'm realizing, well a sort of week to premise this is, and but I'm talking about Ridgewood and the gala and the Gorman. And suddenly I start speaking in kind of different tents. I forgotten to tell him I was writing the screenplay. I'm just telling him this story about the Gollum and Ridgeway. And then suddenly it becomes a documentary. And I'm saying, well, there was in fact in about 1940 and begin to pull all these stories together that the, the, the, the members of the, of the congregation in response to all of these very real provocations from their neighborhoods decided that they would build and gone to protect themselves.
And it seemed like an interesting anachronism that, you know, not, not in Prague and 15 50 billion queens in 1940 people were interested in a Gollum to protect themselves from their enemies. But this being the United States in 20th century and sell the supernatural, uh, aspirations. Data's thought, well, we'll, we'll use all this armor and we'll put the guy in and he'll walk around and there will be a sufficient amount of intimidation that will go on. Uh, and were, so it was sort of like the anecdote was more interesting than the story. And then I said, and in fact, there was a, there's some super eight film that still remains of this goal and that was made by a young boy. And he goes, you know, this is a, I hope you're not pulling my leg because this is a very good story. And I said, well, it could be true.
It's telling a larger truth that should be true, but in fact, uh, it's, you know, it's the truth. It tells or the line that tells the truth or something like that. And as Fred said, okay, if you want to do it, you can do, but you want. So I, I couldn't, I could put together a 10 minute movie of clips. So I got a bunch of my friends tend to perform an act and um, I even spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out who was the person who actually made the movie. And I made a sort of a, a sort of a conglomerate figure, a little boy named Eli Bird. Eli comes from my middle name, which is Elias and Bergman. I thought, well think my Bergman is like the quintessential film maker who is the last thing you would imagine a Jew will be.
But it's a kind of Jewish name to Eli Bergman is like this weird sort of hybrid name. The sort of can slightly, uh, transmitted on falseness while being a somewhat critical, credible name. So we put this all together, I make this installation, uh, this sort of centers around the short film of this Golan walking out of our building using this beautiful old black and white super eight film that supposedly the boy had gotten from his father, had just gotten it from Kodak or they just developed it. And I sort of made all these stories. So we've together and then as the story began to sort of take shape and wanting to make an installation around the movie, more columns got monsters began to sort of appear not just the call and but this blend ea which are, you know, you have the blend the eighth, right?
Yeah. It's a headless figure that way it may or may not have existed. Um, um, and then there's like they had too few heads and then there was a monster with too many heads, which was the Hydra, which, uh, was the beast of the apocalypse. That was somehow a mistaken for a real thing. And Hamburg the same street that turned into Wilson Avenue in our neighborhood after World War One, uh, then and lead, uh, Linnaeus, they first sort of objective scientist sort of classified the world, Shaw, that it was a, a, a fake and you can head to get chased out of town. And then there's another monster without a head called the zing can, there's a Chinese creature who lost his head in battle and then continue to fight union. His nipples says eyes and his belly button has a mouth. And he's a example is that the exemplar of the kind of manly attention to honor to his lead to his, his, his, his Lord and Master.
He was a sort of, uh, a Chinese version of good stuff. The iron hand I guess. So all these stories were sort of coming together in this sort of mishmash of tales about the way people tell truth and tell lies and differentiate themselves objectively and not to objectively from each other. And we put it on the show. And, um, the artists came, the RST had one reaction, but then there were also people from the neighborhood who came out because it was in the Ridgewood times at various places. And I began to get very interesting responses on the first was from, uh, Gloria Green, the woman who had come out and told us a story about, uh, working at the, uh, at the synagogue as a, uh, as a teacher. And she said, you know, I would also sort of gone into more specific detail. There was a man called, uh, I think Carl Ludwig, who had run a real man who would run a Nazi aspiring out of, uh, Ridgewood for awhile that had been extremely ineffective and he'd managed to, they all managed to get themselves hit by taxi cabs in Times Square before they could do any trouble.
And, um, spending the rest of them. They actually did this before the war, so they didn't have to get executed. They spent the rest of the war in jail. So she said, this is a very interesting story, except you left out the submarines.
Yeah, I have the same reaction. Like, tell me about the submarines. I didn't know about it and she said, well, she had lived on fresh pond avenue in this boarding house and on the top floor had been very attractive, young German couple who she didn't like because they objected to her practicing the piano at all times of night and day. Uh, uh, and she went on to be a professional musician, but that's neither here their day. There was a story that appeared in the papers, I think in 1942 that I submarine had been spotted. AU boat had been spotted off of long island am against it, I think. And immediately after the FBI had showed up in hall, these two spies away because they'd been on the roof while they were objecting to her practicing the piano, they'd been sending signals out to this u boat to guide it into shore.
At least that was how she remembered the story. Essentially an interesting story. I looked it up and frank tech, this is just all quite true. If something called opera ration a Pistorious, uh, and it involved having these German, uh, well they were mostly civilians, but they'd all live in the United States. So they, um, they spoke somewhat vernacular English. They were the ideas that he would come here, infiltrate into the system and uh, spread out and, and, and sort of wrecked the main him all over the United States. This was not such a farfetched idea in world war one, there had actually been a number of acts of sabotage in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and in Philadelphia I think as well. Pistorious is an odd name for the, the, uh, admiral who was running the program to pick as Pesto. Doris was in fact a German, a civilian who had been hired in the 17th century to, uh, start the first German, um, settlement in the United States outside Philadelphia and what's now called German town.
And he was actually a very eccentric but impressive character, wrote a huge feeders on beekeeping. And I think 1689 had been co-signer with a number of his Quaker, a neighbors of the first written document in the new world denouncing slavery. So he was certainly an odd person for the Nazis to pick as their, um, as the opinion for their, their mo, their spine. And although the, the, the admiral who ran the, uh, the spy mission turned out that didn't make it through the wall because he actually became involved in a plot to kill Hitler and was actually shooting himself. So it was it kind of a mishmash mission. They did in fact get to long island. This, the submarine was cited. Uh, and then the boat was a little rubber boat paddle to shore and he's a four man got off and they had money and they had bombs and they fake, they had all sorts of spy gizmo like disappearing, eat, things like that.
And there was another boat that had landed off of Florida about a few days later and they were doing the same thing. The idea was they would, uh, reconnoiter at some point in New York and then they were spread out. They were supposed to, if I bomb bridges the hell gate bridge, uh, grow to ball bearing factories and also to sex acts or any, any Jewish, uh, grow any Jewish, um, business that they could find. They were supposed to blow up the head of the, uh, of Operation Pastorius on the ground immediately decided this was a very bad idea. And, uh, with one other man decided that they would turn in all the other, uh, all the other spies and perhaps save their neck because they didn't think it was about conceived plan and didn't have much hope of succeeding. So he called the FBI. They knew that this, I mean, Hoover knew that there was a German boat had landed.
They found the catch of, uh, of uniforms and, and bombs that they were supposed to come back and yet, but they probably were getting lots of people tipping tipping off that they knew where the spies were. So nobody believed him. He kept calling and saying, I'm the German spy who's coming to, to blow up America. And they said, no, call back later. So he's spending all his money and he's playing peanut, call it the waiters club. He had been a waiter and he's getting more and more worried that somebody's going to have to happen soon. The other spies are spreading out. The one's gone back to New York, to Chicago to see his girlfriend actually enlisted in the U s army there. That they're not really, they're kind of a gang that can't shoot straight. But he's finally, he goes down to Washington. DC is determined to see Hoover himself, but he can't get to see whoever gets to see some sort of minor acolyte.
And this guy won't listen to him either. And he finally takes out a $75,000. He has, he dumps it on the table unless it gets their attention. And now Hoover finally has something that he can, he's been bragging to Roosevelt that he's going to catch these spies and he really hasn't gotten much of a, any, a clue about how to get them. But suddenly they turned themselves in and he doesn't tell Roosevelt then it just, as he's caught them, they round up all the spies, thanks to uh, their leader and they put them on trail. Um, Roosevelt is determined to, um, execute them as quickly as possible to sort of send a signal to Germany, not to send any more spies over. And so he institutes a special, a special, uh, trial that's presided over, not by a jury of civilians but by generals and other members of the military.
It's very extra legal situation. These coin on precedents that actually were set by Abraham Lincoln in the civil war where he suspended habeas corpus and he just kept people, uh, in jail or tried them on various charges of espionage and treason. Um, and actually, but in the civil war there were able to sue and get freedom. Somebody was trying to format revolution in Indiana or something, which seems ironic these days, but he didn't, um, he didn't go Lincoln one 10 executed, but he got out somehow. But these nine spies who are arrested in 1940 weren't so lucky. They were pushed through a show trial. It was highly publicized and executed within a week. A couple of weeks of there being captured. It did seem to have a chilling effect on the spy activity from Germany for the rest of the war. There were only a few other spies who came over.
Uh, but, uh, there is a faint echo of that story in a, after 2000 when, uh, at nine 11, uh, induced the second President Bush to, uh, try to round up as many noncombatants as he could find and send them to one [inaudible]. They use the same law that Roosevelt had rewritten from the Lincoln Law to justify that activity. So it was an interesting story that sort of had, it's sort of fingers in this history of Ridgewood and submarines. So that's what she was talking about. The other thing that people said, which was even odder so odd that I didn't even, it didn't even register on me the first few times I heard it, is that they said, well, this whole story is very interesting about the Golem and all that. But what's really surprising to hear is that Elias Bergman was a filmmaker and I didn't, I'm the first time they said that, I just, I thought I don't, I didn't even, I didn't even know what they were talking about because the character wasn't that important, but it kept coming up.
Somebody from the Chamber of Commerce called, uh, Gloria Green mentioned it. A number of people mentioned that Elias Bergman was in fact a member of the congregation. And then they started telling me the stories about who he was. He wasn't just anybody. He was on the executive board of directors. He was sort of a big man. She had a towel, a haberdashery store up myrtle avenue, a few blocks from the synagogue. And, uh, he used to come down when the rabbi wasn't feeling well and you conduct services cause he was a very erudite man himself. And his building is still there. It's now a Kerrvilles ice cream store. Um, and his wife was, you know, had wonderful blonde hair and he had the most beautiful daughter who, uh, was very learning dated that glory Greens cousin. And, uh, I became sort of obsessed with this character. Um, this man who I had every reason to expect, I had invented, turned out to also be a real member of the congregation.
I looked up all the last Bergman's I could find and there were some old guys living in, in Florida and up in Nova Scotia and it didn't, I mean I didn't really want to know any more about them. I just, the idea that they might exist with kind of, um, extraordinary to me. Um, but I didn't, I it didn't really home until, um, among the various things that were left behind from the, uh, from this congregation when they moved out was a whole bunch of these books that were published yearly apparently for 50 years or so. It's like the anniversary souvenir, you know, it's like a, it's like a yearbook. There'd be in the, in the front there pictures of like the rabbi and the chairman of the board. And then inside are all the, all the ads that are taken out by the merchants who want to be sort of remembered as leaders of the congregation.
And then the very back, there's lots of advertisements for hotels in Miami beach because that's where everybody went in, which is kind of interesting because of course when I was writing my letters to my grandpa mother bounded Miami Beach, we would go down there and it's like the whole place was just filled with like these old Jews who'd made their journey from dog shits to Miami and we're sort of living out their sunset years. Uh, and I didn't go back after my grandparents parents passed away until the Basel Miami art fair grew up. And then the same hotels are announced downline. They're all covered with neon lights and test. The ironic past our cultures. And uh, all I can see as the ghosts of the old Jews walking around there. But in any case, at the very front of the magazine of the Journal, there is this, a congregation of Isaiah Israel in Ridgewood and there's the president, the vice president, the board of trustees, all the members of the boards of the congregation. There's Gloria Green and her brother Todd, the Hebrew school, and they're on the executive board. At the very top is Elias Bergman. He did exist, and when I saw that this is, Carolyn said the hair on the back. I said, this goes to, I'd invented, had come back to haunt me again. Thank you.
Matt Freedman and Tim Spelios have been producing their Endless Broken Time drawing, talking and percussion performances at Studio 10 gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn since 2015. Ancestors, machines, and philosophy are told and illustrated by Freedman and take their irregular rhythm and form from the aberrant and improvised syncopation of Spelios’ broken time drumming.
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