Saturday, April 14 at 3:10 PM
Sunday, April 15 at 4:30 PM
Shorts Block: Travel the Earth
Bill Brown & Sabine Gruffat | Chapel Hill, NC | 25 min
In 1973, at the age of 35, pioneering land artist Robert Smithson died in a plane crash on the outskirts of Amarillo, Texas, on the edge of a dried-up artificial lake, while surveying the site of his final earthwork, Amarillo Ramp. Beautifully photographed, this experimental short takes us back to that site to reconsider Smithson’s earthwork within a broader context of environmental degradation and climate change.Buy Tickets 04/14 Buy Tickets 04/15
We asked our filmmakers some questions about them and their work. For further questions, join us at the designated post-screening Q+A!
1. What is your connection to the South?
Bill and Sabine: We’re transplants from Wisconsin who live in the kudzu-twined, magnolia-scented, sweet tea swilling town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
2. Where did you get your inspiration for this work?
Bill: I’m from Lubbock, located just down the road from Amarillo, Texas. Years back, Sabine came to visit me, and I hoped to show her interesting stuff in a part of the country that has a reputation for being dull as dirt. We went to Turkey, Texas, and we visited the Cadillac Ranch, and we made arrangements to go out to sculptor Robert Smithson’s Amarillo Ramp, which I’d heard about but had never seen. That was the start.
3. How did you start making films?
Sabine: We visited the Ramp over a number of years. Eventually, we began to shoot film. Each visit, we’d learn a little more and shoot a little more. The film evolved as our contact with and understanding of the Ramp and its context increased over time.
4. Did anything interesting or funny happen on set during the shooting?
Bill: To get out to Amarillo Ramp, you needed an escort provided by the owner, the late Stanley Marsh 3. The first time we visited the Ramp, years back, we were escorted by a young skinny art student wearing a way-too-big cowboy hat. The kid was our tour guide for the day. He picked us up in an old SUV covered fender to fender with American flag decals, and he proceeded to drive us out to the Ramp at breakneck speed. The road to the Ramp gets progressively worse, till it’s just a dirt track littered with cow paddies.The worse the road got, the faster our tour guide drove. When we finally got to the site, we were happy to be alive. A few months later, we heard that our escort flipped the SUV while driving some visitors to the Ramp. Everyone survived, but the car got totaled, and the art kid got fired.
5. What do you look forward to the most during Indie Grits?
Sabine and Bill: Seeing tons of great films & eating boiled peanuts!
6. Why should someone see your film?
Sabine: Our film is an encounter with Robert Smithson’s work of art, but it’s also an exploration of the place where it’s located: the wide-open range country just outside Amarillo, Texas. We made an effort to illuminate the physical and geographical context of the Ramp, as well as the Ramp itself. The Ramp is fascinating, but so is the unlikely cluster of human artifacts that surround it: Cadillac Ranch; the Big Texan Steakhouse; oil pumps and wind farms that stretch off into the distance. It’s an extraordinary landscape.
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