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A FILM ABOUT ROOSEVELT ISLAND NEW YORK


A Necessary Music is a science fiction film about modernist social housing. A musically conceived piece, referencing the video operas of Robert Ashley, the film explores the social imaginary of a utopian landscape through directed attention to the voices that inhabit it.

Roosevelt Island is a small sliver of land situated between Manhattan and Queens, intersected by the Queensborough Bridge. Formally known as Welfare Island and originally home to New York's largest insane asylum, a small pox hospital, and a range of other 19th century municipal facilities for incarceration, it now houses one of the cities most visible, yet little-known modernist social housing projects. The subject of several architectural competitions during the 1960's that employed the island as a laboratory site, proposing a range of re-imagined futures, from a floating casino, to a Museum of Egyptian Artifacts, to a cemetery, to a Disney-like water and entertainment park, its current status is the result of the winning entry of Philip Johnson. Johnson's master plan proposed a mixed income, enclosed utopian community; a bucolic concrete enclave, divided into three residential developments.

Treating the medium of film as both a musical proposition and a proposal for collective production, A Necessary Music employs the resident of New York's Roosevelt Island as its authors and actors, gathering together texts written by them and using them to construct a script for the film. Casting seveteen residents to enact these lines accompanied by a fictional narration take from Adolfo Bioy Casares' 1941 science fiction novel 'The invention of Morel', the film deploys fiction as a tool to frame and activate its site. Self-consciously dissolving from attempted realism to imagined narrative, what begins as a process concerned with sociality becomes instead a ethnographic fiction about place and community, and an investigation into representation itself.



A Project by artist Beatrice Gibson, developed in collaboration with composer Alex Waterman. Narration by Robert Ashley.



Funded by The Graham Foundation For Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and Arts Council England.