- the Blue Lenses
       Installation View,
         Marianne Boesky Gallery East
       Video Excerpt
       Still Photographs
       Film Credits
 + The Ghosts
 + Depiction of a Star
 + Driven into Snow
 + Haunt Room
 + Portraits: 2003 - 2009
 + Selected Photographs: 2010 - 2016

 Articles & Interviews


Monologues for the Blue Lenses

written for the film by Nathaniel Axel



He never talked about where he was from. At the funeral, that was the most I ever heard about his life. Even then no one said much. We talked around him, made up stories. He was a stranger, and we all had our secrets to keep.

He used to carry a photo around, folded up inside his wallet. It was a picture of a woman with a boy in her lap. He said it was his mother. Her head was cropped out so you couldn't really see her face. Just the lips and the tip of the nose. The boy didn't look like him, but I told him he was a cute kid anyway. "That's not me," he said, "this is me," and he showed me a different photo of a different boy. This one looked even less like him.



Someone was organizing these parties around the city. A few of us started getting the invites, but we never figured out where they came from. Each time was someplace different. The last one was in the old town. I'd heard stories about the place as long as I could remember. Everyone knew about it, but no one ever knew how to get there. We drove out past the city limits, past the camps, past everything. We kept going until there was nothing. And then there was the town.

The directions took us to a low, flat house. The front door was open so we went inside. The halls were lit up like a construction site. All the doors were locked so we followed the stairs down to the cellar. There were other people down there already, but we didn't introduce ourselves.

Looking at the others gave me a feeling like looking into a mirror. I closed my eyes because it was easier than watching those people. I heard a man singing, but I didn't know where. The more I focused, the vaguer it seemed. I heard him coming through the walls, through the ceiling, from underneath the floor. It was like the room was singing.

I remember watching the others leave, but I don't remember leaving myself. I had this weird feeling the whole next day like the real me was still down there in that basement waiting to leave.

I remember hearing that song. I remember everyone else leaving. And then I was gone.



Before being fired for stealing, following a series of close calls where I managed to pass the blame onto my dearest co-workers, I spent a year working retail. I needed the money, but I also liked being in that world. People tend to think of clothing in broad terms like size and color, but the real communion happens on more esoteric planes. I learned to read the charge between stitching and the set of a girl's teeth, or the circumference of a sequin relative to the diameter of her eye.

I took drugs to better speak the language of the clothes. My best sales days were high on tramadol. The right dose made the air feel dense and light like good quality cashmere. I could see the precise contour of desire on each customer's face. What they wanted to buy, who they wanted to be, what they wanted to forget or had already forgotten.

Sometimes I worked the schedule to close the store one day and open the next so that I could spend the night alone inside. One night, I ate three tabs of acid before locking myself in. The most beautiful clothes lit up like Christmas lights. I could tell the ones that belonged to me by the color of their shine. I stole more in that single night than I've stolen in the rest of my life combined. Most of these things I haven't worn since. Some of these things can never be worn. Sometimes I like to get high and open my closet and just look.



I first saw Daniel years ago, soon after I moved to the city. It was late at night in a dead industrial part of town. I was coming home from a party with a friend. We decided to take a shortcut under the bridge. Daniel was sitting at the edge of the river. He was dressed like a vagrant, with dirty hair and a coat and a beard. He was looking out across the water. It was obvious he wasn't the homeless man he appeared to be, but instead of making him seem less threatening, his falseness made me so much more afraid. I was certain that if we walked by him he would rob us, rape me, murder us, but I didn't say anything.

Nothing happened. But that nothing was so much worse than something.

Months later I saw him again. This time he was a waiter at an outdoor cafe, moving between tables. He obviously was this person, doing this job, but for whatever reason I was struck by that same sense of fakeness, of watching a person on a stage. After that, I saw him everywhere.



She was doing this show around town. I'd never seen it, but I'd heard the stories. It must have been the stories that gave me the dreams. I knew her face before she ever said her name. I could remember her, the girl from my dreams.

The show I recalled was different than the show I'd been told about. It was our show, and we'd always performed it together.

We were in a room that felt like an inside without an outside. I was the magician, she was my assistant, and there was a small audience on the floor in the back. They were all locals to that place, all men.

I don't know how the act started. I remember everyone was quiet, all of us waiting, like someone had forgotten their lines. Maybe it was me. But then a man came up out of the crowd. He put money in my hand. There were swords at my feet, and he picked one. He walked over to D and he stabbed her, square in the stomach. Then he went back into the crowd. After this another man came up. And then another. It went on this way, until everyone had gone.

I should say I really needed the money at the time, but I don't want to give you the wrong idea.

D was fine.

SCENE 11/12


The magician was Daniel's final role. I was only part of the show for a little while. There were other people after me, but he grew bored of them too. I lost track of him for a few years. Then I started running into him again. It happened maybe five times in all, and he always had a story to tell. Each one was more or less the same. They were all about us, but really they were all about him, just like everything else was. After that I didn't see him anymore.


We were in a warehouse. You were hiding from me, and I was calling out to you. I had a flashlight and I was trying to clear a path through cords and hooks and boxes that were all tangled together. They kept catching on my clothes and I kept cutting my hands. I was calling your name, but you didn't answer.

We were in a basement. There were things flying around the room, flapping against my skin and in my hair. My hands felt huge and clumsy like I was wearing oven mittens. When I looked at them they were red and had the same shape and texture as wet balls of yarn.

It was in a forest. You couldn't find me. You called out to me, but I didn't answer. You went through all the same motions. I was high up overhead, hidden in the branches, crouching in the rafters, a figure in the shadows, sitting cross-legged. I was in the ceiling and in the walls. I was waiting for you. But it wasn't me anymore.