Peter Rose: Witness


Understory (1997) - 8min. video/performance/installation
For the past three years Rose has been participating in underground Demetrian rituals that celebrate the solstices and equinoxes of the sun. These ceremonies take place in the storm sewers and tunnels that run beneath the city of Philadelphia and have come to serve as the rite of passage for a peculiar urban subculture. Described as a cross between “a ceremony and an incantation”, the work presents us with a story-like skein of images that suggest the journey of a figure that walks in water, the speech of fire, and the mystery of vision. Understory was originally commissioned as a performance work by the American Music Theatre Festival and has been screened at the Osnabruck Media Art Festival.

Metalogue (1996) - 3min. digital video
has been described as a cross between a “speech” and a “fireworks display.” Digital editing techniques have been used to reflect and refract a complex monolog about memory, time, and language. By embedding the corresponding gestures in a spectacular diachronic array, Rose creates a new form of poetry. Metalogue won a Bronze Award at the New York Short Film and Video Festival and has been shown at the Oberhausen International Film Festival, the Hamburg Film Festival, and the World Wide Video Festival. See also at:

The Gift (1993) - 6min. Audio
was commissioned by New American Radio and Performing Arts and was adapted from a serial bedtime story Rose told his daughter over a period of six years. It is a parable that explores the conflict between language and innocence, between sounds and ideas, and that offers a strange connection between time, language, and self. View also at: and at

Babel (1991) - 17min. audio/video/film/text
uses processed voices, generic babble, kinetic texts, and misleading film and video images to link the linguistic implications of a third nostril to the Tower of Babel and the Strategic Defense Initiative. The tape offers a critique of language as a source of authority and as a form of technology. It was presented at the Polyphonix Festival in Paris, at the New Music America Festival in Philadelphia, at the National Video Festival in Los Angeles, and at the World Music Days festival in Cologne, W. Germany. See the entire piece at:

Ben Franklin Dreams of His Immortal Soul (1990) - 20min. video
is a three-channel video installation that was commissioned on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Franklin's death. The work presents a contemporary dreamscape of Franklin's thoughts on research, invention, politics, mischief, women, electricity, and language, and was installed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1991. Following are summaries of the seven episodes that run on one of the three channels:

  • BF Dreams of Metaphysics 3:15
    A solitary traveller moves through a river landscape. It is chaotic, electrified, metaphysical. Electrical flow is identified and analyzed and instructions are given for navigating through virtual space. A Rosicrucian metaphor is proposed.

  • BF Dreams of Erotic Bliss 4:00
    The erotic subtext of Poor Richard's Almanac is blatantly announced using two pieces of rope, music by Bach, and text by Franklin.

  • BF Dreams an Electrical Hoax 1:00
    Plays off of Franklin's infamous Polly Baker hoax, a cunning fraud by which Franklin argued strongly for a pro-natalist position. An inert optical toy is examined as if it were pre-conscious fetal tissue. The politics of research.

  • BF Dreams a New Music 2:15
    Contemporary and tribal methods of sound production are juxtaposed to suggest a transtechnological duet, a cultural concatenation, a riff. (CF. Franklin's invention of the glass harmonica.)

  • BF Dreams of an Instrument of Vision 2:00
    An apparition analyzes the nature of its insubstantiality. A scientific demonstration of projection and fragmentation, split vision beyond bifocals.

  • BF Dreams of Revolt 3:40
    A post-electrical revolutionary enactment. An operatic manifesto presented by the electro-magnetic waves of the universe in which they renounce the agency they have provided for human objectives. A perverse fusion of Franklin's political and electrical interventions.

  • BF Dreams of His Immortal Soul 3:00
    The camera rises along the suspension cables of the Ben Franklin Bridge. Ascent, omen, transfiguration, dissolution; an afterlife in language.

Siren (1990) - 14min. video installation
is a two-channel video work that proposes an "operatic" rendering of W.H.Hudson's "Green Mansions," a strange tale about journeys in the jungle, mysterious voices, and metaphysical tongues. The sound track is entirely vocal, a collaborative effort by David Moss and Peter Rose, with Jessie Jane Lewis and Anya Rose, and the computer-animated text/libretto was generated on a MacIntosh computer. The work premiered as a two-channel performance at the New Music America Festival in 1988 in Miami, was performed in Paris in 1989, and was installed as a two-channel laser disc installation at the Phila. Museum of Art from April to July 1990. Viewable at:

Foit Yet Cleem Triavith (1988) - 2min. video
(an anagram for “The Verticality of Time”) uses a text about the nature of time, perverse visual quotations from art history, and vocal improvisation by David Moss and Peter Rose to generate a kind of rap video. Viewable at:

SpiritMatters (1984) - 6min. 16 mm, silent
is a silent monologue on the simultaneous perception of space and time. The film was constructed without a camera by writing directly on clear celluloid, and then "translated" by refilming the resulting strips on a light table so that they appear as "subtitles" beneath the original inscription. The film functions as both process and object-an interactive experiment in reading, writing, and seeing. SpiritMatters has won prizes at the Baltimore, Ann Arbor, and Experimental Film Festivals and is distributed by Canyon Cinema. Complete work available at:

The Pressures of the Text (1983) - 17min. video, color, sound
integrates direct address, invented languages, ideographic subtitles, sign language, and simultaneous translation to investigate the feel and form of sense, the shifting boundaries between meaning and meaninglessness. A parody of art/critspeak, educational instruction, gothic narrative, and pornography, it has been performed as a live work at major media centers and new music festivals in the US and Europe. The piece was written, directed and delivered by Peter Rose; co-directed by Jessie Jane Lewis; with sign language and ideographic symbols by Jessie Jane Lewis; and with English simultran by Fred Curchack. The work was featured in the 1985 Whitney Biennial, won a Red Ribbon at the American Film Festival, and has been awarded major prizes at festivals around the world. For the complete work please go to:

Secondary Currents (1982) - 16min. 16 mm, B&W, sound
is a film about the relationships between the mind and language. Delivered by an improbable narrator who speaks an extended assortment of nonsense, it is an "imageless" film in which the shifting relationships between voice-over commentary and subtitled narration constitute a peculiar duet for voice, thought, speech, and sound. A kind of comic opera, the film is a dark metaphor for the order and entropy of language and has been the subject of a number of articles on the use of language in the arts. Percussion is by Jim Meneses. To see the complete film please go to:

The man who could not see far enough (1981) - 33min. 16 mm film, color, sound
uses literary, structural, autobiographical, and performance metaphors to construct a series of tableaux that evoke the act of vision, the limits of perception, and the rapture of space. Spectacular moving multiple images; a physical, almost choreographic sense of camera movement; and massive, resonant sound have inspired critics to call it "stunning" and "hallucinatory." The film ranges in subject from a solar eclipse shot off the coast of Africa to a hand-held filmed ascent of the Golden Gate Bridge, and moves, in spirit, from the deeply personal to the mythic. "The man who could not see far enough" has won major awards of distinction at numerous festivals both here and abroad, including the Oberhausen, Edinburgh, American, and Sydney Film Festivals, has been broadcast nationally, and is in collections at Centre Pompidou in Paris and at Image Forum in Tokyo. See and

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