All Together Now

2008, 26:52 min, color, sound

Recalling recent urban horror films such as 28 Days Later or Cloverfield, All Together Now is a tale of survival in a devastated but familiar world. Feral tribes are the only inhabitants left in a decimated Los Angeles, sustaining themselves on the debris of an annihilated culture. A sense of fresh disaster is evoked through disturbing details: cars abandoned in the middle of the street, yards strewn with kitten and bird carcasses, and buzzards circling over darkened skyscrapers.

The video opens on Kahn bludgeoning something, or someone, in the bushes. Her prize is a little portable radio, which brings funk and rock 'n' roll into the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Though Kahn wears fashionably torn jeans and a blouse, her hair held back with a butterfly clip, her face is made up to look like a cave woman. This is just one of many anachronisms in All Together Now, which is as playful in its collapsing of genres and archetypes as, say, Roger Corman's Teenage Cave Man.

Kahn scuttles through the abandoned city in socks, foraging for food and water and useful trash. She is part of a clan or family of similar characters—a collective of survivalists who have retained traces of pleasure in their weird world. In one family scene, several characters indulge in a spa while a young boy watches The Beatles' Yellow Submarine on television.

Meanwhile, in a dark warren of bunk beds, another clan of hooded figures, inevitably suggesting Abu Ghraib and the Ku Klux Klan, engage in absurd industry and fitful sex. Some of these figures are hooded in blue, while others are hooded in white and decorated with adhesive-tape eyes and mouths. They fill sacks with soil and dunk them in glop. They destroy furniture with power tools. They keep constant surveillance on the world outside with their laptop.

The relationship between these clans, or the purpose of their activities, is never explained. All Together is completely devoid of dialogue or commentary. There is, however, no apparent conflict; in fact, there are signs of affection—even love. There are several idyllic scenes of the characters frolicking in nature, suggesting that they have found an odd peace with their situation, and with each other.

Writing in Frieze magazine, Christopher Bedford observes that "All Together Now, like much of Dodge and Kahn's work, is not without optimism—moments of co-operation between tribes, for example, instances of human ingenuity or scenes of children smiling and gallivanting—and the temptation to see the cues for a positive reading in these passages is considerable. But to cling to that interpretative thread would be to discount many of the most resonant scenes in the video, the most striking of which occurs near the end. We see Kahn playing on a beach with two impeccably outfitted children when the scene cuts abruptly to a view of the artist standing shirtless and alone in the centre of a lake, scrubbing blood from her bruised and battered body, with no indication given of how one moment gave rise to the next."

By Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn. With performances by: Lucy Blue Brady, Trinie Dalton, Lenny Dodge-Kahn, Cerus Dumas, Sean Dungan, Amy Gerstler, Matt Greene, Stanya Kahn, Eileen Myles, Gail Swanlund, Benjamin Weissman. Additional Camera: Keith Hennessy, Jeff Hockett. Includes sound from: Bardo Pond, The Beatles, Boris, The Clash, David Bowie, The Dead C, Holger Czukay, Rick James, Pelt, Jessye Norman, Kinski, The Rolling Stones, Thrones, Yardbirds.


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