I Was A Zero In City 2000

The story of Tom Palazzolo's efforts to get his photographs included in the City 2000 exhibition, a show featuring images of Chicago from throughout that year. Palazzolo shoots events during the year 2000, such as Taste of Chicago, Maxwell Street, an AIDS bicycle ride, and other public festivals. Througout the tape we see his new photographs and some of his older ones.

0:20Copy video clip URL Black and white montage of Chicago streets filled with various festival-goers, covered in streamers. They range greatly in age and race. Background voiceover by Tom Palazzolo, describing his artistic practice, which ranged from photographs to video. He explains his introduction to the City 2000 exhibition.

1:11Copy video clip URL Tom lifts his camera to his eye and examines billboards and architecture as the voiceover continues. He explains the philosophy and goals of the City 2000 exhibition, “to capture and preserve the images and words of its people […] a compelling human inventory of our time”. In a dry tone, he states, “some consider me the MJ of independent film” as the camera tilts up to regard a billboard of Michael Jordan. 

1:47Copy video clip URL Tom takes the City 2000 director through a select part of his portfolio and relays his own ideas for the exhibitions, such as the documentation of “events in public spaces” and “outsiders”. A montage of images and clips from his portfolio plays as he elaborates on his approach to the exhibition, which is initially unfocused. 

2:40Copy video clip URL Visual and auditory footage (black and white) of a man playing an accordion comes into focus as Tom’s commentary fades out. 

 2:46Copy video clip URL Color footage of a younger man playing a variety of instruments at once. His music seems designed to sound like background noise, assembling spoken word, musical interludes, and recognisable motifs. He is outside, playing for a large crowd attending the Maxwell Street Market (hereafter MSM); their attention is not solely on him. The camera points towards the crowd around him, many of whom walk by without stopping. 

3:47Copy video clip URL A still from Tom’s footage (of two women preparing food behind an obfuscating plastic screen at a different event) is cut over the moving footage. As it is explained that this photograph was accepted for the exhibition, the camera moves back to pan over MSM. 

4:09Copy video clip URL An older man at MSM sits at his stall playing the trumpet. This is recognisably jazz. 

4:25Copy video clip URL A middle aged man stands in the center of MSM, singing and playing the accordion, as attendees walk around him. Tom explains, in voiceover, the history of Maxwell Street (subject to gentrification). Footage of a jazz band fades in, followed by a street performer who is viewed by several delighted onlookers.

5:06Copy video clip URL Black and white footage of several musical performers alongside attendees of MSM plays over a singular musical interlude. This footage appears to span a several seasons, and is clearly set decades in the past, based on the clothes of the figures shown. 

5:43Copy video clip URL Color and black and white footage (video and photographic) reveals the effects of gentrification on Historic Maxwell: decimated houses and personal effects, protest signs, and graffiti. Tom explains in voiceover that “it was sad to see it [historic Maxwell] go”. 

6:26Copy video clip URL Footage of the unveiling of Picasso’s “Maquette for Richard J. Daley Center Sculpture”, watched by several onlookers. Tom elaborates that he had hoped to send footage of a public event such as this, “when mayor Richard the First embraced modern art”. Footage of a protest transitions in as Tom observes, “his attitude changed dramatically at the next Democratic Convention”. 

7:01Copy video clip URL A caption indicates that Tom is filming the Taste of Chicago event at Grant Park. A musician plays and sings an anti-war version of “The Ballad of the Green Beret” outside. Tom’s voiceover relays that he was asked to step in for another filmmaker, taking footage of the Taste of Chicago event on the third and fourth of July.  

7:51Copy video clip URL A drag queen sarcastically states to the camera, “I would like to say this: I am number one in Chicago”. Tom interviews them further, and a small crowd (chiefly led by teenage white men) begins to shout homophobic slurs. “These kids need to be reprogrammed”, Tom comments behind camera. 

9:07Copy video clip URL Brief montage of nighttime footage at Taste of Chicago: dancing, a ferris wheel, and groups of children wearing glow sticks.

9:17Copy video clip URL Tom interviews a group of high school age girls, who energetically reply that they’ve seen several “cute boys”, and that “the food is great but it’s hot”. They also observe that more couples attended Taste of Chicago this year, to a positive effect. 

10:05Copy video clip URL An overture by Tchaikovsky is heard in the background of nighttime, cut together footage of Taste of Chicago: children and food, crowds moving from stall to stall. The footage cuts to an overfilled waste bin as the piece comes to a finale. The music fades out so we only hear scattered conversations and exclamations from the crowd.  

11:14Copy video clip URL A congregated crowd face away from the camera, towards a stage at the end of a street. The theme from Indiana Jones plays, and is met with cheering and clapping, fireworks in the background. As Tom moves in the other direction, occasional subjects speak, rap, and exclaim into the camera. Their waving hands are juxtaposed with the fireworks in the background. 

12:31Copy video clip URL The camera pans over several romantic couples. Tom (we assume humorously) zooms in on a man with his hand directly over his partner’s breast as they watch the fireworks. Attendees cluster tightly together, with the occasional person hamming for or shouting at the camera. “I’d never been in such a packed crowd before”, Tom relays in voiceover.  

13:16Copy video clip URL As Tom explains his discomfort with the close quarters, footage of young men howling and shouting at the camera is re-cut in a surreal manner, emphasizing its inhuman, threatening qualities.

13:45Copy video clip URL As the crowd clears up, a group of young adults is led by a single man down the street, occasionally shouting. A young woman blows a kiss at the camera on her way by.

14:07Copy video clip URL Footage of people crowding onto the Brown Line. The camera holds still as the leaves the station. 

14:29Copy video clip URL “The next day, July fourth, I went to Navy Pier. Why the balloon man wanted to threaten me with his balloon I don’t know”, Tom relays, as the camera is hit numerous times with a small pink balloon. Gradually blurred footage of fireworks follows. 

15:07Copy video clip URL A parade takes shape down the street, heralded by a firetruck. A saxophonist plays “My Favorite Things” in the background. “I didn’t get much this night,” Tom admits, and the camera cuts to an empty walkway. 

15:24Copy video clip URL Nighttime shots of people walking across a bridge, and the exterior and interior of a subway. Tom describes bringing his footage to the exhibition director Bill the next day, which results in another event assignment. 

15:41Copy video clip URL Outdoor, daytime footage of a large crowd at the AIDS Ride Tanquerary. Post-bicycle ride, the crowd dances and cheers for a speaker, who calls up a group of [HIV] ‘Positive Peddlers’ to lead rider-less bikes up to the stage. Tom characterises the day as “a very moving event”. 

17:39Copy video clip URL The volunteer crew for AIDS Ride are brought up to the stage, to much cheering (and the “Superman” theme) by the crowd. Moving footage of attendees embracing follows. Tom tells the viewer to watch one subject, “pretty girl with the red scarf”. Footage of her warmly embracing numerous attendees follows. 

21:27Copy video clip URL Candid footage of bikers walking their bikes out of the crowd, and one man holding a bouqet of calla lilies. 

21:50Copy video clip URL A heterosexual wedding party walks by the camera, presumably on their way to take photographs outside.

22:00Copy video clip URL More bikers and attendees leave AIDS Ride, including a homosexual male couple affectionately holding hands. 

22:05Copy video clip URL A young woman enters a subway station with a bouquet of flowers. Footage from a subway car fades in.

22:25Copy video clip URL Tom thinks about his artistic relationship with the “L” via voiceover, displaying past and present photographs and video footage. He relays that he brought in his L footage with the “AIDS video” to the City 2000 office. He is told to “get a tripod”. Alongside more footage of and from the L, Tom notes that “this project was beginning to make me feel…paranoid”. 

23:35Copy video clip URL Elaborating on his paranoia, Tom explains (verbally and via footage) that he made a point to go to every relevant show, and “needless to say, none of my work was in any of these shows”. 

24:18Copy video clip URL Footage of the St James Medical Center Slam-Dunk Competition. Tom calls this “about an hour of aggression and bad sportsmanship”, displaying clips of three-on-three games. He relays one photograph that he mailed in to the exhibition, of a ‘friend’ halfway through making a basket. 

25:22Copy video clip URL Tom is invited to film the St Nicholas Parish Carnival, and does so to obtain footage from every Chicago neighborhood. Scenes of children attempting to climb ropes are intercut with footage of a man singing a country song in daylight. An MC announces a ”renowned Egyptian Magician”, who, assisted by several women in sarongs, begins to perform.

26:32Copy video clip URL The magician takes the crowd through several different illusions and tricks. He is occasionally clumsy, dropping a glass orb and struggling to blow a bubble; this is met by laughter from spectating children. 

30:34Copy video clip URL Tom films an event “I’d filmed thirty years ago”, the Democratic Senior Citizen Picnic, arriving near the end. An elderly woman (in a wheelchair) is helped haphazardly onto a bus by a volunteer.  Tom intercuts several scenes from his previous documentary on the picnic, observing “it’s sad to realise that all of these people are gone now” as the bus closes up on current attendees.

32:57Copy video clip URL Tom interviews the few remaining attendees, asking one man about his smoking habit; he proudly reveals that he’s had “no problems” in regards to his health so far. 

34:21Copy video clip URL One photograph from the South Side was initially refused by the exhibition directors; Tom relays that he “blew it up to about five feet”. Though his photograph was not accepted, he reveals that he did attend the exhibit: “a dazzling success, even without me”. He humorously relays that his face was blacked out of a group photo of exhibit participants.  

35:07Copy video clip URL Outdoor footage of the Lake Michigan beach, which introduces the end credits. 

 

 

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