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Ken Paul Rosenthal img
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Robert Fulton Memorial Reading
San Francisco Art Institute
December 8, 2002

by Ken Paul Rosenthal

Several years ago, when I began teaching film as a means of cultivating personal vision, I was granted carte blanche to Alfonso Alvarez's film collection, and I re-discovered Robert Fulton's sublime, 'Running Shadow, Part IV'. I hadn’t lost sight of it. But it had been some 10 years since I’d last experienced it’s delicious and delirious rush of color, light and spirit in this very room. I had forgotten the title, but to taste those images again—even off videotape—was to recall a kiss with divinity from those tender, intoxicating days of artistic awakening. Whereas Stan Brakhage gave pictures to spirit, Robert Fulton gave spirit to pictures.

Each time I screened ‘Running Shadow’ for a class, collective gasps emerged from the darkness as students alternately lost and found their breaths. And without fail, at least one student would approach me after class to offer their profound thanks, looking as if they’d just come down off the mountain having seen the light—which indeed they had. In their eyes I observed a seismic shift in consciousness. In their eyes, liquid and crystal. Their eyes, drunk from a shot of satori, hungry for a chaser, a parting glance to this first part of running shadow.

Last year in Singapore, I screened a segment of ‘Running Shadow’ as part of an editing lecture. 10 minutes into the show, I turned the tape off and met the eyes of Ning. Again, liquid and crystal, but with a dash of outrage over my folly. So after class, we watched the entire piece from beginning to end, and became buds in the true organic sense; blossoming comrades, joined at soul’s hip after coming down from a shared hallucination, feeling intimately that god is an artist, nature is god’s canvas, and Robert Fulton is god’s prophet.

I would like to read you an entry from Ning’s class journal:

“After watching ‘Running Shadow’, I felt an incredible feeling wash over me. It was an organic energy that gradually built itself within my being as I sat to watch this glorious masterpiece. If ‘Mothlight’ was good, this film was made by God!! I feel so drastically changed after I saw it, and I simply had to beg to watch the rest of it. Seeing Fulton’s work made me breathe so hard and there were actually times I realized I’d held my breath. It inspired thoughts, ideas and feelings within me. I’d never felt like this before. It was as if I’d entered upon a heavenly state of Nirvana. I released myself and just let the film take me and this journey was magical. There was no part that was ever boring. Ever. After I got home, I went exploring the woods around my neighborhood. It hasn’t been touched since the 1920’s and no one goes there. After being touched by the film, I realized my eyes could see better. I found so many interesting things there, that I couldn’t wait to start shooting this mysterious place with the Bolex. And to think that it’s because of Fulton’s film that I finally got to discover this wonderful forest—which is just in my backyard! Thank you for sharing this amazing film. It’s changed my life forever.”