'Beyond The Duplex Planet'
A Film By Beth Harrington
Beyond the Duplex Planet is a feature documentary-in-progress about artist David Greenberger and his unconventional work with senior citizens. In 1979, fresh out of art school, Greenberger took a job as activities director at the Duplex Nursing Home in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. He began conducting quirky interviews with the home’s senior citizens, rejecting a pat oral history approach in favor of questions that would spark engagement: "Which do you prefer – coffee or meat?" “Why do people spit?” “What do you think George Washington’s voice sounded like?” and “What is embarrassment?” The result of this was The Duplex Planet, an early ‘zine, complete with excerpts from the interviews, as well as offbeat music reviews and poems, unorthodox illustrations and graphics, all by the residents themselves. Over time this material has become the basis for spoken word shows, podcasts, graphic novels and numerous albums, many of these projects featuring well-known artists. Champions and/or collaborators of Greenberger and his senior colleagues include people like magicians Penn & Teller, cartoonists Daniel Clowes and Lynda Barry, musicians Dave Alvin, Bill Frisell, Peter Buck (REM), David Hidalgo and Louie Perez (Los Lobos), pop artist Ed Ruscha, actors Lili Taylor and Martin Mull, and legions of other fans. Greenberger’s work interviewing seniors continues to this day. Beyond the Duplex Planet explores notions of aging and its intersection with art and community. It’s also a revealing look at the life of an artist devoted to documenting the elderly who is himself moving into his senior years.