We asked the brilliant Scottish writer Ali Smith about her favourite work of art about love. ‘I know, and I’ve known since I first saw it, that his All My Life will be with me all my life.’
text ALI SMITH
My favourite work of art/love is Bruce Baillie’s All My Life, from 1966, a piece of perfection in the form of a short film. In it, to the unfolding of a very young Ella Fitzgerald singing the song All My Life with the Teddy Wilson orchestra, Baillie very simply pans along a length of sunny garden fence whose wooden struts are higgledy piggledy, occasionally gappy or broken. The fence is lined with weeds and messy grassy foliage – until Fitzgerald sings the words ‘I’ve begun living all my life’, when that fence bursts into efflorescence, into a massive bush of overflowing flowers on the other side in bright cinecolour. Then it does it again, but this time the flowers have grown through the fence, and then again. More flowers.
As the song, less than three minutes long, comes to its close, the camera soars above the fence, above a stray-seeming powerline – which isn’t stray at all because it marks a kind of divide that just, well, slips away – and we soar with it into nothing but clarity, colour, sky.
Baillie, who’d been ill for some time, died in April this year. I know, and I’ve known since I first saw it, that his All My Life will be with me all my life. In it, image and sound meet in an expression of love so well seen, so simple, so rich and so almost comically, gorgeously everyday, that there’ll always be love, it’ll always be this true, and it’ll always make any fences we put up between people, things and places burst into bloom before it flings us up over them into something transcendent, like freedom.
Read more in See All This #18 – Summer of Love 2020. Buy online.