Posts Tagged ‘amnesia’
IN a show put on by noise performer Kawaiietly Please – in which we participated, not listened, or perhaps listened to the point of participation. She started by taking her microphone for a walk around the venue’s small room, picking up vibrations that fed into a distorting filter in her computer, amplifying white noise. It was painfully loud, but only when the beats kicked in four to the floor did our organs start to thump synchronously against their skeletal cavities. Kawaiietly Please creates an event that uses sound as a dilating instrument, opening up the minds/bodies of the audience via their ears: in front of the stage, a giant white stuffed gorilla lies in an inflatable kiddy pool, its belly stitched with black cables. Kawaiietly Please tiptoes towards it, the cacophony around us lending an intense stillness to the scene. Then the sound begins to bark at us like a rabid dog and she pulls out the cable from the stuffed corpse – she struggles, the clothy flesh resists – and some of us impromptu jump on it and start tugging too. The sound – damaging feedback, harsh static, thereminish vibrations – throbs across our muscles as we pull, pull and finally – yes! – we tear. The monkey explodes in a shower of stuffing and glitter, an entire horde of smaller creatures spills out. We go nuts. Now we have something to lay our hands on. The noise that throws us about like rag dolls gives us back what is our own – our impulse to be kinetic. A double acceleration: the movement in time that is sound galvanizes a symmetry-response momentum in extensio – everything snaps (in place) with the thrashing of our bodies.
We dive to the floor, grabbing stuffed animals, pulling them apart solitarily but more often engaging ferociously in tug-a-war: I grab an arm, you grab a head. Soon enough we are fighting each other. Not knowing how it came to this, I am on the floor being dragged around by someone who is battling me for the limb of a teddy bear. The kicking and screaming I do is much more than liberating: this synesthetic simultaneity of hyper-loud sound, cuddly texture (the plush, soft, squeezable bodies of the animals) and violent muscular resistance (the propelling motion of the tugging) is driving me insane with fun. Kawaiietly Please weaves in and out amongst us, jerking her head back, rubbing herself against the floor with scattered petticoats, feeling up the PAs – ghostly in the red light, flitting in and out of the decibelic tidal wave like a hummingbird. We roll her in the rubbery folds of the kiddy pool (the excitement of tactile/sonic texture peaks), mock- suffocating her. She is buried beneath the blue plastic while we throw bits of stuffing and animal parts as though they were flowers.
The noise abruptly ceases: we clap, we shriek, we instantly miss it. She emerges, bows. For about an hour afterwards a number of us are still twitchy – we vault rather than climb onto chairs, we hop rather than walk, laugh rather than bother with coherent sentences. A warmth suffuses us, stretching our mouths in toothy smiles. We want more of this extreme friendliness.
To precipitate the player into a daydreaming state – the goal of an immersive envitonment?
Bachelard, Poetics of Daydreaming: “daydreaming allows us to know language uncensored. In solitary daydreaming, we can say everything to ourselves. We still have a clear enough conscience to be certain that what we say to ourselves is for us and for us alone…To understand ourselves doubly as real and idealized beings we must listen to our daydreaming. We believe that our daydreaming can be the best school for a “psychology of the depths“.
“In our hours of happiness, our daydreaming nourrishes itself; it self-sustains the way life self-sustains.”
On alchemy: “The exaltation found in the names of substances is a preamble to experiments on certain “exalted” substances”.
un jadis a jamais disparu: a once upon a time forever dissapeared
l’ombre est alors un etre riche: the shadow is then a rich and splendid being
On loneliness and the condtional tense: “I am alone, therefore I dream of the being who healed my loneliness, who would have healed my loneliness”.
“What do we know about the other if we don’t imagine him/her?”
Hershman’s talking head appears successively on the three screens of an editing machine. No hands are visible that would explain this ghostly process – the machine seems to be creating Hershman(s), conjuring her / they out of a database, splicing bits and pieces together in an eerie act of cyborg (re) production. The editing machine becomes both an inscription tool and a metaphor for the private / public performance of a community of alter egos.
Hershman stands in the corner of a white room next to a short white pedestal and an unidentifiable dark rectangular object on the wall (a picture, a painting?). The room is stretched out and replicated across the picture plane, calling up the effect produced when mirrors are placed opposite each other : recursive reflection, mirrors containing themselves replicating across an infinite depth. Hershman, as the subject obsessed with the perfecting, the retooling of her own discourse enters in a demonic dialogue with the camera, adjusting the mirror (the sliver of discourse that constitutes a particular edit), picking different angles to produce a variety of refraction patterns.
She retraces the history of her overeating and chronicles the progress of her “cure”, a schematic scale often appearing as a graded line to the left of her head, marking with mathematical precision the chronological positioning of a particular interview episode – the measurement / assessment of her body functioning as both clock and time machine, transporting the audience across her body / her time (her temporality).
The whole project, she admits, is grounded in the fact that she is alone with herself / with the mirror that is the camera – a curious place I identify with the sound booth of her interview space, a societally detached cubicle in which (intentional) discourse and (spontaneous, uncensored) private thought are disturbingly close, perhaps inextricable. This space, between herself and the camera, seems to allow her a great degree of license in her storytelling – it becomes easier to scrutinize interior events, and, liberated from the necessity of an interlocutor, Hershman is no longer compelled to (artificially) carve out fact from fantasy. Fantasy itself emerges as fact / act, a documentable event alongside others, testifying to the occurrence/reality of this continuous performance of subjectivity.
Jan Karski suddenly gets out of his chair and leaves the frame, crying. Abraham Bomba purses his mouth and compulsively licks his lips, breathes heavily as he cuts a customer’s hair (he is a barber). Before these incidents, before they break down, they tell us in great detail (prodded by Lanzmann) what they saw, what happened to them. Bomba gives us a dry, precise descripting of his “job” as a barber in the gas chamber in a loud, mechanical, declamatory style. This “job” of accounting to the filmmaker is a shield he holds up against the possibility of remembering. Karski’s voice rolling, regular diction, interrupted by nervous deglutitions, has hooked itself in our ear and we wait for him to come back, a feeling of expectancy – he must go to the end of his witnessing, he must, 30 years after and too late to prevent the disaster, complete his mission to testify about the truth of the Warsaw ghetto – weighted with anxiety, almost panic.
To listen to Karski’s accounting of his meeting with the resistance leaders and his excursions into the ghetto is not only to feel in oneself the imprint of terrible things, it is to know the inexorable quality of the past, to experience a sensation of nausea as the evidence is processed: this cannot be erased, this cannot be undone. The camera fixes and inscribes a second time that which is already, permanently indelible. Because of or in spite of the subjects’ inability to express the unameable, to only give us ellipses, fragments of a total, undescribable event – “there was no humanity” – their voice and their face seem to provide us with the most concrete of indexical relationships to the chronology (chrono- logos:etymologically, the speaking/wording of time) their testimony unwinds. Lanzmann is aware of this and insists that his subjects tell us a linear story, almost as if their words, as spectral camera, were meant to travel back in time to record a present anterior, the present that-lies-in-the past. The percussive quality, the aliveness, the presence of their speech makes it seem possible: “he tried to spend a few more seconds with them” – this minimal statement, made of lacunae, a veil for a reality he is not telling us, cannot tell us is also a screen, a window that points to a real all the more present (to us) for being indescribable. In this sense, this documentary more than others accomplishes the duty of proof, summons the audience’s belief.
We are faced with ineluctable presence, but it is of necessity the presence of a void. Void not only in the sense that the witnesses can, in the end, bring nothing back from the past – of the dead, only their shades can be evoked – but that this totality of events, the shoah, is the temporal place where reality, the world of sense we build around us, breaks down. To go back, to allow the witnesses to bring us back, is to become implicated, to share in the negation, the absence left by 6 million. What Shoah demonstrates is that this burden is much more than a duty to take on (one choses to accomplish one’s duty) but the burden of our past, which by definition is already with us, part of ourselves.
haunted by the past - relentlessly pursued
Waltz with Bashir poses the question of the historical value of memory, beyond the “hard” evidence of historical accuracy and facts. Animated documentary opens up the possibility of representing a temporal dimension previously assigned to the strictly poetic: the interior past, the effect of the individual’s reflex to patch up the lacunae in the facts by inserting phantom scenes in her remembrance of what occurred. The move to give epistemological value to this unreliable past is an ethical one. In psychoanalytic terms, this other, virtual time bears the trace/ the index of actually happened – Ari Folman’s investigation into his post-traumatic amnesia is a search for the truth. Not so much the hard fact of the massacres, but the truth of the massacres that emerges from his act of bearing witness (and all the ambiguous moral ground implied in the act of bearing witness to the horrific – the bystander’s inescapable burden of complicity). This project is not unlike Lanzmann’s decision to give us a historical mapping strictly through the individual experiences of those implicated – only the recapitualation of an event that has been felt, lived, interiorized, indexed to someone’s specific historicity (in the Heideggerian sense) is capable of communicating the truth of the past, beyond mere fidelity to literal fact.
derealization - Ari means to "realize", to recognize
In this context, I found the final moments of the film particularly effective. Throughout, the filmmaker has been stripping away the layers of his and his fellow witnesses/accomplices’ memory in order to uncover a moment of truth, the moment in which the massacre and war revealed themselves to him, when the juxtaposition of traumatized temporal fragments crystallize into an incontrovertible evidence, the essential core of reality that cannot be gotten around. Folman in effect comes into contact with Lacan’s “Real” (Renov, The Subject of the Documentary) – a moment, a place, an occurence that escapes signification but that horrifically exists.
A crowd of wailing women pours through the streets, coming towards the camera. At his guard post with his comrades, weapon in hand – his presence in the camp testifying to the obfuscated reason: he is there to allow the Lebanese army to perpetrate the massacre – the young Ari sees these women coming towards him. The camera zooms into him; he is breathing hard, he is sweating, he is paralyzed, as the women’s crying (that hard sensory evidence of the unameable thing that was done) engulf him. There is no escape for Ari. The truth finally owns him more than he owns the truth, tripping up his initial goal to “have” the truth, to take it within him so he could heal. But there is no healing possible, the fissure in the world (the world that can be processed and assigned meaning) that was opened remains.
And, by extension, neither is there any escape for the spectator. The final shots of the actual footage documenting the massacres (the indexed faces of those wailing women) transfer Ari’s personal memory to a space of collective consensus – and ergo collective responsibility, burden. How different than if we had been shown this archival footage in the beginning, if Ari’s sensorially vivid (animated, visualized) journey had not already divested us, denuded us of our habitual siginifying framework, substituted his vision for ours.
Doane argues that early film showcases “time becoming visible as the movement of bodies through space”
Mary Anne Doane, The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity, Contingency, the Archive
Mark Shiel, Cinema and the City in History and Theory in Cinema and the City: Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context, edited by Mark Shiel and Tony Fitzmaurice.
Mary Anne Doane and Mark Shiel make arguments for opposing conceptions of cinema as escape valve for modernity’s alienation from “lived time” and as a postmodern transformation of simulacra into “lived space”.
According to Doane, “the technique of metropolitan life” implies the development of a consciousness regularly leached of meaningful experience by the systematic “shock” of paradoxically both the excessive presence of the present in the form of a barrage of urban stimuli and the alienation of subjectivity from its own present by the logic of capitalist labor. Doane’s essentially psychological (Freudian?) argument is that this constant condition of collective trauma is the origin of a schism in our conception of time – between a time characterized by “the most punctual integration of all activities and natural relations into a stable and impersonal schedule” (the time created by railroad logistics, punch-cards and wrist-watches) and the time that takes shape in the experience of cinema, which offers “the technological promise…of immortality, the denial of the radical finitude of the human body, access to other temporalities” and, contra the traumatized time of daily modern life, can be archived, re-captured, indexed, “rematerialized”. Cinema in this case become a collective prosthetic imitation of memory, a mechanized algorithm for the production of the lived time that has been lost in the business of a modernist logic that “spends” time instead of holding onto it.
This new or other cinematic time is constructed around a double absence: the phenomenological gap resulting from the fact that cinema is a juxtaposition of still frames, and therefore fails to reproduce (according to Bergson) true time/movement, and the diegetic gap constituted by editing, which dislocates the linear flow of time. This phantom, uncanny time, resurrected/ “relived”, “haunted” by its own fabricated past, becomes a site for experiments in fresh meaning-making, for the presentation and representation of the kind of life that “results from immanence and embodiment”. Out of perversity or driven by a utopian desire for the impossible, Doane argues that photography/cinema, or at least their proponents, seek to transform the contingent, the arbitrary (the non-contextualized moment, “that which is beyond or resistant to meaning”) into that which is most authentically (because instantaneously) meaningful. From a classicist point of view, this reconfiguration of time into a present of memory (and nostalgic memory of the present) is equivalent to attempting to achieve a sort of alchemy – in spatial terms, to conflate surface and depth.
This argument that cinema exists in a time of its own is curiously echoed (or produced in a postmodernist reverse/mirror effect) in Mark Shiel’s argument for the understanding of cinema as its own “spatial system”, a space that is present/constitutes a present rather than merely a “textual system”, a system of representation. Using the city as a metaphor for cinema as well as the site of (Hollywood) cinema’s very concrete expansionist/imperialist practices, Shiel points out that film has long ceased to be a factor amongst many in the progression of globalization, but constitutes its basic engine – that in a sense globalization is about the colonization of ‘real’ urban space by the space of cinema, by the imaginary of the cinematic presence / present.
First animation edits for “NO/PLACE” using proxy music – including one styleframing the live-action actor.
Music used: Aphex Twin