Glass Dust, Broken Red
Ophelia film stills
The concepts and imagery I explored in this film come out of the work that we did in Territories of Practice, mine being ‘Personalised Universes.’ Concepts, which we discussed such as perceptions of sanity, the perspective of the ‘outsider artist’ and romanticism are all at bay here.
She is a modern day Ophelia. Opherlia’s character embodies this massive discrepancy between appearance and reality. Everyone thinks she has gone mad due to grief over her father’s death. This is the widely accepted and taught interpretation of Hamlet. However, perhaps the very real experience of her father’s death allows her to see things for what they truly are. She sings songs, which are interpreted as an indication of her madness, although, upon a closer reading they express a sexual freedom. Her suicide is never actually clear, aside from the fact that the Church refused to give her a proper burial. The last time she appears on stage she hands out flowers to the king, queen etc. each with a symbolic meaning, each flower is in a way an accusation. She gives herself a flower of regret. Perhaps, she is not mad and has only gotten too close to as what Zizek describes as “the real.”
This quote dynamically and visually sums up what I feel like is the desubstanialization of things in our culture. It is expresses excess and is absurd in that this is obviously not the purpose of a cigarette.
It robs it of its purpose and says: ‘I’m going to watch this smoke just because I can—there will always be another cigarette and if not I can buy one at the corner shop.’ Things are being robbed of their substance and really, their significance.
Plato suggests that when something is burned, smoke is the essence of the thing escaping it. The ash is the remainder of its form. Now obviously this is not true, but it is an interesting metaphor for desubstantialization. In this sense, we are surrounded by the ash of everything, in a world of cheap simulations but that may be taking this all a bit too far.
Coming out of a post communist society, Sátántangó was intended to be made in 1985 but was unable to be produced due to the political environment in Hungary. Béla Tarr adopts a lingering style, holding a single shot, barely moving the camera, for up to 15 min.
He depicts life like a rusty mechanism, screeching and stalling: each moment is a defunct mechanical process leading to onset of the next.
The film is a representation of reality through the elevation of banality.
The first in a series of absurd organ methodology.
The Holy Mountain by Alejandro Jodorowsky
‘I am not mad. I am trying to heal my soul.’
In The Holy Mountain, Jodorowsky creates an occult dystopia, packed with allegorical, surrealist imagery. Jodorowsky references Mexico’s ancient Mayan culture as well the Catholic faith through underlying ritualism. The film consists of very little dialogue. It ends with the final words, ‘Real life awaits us,’ the film sets up a reality only to absurdly negate it.
Jodorowsky commented that The Holy Mountain is like a documented drug-induced experience, which he claims is not directed toward a single meaning or conclusion (it seems that audience members from the ’70s as well as today, however, might lean toward certain similar conclusions in regards to the respective manufacturing of art and war toys).
“Ode to Joy,” Beethoven’s last symphony, is an ode to humanity, to the freedom of all people. He searched through historical musical materials to find ‘fundamental truths of a mass text.’ Beethoven was struck by the music of the Gregorian Monks. His composition unconventionally uses the ancient Gregorian musical mode, called the Dorian mode. He creates a stark contrast, abruptly switching between the ancient Dorian mode—bringing us from the darkness of the past into the enlightenment—the modern D major scale.
His composition was so complex it was virtually impossible for scribes to copy and for choirs to sing. This was the first time that a symphony included voices. The piece pushes all of those involved in its performance to the absolute brink of human ability.
Beethoven was a recluse whose life was met with a series of unrequited loves and periods of emotional instability. He towed a blurred line between insanity and reality. His aim in composing “Ode to Joy,” was to ‘Rise above the sordidness of life’ and to create a symbol of faith in an all-inclusive world. Beethoven anticipated the piece’s unveiling to be, ‘the most glorious day of his life.’ Ironically, when the piece premiered, the only person excluded from this utopian moment was Beethoven himself. He never heard a single note of it, as his hearing was almost completely gone. Beethoven’s exclusion from being able to experience his greatest work stands as a metaphor for his entire existence and place in society.
An important section of Friedrich Schiller’s lyrics in “Ode to Joy,” translated into English, reads as follows:
Whoever has created An abiding friendship, Or has won A true and loving wife, All who can call at least one soul theirs, Join our song of praise; But those who cannot must creep tearfully Away from our circle.
I believe Schiller is intentionally referring to Beethoven here when he writes, ‘Join our song of praise; But those who cannot must creep tearfully Away from our circle.’ During the course of Beethoven’s life he had managed to isolate himself from anyone who had any connection to him. Beethoven intentionally excludes himself from this idealized all-inclusive humanity; perhaps as a sign of remorse, or perhaps he does not believe he deserves—or is even able to be part of it.
“Ode to Joy” has become a symbol of Ideology, as proven by its universal adaptability. Its message of a free humanity speaks to all ideologies. All ideologies offer some semblance of freedom, whether it is through a veil of democracy, state provided financial security or even through some institutional form of moral preservation. In reality these political Ideologies only offer a series of forces choices. If we do not comply our ‘freedom’ is revoked, thus is the paradox of freedom. The paradox of “Ode to Joy” is that it comes out of the point of view of an individual rather than that of a member of society. It is the voice of someone who stood alone, on the outskirts of the ideology of his time, or any for that matter.
Fiennes, S. (Director). (2012). The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology [Motion Picture].
Thomas, D. (Director). (2005). Ludwig van Beethoven BBC Documentary [Motion Picture].
The Panopticon, Jeremey Bentham’s model institution, has been an anchor in my practice. Initially, I was drawn to its utilitarian design juxtaposed by its uncanny use of light. The Panopticon is not merely an architectural plan for an institution but an intricate mechanism, which represents the way ideology and power function in our society
Our reality is an appearance created and upheld by the government, pop culture/ media etc. Art is also an appearance although, not one which shields reality but rather brings it to light by creating a dynamic, inspiring and sensory experience – which is really unexplainable. This concept of art, is at the root of my practice.
Behind The Wall
Madge Gill (1882-1961) was not a privileged white male who, attended art school, afforded the leisure of philosophizing about the state of humanity. She did not create work with the contemporary art notion of ‘the viewer’ in mind. She was not even trying to gain recognition or profit from her work. In this sense, she was an ‘outsider artist,’ working outside of the culturally accepted image of what an artist is and what art is.
Madge Gill’s work is an extension of her belief in Spiritualism. Her drawings are a medium between our world and the spirit world. They are not commodified ‘art objects’ but rather, a line of communication between her and her two children, whom she lost. She claimed to be guided by a spirit called ‘Myrninerest’ and often signed her works with this name. The figure of a young woman, ornately dressed, appears repeatedly throughout her work and is thought to be a representation of herself or her lost daughter. Her drawings acknowledge multiple realms of realty in the way they use or destroy correct perspective and geometry. There is a certain genuineness and purity to her work. Perhaps, it is the work’s unintentional ‘Art’ status.