Wednesday, February 21, 2007

it seems like we argue every day

Along with texture, rhythm, space and time--your sense of reality becomes viscous, things in the world become curious and uncanny, as if they were all slurred. Like the disorientating game-layers in eXistenZ and the effect created by staring into a computer screen for more hours than into open air. In screw music, there is no sense or implication of the "realest" Real, because literally every sound is distorted and dragged down into unnatural slowness, including the real/live DJ's own interjections (!). This whole world is wrong, thus a totally pure escape--and catharsis, for the open air seems to be charged with electricity when you emerge.

OG Ron C's F-Action series of screwed & chopped R&B jams is more profound to me than the Michael Watts versions of hardcore crunk albums (though his refix of Da Unbreakables comes close). It's because of R&B's constant use of melody, which--when screwed--becomes glaringly slow & low, yawning stretches of fabric stretched into odd, troubling outfits. The more banal the melody, the more profound the shift in perception. What could be a visual corollary to slow-jam schlock?

Friday, February 16, 2007


Subrin's video obsesses over another artist and her work, while showing neither the artist's face nor her work. Instead, it spends maybe 20 minutes circling its difficult (because complex, yet temptingly obvious) subject, using a number of strategies which divide the video into an equal number of independent segments. This gesture feels cerebral rather than arbitrary, carefully measured rather than haphazard. I have a feeling it has to do with the length and pace of each segment, which ultimately require intuition much more than rational thought.

I don't remember The Fancy's exact sequence but I do remember its strategies (or, movements), for what it's worth. The introductory scanning of the late artist's former belongings, a staid archive made voluptuous by the camera's twists and pans. The camera isn't afraid to re-scan objects at only slightly different angles, like it's cross-referencing this information into a temporal weave. And the short-term memories of the objects build up, encrust themselves in our heads: books, mirrors, a bowl of eels. Then there are still shots, which--coming after those first restless movements--seem as effective as pure photographs. We see them as photographs, even though they are motion pictures, because they don't appear to move, because they're rigorously framed. Yet they breathe where photographs suffocate; whereas photographs thrive within sealed borders, the video "stills" have danger: danger of movement, danger of activity, danger of the unexpected, danger of a cut. And yet they're equally ephemeral, one-of-a-kind documents of a place and time (with bonus sounds).

Then there are those deadpan recitations and re-enactments of the late artist's photographs, revived for the video camera and video screen. At their best, they isolate and magnify video's extra limbs, its secret weapons: sound (a lone figure, straitjacketed into a "photographic" frame, speaks with no emotion; you hear the words, then you interpret them, then you notice yourself responding to sound, and realize afterwards that these were sounds made by photographs), and movement (anonymous women posing, twitching, and gyrating eerily in total silence--phenomenal that such minimal, isolated movements could be so shocking). I don't know why film doesn't hold up to basic experiments such as these, but I suppose it makes sense that the more economical and fluid of the two would be the most free.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Koudelka's pictures speak volumes. Photography paralyzes me because so much must be left out--yet this is precisely its power; everything that remains in the frame is quite literally everything. The balance, or dialectic, between what is excluded and what is revealed, when successful (as in a masterpiece like Exiles), is both frightening and inspiring.

Frightening because it's a maddeningly difficult and haphazard process of accumulation and subsequent cherry-picking, a hodgepodge of shots taken from a dozen different countries over a period of years that nonetheless cohere and congeal like the viscous fluid of Koudelka's black eye. His sensibility pervades each photograph in Exiles: bleak and skeletal and windy and uncanny, as textural as it is literary. I can only attribute this to the strength, the incessant presence, of that sensibility, which forcefully reflects the natural light of the world from the camera back into the world, projecting the author's own dreams and nightmares onto its landscapes and bodies. This secret unbalance marks those of us who can't help but be artists, despite our equally secret wishes that we could be just as happy as corporate businessmen or marine biologists. You see these images and first you think "what kind of a place is that" and it hits you, immediately thereafter: What sort of human being is this?

And this is why Exiles inspires, too ... it's easy and beguiling, immediate and bottomless, a quick reference guide for how to be a hard-working natural talent, a testament to persisting against "merely great enough" status. Any one of a certain dozen of these haunting pictures could have been Koudelka's last word on the medium, a decent excuse to leave this pursuit for other pleasures, but for whatever reason--a lack of greater pleasures, a perpetual sense of unfinished business, a score to settle with his past--he kept talking, until so much had been said about the subject of Exiles that it was already time for the next stage in his life.