Sunday, 27 March 2011
Existentialism focuses on the condition of human existence and an individuals emotions - action - responsibilities - thoughts - meaning or purpose of life.
"The Absurd" refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent meaning in life and the human inability to find any. Absurd does not mean "logically impossible"
Determinism In physics - is known as cause-and-effect.
Nihilism is the negation of one or more putatively meaningful aspects of life. Existential nihilism - argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Moral nihilists assert that morality does not inherently exist and that any established moral values are abstractly contrived. Nihilism can also take epistemological - metaphysical - ontological forms - meaning that in aspect of knowledge is not possible or that contrary to our belief some aspects of reality does not exist!
Saturday, 26 March 2011
Oulipo - seeks tocreate works using constrained writing techniques. 'The seeking of new structures and patterns which may be used by writers in any way they enjoy.' Onstraints are used as a means of triggering ideas and inspiration - Perecs 'story-making machine - used in the construction of Life A user's Manual - Such as lipograms and palindromes - the devised techniques often based on mathematical problems, such as the Knight's Tour of the chess-board and permutations.
Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Tuesday, 22 March 2011
To make a Dadaist poem:
- -Tristan Tzara
Elizabeth Price, Users Group Disco, (2009), HD video, 15 mins, colour, sound.
To view video go to - http://www.lux.org.uk/blog/new-artist-focus-gilda-williams-elizabeth-price
The narration is delivered graphically, unfurling silently over the images. It is comprised of a series of found texts, combining management and knowledge-organisation theory, with fragments from apocalyptic essays and stories by Theodor Adorno, Edgar Allen Poe and Jorge Luis Borges amongst others.
Monday, 21 March 2011
-Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative
Sir Thomas More (1516) in his book Utopia "here was a place, imaginary, it is true, and accordingly futile to seek out, that where just beyond the boundary of real."
Utopia's value lies in its relation to present practice but in its relation to a possible future.
Utopia's no-whereness incites the search for it. A boundary can either confine and inhibit or it can invite us to go beyond.
What is the boundaries of utopia?
What are its features as a structure of thought?
Sunday, 20 March 2011
One of the principal reasons I’m interested in using animation is because it seems to be the media of “now”. Things like cinema and television are really the things that people look at, “…With the television set – both as illusory window and as furniture…” (Hall, 2006) In considering the space of the monitor as a structural device, using animation like cinema and television is a much more appropriate place to be.
I am fascinated by animations potential in a technical way of what it can do, to explore its powers in what I have available to me. Animation however undefined expands its possibilities in a contemporary world, where aspects of its technology and the versatility of its effects makes possible a more creative way that seems to be without limit.
Why Home movies?
The running joke of home movies is that you want to flee from the one that inflicts their home movies of wedding – the children – the last holiday on you. And yet they are oblivious of the boredom, they have no reason to be bored after all it’s about them.
•How can home movies of other people hold any interest for us?
•Why should we care about them?
The basic purpose of a home movie is to share fun and enjoyable activity exhibited in the living room in circles of family and friends they imply conversations and preservation of memory.
•What happens when these films are exhibited beyond the confines of the family home?
As soon as the home movie is taken out of its native environment, it has the capacity to become senseless or unheimlich, I want to bring private home movies into a world of sense, to make another persons home movie into mine.
In watching other peoples home movies I can identify with most of the settings and events, which functioned within my own family. I remember the tone and texture of my own childhood and these images of home movies lead me to question the selectiveness of my own memory.
Home movies are the medium of joy, and you feel that with the subjects. The movie camera comes out for holidays, for the new baby as if the ephemerality of those moments commanded them to record. Or is it that the sight of the camera triggers a certain glee – a universal smile and say cheese! One moment is captured by randomness. And then another and yet another is captured subsequently fixing those moments as the only way it could have been. Could it have happened differently? Home movies feature a veritable of fact-images.
We watch them, their own ordinariness, marriage, babies, frolicking in the snow. The ordinary can be an embarrassment for those who notice it because to do so is an acknowledgment, maybe even a confession, of one's own banality.
That ordinary being the place where "you first encounter yourself"
Home movies seek to represent a happy and balanced life. Of all the many things that happen in human life, most are not "suitable" not "fit" for filming. The missing images, what is considered taboo, while marriages are many a home movie will never feature divorce - or abuse - or aggression. Happy moments abound.
Saturday, 19 March 2011
On Monday, my phone rang. It was my dad. I was completely shocked since I hadn't heard from or talked to him since October.
Him: Who is this?!
Him: When did you get there?
Me: Get where?
Him: Where are you?
Me: ....at the flat...?
Him: I don't know what is going on...I meant to call the house and I dialed our number so I don't know how it called you....
So that was weird but regardless, we chatted for about 10 minutes or so. He stated he was about to go into a meeting at work. He asked what I was doing, how the job search was coming, and if I had talked to my mum. I explained I was doing fine, still looking for a job but not finding much out there and that I had last spoke to my mum last week. He then spent the rest of the time talking about how nothing at their house had changed and I wasn't missing anything and he told some stories about arguments and disagreements they'd had. Then he had to get going to his meeting and he said:
"Alright, well I gotta get going to this meeting but I will give a call later today and we can continue our chat"
He never called back. It's now Friday. I shouldn't have even been surprised. At first I didn't think he had really "accidentally" dialed my number. I thought it was just an excuse to call... right before his birthday... and talk. I didn't have an attitude or anything. I was very friendly.
But then when he didn't even bother to call back like he said he would, I started to think that maybe he really did accidentally call me and since he was put on the spot and caught off guard when I answered that he carried on some quick superficial chat and had no intention of calling back. I tend to believe the latter and I'm annoyed that I even thought he might actually call back or want to talk to me. Again, the joke was on me and I feel like a fool. I expected something (or anything) from him and, as usual, he disappoints....
I am the eldest of 4 children. I was born a year and a half after my parents were married. The 2nd child, my half-sister was born 13 months after me. Her birth was the result of an affair between my father and another woman. The ink on my birth certificate was barely dry when he knocked up his lover. There were some allegations of the pregnancy being a ploy to steal my father away from my mother, but I suppose that it hardly matters.
This was the mid 70's and divorce had yet to reach the popularity it gained in the 80's. My mother chose to stay with my father, largely for my benefit. I spent most of my childhood resenting her for this decision and I can only think she must have spent many long nights second guessing it herself.
For the next 5 years, I had to share my parents with a sister every other weekend. Knowing nothing else, it seemed natural and I accepted. My innocent questions about this arrangement were answered with the same exasperation one would expect when asking why the sky was blue.
When your sister isn't with us, she's with her mother.
Oh, well ok, then. That makes sense. Does she have another daddy too?
No, dear. Your daddy is her daddy.
Oh, well alright then. Daddy is her daddy too, but she has 2 mummies? Do I have another mummy?
No, son. You just have one daddy and one mummy. Now be a good boy and go outside and play.
Awkward . . .
During these 5 years my father was spending every spare dime of our family's money to wage a bitterly acrimonious custody battle to win primary custody of his daughter. It took 3 attempts before he was awarded custody. My mother stood by and supported him through all of this, even testifing in court on his behalf. I've read the transcripts of these procedings and I'll just say that "Kramer vs. Kramer" hasn't got anything on this.
Both sides fought dirty and my father's lover routinely filed false allegations of abuse, neglect, etc. anonomously or through her friends and family. Consequintly, social services was constantly barging into our home and threatening to give my 1/2 sister's mother full custody of her and place me in foster care, in addition to throwing my parents in jail. Of course these allegations were completely false, but the authorities were legally obligated to investigate every claim. So whenever a new social worker took over, we were faced with the threat of being pulled apart. It became rather common place to me and it was only years later I understood how insane and frightening a time that must have been for my mother.
So my sister came to live with us and visited her mother every other weekend. Her return from her mother's was always a difficult time, usually lasting 2 or 3 days. It seems her mother, a spiteful ***** if ever there was one, spent most of their time together indoctrinating her 5 year old daughter to believe that we all hated her and her mother and only took her away from her mother to be cruel. Based on my 1/2 sister's bitter and lasting hatred of me and my mother, and my father to a lesser degree, it seems that children do indeed have fertile brains.
My mother did her best to love this girl as her own, but it must have been so hard to not see her husband's infidelity when she looked on this child. There was always tension between my mother and 1/2 sister. It weened and wained, but never subsided entirely. My 1/2 sister was quick to tell my mother how mean she was and how much she hated her. It must have felt like a knife twisting in my mother's heart to open her arms to this child only to find her young and innocent heart poisoned by her own mother's spite. It wore away at my mother's good intentions and finally there was an icy gulf between them that was obvious even to my young perceptions.
I didn't take kindly to my 1/2 sister's constant emotional cruelty to my mother. Even after my mother tried to explain how I shouldn't blame my 1/2 sister for feeling this way, I held the grudge. I found little childish cruelties to inflict upon her. I resented her threatening my place as the full time child as well as the pain I saw in my mother's eyes. I vaguely grasped the knowledge that this was my father's fault and he should be the one to pay for it, but I was only a small boy. My father seemed unassailable and even the thought of turning my anger on him left me feeling helplessly confused. This girl, though, this mean little girl that made my mother cry, I could deal with her on my own level.
It wasn't long before we were bitter enemies and our sibling rivalry continually escalated until we hated each other. It was the half formed hatred of children. We often put it aside to play together. There weren't any other kids in the neighborhood. Our truces were always short lived though. Usually no more than a week or two at most.
My father somehow managed to avoid taking one side over the other. He was dear old dad and we all loved him. He never stepped in to disapline my 1/2 sister any more than he defened my mother from the emotional barbs his lover had filled her daughter's mind with. It has taken most of my life to find a balance between the anger his narcisistic egotism awakens in me and my love for him as my father. Yes, he is flawed, but no more than I. It is a difficult balance to maintain, but as I've grown into adulthood, I find more value in attempting to heal the wounds we have caused each other than to continue living in pointless spite.
That was life, and at the time, it seemed perfectly normal. There's another chapter to all of this, but it will have to wait for another day.
Friday, 18 March 2011
Thursday, 17 March 2011
We measure time as it passes [praetereuntia - to mention without mentioning] As we see, it is the term passing away.
-where is it coming from?
-what is it passing through?
-where is it going?
Wednesday, 16 March 2011
Simon Wilkinson, Where There is Love There is No Law, 2007 2.34 mins
Arien Schumer, The Twilight Zone - Sight, sound and Mind, 12.06 mins
"The Twilight Zone: Sight, Sound & Mind" is a 12-minute montage of the series' words (dialogue & narration), music & images based on my coffeetable art book and multimedia presentation, Visions from The Twilight Zone (Chronicle Books), narrated by me."
- Arien Schumer. For more, go to: www.arlenschumer.com/index.php/twilight_zone
Catherine M Foster, Humpty Dumpty 1.02 mins, 2005
Appropriated home movies and childrens nursery rhymes, nostalgic and disturbing. The piece is intended to create new memories and surface forgotten moments.
"I have always been interested in observation, exposure, and cause and effect. My first format for exploration was through a microscope as a microbiologist. My attention soon turned to the seductive process of searching for what underlies a look, a pose, a picture, or a headline. This desire was satisfied by an eventful career as a management advisor. Mid career, I decided to pursue the arts. I was trained as a painter at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, and since completing my MFA in 2002; I have been immersed in media arts. I choose to work in multiple mediums, because it reflects how I receive and assimilate input, and I find the third eye (camera lens) a very compelling observational tool."
- Catherine M Foster.
Cristina Moreno G.Berlanga, Shelter 10.43 mins, 2005-2010 [Spanish with English Subtitles]
Shelter is a video work that develops a story about memory and private life. With her own voice, some review is made about what images are meant to be.
Vincenzo Pandolf, Anatomy 3.23 mins, 2008
|A man is preparing breakfast for his wife... a morbid situation? Not really... but who knows what is hidden inside the mind of a man? Who really knows the "anatomy of hate"? "Best International Film" award at the Horror Dance Film Festival in Houston 2008. |
Tuesday, 15 March 2011
Issue 18 November-December 2004
Saskia Olde Wolbers
She is a mightly fabulist, an artist who creates vast and lanyrinthine worlds which she uses as settings for miasmic tales of longing and delusion
With their quizzical voice-overs and looping storylines, Saskia Olde Wolbers’ videos are set in the bowels of large institutions; the camera pans slowly over waterlogged halls and passages, along pipes and cables, in and out of empty rooms with translucent, faintly glowing walls. As we watch, we hear narrators speak of mistaken identities, ill-fated affairs and demented ambitions.
It takes Olde Wolbers – a London-based Dutch artist – a year to make each piece. And no wonder: her texts are manically inventive but tightly written, and her sets, which look at first sight like the backdrops to Hollywood sci-fi productions, are in fact intricate models, made in the studio out of materials such as plastic bottles and hamster cages and often shot underwater in a paddling pool.
Many of Olde Wolbers’ narratives are based on news items. Her last two works, Placebo (2002) and Interloper (2003), for instance, were loosely inspired by the life of Jean-Claude Romand, a pathological impostor who for 18 years pretended to family and friends that he was a successful doctor before going on a killing spree in 1993, when his fabrications threatened to unravel. In Placebo a woman wakes up in a hospital after a car crash and looks back over her relationship with the man who lies comatose in the next bed. He had told her that he was a surgeon, and that he worked in the very hospital where they both now lie. When she suspected otherwise and questioned him, he deliberately crashed the car he was driving into a tree, critically injuring them both. As she tells their story, we see a white room submerged in water, large globules of emulsion slowly detaching themselves from the walls and drifting across the screen.
In Interloper, the companion piece to Placebo, the woman’s lover picks up the thread. He floats away from his own body
(‘I heard about this … a near-death experience… no need to panic’) and wanders around the hospital. He learns from a woman in a lab coat that he was one of a number of child prodigies who were raised in the hospital basement as part of an experiment in social engineering. Later, after returning to his ward, he assists his lover, who has just given birth. The baby, who looks just like him, may be his child, but the script also suggests another possibility: the narrator may have witnessed his own birth – after all, he is a man of several identities. And as the narrative moves backwards from near-death to childhood and then to birth, we see another hospital room, silver-tinted this time. We follow scores of pipes as they course along service shafts and see silver-glazed bubbles traverse an operating theatre before the screen is filled with entwined silver-coloured tendrils that resemble magnified molecular structures.
We pass from visions of the speaker’s surroundings to internal views of the body and barely notice the shift; what with the wooziness of the script, the slow camera movements and monochromatic props, the transition from external to internal views seems oddly natural. In visual terms the molecular chains are a variation on the pipes we saw earlier, which could be read as veins and arteries. This blurring of the division between the worlds within and without just confirms what the narrator has been suggesting all along: that he can no longer distinguish between his experiences and his imaginings. And it traps the viewer in the same amorphous, deeply claustrophobic sphere, in which there is no telling whether a view is seen, remembered or hallucinated. As in Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky’s film from 1979, the physical environment in Olde Wolbers’ work is both a terrain to be navigated and the projection of secret fears and obsessions. For all we know, her figures may be wandering around the hinterlands of their own clouded minds.
In other pieces too the artist follows characters who slowly lose their grip on reality in outlandish settings that come to reflect their derangement. In Day-Glo (1999) Luis, an Andalucian entrepreneur, creates a virtual reality theme park in which visitors can relive their memories, but his wife leaves him for a younger incarnation, another Luis whom she meets in the park. In Kilowatt Dynasty (2000) a woman narrates a meeting that is to take place in 17 years’ time. Her future mother, the presenter of a teleshopping programme, will be taken hostage by her father-to-be, an eco-warrior, in an underwater television studio – a marshy web of transparent chambers and gangways – behind the newly completed Three Gorges Dam. Here, as in Placebo, the aqueous setting reminds us that in Olde Wolbers’ world identity is fluid and indeterminate, and fictions tend to seep out of their frames and swamp ordinary perception.
These videos ask to be read on two different levels: they are both grimly witty visions of a dysfunctional hyper-modernity and stuttering journeys across mined internal landscapes. And inasmuch as viewers hesitate between the two readings, they are effectively caught in the same bind as Olde Wolbers’ sleep-talking narrators.
The Falling Eye by huubkoch
Saskia Olde Wolbers [short clips or trailers of her work]
Saskia Olde Wolbers is a Dutch Video Artist based in London. She films small intricate sets made out of a variety of materials, which are often shot under water. Fictional stories told in the form of reportage are used as voice-overs for the images. Her 2002 DVD projection Placebo was exhibited at the Tate Britain. Placebo and Interloper (2003) are loosely based on the case of Jean-Claude Romand, who pretended to be a successful doctor before going on a killing spree in 1993. In 2005 her work Trailers was shown at the South London Gallery, Trailers tells the story of a man watching a movie trailer.
New Contemporaries - Saskia Olde Wolbers makes complex, multi-layered films, whose narratives often take their starting point from overheard conversations, newspaper articles or television programmes. Factual incidents are then filtered into fictional narratives, which move away from an actual identification with the real event, person or conversation that may have inspired the idea. Whilst reportage and documentary style are used to relay the story, the visual imagery draws on surreal, fantastical or dream-like interiors and environments. The process of making is integral to her practice and, rather than using computer animation techniques, Olde Wolbers constructs the film sets by hand – in miniature – in the studio.
Thursday, 10 March 2011
Joseph Beuys, Fat Chair, 1964
Wooden Chair, fat and wire.
"My initial intention in using fat was to stimulate discussion. The flexibility of the material appealed to me particularly in its reactions to temperature changes. This flexibility is psychologically effective - people instinctively feel it relates to inner processes and feelings. The discussion I wanted was about the potential of sculpture and culture, what they mean, what language is about, what human production and creativity are about. So I took an extreme position in sculpture, and a material that was very basic to life and not associated with art..."
Raoul Hausmann, Head, 1923-24, Collage of pasted papers.
Postcard, German, circa 1902. Photomontage. Altonaer Museum, Hamburg
Collage as a fine art medium is a radical shift in art, not only in conception but also in perception, process and end product. The technique of collage was ideally suited to capture the noise, speed, time and duration of the twentieth-century urban, industrial experience. Collage serves to document the social life of an artist.
2) the way in which a moving picture loses its qualities of time and duration when turned into a single still - this film is projected onto the grid and exposes the film strips pinned on the wall.
3) the way in which this (sculptural) space transforms back into time as the single film fragments are re-assembled and fed once more through the projector.
4) and finally, the way in which time becomes (moving) image: the time it takes to "scan" or "read" the original film frame (still) and transforms it into new frames is the exact duration of motion picture.
Whilst thinking of this process it is easy to lose your mind.
Saturday, 5 March 2011
“We know that he was the philosophers’ enemy; to have appropriated one of their weapons so as to turn it against them must have caused in him a bellicose pleasure.”
-Borges, “History of Eternity”
-Jacques Derrida, “This Strange Institution Called Literature”
“My ‘first’ inclination wasn’t really toward philosophy, but rather towards literature, no towards something that literature accommodates more easily than philosophy.”
-Jacques Derrida, “An Interview with Derrida
For Heidegger, human existence means a continuous projection ahead of itself as an existence whose understanding of itself is never finished or complete.
“Precisely, said Albert. “The Garden of Forking Paths is an enormous riddle, or parable whose theme is time; this recondite cause prohibits its mention. To omit a word always, to resort to inept metaphors and obvious periphrases, is perhaps the most emphatic way of stressing it. That is the tortuous method preferred, in each of the meanderings of his indefatigable novel, by the oblique Ts’ui pen…”
Cortázar addresses complexities in the relationship between art and life in several works, and his short stories also reflect his concern for political and human rights while upholding his belief in open-ended art, in which he states it is the writer's responsibility “never to recede, for whatever reasons, along the path of creativity.” Cortázar evidences his political convictions in several works, including his early short story “Reunión” (“Meeting”), a fictional account of the Cuban revolution as told by Latin American revolutionary leader Che Guevara, and “Segund vez” (“Second Time Around”), in which Cortázar utilizes the repressive political situation in Argentina during the 1970s, when citizens often disappeared under false arrests, as a backdrop for his delineation of a woman's experiences surrounding an official summons. According to critics, the narrative voice, which changes from the first-person perspective of a bureaucrat to the third-person limited perspective of the woman, and then back to the bureaucrat's point of view in the last sentence, emphasizes the mysterious and omniscient nature of the summons, creating an Orwellian sense of institutionalized paranoia that extends that work beyond the Argentine government to encompass other Latin American totalitarian regimes.
In Cortázar's short fiction, contrasting elements such as the fantastic and commonplace; past, present, and future; reality and dream; and the self and the other, blend to suggest multiple layers of meaning that invite varied interpretations. Critics have suggested that Cortázar strove for this ambiguity as a means to express what may exist beyond humanity's rational perceptions. His stories are often characterized by humor despite their generally serious themes, and they are noted for his technical innovations in point of view, language, and form. Moreover, there have been psychoanalytical and feminist interpretations of his stories. Along with his novel Rayuela (1963; Hopscotch), Cortázar's short stories have established him as a leading voice in modern literature. Critics regard his contribution to Latin American literature as profound.
This Tele-Shopping programme will be broadcast from a flashy underwater centre... At the bottom of the newly formed lake. The country’s biggest multinational, selling electrical appliances... Will expect a big shopping craze and finance the programme as a marketing tool. People will still be able to watch their old valley... While being seduced into buying a washing machine. And no one other than my mother... Will get the privileged job of presenting it.
A divorced mother-of-one-ex-quiz-show-host... Then in her late thirties... Will give it her best in a tangy coloured two-piece. Leaning casually on shiny washing machines... In front of various underwater scenes.
But in the third month the slick backdrops will change due to heavy silation What happens next depends on who you’ll speak to. The man who is going to make a difference in her life... Is then still slumped in front of the television in his new living room.
My future father is neither here nor there... During the construction of the dam... He will have handcuffed himself to the fence around the visitors’ centre. While activists chained elsewhere will be locked up... He will have luckily put himself in a place... Where a lot of national and international camera crews will film him... So he wont be arrested.
Now he will be disrespected in the activists’ hidden scene. And having nothing on his CV... Other than handcuffing himself to a fence... Will have made him a lonely man. While irregularities rush through his mind... He thinks of a way of reinstating his activist’s grace.
In the night of October the 18th he goes up to the centre... Walks past the sleeping guard... Comes live on air and makes an announcement... That he has taken mum hostage. He makes no clear demands but is armed. This will be bad news...bad news for him... Because mum won’t actually be in the centre when this happens.
She would have been seen by several witnesses going around the new town above. So just as the word will spread about her apparent escape... Her head will appear on the programme’s last ever broadcast... ...in which she just repeats his exact words.
The fact that she will have re-entered the centre voluntarily... Without telling anyone of her decision... And leaving her teenage son above water... Will have everyone looking frantically for an explanation. Each member of our small family will have their own theories... Involving her quest for love, fame or just adventure.
But I think that she will have started suffering from... “The Inverted dream syndrome” Which is dangerously common to astronauts. When the spaces and events in their dreams will look more real... Than the everyday dark nothingness of outer space. Until they are convinced that they are awake.... While dreaming of their wives in bungalows back on earth... And that their empty floaty reality is actually a dream.
Mum will start believing... She dreams of being in a transparent building underwater, Surrounded by an oddly familiar landscape... While wearing an orange uniform... And flesh-coloured tights. And these people she doesn’t know, but know her... Keep ringing her about washing machines. And when she thinks she is awake... She sleepwalks out of the centre into the life... Which takes her up to the new town above.
Here she’ll wander around aimlessly... Looking absent... Not speaking to anyone... Just like on the afternoon father thinks he takes her hostage... She will be hovering around town. While dreaming of getting tired... She will unknowingly return to the centre... ...to go to sleep.
I look down . . . surprised to see my body still lying in a hospital bed. I heard about this . . . a near death experience . . . No need to panic . .
. . Although looking down again I see my dormant self . . . has also escaped from the ever-increasing dosages of drugs the nurses administer . . . and is now leaving the room . . . dressed in a doctor’s coat.
I am slowly pulled along following myself . . . Holding together the compromising folds of my hospital gown. As I float along the ceiling low enough to hear myself . . . softly repeat a private little mantra . . . “Nothing is a more powerful placebo than the word . . . As the organisms of diseases are naked to the human eye anyway"
Waking up after being in a nine month coma . . . must have tricked the brain . . . As I seem to think I am a doctor. I take a scalpel out of my pocket . . .
and we stumble through double doors into an operating theatre. Here a matronly nurse washes our hands . . . and I nauseously get to witness myself perform a caesarean . . .
While I get a peck on the check by the patients floating other half, she whispers . . . " I have seen you around . . . You used to sit in the waiting room with a notepad . . . When did you become a doctor?"
I explain to her that I am still a writer but now . . . I am beginning to fear that part of me has become fiction. Below I hear myself announce to the team of surgeons . . . “I'll be back shortly . . . I really have to phone my wife now” I leave the operating theatre . . . and start ranting endlessly into a pay phone in the corridor. Undisturbed by the fact that my words seem to be falling silent . . . against the clicking of the dial tone.
I am interrupted when an elderly lady taps me on the shoulder. She is convinced that someone is playing Vera Lynn records loudly somewhere in the building . . . and the sound is exiting through the radiator pipes that end in her room. "I have a very tight schedule but I'll see what I can do" . . .
. . I hear myself say.
We then proceed to the basement . . . a mute underworld of biotechnology laboratories. Air-conditioning hums softly . . . and rows of padded cells acoustically absorb the shrieking of brainless birds.
Tanks full of frogs waiting to be observed under fabricated foliage . . . while curiously studying their own reflections infinitely repeated in the glass.
I start stacking the tanks carefully on a trolley . . . and ride them out into the hospital garden. "Don’t you all know frogs need moonlight to conceive?" I shout to no one in particular . . .
Ladies of the night shift begin gathering around . . . All greeting me with a rehearsed regularity. "Should you be doing this so soon after your accident?" . . .
one of them asks while the rest fondly peer into the tanks. I hear my name being called out . . . and I turn around to see an elderly lady in a lab coat approach.
I remember her from a long time ago . . . "What a surprise that you have come back to visit us", she says . . .
"Most of them never do and I don’t blame them. Our program was a cruel experiment . . .
Hopeful but naïve parents gave their children away . . . To this so-called factory for budding geniuses. A nursery with plain grey walls . . . and only a few toys to play with. To keep the signal to noise ratio low. And to protect the growing prodigies from an overload of unnecessary information . . . especially nature, they were never let out of the basement. Until the hospital became their parent and they ignored their own."
I want to hear more but am briskly pulled away . . . by my pilot who is sweating profusely in his hurry through the building.
When we enter the room we woke up in earlier . . . there is a woman lying in a bed on the other side of the curtain I hadn't noticed before.
She speaks to me softly, her eyes resting on a spot exactly between my two selves . . . . . as if there lies the truth.
She is awkwardly holding a pair of surgical scissors to her chest . . . and I hover closer hoping that she can cut the silver cord . . . that will separate me from my confused self. But suddenly she closes her eyes and opens her mouth . . .
stirred by a sharp pain.
After what seems like ages of me helplessly watching her suffer . . . she reaches under the blankets and holds up a little baby boy. It’s wrinkled little head resembling my own. I have to do something . . . I slide down, adjusting back into the man . . . I have had the short privilege not to be . . . and feel my brain fill again with nonsense again.
She hands me the scissors . . . I close my eyes avoiding the sight of blood. Feeling my hands mechanically carry out the procedure . . . I hear myself say routinely; "Here you are madam . . . A nice tidy knot for the belly button of your little man"
Jean has been sleeping all of the time that I have been awake . . . As he had been working the night shift. I try to leave messages for him through the nurses . . . But they keep changing faces . . . Too many drips to be changed and bloods to be drawn . . . And while I have been lying here perfectly still . . .
Unable to move . . . Staring at the ceiling counting its squares . . . I have come to realize . . . that I do not even know the person, who I so badly want to survive. As a mistress you fabricate the other person’s life entirely in your imagination. His descriptions have always been substitutes . . . for the absence of shared experiences.
The married man . . . The caring father . . . The life saving doctor . . . He seemed to think it necessary to portray himself as all of these. Now he is muted he can no longer feed me this version of himself . . . And the images I have constructed around his words are slowly disintegrating
We met two years ago in the hospital . . . where I worked as a nurse . . . at the other side of town. I would see him hurrying through the corridors . . . and developed a crush on him. We spent hours chatting in the canteen until I was cautioned. He never really seemed to have to go anywhere . . . He never got beeped away . . .
I had heard of phantom doctors . . . roaming around hospitals . . . Charming but unqualified men dressed in white coats . . . Doing their imaginary rounds through endless corridors . . . Sporting a name badge with a fancy title . . . Giving care behind cubicle curtains . . . Dispensing the treatments they in fact needed themselves . . . I was in love and couldn’t see that he was one of them.
Looking back of course the signs were obvious . . . Although I used to see him coming out of the operating theatre . . . with blood on his shoes . . . He didn’t really seem to know any of the other staff. But before I had enough time to get suspicious . . . he said he got a transfer to here.
This is the hospital he told me so much about . . . although I was never allowed to visit him here. We would meet after work in my flat . . . and he would tell me about different cases. But his stories were getting less convincing . . .
Details didn't’ match up.
When I confronted him with my suspicions . . . That his medical knowledge was stolen from text books . . . He suddenly claimed he was being sued for neglect. One of the operations he was in charge of went wrong . . . and a patient had died under his hands. He seemed devastated and I really wanted to believe him.
Soon after he conveniently changed to the night shift . . . Now we only overlapped for an hour each day . . . He would visit me in the early mornings . . . Cleverly waking me precisely between two REM sequences. When my brain was at its slowest . . . Any questions I had left were silenced by his surgeon’s fingers. .
He would whisper things like he was the man I should continue mankind with. I have tried to make it to his ward to find his name on a door. Stumbling weekly across the hospitals white shiny veins . . . I know I am walking around the backdrop against which his lies were set. Because today all my suspicions have been confirmed . . . For the first time I have managed to stay awake through the visiting hour . . Nervous because just lying here in the same room seems like evidence. I was perplexed to see his side of the family lounge remain empty . . .
No wife and kids have come to watch my lover sleep . . . Nor any cards or flowers from his colleagues . . . It actually seems that none of the staff know him.
He couldn’t be my husband . . . But by being my lover he could hide his empty life.
When I asked him for the last time to leave his wife . . . He panicked because he wasn't married. He drove us into a tree . . .
Hoping to take me with him to a place . . . Where I could receive his love . . . Without him having to be someone he wasn’t.
The Vella and Kittle must be the only plants to be named after the people who caused their extinction rather than their discovery: two actors that were signed to the Roxboro studios in the thirties. Miss Elmore Vella made her stage name immortal with her fondness for the flytrap’s sedative gasses. That came off its leaves as they wrapped around her tongue.
In the days of the plants venomous reign its only enemy came in the form of a moth that made full use of its architecture. Rather than being digested by the toxic leaves it would hollow them out. . Transforming the plant into a cocoon that was conveniently positioned on a stalk. With the flytraps disappearance from the jungle the moth became homeless.
Its name, just like yours, was Alfgar Dalio.
This puzzling information came to me in the form of a trailer playing in a cinema in Wadena, Ohio . . . a small town I had just moved to, to start a new job. I walked out disorientated and rang my father from the phone in the lobby. ‘All your mother and I were told, he answered nervously . . . was that you were a child from the hidden fallout of Hollywood. The consequence of an on-screen glance converted to off-screen electricity . . . which culminated in a paper-mâché four-poster bed. . And that you had been named Alfgar Dalio. When you came to us we chose not to tell you that you were adopted . . . as we were sure it was before the formation of your first memory.‘
I left the cinema in a daze. Here is a building, I thought with curious contempt . . . that is rudely broadcasting the secret of my existence every night. Something that, up till now had been unknown to me. The Kinorama playhouse was the only cinema in the country that was still playing the Roxboro classics. Its always-deserted interior looked like it had been dipped in the lipstick of the elderly lady knitting in the ticket booth. The octogenarian proprietor circled around the cinema’s exterior . . . as if he were the dial on a clock.
I bravely returned the next evening . . . but when the feature started I anxiously tightened my grip on the cinema seat . . . clutching its velvet like a monkey to its terry-cloth mother in a Harlow experiment. Over the course of a few years I saw all the Roxboro films. Elmore Vella and Ring Kittle turned out to have very minor roles in these productions. Their names only sometimes appeared on the credits.
Scrutinizing their mask-like over-lit faces . . . I was trying to find something that was familiar or even recognizable. But as the grain of the films became finer, bringing them closer to me plastic surgery pushed them further away. Until one day I realized I had overtaken them in years . . . leaving them behind their celluloid curtain in an unaging past.
Watching the films, however, I realized a memory had slowly started to form. . And with it came an emotion forgotten since childhood. A woman in the shape of Elmore carrying me around on her hip in a moist green environment . . . collecting Hummingbird eggs the size of tic-tac sweets. Was I building fiction in the void of reality or was this an actual memory. I decided to ask the cashier if she could tell me anything about Vella and Kittle. Without putting down her knitting she started hesitantly: You won’t find them on screen in colour, dear . . .
They disappeared in the jungle in 1922 where they were to star in their first feature together. A film celebrating the invention of Kinemacolor, the old green and red stock . . . ‘ Elmore Vella was suffering from what in the profession was called the “falling eye” . . . In her presence sets would fold in, camera men tripped on wires . . . and whole rows of can-can dancers would keel off the stage like domino pieces. You could say that with her condition, it was an oversight that the studio flew her out to the Peruvian jungle. Because after waking from her afternoon nap she stared out of the window of the small plane until she noticed the earth approaching faster and faster... As the trees tore open its fusilage . . . her seat spiralled down like a sycamore seed and amazingly she touched the floor almost unharmed. She undid her seat buckle, straightened her taffeta dress, and stepped out as if proceeding over a red carpet.
The debris of the plane was suspended in the blanket of thick vegetation above. Magenta evening dresses and swaying tuxedos hung in the canopy like a cloud of butterflies. A ghost banquet she wasn’t invited to but its irrelevance was clearer than ever . . . Leaving the artificial world of cinema behind she stepped into the deceitful theatre of plants . . . Without knowing the laws of the jungle she could sense her obvious loss in its game. For days she walked through the dark curtain of trees . . . Her brain withdrawn to a trance-like now. Her saviour came in the shape of a large tree trunk . . . along which a meandering line of ants was still following the contours of a long gone obstruction. Unaware that a change had taken place which forced them down this peculiar route initially, they had created a temporary moving negative . . . It was that of a man slumped against a tree with a large sombrero. She knew it was the contour of her co-lead . . . Ring kittle; A handsome man who had barely made it from silent to spoken as he suffered badly from verbal vertigo.
She followed the line of ants until it halted at his trailer. He had obviously found the wreckage of the plane already ... As he was reeling strips of celluloid into a noxious bonfire.
‘The camphor keeps the mosquitoes away.’; she heard him say as she passed out in his arms. He carried her to the four-poster bed( which ? ) he had assembled from the debris .
They waited for months for news from the studio . . . But as the jungle fenced them in just as the much longed for stardom would have . . . the fickle gods of filmdom had other plans . . .
Finally a local man from a nearby river settlement came to announce that Technicolor had been invented . . . so funds got shifted and the project cancelled. As the ma n entered their trailer his taxonomic eye fell immediately on the flytrap plants strewn across the floor. Coxocotl . . . he exclaimed, a species long lost to his generation. A plant with mildly hallucinogenic qualities that his elders had taken in their continuous search for visual peace . . . in the densely leafed jungle . . . Elmore explained that she had been picking them from the crash site . . .
where young saplings had sprung up out of the giant ashtray. The plane had upturned the earth and given seeds that lay dormant there for 50 years the chance to bud. Her Hollywood nose for opiates had her crash the plane on the jungle’s oldest natural barbiturates. The man’s tribe decided to rename the plant in her honour . . . Not aware that her habit would single handedly make it extinct again . . . and leave the Alfgar Dalio moth whose life depended on it homeless.
I didn’t need to ask the lady how she knew all this.
How she could have witnessed the unwitnessable. I figured that both her and mister Kittle must have known back then that their reappearance could never compete . .. with their almost mythical disappearance . . . Vanishing had been a good career move. but leaving what was only ever a very dim limelight behind had obviously become their greatest torment. Not the jungle and its unpredictable character but the meaninglessness of not being observed
Saskia Olde-Wolbers, Placebo, 2002 [dvd, video projection on 350 x 262 x 30 cm box, 6 min. loop, stereo sound, seats. Voice-over: Sukie Smith]
"Here I am ...
Lying next to my lover Jean, in intensive care.
Slipping in and out of consciousness in shifts.
Life slowly dripping out of us ..."
"there is a woman lying in a bed on the other side of the curtain I hadn't noticed before.
She speaks to me softly, her eyes resting on a spot exactly between my two selves ...
... as if there lies the truth.
She is awkwardly holding a pair of surgical scissors to her chest ...
and I hover closer hoping that she can cut the silver cord ...
that will separate me from my confused self."