A darkly surreal short film in which a red ball bounces past a cafe and a couple folks’ houses and then goes to the beach (v. NSFW).
From her brand new album, Dead Magic, released earlier this month on City Slang records.
‘Cinema was born in 1895. In 2015, the original device has disappeared – such is the world, techniques vanish and others emerge: “There is no doubt that death is the youth of the world” [said Georges Bataille, in L’Histoire de l’érotisme]. I initiated my cinematic research at a transitional moment, in 1990, and started to present it in 1992. In 1993 in Washington (USA), I started a series of photographs figuring photograms of films corroded by the passing of time and storage condition, which was exhibited in New York two years later at MoMA. Since then, I have been watching films in Western film libraries and private collections, harvesting “decomposed” images affected by the passing of time. Without retouching them, I select the improbable and rare ones, those on which the marks of time enter in dialogue with the image to the point where it becomes difficult to distinguish between the actual image and its destruction process. Jean Cocteau claimed that cinema filmed “death at work”. It seemed interesting to identify death at work at the core of the medium, within the material and invisible layer allowing us access to the film: the reel. So I ventured through cinema, with great patience – it takes fifteen days, eight hours a day, to watch a feature film frame-by-frame –, reflecting upon the instability of film archives, their support, the conditions of their appearance and disappearance (I was far from imagining that the proper reel could vanish!). I fancy the idea that figures and locations filmed a century ago resurface differently at other times and that I was able to capture this hazardous encounter with the ills affecting the medium. Furthemore, the fact that these images exhale beauty, strangeness and intensity is a nice complement: grace befalls anywhere.’
– Eric Rondepierre, The Mark of Time.
That impossible photogram, as Roland Barthes said. An object which is not (even) an object, but at the same time is actually two objects. It doesn’t (really) belong to the cinema or (simply) to photography ; it is more than a photograph yet less than a film. It is, therefore, a sort of axis or fold, the precise crossing point (punctum) between cinema and photography. Eminently paradoxical, the photogram is the touchstone of Eric Rondepierre’s work which is acutely conscious of the delicate balance on the razor’s edge where cinema meets photography in their most intimate specificity.
Eric Rondepierre’s work always starts with a film, or more precisely with the image-matter of a film. Rondepierre is not interested in cinema as the reflection-projection of a film on a screen, in a consumer relation to what is watchable, with its imposed length and speed, uninterrupted flow, impression of movement, perceptive fiction, transitory illusion – in other words the magic of the large cinema-body on the screen. What interests him is the film as actual film strip, a material sequence of fixed images intimately and appropriatively related to its object. Film images that you can not only see but also touch, hold, manipulate and collect.
In other words, Rondepierre aims at what is most authentically photographic at the very heart of cinema. This is of course profoundly contradictory. The photogram is an impossible object : it is both film’s condition of existence and its total negation. Obviously a film consists only of photograms, yet seeing a photogram for what it is (the frozen image of a film) necessarily means not seeing the film, which can only exist fully as movement. Seeing a film flow past automatically implies not seeing photograms, nevertheless the very essence of a film since they disappear, absorbed into the projection process. Photograms are the only real images and the only invisible images in a film. This is the ontological paradox which makes photograms into cinema’s blind «spots».
Don’t believe too much in what you can see. Learn to not see what is displayed (and therefore which hides). Learn to see beyond, beside, across and beneath. Look for the spot in the image, texture in the surface, negatives in positives and latent images in the negative ground. Follow once more the route mapped out by the psychic photographic apparatus, shifting from eye to memory, from appearance to unrepresentable. Dig down through the layers and levels like an archaeologist. Photographs are only surfaces, they have no depth, only a fantastic density. Behind it, beneath it or around it, one photo always hides (at least) another photograph, or a film. It is a question of screens, and here you enter in a singular universe, the one of an individual by the name of Eric Rondepierre.
Read this whole essay by Philippe Dubois, and visit Eric Rondepierre’s website. And, if you can read French, there’s a piece which discusses Georges Bataille’s influence on the artist here.
“Succumb to the crumb…”
Mermaid Avenue is a 1998 album of previously unheard lyrics written by Woody Guthrie, put to music written and performed by Billy Bragg and Wilco. The project was organized by Guthrie’s daughter, Nora Guthrie. Mermaid Avenue was released on June 23, 1998. The project is named after a song “Mermaid’s Avenue” written by Guthrie. This was also the street in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York on which Guthrie lived. According to American Songwriter Magazine, “The Mermaid Avenue project is essential for showing that Woody Guthrie could illuminate what was going on inside of him as well as he could detail the plight of his fellow man.”
During the spring of 1992, Woody Guthrie’s daughter Nora contacted Billy Bragg about writing music for a selection of completed Guthrie lyrics after Bragg played a Guthrie tribute concert in New York City’s Central Park. Her father had left behind over a thousand sets of complete lyrics written between 1939 and 1967; none of these lyrics had any music other than a vague stylistic notation. Nora Guthrie’s liner notes in Mermaid Avenue indicate that it was her intention that the songs be given to a new generation of musicians who would be able to make the songs relevant to a younger generation. Nora Guthrie contacted Bragg, who in turn approached Wilco and asked them to participate in the project as well. Wilco agreed, and in addition to recording with Bragg in Ireland, they were given their own share of songs to finish.
Rather than recreating tunes in Guthrie’s style, Bragg and Wilco created new, contemporary music for the lyrics. What seemed like a risky enterprise surprised everyone; released in 1998 as Mermaid Avenue, the results were met with universal acclaim. The album received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album, and went on to place fourth on the Pazz & Jop Critics Poll for 1998. In 2008, Jonatha Brooke released The Works, a project that similarly drew on the trove of unpublished Guthrie material. According to Bob Dylan’s autobiography, Chronicles, Woody Guthrie offered his unpublished songs to Dylan but was unable to enter the house to obtain them as Arlo Guthrie would not let him in. Man in the Sand, a documentary about the collaboration between Billy Bragg and Wilco, was released in 1999.
“The entire album is an exorcism of an dead universe. Nothing can stay together here. It’s hauntology as a pasture of incidental tones and half-ripped photographs. The video footage is unable to focus. The lens’s view is eternally obstructed. The wild blurs of compounded biographies come off like a fever dream of a memory play.” – Timothy Gabriele (12 November 2009). Broadcast and the Focus Group: Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age – PopMatters.
“Fearfully in Danger” (Live at Volksbühne, Berlin) from the album Killer Road – A Tribute To Nico, released in 2016 on Sacred Bones Records. Directed and edited by Barbara Klein.
Killer Road is a sound exploration of the tragic death of Nico, Velvet Underground vocalist and 60s icon, while riding her bike on the island of Ibiza in the summer of 1988. A hypnotic meditation on the idea of perpetual motion and the cycle of life and death, the composition features Patti Smith lending her unique voice to the last poems written by the artist. Soundwalk Collective uses a travel log of field recordings and samples of Nico’s signature instrument, the harmonium, to create a magnetic soundscape.
… That’s what you had to come back for: the lament that we omitted. Can you hear me? I would like to fling my voice out like a cloth over the fragments of your death, and keep pulling at it until it is torn to pieces, and all my words would have to walk around shivering, in the tatters of that voice; as if lament were enough.
But now I must accuse: not the man who withdrew you from yourself (I cannot find him; he looks like everyone), but in this one man, I accuse: all men. When somewhere, from deep within me, there arises the vivid sense of having been a child, the purity and essence of that childhood where I once lived: then I don’t want to know it. I want to form an angel from that sense and hurl him upward, into the front row of angels who scream out, reminding God.
For this suffering has lasted far too long; none of us can bear it; it is too heavy — this tangled suffering of spurious love which, building on convention like a habit, calls itself just, and fattens on injustice. Show me a man with a right to his possession. Who can possess what cannot hold its own self, but only, now and then, will blissfully catch itself, then quickly throw itself away, like a child playing with a ball. As little as a captain can hold the carved Nike facing outward from his ship’s prow when the lightness of her godhead suddenly lifts her up, into the bright sea-wind: so little can one of us call back the woman who, now no longer seeing us, walks on along the narrow strip of her existence as though by miracle, in perfect safety — unless, that is, he wishes to do wrong. For this is wrong, if anything is wrong: not to enlarge the freedom of a love with all the inner freedom one can summon. We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.
Are you still here? Are you standing in some corner? You knew so much of all this, you were able to do so much; you passed through life so open to all things, like an early morning. I know: women suffer; for love means being alone; and artists in their work sometimes intuit that they must keep transforming, where they love. You began both; both exist in that which any fame takes from you and disfigures. Oh you were far beyond all fame; were almost invisible; had withdrawn your beauty, softly, as one would lower a brightly colored flag on the gray morning after a holiday. You had just one desire: a year’s long work — which was never finished; was somehow never finished. If you are still here with me, if in this darkness there is still some place where your spirit resonates on the shallow sound waves stirred up by my voice: hear me: help me. We can so easily slip back from what we have struggled to attain, abruptly, into a life we never wanted; can find that we are trapped, as in a dream, and die there, without ever waking up. This can occur. Anyone who has lifted his blood into a years-long work may find that he can’t sustain it, the force of gravity is irresistible, and it falls back, worthless. For somewhere there is an ancient enmity between our daily life and the great work. Help me, in saying it, to understand it.
Do not return. If you can bear to, stay dead with the dead. The dead have their own tasks. But help me, if you can without distraction, since in me what is most distant sometimes helps.
[Translator: Stephen Mitchell]
Live non-verbal improvisation performed in absolute darkness, interacting with a cellphone recording from the day before, at The Window, an evening of experimental music, performance and visual art at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective, Observatory, Cape Town, 29 January 2017.
“It’s not easy to improvise… It’s the most difficult thing to do. Even when one improvises in front of a camera or microphone, one ventriloquizes or leaves another to speak in one’s place the schemas and languages that are already there. There are already a great number of prescriptions that are prescribed in our memory and in our culture. All the names are already pre-programmed. It’s already the names that inhibit our ability to ever really improvise. One can’t say what ever one wants, one is obliged more or less to reproduce the stereotypical discourse. And so I believe in improvisation and I fight for improvisation. But always with the belief that it’s impossible. And there where there is improvisation I am not able to see myself. I am blind to myself. And it’s what I will see, no, I won’t see it. It’s for others to see. The one who is improvised here… no, I won’t ever see him.”
— Jacques Derrida, unpublished interview, 1982, reproduced in David Toop’s Into the Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation and the Dream of Freedom: Before 1970, Bloomsbury, 2016, pg 21.
Gonna get otherworldly at The Window tonight with these creatures, and many others. Darkness and light @TheatreArtsAdminCollective, Methodist Church, cnr Wesley & Milton Rds, Observatory. The portal opens at 7:30.
Theatre Arts Admin Collective
Methodist Church Hall, Cnr Milton Road & Wesley Street, Observatory, Cape Town
Doors open 19:30
20:00 – Main Hall – Lliezel Ellick / Roxanne De Freitas / Rosemary Lombard (vocal performance piece)
20:25 – Main Hall – Louise Westerhout /Keenan Chas Ahrends / Nicola van Straaten (word/sound/dance)
20:40 – Minor Hall – Inka Kendzia / Jessica Smith (video and live performance)
21:00 – Main Hall – Rhea Dally / Justin Allart (sound/noise performance)
21:20 – Main Hall – Lucy Hazard / Puleng Lange-Stewart / Hannah Walton (video with spoken word performance)
21:35 – Minor Hall – FAITH XVII (video installation)
22:00 – Main Hall – Chantelle Gray (performance piece)
22:20 – Main Hall – Debra Pryor / Mark O’ Donovan (performance piece)
Continuous – Meeting Room 1 – Sydelle Willow Smith (photography)
Continuous – Meeting Room 2 – Miranda Moss (installation)
A window I. A partition. A voyeuristic interface between spaces. A civilizing constraint. Gazing. At the window, through the window, beyond the window. The voyeuristic gaze: preconditioned values, assumptions, desire. The civilizing gaze: conditioning values, assumptions, desire. Gazing. An act of memorializing (it suggests spectatorship, a fetishistic surveying; it suggests participation: in memory, in meaning-making).
A window II. A framing device. Commonly used in art and cinema. To exaggerate part or parts of a figure (forms, tones, shapes, shadows). To recompose an image. To slice up the world into smaller, more wieldy frames. To elicit metaphorical interpretation. (The audience is prompted to step into a world of windows.)
A window III. The window. A composing stratagem. (A perspectival arrangement.) A voyeuristic interface between artist and audience. An invitation to interact with the unknown, the unknowable, the known known. It is not a linear perspective of space, but a cutting up of, slicing into, carving through. (It suggests the existence of another, entirely otherworldly, place.)
“A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window.”
– Gilles Deleuze
We will be at The Window on Sunday. You have been warned.
The 18 January 2017 word from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.
This resonated for me with a sentiment Rainer Maria Rilke captured in a poem more than a century earlier, in 1913:
You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don’t even know what songs
would please you. I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of
the next moment. All the immense
images in me — the far-off, deeply-felt
landscape, cities, towers, and bridges, and
unsuspected turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods–
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.
You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing. An open window
in a country house– , and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me.
Streets that I chanced upon,–
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and,
startled, gave back my too-sudden image.
Who knows? Perhaps the same
bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening…
This video is one of the things I treasure most on Youtube – it gives me chills every time. It’s a recording of Liz Mitchell of Boney M performing “Motherless Child” live with the Les Humphries singers in the early 1970s. It’s incredible how Mitchell seems to be singing about her removal from herself via recording, its simulacral persistence beyond her existence in that moment… And the wavering picture also speaks of analog decay, arrested and mummified by its digitisation from analog video and (again lossy) upload to Youtube. And then, of course, the song’s origins in slavery and dispossession. So many degrees of loss, so many layers of noise.
Join us! More details HERE. Dedicating my performance to Mark Fisher, who took his own life the other day. His brilliant work, particularly this blog post on hauntology, has been profoundly influential on how I understand archive and aspire to use sound. I’m so sad he is gone.
Sound coming from outside the field of vision, from somewhere beyond, holds a privileged place in the Western imagination. When separated from their source, sounds seem to manifest transcendent realms, divine powers, or supernatural forces. According to legend, the philosopher Pythagoras lectured to his disciples from behind a veil, and two thousand years later, in the age of absolute music, listeners were similarly fascinated with disembodied sounds, employing various techniques to isolate sounds from their sources. With recording and radio came spatial and temporal separation of sounds from sources, and new ways of composing music.
Sound Unseen: Acousmatic Sound in Theory and Practice explores the phenomenon of acousmatic sound. An unusual and neglected word, “acousmatic” was first introduced into modern parlance in the mid-1960s by avant garde composer of musique concrète Pierre Schaeffer to describe the experience of hearing a sound without seeing its cause. Working through, and often against, Schaeffer’s ideas, Brian Kane presents a powerful argument for the central yet overlooked role of acousmatic sound in music aesthetics, sound studies, literature, philosophy and the history of the senses. Kane investigates acousmatic sound from a number of methodological perspectives — historical, cultural, philosophical and musical — and provides a framework that makes sense of the many surprising and paradoxical ways that unseen sound has been understood. Finely detailed and thoroughly researched, Sound Unseen pursues unseen sounds through a stunning array of cases — from Bayreuth to Kafka’s “Burrow,” Apollinaire to Zizek, music and metaphysics to architecture and automata, and from Pythagoras to the present-to offer the definitive account of acousmatic sound in theory and practice.
The first major study in English of Pierre Schaeffer’s theory of “acousmatics,” Sound Unseen is an essential text for scholars of philosophy of music, electronic music, sound studies, and the history of the senses.
Narrated by Leonard Cohen, this two-part documentary series explores ancient teachings on death and dying and boldly visualizes the afterlife according to Tibetan philosophy. Tibetan Buddhists believe that after a person dies, they enter a state of “bardo” for 49 days until a rebirth.
Program 1, The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Way of Life documents the history of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, tracing the book’s acceptance and use in Europe and North America. Included is remarkable footage of the rites and liturgies surrounding and following the death of a Ladakhi elder as well as the views of the Dalai Lama on life and death.
Program 2, The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation observes an old Buddhist lama and a 13-year-old novice monk as they guide a deceased person into the afterlife. The passage of the soul is visualized with animation blended into actual location shooting.
This information comes from the website of the National Film Board of Canada. NFB produced the documentary in co-operation with NHK Japan and Mistral Film of France.
“No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”
– John “I’m done” Donne. Meditation 17, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, 1624
Brigitte Bardot in Vie Privée (1962), directed by Louis Malle.
Estonian animated film by Rein Raamat, Tallinnfilm, 1983. The film brings to life in one nightmarish vision three detailed engravings from the early 1930s created by Estonian artist Eduard Viiralt: “The Preacher”, “Cabaret”, and “Hell”.
1970s psychedelic horror animation out of Japan. Pure, filthy, abject escapism, with a fantastical synth soundtrack.
Enrico Caruso sings “Elegie” composed by Jules Massenet.
Mischa Elman, violin
Percy B. Kahn, piano
Ô doux printemps d’autrefois, vertes saisons,
vous avez fui pour toujours!
Je ne vois plus le ciel bleu;
je n’entends plus les chants joyeux des oiseaux!
En emportant mon bonheur,
ô bien-aimé tu t’en es allé!
Et c’est en vain que revient le printemps!
Oui, sans retour.
Avec toi le gai soleil,
les jours riants sont partis!
Comme en mon coeur tout est sombre et glacé!
Tout est flétri!