The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.
David Foster Wallace
Christian Boltanski – 364 Dead Swiss (1990)
Exhibited as part of the ‘Between Memory and Archive’ Exhibition at the Berardo Museum in Lisbon
I’ve been to see this installation by Christian Boltanski at the Berardo museum twice in the last week, and is only the second piece of his work I’ve actually seen face-to-face. The other occasion was twenty years ago at the old Tate (before the Tate Modern). I don’t remember the title of that work, only that it was composed of several enlarged blurry sepia photographs of children hung on the wall of the gallery, with each having a small angle-poise lamp positioned in front. The cables from these lamps spilled down like a weird collection of tentacles which tangled into one another on the floor. A friend had told me of how powerful this piece had been for him, so I was intrigued to see it for myself. I remember finding the collection of anonymous blurred photographs very melancholic, and it immediately brought to mind a holocaust exhibit or the collection of documentary photographs taken of doomed political prisoners in Cambodia in the 1970s. But there is nothing Continue reading
Today sees the publication of my first book, Film, Nihilism and the Restoration of Belief, which is available through Zero Books.
Here’s a brief extract from it, in fact it is the conclusion. anybody who knows me well knows that I do like to give away endings…
The Eye and the Razor
“I have the impression that the images that surround us today are worn out; they are abused and useless and exhausted. They are limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution. What have we done to our images? We need images in accordance with our civilization and our innermost conditioning, and this is the reason why I like any film that searches for new images no matter in what direction it moves or what story it tells. One must dig like an archaeol- ogist and search our violated landscape to find anything new. It can sometimes be a struggle to find unprocessed and fresh images.” (Werner Herzog)
In the opening scenes of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali’s 1929 silent surrealist masterpiece Un Chien Andalou a middle-aged man sharpens his razor at his balcony door before testing its sharpness on his thumb. He then opens the door, plays with the razor while gazing up at the moon, which is about to be engulfed by a thin white cloud. There is a cut to a close-up of a young woman being held from behind by the man as she stares, calm, straight ahead. Another cut occurs to the moon being overcome by a cloud; the man slits the woman’s eye with the razor, the vitreous humour spills out.
Cinema, like poetry, is capable of revealing dimensions of meaning that are deeper than the level of truth on the surface of things. Cinema has the capacity to disturb our perceptual Continue reading
Well, barely a week into my year away from work and we’ve moved all of our belongings out of our home in Canterbury, packed them into storage in Hampshire, said goodbye to my parents and briefly relocated to Leiden in the Netherlands. It’s been a bit strange here the past two days as the annual celebrations commemorating the siege of Leiden in 1573 and 1574 have been going on.
Basically, celebrating this extraordinary act of historical resistance now seems to involve thousands of people taking to the streets and drinking inordinately large amounts of Heineken, weird old mechanical pipe organs playing Continue reading
We moved out of our home in Canterbury on Thursday, and have just a few days before we begin our travels. So I’ve been reflecting on a few things ahead of the trip. Siobhan recently wrote about her 11 essential travel gadgets for digital nomadism over on the Get_Transient blog, where she listed the gadgets she has packed for our life traveling during the next year. Despite the fact that I also have a whole bagful of tech stuff to go traveling with, I thought I’d try and come up with a different type of travel list.
In the next year I have several planned writing projects which I am going to be working on whilst being away from my job. However, I also have a whole list of other things I want to do during this time, some of which are small, some are new and unfamiliar, and one or two Continue reading
I recently visited the new BP sponsored re-hang of British art at the Tate Britain. A few days earlier I had read about it online, and had the obligatory rant at why the odious BP continue to be associated with art at all. However, having now visited the exhibition I believe they have something only too appropriate for their flowery logo to appear on. The exhibition is dire, tedious and boring. It has been curated with such little imagination that it feels like a motley collection of tat hastily arranged on a trestle table at a boot-sale instead of an inspiring collection of great art. The only guiding principle is chronology. Chronology, chronology, chronology. For Brian Sewell, writing in The Standard, this effectively creates a schizophrenic exhibition, with the historical art Continue reading
In just over 5 weeks time I am giving up my job in the UK for a year (I am taking a year of unpaid leave) to begin a period of nomadic wandering that will lead eventually to San Francisco.
Earlier in the year my wife Siobhan became employed by a company that enabled her to work online full-time, and pretty much from anywhere in the world with a wireless internet connection. I had already been considering asking for a period of leave from my job as a Senior Lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University to complete two books (one on Gilles Deleuze/Francis Bacon, the other on Art and Affectivity), so this seemed the perfect opportunity to take the time and use it to travel and write. After much head scratching we decided to take a full year away and to take to the road for an adventure. Continue reading