Tuesday, August 31, 2021


I don't know my roses. The roses I am attracted to are ramblers with little red flowers and small, medium-green leaves that I rarely see anymore. A neighbour, Sandra, has a number of roses, more than anyone else in the neighbourhood, like the one above, a photo taken the other day, in the evening, the sun setting on it and nothing else. It's fire when that happens, and this rose came that way.

Monday, August 30, 2021

The Secret Garden (1993)

Last week I picked up a copy of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden (1909) at one of the ten thrift stores I visit (I forget which one), and on Saturday a DVD copy of the 1993 Agnieszka Holland-directed film version at the Sally Anne at East Hastings and Gilmore, which I watched last night, despite having fifty pages left in the novel.

Some differences between the two, of course. While both the book and film open in India, it is an earthquake, not typhoid, that orphans Mary in the film version. As for Master Colin's "illness", the book emphasizes a bone and muscle ailment, while the film has added concerns over his respiratory system ("spores") -- hence the masks worn by staff (while Colin and animal-whisperer Dickon proceed without).

The Secret Garden is a beloved book and many have seen the film version. Also seen in the film is a depiction of mask-wearing aligned not to health and safety but hysteria, or indeed the result of a neglected child who has been deemed ill in order to justify his confinement. We, the reader, know soon enough that Colin's illness is a sham, as do those among us who insist that the "truth" they carry allows them to enter enclosed public spaces without viral inhibiting masks.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Book of Small (1942)

"All our Sundays were exactly alike. They began on Saturday night after Bong the Chinaboy had washed up and gone away, after our toys, dolls and books, all but The Peep of Day and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress had been stored away in drawers and boxes till Monday, and every Bible and prayer book in the house was puffing itself out, looking more important every minute." (3)

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The Shape I'm In

Not so long ago our class time spent chipping at liberal democracy, indignant that people should accept its contradictions, its false consciousness, its smokescreens when as young Foucault-Marxists we knew better. And now as parents of what we settled into, in the name of security as provided by these liberal democracies, the children who would grow up to look after us, stepping off the curb as Autocracy's cement truck hits the gas in an effort to beat the light has us instinctively reaching for that child, is the shape I'm in.

Friday, August 27, 2021


Six years ago Andrew Berardini and Chris Kraus published essays on the art (school) education and I made a piece out of them (published here, at websit). Duchamp's Socks was interested in the piece and republished it a couple weeks ago, along with my brief introduction. Read it here.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Buddhist with an Asterisk

Wolf spider in the kitchen sink this morning. I had just emptied a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into a glass and was about to put it under the faucet, to dilute it, when I saw it. Threw the vinegar at it, thinking it would shrivel -- but that only made it stronger! Watched in catatonic horror as it climbed the side of the sink so it could jump at the hair at the back of my neck. Attacked it with the handled pot scrubber, but it took refuge in the bristles. Eventually got it down the sink, in pieces. Brrrrrrr! A sign of changing weather. Autumn's First Spider and other poems.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Charlie Watts

Charlie Watts's drums open the Rolling Stones' "Get Off My Cloud"(1965). I love the six eighth and two quarter beat fills at the end of each of the two bar sequences. More than that, the room that shapes the sounds these beats make and gives back to us. Maybe God is that room. Heaven.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Challenger Relief Map

I was always under the impression that the Challenger Relief Map of B.C. was named after a corporation and not the family who made it. For years this map was permanently installed at Exhibition Park, until the building it was in was demolished.

But now it's back. Or the lower half is. All the same, viewers this time are able to get closer to it, making it even more real than it was the first time I saw it, as a very excited seven-year-old. For years this was my favourite "event" at the PNE.

Monday, August 23, 2021

The Pacific National Exhibition

The PNE is smaller, both in scale and, because of Covid, attendance. I had not been since the mid-2010s but wanted to go this year, so it was made into a present. The animals were there. Not those raised by 4H Club members, as in the past, but by rental agreement. Free-standing pens of piglets, goats, chicks, Guinea Pigs, mini horses ... After that we watched the lumberjacks, no longer in the raked amphitheatre with forested mountains in the background, but around a one-stop midway box loaded with poles and a pool with a fake rolling log. The host is no longer a former logger, but a sassy sister type who, along with the mic'ed up participants, works from a script designed for children. I would say it is inclusive if it included any number of women out there who know how to operate a chainsaw.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

You would be hard pressed to tell which film this grab was from without the header. All water-bound canoes pictured from a standing position by the lakeside look the same. Water, canoe, brush, sky. My favourite among them are those where the sun is behind the figure and the canoe, melding them into a single silhouette. As far as I know, the artist Peter Doig never completely silhouetted (silo-wedded?) his canoe figures, though he did something similar with a figure standing in a small outboard.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Thelma & Louise (1991)

Everyone knows the story of Thelma & Louise (1991). Even if you haven't seen the film, you know it. Two women set out on a party weekend and end up fugitives is one version. A woman kills a man who is raping the other woman is what makes them fugitives. Without knowing what for, a boyfriend lends one of them money for their getaway and another man steals it is what leads one of the women to rob a roadside store. The woman who robs the store learned how to rob a store from the man who stole from her. The man who stole from her tells the police where they are headed (Mexico). The man leading the police investigation is sympathetic to the women. His sympathy means little once the FBI take over the case. For the viewer, the isolation of this man from the case changes him from a black-and-white man to a man of colour and dimension, like the landscape that opens the film (above). The entrance of these women into the ever-widening, ever-flowering landscape (in contrast to the cramped work and domestic spaces in which they are introduced) is their metaphysical flowering, which they recognize, and which makes them land artists. The last man to abuse these women is a trucker they keep seeing on the highway. They ask him to pull over and, rather than submit to him (as he believes they will), they admonish him, then shoot his tanker until it explodes. Finally hemmed in by FBI and local police,  the women choose to "Keep going," which means driving off a cliff, where their car is held frozen by the medium in which it was carried. This is a story of Thelma & Louise. To tell it again would be different. Stories on top of stories is something we, as a culture, pass like the landscape.

Friday, August 20, 2021

To Every Season

Mid-August, and all the people born this month, more than any other. The sun is lower, the shadows longer, the nights cooler. When the rain comes, it is always a relief. I remember my mother and I shopping at Hill's for school clothes, before they moved to Woolworth across the street (in 1976?). Corduroys seemed plausible when the skies were the same grey as they were. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Little Kingdom

Everyday, sometimes six times a day, I check up on the massive White Rock Lake Fire that haunts the B.C. Interior. Though most of my checking concerns perimeter maps and satellite photos, I have over the past few days found myself staring in disbelief at Mark Pearce's picture of what remains of Little Kingdom.

It's full name is Little Kingdom Gas Bar, but it is so much more than what Robert Marchand came up with years ago after he noticed locals were spending an additional five dollars before setting off on hunting trips because they had to drive into Vernon and back to gas up.

After installing gas pumps, Marchand built a cashier's shack, then a supermarket, then a hardware department, then, at the behest of his wife, a women's fashion boutique above it. I wrote at length about Little Kingdom in my master's thesis, where I compared it to a work of Beuysian social sculpture.

And now Mark Pearce's picture -- of a ruin. I have stood next to those pumps and filled my tank, reached into that ice box for bags of ice. I cannot believe that this "wonderland of convenience" is no longer in service.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Things Fall Apart (1958)

This is a book that has been on my shelves for as long as I can remember, though I don't remember how it got there. Started reading it the other day and was reminded of the more inventive ethnographies I read as an anthropology major all those years ago. The difference here is that this book -- a work of fiction -- was written by an Ibo man about is people.

Here's a passage:

"And now the rains had really come, so heavy and persistent that even the village rainmaker no longer claimed to be able to intervene. He could not stop the rain now, just as he would not attempt to start it in the heart of the dry season, without serious danger to his own health. The personal dynamism required to counter the forces of these extremes of weather would prove too great for the human frame." (35)

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

"It's utterly bizarre!"

"They're just chanting 'Death to America,' but they seem friendly at the same time. It's utterly bizarre."

So reports CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward after chatting with Taliban members in Kabul on August 16, 2021. But is it really so "bizarre" -- that you can be a critic of American foreign policy and be pleasant at the same time? 

"Bizarre" might account for the inverse position: those who criticize American foreign policy are accessories to murder. But Americans have been using the word "death" to protest tax hikes since the days of King George III.

What has happened to news reporting in my lifetime? As Holland Carter once said of art criticism (in 2014), we are in need of "new commentators who don't mistake attitude for ideas."

Monday, August 16, 2021

White Rock Lake Fire

Since early July I have followed with dread the "progress" of the White Rock Lake Fire north to Monte Lake and northeast to Six Mile Creek, where I have spent parts of the past six years. 

Yesterday's video, taken by Kyle Brittain on the road from Spallumcheen at the head of Lake Okanagan, is, as he keeps saying, "terrifying." Earlier in the day the fire had jumped Six Mile Creek, and just this morning I heard from an evacuated Six Mile resident that it is likely the homes along the lower stretch of Six Mile Creek Road are gone, and maybe that gas and fashion one-stop Little Kingdom, too.

As for today's weather: 24C., a little rain in the p.m., south-westerly winds (4km), with gusts (11km). Air quality: "very unhealthy."

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Modern Greek Poetry

Bantam's Modern European Poetry (1966) is a herculean effort undertaken by seven editors (one for each of the major languages of Europe) and many more translators, including Richard Lowell and Samuel Beckett. Representing Greek Poetry is Kimon Friar, who writes in his Introduction: 

"The Western World has made Greek myths part of its culture, but only the Greek himself, of whatever time, may use them with genuine validity, not as adornments of an outmoded religion, but as symbols still alive in the land and consciousness of the people. The best example of this is in Kazantzákis's The Odyssey: a Modern Sequel, or in the poems of Seféris." (188)

Saturday, August 14, 2021

America Returns from War

When we talk about the "nightmare of war" we must recognize the imagination that accounts for the range or dimensions of that experience.

The Deer Hunter (1978) is often cited as a racist work of narrative film based in part on the Russian roulette scene, which, as critics point out, was not part of any U.S. POW's Vietnam War experience. But America is a racist country; therefore, it is not surprising that U.S. POWs traumatized by their wartime experiences could have dreamt themselves playing Russian roulette against each other under threat of death by their Vietnamese captors.

Less is made of another torture scene in another American film set during the Korean War, The Manchurian Candidate (1962), where a group of brainwashed U.S. POWs are led to believe they are waiting out the weather at a New Jersey ladies auxiliary meeting, when in fact they are being presented to a meeting of Chinese and Russian communists.

U.S. soldiers kill themselves in The Deer Hunter, while in The Manchurian Candidate they simply kill each other.

Friday, August 13, 2021

"There's a haze on the skyline ..."

Whatever god or gods up there, behind Earth's paper veil, burning cigar holes in it, thinking I or we no longer care.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Blockbusting Architecture

The pandemic has taken from us certain freedoms, but it has also provided certain liberties. Because social distancing has increased the ratio of people to metres inside restaurants, local governments have taken temporary measures to allow restauranteurs to build curbside structures, like this one at the NW corner of Grant and Commercial Drive, what I first knew as Cafe Le Grec, then later Bukowski's (not sure what it's called now).

These are not intended to be attractive structures but functional ones. Their function is to make money (for the restauranteur), provide tax revenue (for government) and keep servers off CERB (less successful). That this one looks like a cross between Chicago's Union Stockyards and a Nazi concentration camp should give you an idea of where our world is headed.

Human beings are adaptable creatures who have been known to fall in love with their captors. States of exception, if they go on long enough, are no longer exceptional. The Covid virus is the "star" of our pandemic, but as it is in Hollywood, where the studios and their parent companies gain the most from a blockbuster, the pandemic beneficiaries are those who control over 99% of the world's wealth and, in an effort to keep it, are eager to find new methods of social control. "Patio" seating is another kind of blockbuster: an inadvertent architecture, a vision of a dystopian future.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Bullitt (1968)

Peter Yates's Bullitt (1968) will forever be remembered for its cat-and-mouse car chase. Unlike films built from car chases (the Fast and Furious franchise, 2001-), Bullitt's chase comes in the middle of the film and goes through as many tempo changes (grave, lento ... andante, moderato ... vivace, presto) as a Bartok piano concerto.

I finally watched Bullitt in its entirety last week and found it to be almost as an uncluttered as another of Yates's cat-and-mouse films, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), which features amazing performances by Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle and Richard Jordan, but no extended car chase.

The picture up top comes at the moment the followers (the assassins) look in the rearview mirror and discover they are the followed (by Lieutenant Bullitt). Eventually they make a break for it, and it is then that we have our chase.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2021


The shingle that is North Vancouver's Norgate neighbourhood is nothing like the cuspate forelands of Dungeness but a gravel covered stump field prone to sinkholes. No matter. The houses are all ranchers, so it's not like one of them is gonna tip over and crush you.

I know a little bit about the neighbourhood, but in an effort to know more I went looking online. The first two sites that offered histories were real estate companies. Imagine that.

Here they are, in order: Team Clarke/Stilhavn Real Estate Services and Faith Wilson (Christie's).

Now here is the indefatigable Eve Lazarus, from her Every Place Has a Story blog.  

Monday, August 9, 2021

Sixth Assessment Report (2021)

Evelyn Waugh once said that two people writing a book together is like three people getting together to have a baby. Everybody laughed at the absurdity of it -- until in vitro and surrogate pregnancy became recognized alternatives. But what to make of 234 scientists getting together to produce a 3000+ page report? Not so funny when you consider their findings.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Sixth Assessment Report has sharpened its predictions from its last go-around in 2013, and they're not pretty. In fact, I would call them chilling if it didn't make me sound like I wasn't taking these forecasts seriously. As the planet continues to warm, not only will we continue to get extreme weather conditions, but multiple extremes at once. Even if we were to achieve net-zero tomorrow, we are locked into a sea level rise of between 6-12 inches by mid-century.

Last week I spoke with brand new parents at the park near my home. Their baby is all of three weeks old and responded to the shade passing over her face from her father's arm. I thought of their baby this morning after reading up on some of these climate forecasts and what is in our power to turn them around. I also thought of her parents, who will only be in their late-fifties by mid-century and still going to work every day. Her mother, a structural engineer specializing in retention, will be busy.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

High Time

Our block lost power Friday morning. Suddenly everybody's in their yard shouting, "You lose power?" until somebody calmly says, "It's back on."

A short time later I glance at the stove and whoa, what time is that?

"That's High Time," says the voice that keeps me company -- "cubed time. Now go on, make the most of it!" 

Saturday, August 7, 2021

The Certainties (2020)

Aislinn Hunter's new novel The Certainties (2020) opens with its narrator staring at the sea from a hotel balcony. The narrator is one of three friends who have been placed under detention at the French border town of Portbou. The trio is hoping to get into neutral Spain, and from there to Lisbon, Portugal, where they will sail for what was then, in 1940, another neutral country, the USA. It isn't until Page 7 that we learn the narrator's gender ("I smoothed my own moustache with a nonchalance I knew wasn't convincing"), and that, despite a prose style that has more in common with John Banville than Walter Benjamin, the narrator is Walter Benjamin

Friday, August 6, 2021

The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park (2016)

Six or seven years ago Amy, Donato and I were asked by director/videographer Juan Manuel Sepulveda to look at some early rushes of what became his Ballad of Oppenheimer Park (2016), a powerful documentary concerning a group of mostly indigenous people living in Vancouver's downtown eastside. The production raised a number of ethical questions that resulted in SFU's School for Contemporary Arts (where Sepulveda was a grad student) instituting policy guidelines for artists working with lives not their own.

My favourite scene in Ballad -- it's social punctum, as it were -- comes at 17:10, when a park denizen asks the camera operator to "Put the camera this way a little."

The operator complies, only to adjust it slightly for what I take to be aesthetic reasons.

Better, right? A diagonal composition (now pointing due north).

The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park can be seen here for a limited time only.

(Note: my screen grabs are reformats of the original picture ratio.)

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Born from Experience

Last summer a neighbour down the lane demolished her garage and that meant the rats who lived there needed somewhere to go. Now the rats are distributed evenly throughout the neighbourhood, which is useful to those of us who believed all along that the rats were never just her problem but everybody's problem. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Blue Room (1964)

"Could anyone see him from outside? He didn't care. Probably not, because the room must seem dark to those outdoors, and, as it was one floor up, only his torso might show." (10)

"... he was unsettled by the feelings they ascribed to him, no longer knowing how to tell the true from the false, wondering what separated right from wrong." (20)

"They weren't managing ... to use words that meant the same thing to them both, to place themselves on the same footing. They were always a little out of step with each other." (28)

"Are there really people who spend their lives looking at themselves in a mirror and asking themselves questions -- about themselves?" (52)

"They had their evening meal as usual: soup, a ham omelette, salad, a camembert and some apricots for dessert." (29)

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Artforum, February, 1982

Artforum makes its archive available to subscribers. Occasionally it frees up certain articles to attract new ones.

Here is a pie I pinched, left to cool in an open window:

Whether we like it or not, much of the significant art of our century has been “inaccessible” even to the well-rounded and well-educated because full access depends heavily on one’s possession of a complex cultural and physical reference system, which expands not only with art-historical information, but with perceptual ability, a philosophy of looking, and a broad vocabulary of signs. Some of the most radical works have been articulated in such a specialized language that, as is often the case with scientific experiment, breakthroughs are recognized only by the immediate professional community. There have been, however, groundbreaking visual developments that have had a very different audience though they have been equally dependent on an evolved Modern system of perception, or even a Modern attitude of looking. This is the subject of this issue—why has some work “successfully” entered, or even affected, the public sphere? It is an important question because we are at a point from which we see, sadly, that the collective intention within the art community in the late ’60s and the better part of the ’70s—to broaden the audience for art and increase the intellectual and economic autonomy of artists by establishing alternative exhibition spaces and alternative distribution systems for technologically reproducible media like print and video—met with only very partial “success.” Attention is given here to artists and visual communication systems that did “make it.” This is an opportunity to analyze how and why, and to suggest a changing dynamic between the language of the avant-garde and the vulgate, both of which seem to be feeding on one another. (It is also an irresistible chance to hint that much of the current development in visual thinking is more likely to be rooted in, let’s say, a mannered Pop than in Expressionism.)

The tradition of Artforum is not to limit its territory to one visual world, and the borders of its coverage have fluctuated in order to maintain a fluidity toward, and a discussion of, the very definition of art, which needs to break down to affirm its strength. One could say, in fact, that the history of this magazine lies in examining the resulting fragments. In part, this issue seeks to confront artmaking that retains its autonomy as its enters mass culture at the blurred boundary of art and commerce, and partakes of the wandering multiplicities of the body of popular art. Today the threat to art no longer comes from the outside, but from within, from its isolation and conservatism.

In the specialized realm of art a distinction was always made: art that is autonomous and for the indoctrinated was opposed to art that is applied and for the masses. A reciprocal hierarchical order was established based on this opposition between serious and frivolous, high and low, pure and impure. These distinctions were determined by a dialectic between esthetic and utilitarian values, between the unique and the multiple, between the useless and useful, between elite and vulgar. More than any other ism Pop broke down the antagonisms and the illusions of such distinctions (which were the products of the marketplace as much as of ideology). Roy Lichtenstein claimed comic strips, Claes Oldenburg appliances, James Rosenquist billboards, and Andy Warhol promotion legends. The interest that artists and intellectuals showed in popular culture and its accompanying technology was not a brand of philistinism. It was based on a decision to suck up commercialization, to channel its images and make new images of them that in turn could go back to the public. (Salvador Dali, more than Pablo Picasso, must be credited as a pioneer influence in his clever tongue-in-cheek complicity with, and passion for, commercialization which resulted in his cultural consecration—not through criticism, but because of his public success and recognition.)

The offspring of this relationship between the avant-garde and mass culture production is an artistic pantheism affecting all aspects of the merchandising of culture and the culturalizing of merchandise. Art becomes capable of appearing anywhere, not necessarily where one expects it, and of crossing over and occupying spaces in all systems. The resultant linguistic orgy poses a constant challenge to the traditional model of art through visual procedures that function on the verge of all mechanisms of communication and take on a global dimension. To make clear the range of this dimension and its potential effects we have chosen what we feel to be key examples and/or influential conduits, including advertising strategies, early television legends, tabloid classics, catalytic political imagery, machines for entertainment, and the synecdoche of music. This issue is born out of the tradition of “Modernism as a convergence of languages” where boundaries disintegrate, allowing limitless permutations and commutations of signs, independent of any concept of territory. These signs are indeterminate; they alternate crazily and without finality, having a relationship only to the velocity of consumption and of information, which is altered or negated from season to season, like fashion. This is why we choose the icon of fashion for the cover.

We recognize that high fashion pictured on the cover of an art magazine is perplexing because it could represent fashionability which is definitely not artmaking. Bound feet, tight shoes, imprisoning corsets, and silicone implants are all cosmetic degradations promoted and adopted as pipe dreams of beauty. They mark sexual manipulation and chart ideas of the erotic as well as tell the political history of the body. The “playful” sado-masochism of Helmut Newton’s photographs and the coy exploitation of the subject of children in Irina lonesco’s images, published in the fundamentally conservative glossies, are examples of a more insidious, intellectual fashionability.

Articles on revolutionary designs intended for mass production by artists such as Alexandra Exter, Liubov’ Popova, and Vladimir Tatlin, articles on Balenciaga or on historic developments in photography focused on fashion do not require mediation. This cover—a picture of a woman modeling an outfit from this season’s collection by a “hot” designer—begs for mediation, not least of all because of the position of this clothing in the marketplace. But of greater complexity are the moral, social, and art-historical projections onto this highly connotative appearance. Don’t be deceived by the uniform of blue jeans, don’t be lulled by its surface image of right-mindedness. Perception that stops at the surface has forgotten the labyrinth of the visible—it fails to see the abstract in Chuck Close faces, the harmony in John Cage noise, the non-negotiability of Warhol’s super-negotiability. The invisible seems more persuasive—naked emperors are flattered on the cut of their robes.

Fashion is a system of abstract signs which have no meaning beyond that determined by a maximum acceleration and proliferation of messages. In fashion the speed of communication is such that meaning disappears and changes from year to year, and lives only within the cyclical notion of the collections. The perpetual turnover of style resurrects previous models. If Modernism’s vision of the future has been identified with hostility to the past, then fashion’s continual, reckless ingestion of the phantom of history could be what makes it a Modern idea—in fact an idea that relates to the most recent developments in art, be they in architecture, film, music, painting, or photography. This is work that depends on the manipulation of preceding “models” (neoclassicism, new wave, neoexpressionism, neorealism, neoromanticism, neofauvism, neolook). Such hyperconsciousness of historical styles, such facility with their renderings, recall the Mannerist attitude, which today is based not on originals, but on reproductions that transform art into legend—Pop icons. This kind of redesign, in fashion as well as in art, revamps figures, be they from Marc Chagall, Giorgio De Chirico, or from kendo and Shinto.

The bodice and skirt on the cover and the jacket by Issey Miyake shown here represent this Modern convergence of signs. Equivalences are created between carving and modeling, between rigidity and softness, between the natural and the painted-over, between representation and showing. The outfit is a charged mnemonic device representing event and cumulative information. The elements of fashion, of course, are there. So is the kind of dialogue with past and future, with the situation of the individual within a technocracy, that characterizes the mass-oriented avant-garde.

Issey Miyake’s jacket is a paraphrase of light Samurai practice armor, which was made of bamboo and often decorated with designs that doubled as a scoring system (fencing defeats could be counted by the number of pierce marks). It is also a metaphor for a certain relationship to nature. The outfit is a contemporary second skin—its bodice is both cage and armor, lure and foil. The artificial shoulders of this “iron butterfly” evoke the assertiveness and weaponry of a pioneer-woman-space-invader. Eastern and Western, a picture of fashion—she is a legend. Andy Warhol has become a legend. Laurie Anderson is becoming a legend. All are legends, seducing while being seduced, paradigms of Jean Baudrillard’s theory of seduction. “ . . . seduction acknowledges, and this is its secret, that there is no anatomy, there is no psychology, and all signs are reversible . . . it is useless to play off being against being, truth against truth: that only entraps one in a fundamental subversion, while it would be enough to just lightlymanipulate appearances.”

-- Ingrid Sishy and Germano Celant

Monday, August 2, 2021

La Chinoise (1967)

After a certain amount of thinking, and a little serendipity, a project is decided, and from there a winnowing, or a grinding of the lens, where small things enter and are seen in greater detail. Then, if you're lucky, an explosion of sorts, and all kinds of stuff floating in the air, like the house in Zabriskie Point (1970).

The explosion for me was finding a structure in Godard's La Chinoise (1967), a fast-moving film about student revolutionaries a year in advance of those who joined with organized labour and brought France's economy to a standstill, its president Charles de Gaulle taking refuge in Germany.

Last week I watched La Chinoise for what is probably the third or fourth time, but this time with my finger on the PAUSE button, scribbling notes with my free hand. The image up top (a screen grab) came out of nowhere; so too did the picture it reminds us of.

Godard's inspiration for La Chinoise came from actor Anne Wiazemsky, who was studying philosophy at Nanterre and to whom he was recently married, and his fascination with Dostoyevski's Demons (1871), which I am reading again (the Pevear/Volokhovsky translation) after attempting the Macandrew translation as a teenager, when the book was then known as The Possessed

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Emancipation Day

Law Professor Anita Hill bravely testifying on October 11, 1991 before a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee (chaired by then-Senator Joe Biden) about her claim of sexual harassment by Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. I remember it like it was yesterday.