Search results for "meaning "


Author: joe

Wednesday, 01 February, 2012 - 23:22

The fear lies in the elimination of meaning. There are eliminitavists out there. They stalk the land like stilt-walkers crossing fens, hunting, herding and eradicating fauna, extirpating significance, annihilating secrets, exterminating superstitions, banishing all magic, colour and purpose.

These terrorists are bent on banishing the inner world. So, the shaking hand is hormonal - an cortisone signal that mobilises a mammal response, while the living awareness of the hurt is nothing more than a ghost. The blush is merely information in a closed system - the system that catches pheromones and peacocks into a framework of fertility messages and reproductive imperatives, whose illusory reflections appear to take the form of ardour or devotion. The ongoing flourishing of life itself, with its the menagerie of species and phyla, is no more than the medium of information - a quaternary code whose successful transmission is sufficient cause. This emptied world is not just one that has been hollowed out - it has been flattened, expressed and desiccated.

The eliminativists have it the wrong way round, though. The cybernetic manoeuvre of putting humans and machines onto the same ontological plane works both ways: just as the human becomes a servo-mechanism, so the machine becomes an aesthetic organism. The same perceptive life that constitutes the world of human meaning is at work in the mechanical operations of detection and processing, judging and adjusting. The machine world is awash with sensation, interaction and appreciation. The adrenaline feeling in the stomach and the voltage generated in a photovoltaic cell; the tingle of excitement and the charge in an electrostatic field; the whole emotional-somatic range of how our senses are stimulated, how our heartbeat increases, our hackles raise, our toes curl or our eyes water - and the racing current, the humming circuit, the scattered electrons or the negative charge.

Categories: eliminativism, cybernetics, meaning, aesthetics,
Comments: 1

Fruit and flowers

Author: joe

Wednesday, 03 August, 2011 - 23:37

Perry Bard is the artist behind Man with a Movie Camera: The Global Remake, a participatory reproduction of Vertov's 1929 original. We are invited to upload video clips of our own which match or interpret, shot for shot, the sequence of the original. The remake allows us to therefore see one, two, three - and more, an infinite number of films called Man with a Movie Camera, the first, the original, placed next to the second, the shot-by-shot crowd-sourced substitute, creates a third film composed of the two engaged in a concurrent dialogue, side by side. The act of montage is no longer only a diachronic suture, stitching two fragments into a meaningful utterance, but also a synchronic relation of each fragment to its reinterpreted counterpart. But a further fragment is always implied: the one you wonder might be waiting on your phone or hard drive, the one you might go out and make now. This putative fragment is just the first of an endless number of presumptive shots you now know are hovering at the edges of possibility, stretching the polygenetic, tesselated sequences out through both dimensions of now and next. If meaning is created through articulation, that is, the joining of pieces, tokens, words, or images moving and still - the basic fact of montage - then the possible expressions of meaning generated by the intertextual adjacency of source, reproduction, reinterpretation and imaginary addition are endless. The myriad thinkable paths all occur somewhere, dispersed in the matrix. The most familiar occurrences are merely those that float in the shallows.

In On the Internet, nobody knows you're a constructivist: Perry Bard's The Man With the Movie Camera: The Global Remake, Seth Feldman examines the interplay between Vertov's original and the participatory remake, and notes that the first significant aspect is the generative promise which Vertov makes for his film, which promise Bard's project fulfills. Seth writes that his thesis is that "Vertov's writing and The Man With the Movie Camera in particular are less historical texts than they are generative forces or perhaps, more accurately, generative grammars for the pure language of cinema that Vertov envisioned." What is the generative grammar that Vertov envisioned? Vertov writes of it in his notebooks, published in 1984.

When The Man with a Movie Camera was made, we looked upon the project this way: in our Michurin garden we raise different kinds of fruit, different kinds of film; why don't we make a film on film-language, the first film without words, which does not require translation into other languages, an international film? And why, on the other hand, don't we try, using that language, to speak of the behaviour of the "living person", the actions, in various situations, of a man with a movie camera? We felt that in so doing we would kill two birds with one stone: we would raise the film-alphabet to the level of an international film-language and also show a person, an ordinary person, not just in snatches, but keep him on the screen throughout the entire film [...]
An experiment's an experiment. There are all kinds of flowers. And each new breed of flower, each newly produced fruit is the result of a series of complex experiments.
We felt that we had an obligation not just to make films for wide consumption but, from time to time, films that beget films as well. Films of this sort do not pass without leaving a trace, for one's self, or for others. They are as essential as a pledge of future victories. [...]
If, in The Man with a Movie Camera it's not the goal but the means that stand out, that is obviously because one of the film's objectives was to acquaint people with those means and not to hide them, as was usually considered mandatory in other films. If one of the film's goals was to acquaint people with the grammar of cinematic means, then to hide that grammar would have been strange.
Dziga Vertov, 1984, Kino-eye: the writings of Dziga Vertov, UCP: Berkeley, pp153-155

The film does not hold up a mirror to the world, but it generates the world. It begets, leaves traces, and pledges future victories. Cinema reveals its grammar to us in order that we may learn it. Fruit and flowers. "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth" (Genesis, 1:11)

Categories: dziga-vertov, perry-bard, man-with-a-movie-camera, generative, film, grammar, montage, meaning, fruit, flowers,
Comments: 0

Commonplace and Singular

Author: joe

Thursday, 24 December, 2009 - 14:53

The umber journey through bereavement reveals itself as the experience which levels everyone sooner or later. No-one is born who cannot expect to grieve a parent, except by reversing the calamity. Notwithstanding the silence we collectively smother over death in our discomfort and inability to handle one another's tragedies, grief and bereavement touch every but the most unlucky life. Mourning is a commonplace, a universal. And yet it is utterly singular, uniquely experienced and individually felt; an axis around which a life will eventually turn. Like love, it happens to us all, and when it does, we are the only lovers in the world.

It was around Easter this year that I decided to study the nature of creative expressions of grief. I knew earlier than that that I wanted to study how creative activity - whether journal writing, drawing, poetry, musical composition, anything - had a therapeutic dimension. I struggled wildly to find an ailment of the body that I felt I could talk about without feeling like a charlatan interloper from a soft science - a quack calling the advocates of hard science, "quacks". Choosing instead an ailment of the soul may have been a retreat from an anticipated "clash of civilisations" where science and hermeneutics meet, but it was an advance in terms of making the study my own.

The vernacular ear hears words like "complex" and "syndrome" as mental illnesses - this is of course because they are wielded by doctors and psychoanalysts whom we so often call upon only when we feel sick in mind or body. But complexes and syndromes are what we all are made of. What makes you you, and makes me me, are the respective complexes through which we see the world. Far from seeing the world clearly, we all have our own individual motes in our eyes which render the glass dark. Grief is another complex, another mote; grief makes me me. If grief is an illness, then everyone who has lost someone is ill.

A friend said, a few weeks after my father died, that over time the pain of grief would die away. His mother had died when he was young. "Now I think of her occasionally," he said, "And it's sort of... 'Oh yes... Mum! She was a person, a long time ago...' you know. It'll get better." I was sure he was right, but that only made it worse. I didn't want the pain to go if it meant that the memory of those I loved also receded and lost their significance. Surely this meant that they died twice: their lives ended both in their own death and the death of their memory. If it meant that the memory of my father would dwindle to the facts and material residue of his existence, then I did not want the pain of grief to end.

Grief is something I do not want to let go; but equally I know it is a phenomenon with its own logic and evolution which, if not allowed to take its course, will become more than a complex: a neurosis, a pathology. I try to write again, and each time I summon spirits of grief as though the words are a magic rite which revives memories, enriches them and brings my father closer. There is an interplay between letting go and holding on; between inarticulacy and making meaning; between forgetting and remembering; between pain and solace.

Categories: xmas, dad, grief, complex, meaning,
Comments: 0

Christmas, Grief and Shadowplay

Author: joe

Wednesday, 23 December, 2009 - 22:47

Christmas is a hard time in my family. My father died eight years ago on Christmas day, after a few short months of living with a terminal diagnosis. It is still hard to summon words to trace the contours of the experience and its wake. Each thought rushes back; memories and meanings impossibly offer themselves for articulation; words flinch from the responsibility of bearing the burden.

It is easier to write of the difficulty of voicing the experience than of the experience itself. How do I select from the galaxy of emotions that I recall; how order the candidate sentences; where do I even start? Do I begin with the way he lived; the way he died; the way we go on; or what no longer goes on, now that he is gone? A few years ago, I wrote about several of my memories of christmas, culminating in the christmas of his death and the scattering of ashes; only such an oblique method seemed possible, since a direct approach was less surmountable than a sheer cliff.

If I talk about the way he dignified his illness with a grace I can't imagine anyone exceeding; or the pang of pain at his death that no anticipation could deaden; or the way that time, which so many said would heal, is for that reason, the very enemy of grief; if I put into words any of these or other countless confessions, then it is only as a laboratory scientist handles toxic germs or radioactive metals with gloved and levered tongs through reinforced glass and platinum barriers.

Only by pushing away the significance of experience can it be diminished enough to be compressed inside words. An eclipse cannot be viewed directly, but projected as a phantom through a pinhole. Or perhaps it is more like the everyday landscape when inverted in the darkness of the camera obscura. Perhaps it may be like the shadows on the wall of the cave: perhaps the direct experience reveals less than its shadowplay, since the hands working the spectacle disappear off the stage.

The facts and experiences are no less mundane, bleak and irredeemable for bearing such volatile emotions: but maybe the alienated handling of them with ever new words, the constant renewing of the bare events with repeated efforts to give them voice, are what produces new meaning and new significance each time, and create some sort of sense out of the senselessness of brutal reality.

Categories: xmas, dad, grief, words, meaning,
Comments: 1