Saturday, October 3, 2009

"supreme fiction" - 10/08/09

"Supreme Fiction" (or, the "essential imagination = the source of our fictions) is an idea Wallace Stevens explored in his poetry and essays; most notably in the poem in three parts: Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction. Stevens presents this terminology as a way of addressing the interval between reality and fiction, perhaps more accurately described as reality and the imagination or reality and the perception of reality. "Supreme Fiction exists somewhere between idealism and pragmatism, as they might be defined in loose correlation to the imagination and reality, respectively. Idealism addresses how the mind mediates reality. Pragmatism deals with practical consequences and real effects. Milton Bates explains, "To see the world and to write poetry are essentially the same fiction-making activity, arising from the same desire to overcome our estrangement from reality." (51)

"As creatures that interpret experience mentally, we have no choice but to believe in the mind's made up version of reality." Milton J. Bates

"the nicer knowledge of Belief, that what it believes in is not true." Wallace Stevens

"I find my story in the telling of that story." Sam Keen

Bates, Milton J. "Stevens and the supreme fiction." The Cambridge Companion to Wallace

. E. John N. Serio. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 48-61.

Bates's essay deals with Wallace Steven's poem "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction"

link to the poem:

Sam Keen on the "bio-mythic creature"

Jim Jarmusch - 10/05/09

Jim Jarmusch is an American Independent filmmaker who has achieved critical and popular recognition for his films made over the last 25 years. He has always worked outside the system of Hollywood, not because he is unwelcome but because he is unwilling to work within their guidelines and on any schedule other than his own. His initial interest was in literature, he first attended college for journalism and briefly attended Columbia with the intention of becoming a poet. After a ten month foray in Paris, Jarmusch returned to New York and applied to the Tisch School of the Arts. Although he had no experience with filmmaking he was accepted to the program and made his first film Permanent Vacation (1980) with money that was intended to pay his tuition.
Jarmusch is a minimalist filmmaker who is less interested in narrative and plot and works with mood and character to distinguish himself. He has experimented with different styles and genres but all of his films are permeated with dark humor, drifting protagonists, long silences and still shots. He allows his characters to say a lot (especially when Roberto Benigni plays a part) but much of what his films say exists in the spaces where the dialog is spare or non-existent; his characters non-verbal responses to one another are very telling.

clip from Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)

clip from Night On Earth (1991)

clip from Down By Law (1986)

clip from Jarmusch's first film: Permanent Vacation (1980)

link to an interview with Jim Jarmusch, discussing his latest film: The Limits of Control (2009)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

the road movie - 10/01/09

The trajectory of a Road Movie is as follows:

  • A character experiences abstract loss and attempts an exodus from normal life.
  • The character reinvents his or her self-identity while travelling.
  • Along the way, the character encounters iconic individuals who (usually) illustrate authenticity and desolation.
  • Upon the recognition of seemingly self-evident realisations, the character desires to return to the point of origin.
drawn from Ride9/Road-movies-motion-pictures.htm

***Road Movies are often claimed as a distinctly American genre. From Easy Rider (1969) to Bonnie and Clyde (1967), the road movie indeed often takes place on the road but it is possible for the thematics of this genre to be projected onto other types of journeys. The underlying theme beneath the act of physical travel is the enactment of a transformative experience. As outlined in the above "definition" (and similarly to the bildungsroman of literature) the character experiences some loss and follows the trajectory of his/her exile down the open road.

One of my next projects is an exploration of the mythology of self, conceptualized as an actual journey and described in three distinct stages: the process of leaving, the act of travelling, and the goal of arriving. Since the second section of the film involves an actual journey - car on blacktop - I think it's important to consider the history of the road movie genre, both in how its conventions might inform my work and in how I may circumvent these conventions, in the true spirit of the transgressive road movie.

clip from the classic road movie, Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

read: Sargeant, Jack and Stephanie Watson. Lost Highways: an Illustrated History of Road

Movies. United Kingdom: Creation Books, 1999.

Six Books - 10/07/09

1. James Coleman (multi-media)

Coleman, James. Projected Images: 1972-1994. New York: DIA Center for the Arts,


*** James Coleman was originally a painter but began to work with film, video and photography in the 1970’s. His preferred medium today is slide projection, typically paired with audio. Michael Newman writes: Coleman’s work explores “the relationship between the identity of the subject and image as they are mutually conditioned or ‘caused’ through time.” The viewer’s perspective and interpretation is an integral part of the work. His work cannot be understood from looking at the visual images, they are experiences; Because of this I can really only respond to his work through interpreting what others have written. But I am interested in what I have read and feel that some of my goals for my work are related to his efforts. Jean Fisher writes: “ One might say that (Coleman’s) work articulates a kind of semi-permeable “membrane”, where what exceeds the image – its mechanisms of production and of interpretation (the viewer) – contribute as much to its possibility of meaning as what seems obviously intrinsic to it – its content and point of “origin” (the maker).” I wouldn’t say my work has succeeded yet in extending beyond (if even reaching) the meaning I ascribe, but I am at work, thinking of ways to further involve the viewer and the subject.

2. Todd Hido (photography)

Henry, Patrick (curator). Fabula. Bradford, West Yorkshire: National Museum of

Photography, Film & Television, 2003.

*** I am primarily interested in Todd Hido work with landscapes and homes and night. Most of Hido’s work is done at night and all using ambient light and long exposures to create photographs that although distinctly devoid of people are always referencing their presence through their absence. Patrick Henry writes, “Hido’s pictures both tease and disturb us. We are aware of them simultaneously as fiction, as allegory and as documents… Hido holds us expertly at the intersection.” I am also interested in the intermingling of fiction and document. What I appreciate most about Hido’s work is that the material is “true” – these are real houses, streets and cars - but there is a fiction implied by leaving people out of it. By fixating on barren and desolate situations, Hido leaves his work open for the viewer to imagine or suppose what they will.

3.William H. Gass (non-fiction)

Gass, William H. Finding a Form. New York: Alfred A, Knopf, 1996.

*** While he has been known to laugh it off, William Gass created the term metafiction in the 1960’s to describe his own and other writer’s work that sought to subvert the conventions of novel writing while openly acknowledging and discussing the act of experimentation. Also called self-reflexive, this type of work is literatures contribution to the postmodern. Some consider metafiction to be the death of the novel while others argue that it’s in fact a rebirth. Patricia Waugh realizes that “contemporary metafictional writing is both a response and a contribution to an even more thoroughgoing sense that reality of history are provisional.” I like Gass because he seems always to be looking to open things up and broaden definitions. His dissertation, A Philosophical Investigation of Metaphor, demonstrated an interest in expanding the notion of metaphor beyond its purely linguistic origins. As Gass’ writing has progressed his interest in metaphor has grown outside of his own work as he has become “principally interested in establishing the relationship between fiction and the world” as a metaphorical one. I think this idea is directly relatable to certain explorations made in the world of film.

Waugh, Patricia. Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-conscious Fiction. London: Methuen, 1984.

4. William Christenberry (sculpture/photography/painting)

Lange, Susanne (curator). William Christenberry. Dusseldorf, Germany: 2001.

*** William Christenberry appropriates found objects for both direct uses in his work and as models for sculpture, painting and installation. While his work shows the influence of Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters and others of the found object art tradition, Christenberry uses the object as something more than stylistic device. Claudia Schubert notes that Christenberry’s use of products and everyday articles “can be regarded as quotations… they are the equivalent of “direct speech” in linguistics; they have a documentary character.” I think there is a correlation between the way in which Christenberry incorporates objects and locations in his work and the way I work with personal story telling and subject perspective. He displaces objects, or reinvents them not to alter their veracity or disrupt their directness, but to call attention to it. I take conversation, dialog and storytelling out of context. I appropriate free-floating personal narrative and mythology and deliberately place it into some context for what I believe to be the same or similar reasons: to give substance to the immaterial and to uncover poetic truth.

5. C.D. Wright (poetry)

Wright, C.D. Rising, Falling, Hovering. Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 2008.

*** C.D. Wright has been called an elliptical poet but is nervous about the label. Elliptical poetry is the current avant-garde, or ‘post-postmodern’ movement. Stephen Burt of the Boston Review writes: “(they) tell almost stories, or almost-obscured ones. They are sardonic, angered, defensively difficult, or desperate; they want to entertain as thoroughly as, but not to resemble, television.” I think parts of this statement could be ascribed to contemporary experimental documentary/narrative work. Or any medium/all mediums that are trying to redefine or undefine themselves. I like that Wright rejects this. And I agree with her. Her work is not empty or intentionally anti-meaning. But she does seem to question traditional forms. Burt writes, “elliptical poets try to manifest a person-who speaks the poem and reflects the poet-while using all the verbal gizmos developed over the last few decades to undermine the coherence of speaking selves.” I can’t quite say exactly how this might relate to films (or my films) but there is definitely a playing with perspective in Wright’s work that I find intriguing.

only the crossing counts

It's not how we leave one's life. How go off
the air. You never know do you. You think you're ready
for anything; then it happens, and you're not. You're really
not. The genesis of an ending, nothing
but a feeling, a slow movement, the dusting
of furniture with a remnant of the revenant's shirt.
Seeing the candles sink in their sockets; we turn
away, yet the music never quits. The fire kisses our face.
O phthsis, o lotharian dead eye, no longer
will you gaze on the baize of the billiard table. No more
shooting butter dishes out of the sky. Scattering light.
Between snatches of poetry and penitence you left
the brumal wood of men and women. Snow drove
the butterflies home. You must know
how it goes, known all along what to expect,
sooner or later … the faded cadence of anonymity.
Frankly, my dear, frankly, my dear, frankly

- C.D. Wright

6. Marcus Kenney (painting)

Kenney, Marcus. Marcus Kenney. New York, D.A.P., 2007.

*** I’m calling Marcus Kenney a painter because this is his self-classification. Granted, his work reads as decidedly mixed-media. William A. Fagaly of the New Orleans Museum of Art writes, “painting is subservient in these works to the applied papers and other materials that constitute the bulk of the space and composition… (however) for Kenney, each of the many horizontal cigar bands that fill the sky in his 2006 work The Infidels is a brushstroke. Paper is his paint.” Kenney is generally at least cursorily political in his work but he never forgets the art and strays to activism. He has said, “I don’t care what you think about my work as long as you think.” I am drawn to Kenney’s work because of his use of repetition, appropriated image, and collage techniques. Kenney calls his work painting, implying a seamless cohesive piece, but he creates this seamlessness by joining pieces together – very similar to film editing. I am reminded of how the French terminology for film editing (montage, decoupage) calls attention to the craft by acknowledging the importance of the cuts and how they are juxtaposed. This is in direct contrast prized and praised (by Hollywood) notion of continuity editing, which seeks to diminish or erase the cut.