Unreal Nature

November 7, 2015

The Subtext Was Anxiety

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… one … gradually pulls the image from under the surface up onto the page.

This is from Carnets d’Egypte by William Kentridge (2010):

… We had an 8mm movie camera which my father used, and which I later took over. Each spool of film would give between one and one and a half minutes of projection time. The films were always of family events. The subtext of all the films was anxiety. The whirring of the camera made one aware of the painfully short time available for filming — shots would last two or three seconds, panning from one child’s face to another, trying to catch the dog as it ran around the garden, recording a badminton game in which people were caught between looking at the camera and watching the shuttlecock. Looking at the films now, it is a relief when one can find any shots that hold their focus for more than two seconds.

We are now in the opposite situation — every phone is also a camera, and every movie camera can record hours rather than seconds. The subject matter has not changed much, but the subtext is now over-abundance and lassitude. Who will ever watch these hours?

[ … ]

… In the museum, one comes across a cleaned, restored object, and one has to re-imagine it in its tomb or under the sands of the desert to restore it to its fragmentary state.

The films [Kentridge’s films] start with the drawing of the object, the clean shard. This is then buried. It is buried by covering the image of the object with charcoal dust, paint, other pages. It is then re-excavated. This excavation is done by filming the covering of the shards, and then running the film in reverse. The covering then becomes uncovering.

The skill of the archaeology here is in finding the grammar of the movement of the brush that covers the initial image — the covering that becomes uncovering.

… The uncovering excavation can also be done through erasure — in which case one starts (starts as seen in the film) with a mark on a grubby piece of paper, or map of the excavation sight,* and through conscientious rubbing and wiping gradually pulls the image from under the surface up onto the page.

[*I expect the spelling is deliberate]




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