Malraux writes: “If we suddenly hear a voice other than our own through our own throat, we would be terrified.” His commentator, whose commentator I am, as commentator comments: “Is this even possible? It’s the definition of love. As strong as redundancy because as terrible as agony.”
Sometimes when I’m having difficulty understanding a book, or not making much progress getting into it, I start reading it in snatches, fragmentarily one could say, from the end back towards the beginning. It seems then, once I have an idea of what’s coming, that I can retrospectively decipher preceding passages in light of where they’re going.
The interesting similarity of metaphor and motif in Agamben and Lyotard’s very different discussions of voice (Language and Death; Soundproof Room). Cricket (stridulation, the shriek); thrush; tetragrammaton.
(from R. Ray) When Benjamin proposed a historical method based on such images, Theodor Adorno could only reply: “Your study is located at the crossroads of magic and positivism. That spot is bewitched. Only theory could break the spell.”
Adorno meant to be dismissive. In fact, he had produced the perfect definition of cinema (“the crossroads of magic and positivism”) and of film studies’ traditional project (to “break the spell”). As a technologically based, capital-intensive medium, film-making quickly developed into an industry attracted by positivism’s applications: the Taylorist-Fordist models of rationalized production. And yet, as Thalberg realized, the movies succeeded commercially to the extent that they enchanted. Hence the inevitable question: could enchantment be mass-produced? Yes, as Godard once told Colin MacCabe, “the cinema is all money,” but at any moment it can also become, as Godard wrote of Renoir’s La Nuit du carrefour (Night at the Crossroads), “the air of confusion… the smell of rain and of fields bathed in mist.”
In his famous study of imperialist terror, Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man, Michael Taussig suggests that the task of understanding “calls neither for demystification nor remystification but for a quite different poetics of destruction and revelation.” Hence, “Conrad’s way of dealing with the terror of the rubber boom in the Congo was Heart of Darkness. There were three realities there, comments Frederick Karl: King Leopold’s, made out of intricate disguises and deceptions, Roger Casement’s studied realism [in his official reports], and Conrad’s, which, to quote Karl, ‘fell midway between the other two, as he attempted to penetrate the veil and yet was anxious to retain its hallucinatory quality.’ This formulation is sharp and important: to penetrate the veil while retaining its hallucinatory quality.”
***** ***** ***** *****
The video will contain: the complete list of what you need to say when you are in exile; precise advice about the making of simple objects; a retrospective view of things that have been said; a systematic manual of poetic exercises; a memento of table manners and polite usage; a rehabilitation of hidden memory; a description of different everyday lives; an analysis of potential recurrence; observation techniques applying to people you know; a concentrate of individual sensations and their explanation; a method of one-voice dialogue; a plan to visit nature.
Rimbaud: “ghosts of the future nocturnal luxury.”
Mallarmé: “We are the sad opacity of our future ghosts.”
***** ***** ***** *****
The shot with Jazzbo at the Cincinnati zoo. Mari Boine’s little a cappella piece: Ale Sat (Ikke Mer). Hi contrast. Step printed. Opening title sequence, but not titles: maybe the bit from Montaigne, viz.
And also for this design of mine ’tis convenient for me to write at home, in a wild country, where I have nobody to assist or relieve me; where I hardly see a man who understands the Latin of his Pater noster, and of French as little, if not less. I might have it better elsewhere, but then the work would have been less my own; and its principal end and perfection is to be exactly mine. I readily correct an accidental error, of which I am full, as I run carelessly on; but for my ordinary and constant imperfections, it were a kind of treason to put them out. When another tells me, or that I say to myself, “Thou art too thick of figures; this is a word of Gascon growth; that is a dangerous phrase (I do not reject any of those that are used in the common streets of France: they who would fight custom with grammar are fools); this is an ignorant discourse; this is a paradoxical discourse; that is going too far; thou makest thyself too merry at times: men will think thou sayest a thing in good earnest which thou only speakest in jest.” “Yes,” say I, “but I correct the faults of inadvertence, not those of custom. Do I not talk at the same rate throughout? Do I not represent myself to the life? ‘Tis enough that I have done what I designed; all the world knows me in my book, and my book in me.”
And then Derrida:
This, then, will not have been a book . . .
And finally the title of the film: vocables
Then at some later point, the same clip, no high con, with sound, with a voice-over commentary. Repetition of the clip, now silent, little bits repeated, slowed down, etc.
In the summer during which you were 3 and a half, your daddy took you from Mobile to Buffalo, and later to Temagami. On the second day of the journey you stopped to visit the Cincinnati zoo. In the bug house you saw an exhibit of roaches; hundreds of roaches, palmetto bugs, crawling all over each other behind a glass. You must have been afraid that your daddy was taking you away forever. When you saw the roaches (perhaps they reminded you of your house in Mobile) you burst into tears, and sobbed uncontrollably that you wanted to go home, to go back to Mobile, to see your mummy, that you didn’t want to go to Buffalo. You were inconsolable. All your daddy could do was hold you in his arms and let you cry. It took nearly half an hour before you were finished. A boy came by and asked “what’s wrong with him?”
This footage you are watching was shot very shortly after you left the bug house. Can you see the strain in your face? Do you have any memory of the event at all? However old you are now, however well you remember what happened, you can be sure that the little boy in the pictures you are looking at doesn’t exist anymore.
***** ***** ***** *****
the voice and death (Agamben, Lyotard)
the voice and god (Moses, amid lightnings, on Sinai’s mountaintop)
the next voice you hear (James Whitmore, Nancy Davis/Reagan)
stuttering (neil, susan, Billy Budd, Tarkovsky)
talk dirty to me (the invocatory drive, phone sex)