Note 3: Absence, Erogenous Zones and Shorthands

'Love' and Motorcycle. (Top to Bottom) Wild Reeds (1994), Mauvais Sang (1986), Tropical Malady (2004), Three Times (2005) and Unknown Pleasures (2002)


For Chris Fajardo (1978 - 2014)
"Death does not fix an actual present, so numerous are the dead who haunt the sheets of past." - Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2

Why do you have to go?

Zero. In a mind's eye, the number, when displayed alone, has no value. On the other hand, it gains a tenfold, hundredfold, thousandfold... n-fold increase in value when place adjacent to any number, as in 10, 100, 1000, 10000. For me, zero is the Beginning, the Zero-field where the Chronos emerges. Zero is the Zeroth Law exhibited by the originary structure of a solid object. Zero is a special place where souls like yours belong. A zero is a return to the originary ruptures of life, which, for me, is never a transcendence but an eternal return. You return to the amorphous energy that created you. Within its confine, you live in another form - and to us, your form is a vanishing memory. But this is what we, the surviving pact of the living, can truly grasp - an expressible memory of you, vanishing and leaving us. Perhaps this is the eternal purpose of death - a creation of memories that die, that disappears in time, almost as if all your image leaves the world without a trace. This makes it difficult to memorialize you, because you are now an immemorial being. Your time is not our time. Your life is not our life. You have become a form of absence.


Jules et Jim (1962). I finally saw your favorite. Truffaut's best, they say. It is more complex than Les Quatre Cents Coup (1959). I'm curious which of the three main characters you love the most.

This is me making sense. I felt no destruction when I saw your lifeless form. I did not cry nor suffocate in sadness. During your wake, I consciously felt the passing of time. We were all there. Your death seemed like a long absence - quiet, only a passing - you, missing in action, for a long time in our lives. I looked at you; your body was in full form, but you were not there. Sometimes, I seemed to hold on to your photo more than your body. Your photograph was more real than your body. The photograph displayed stemmed from a life you have had, a life wherein we were all connected - you, me, Joseph, Queen, Princess, Epoy, Wendy, Joshell and the great circulation of people coming in and out of our webbed metropolis - your friends. It is so difficult to write this. I wanted to write about you, but I find it difficult to find value in this writing anymore. Can this mean anything to you? All these words are fragments of  my thoughts about you. I wanted to make an expression of you, an expression of your passing. But I cannot seem to write it properly. The limit of language forces me to abandon the task of transforming the inexpressible experiences to unworthy sentences. That is my struggle - to make sense. Because now, we, the ones you have left, have to find ways to express your absence - through words or through a memory. How painful it is to express someone who had left us! It is painful because we start anew. We start from the beginning. There is always a process of invention that goes with it. But I want to remember the affect of your being. I want to remember your presence and absence. You were present in the picture but absent in your body.  You were both absent and present at the same time, at the same place. 


Now, a fabrication of a memory. I remember you now, faintly, almost like a glow. You were, in my memory, an intense person. Your passionate voice traveled through sheets of sensitivity, always welcoming, enthusiastic, and true. But I do remember seeing you subdued, quiet and shy, sitting by the corner, awkwardly poised, and waiting. You spoke of things with such restraint that I would look at you curiously. It is as if you have wanted to say more but only said a part of it, a small burst. You were like that, you had a habit of containing your emotions. I felt it always when we were together.


A Path to Destruction of the Self
(Or the French guy trying to understand Last Year at Marienbad)

1961. Marker asked a  Parisian salesman if he would watch Alain Resnais' 
Last Year at Marienbad (1961) running on theaters that month of May.
Stills from Le Joli Mai (1963)

Here is a man confronting the complexities of Last Year at Marienbad (...Marienbad, 1961). He first expresses his imperceptible encounter with (the idea of) ...Marienbad. He stutters: 'A bit too...' in search of words to describe the film. We do not know whether he watched the film prior to Marker's interview for Le Joli Mai (1963) or somebody told him about it. But what we notice is his speechlessness, his apprehension, his incapacity to reduce ...Marienbad in simpler terms. 'A bit too...' is a typical response to films like ...Marienbad that defies language. It seems that, for this salesman, ...Marienbad has reached a certain limit, a certain Outside. 'A bit too...' is a fundamental response to any artistic creation that shatters identity, resist definition, labeling, and even description. The man stutters in search words to describe a film only to find himself positioning in light of this complexity.

He effaces the description of ...Marienbad and proceeds with a description of himself 'I am a simple man.' This shortchanged answer is interesting for one thing: upon reaching the imperceptible region of language (the 'A bit too...' region), he returns to a stable construction, a safe place in language where he finds his identity 'I am a simple man', ironing out his personal preferences.

This identification returns him to ...Mariendbad. With words to speak now, he proclaims (and yet another identification) that he 'won't rack [his] brains.' This straightforward positioning is a proclamation of temporary surrender: a surrender from 'too much thinking' or 'racking one's brain,' or simply a surrender from the cognitive complexities of ...Marienbad. He then exposes the arid terminus between high art and consumerism through his words: 'Why fork out money to figure things out?'

This man's apprehensive encounter with artistic complexities like ...Marienbad opens a pathway towards the destruction of a self.  The destruction of the self is a movement from personal to impersonal, towards the 'A bit too...' region, the region where articulation is difficult, where language becomes non-language, where expression becomes inexpressible. The destruction of the self is a movement away from self-containment, self-imprisonment, dogmatism, stable constructions, and even identity in order to give way to 'life's creative flows.' The destruction of the self is a productive movement towards self-renewal and self-transformation by reaching a region without memories. 'Memory allows us to see our self-image,' writes Deleuze. The destruction of the self allows the self to germinate anew, to become 'other' than what is preconceived by oneself, others, and society. It breaks the self open; the crack becomes the site of apprehension which the man in Le Joli Mai encounters. The crack is where the thinking process (or 'racking one's brain') sits. And one of the most effective way to open cracks in the self is through modern cinema's reworking of time and its affective use of sensations, textures, shapes, foldings, layers, surfaces to produce a transformative machine that circulates vast elements across borders.

This classic reaction to art by a man on the street shows us the potential of modern cinema to usher the destruction of the self, and in turn, a route for self-renewal and transformation. But the man, our interest, returns to his own self. He returns to language and resisted the violent, unstable cracking of ...Marienbad. It is not, however, a good/bad thing. But what is important is his partial entry to that crack.



Notes on Wind and Stone (2005):
Erogenous Zones of a Garden

Wind and Stone by Masaaki Tachihara is a short novel of about one hundred and fifty pages. Yet it surpasses its textual limit by creating a complex emotional fabric, forcing its language to stutter. Primal forces shape its body giving it a raging pulse. Each word exudes pristine clearness and earnestness to show, elucidate, and create sheets of becoming, motivated by the voluptuous singularity of passion and reason. Each word emerges from the suffocation of feelings. 

Wind and Stone is a novella borne from the careful handwork of a gifted writer. Tachihara forges within its tenuous collection of words an imagined space, an external field, intersecting with emotions. A shadow of force seeps within its textual layers. What I mean by a shadow of force is a force inanimate and invisible. It is the silent force that causes a movement of its internal atoms within the text. It is like a soul of a force, the enemy of movement. Pure force, by itself alone, can cause a wide disarray of elements in space. When a force hits a set of objects, all objects travel in various speeds and accelerations. The true physical force of a novel is its narrative. It propels the characters to their own destinies. It is also the physical force that unfolds the novel's ending. 

The shadow of the force, on the other hand, emerge within the emotional crisscrosses of its narrative. The shadow of force in Wind and Stone stems primarily from the transformation of the garden into an erogenous zone - a garden becoming a genitalia of singularity: man-woman-nature intersecting at various points with a rhizomatic form. The garden, thoroughly described in the novel, is a site of transformation. It opens and closes the narrative. It lies within the surging forces of creation and destruction: Shiva, the goddess of destruction, dances within this garden, turning it into a geodesic dome of infernal reconstitution through which fertility and death entwines. 

The garden is a site of tragic mutations. The gardener, Kase, is the artist, the agency of creation through which nature passes through. His hands eternally crafting the earth, stone, wind and water with a sensibility of a stubborn artist - true to his craft, true to nature. He constructs a garden attuned to the seasons, to the landscape, to the geographical space. Through this garden, he forms an extension of himself, that as he led a different life, the contours of the garden, as it passes through seasons, becomes him. The garden becomes an extension of his body, an external genitalia, a phallic figuration that provokes Mizue, the wife of Kase's client, to desire Kase. Through this mutation, the garden transforms into an erotic space. It seems at first, for Mizue, that the garden is a distant creature, making its way through time and space, undisturbed, free, and unconnected to her. Mizue channels through this distant creature from within. Her active virtual engagement with the garden, through her super-impositions of Kase and the garden, forms a great narrative tension. 

Is this an emergence of temptation? What is temptation in this context? Temptation, as conjured by Tachihara in Wind and Stone, comes from a forming of bridges, a creation of possibilities within sites of emergence. The shadow of force vacillates within this figuration of temptation that, as readers, we feel the tenuous constrictions of these newly formed bridges. The site of emergence, the garden, is an active erogenous zone of transformation and renewal. Mizue seeks for renewal. Her body is queering against tradition that enslaves her sexual energy. She is both a mother and a wife. Patriarchal dominance and heteronormative oppression imprisons her in women-wife-mother triad. The garden, to which she opens to everyday, activates her senses. The garden forms a dialogue with her and asks her to seek for the source, the maker, the visionary, who sculpts this erogenous zone - Kase. 

From 'genitalia to the Brain', Mizue seeks for the creator, the mental world behind the physical structure of the garden. This circuitry of Mizue towards Kase is a sensual pathway, an essential one that produces the powers of transformation for the erogenous zone. The erogenous zone, the garden, supplants both the image of Kase and Mizue's affair leading a pathway of the destruction of Mizue's family.

This is the tragic mutation of the garden, the erogenous zone, wedged within the singularity of fertility and destruction. The garden is a Shivian space, which was ultimately destroyed by Mizue's husband, Shida. It is both a witness and a victim of disintegration. Ruinous currents surged through it. In the words of Tachihara:
The garden at the Shida home had become rather odd looking. Returning from the plant at Atsugi one evening, Eiji Shida look at the garden he had destroyed and felt it symbolize the ruined relationship with his wife. There did not seem to be any they could return to their former way of life. He had realized from the outset that to destroy the garden would accomplish nothing. All that remained was a sense of futility. (p. 112)
But like other erogenous zones, an assaulted garden can never looked destroyed from an outsider's point of view. Destruction is an internal event, actualized within a close territory of signs. Destruction in Wind and Stone is localized within the intersecting strands of Kase, Shida and Mizue. The view of the garden as an exteriority, like the view of Shida's visitors unaware of the marital issue, provides us a grappling tension between two flights of consciousness in the novel. As witnesses of the struggle within this erogenous zone, we readers are exposed to a multiplicity of the ethical, territorial and aesthetic ramifications of this tension emerging from triad of worlds that Tachihara created: the unconscious region, the conscious region, and the in-between, all of which viewing the same garden.

This is where the shadow of force collects its migratory presence. As beings of in-between and witnesses of its unfolding, we readers contemplate about this garden, in light of the tenuous vacillation of emotions, affects and sensations emitted by the passage of the shadow of force through all regions of space, cleaving these regions into an active site of transformation. This migratory power of the shadow of force creates ripples internal to our consciousness, creating a multiplicity with us, enriching the virtual world of our past-future lives - the greatest prize one can derive from a work of fiction.


 Two paintings by Nina Petrovna Valetova: 
Dark Matter(top) and Untitled(bottom). 
"The intriguing dual nature of her [Nina Petrovna Valetova] works continues with the dichotomy of visual movement that pervades each canvas. The work seem at once frenetic and active, yet frozen and almost incomprehensibly calm. Valetova experiments with dimension and composition, leadingto amazing results: paradoxical works of intended absurdity. In doing so, she produces works not only of stunning beauty and philosophical depth, but which comments on the unpredictability and irrationality of contemporary society. As unending wars are waged and beloved family members die, life continues on and as her paintings so poignantly articulate, when one thing stops another keeps going."
- Review from ArtisSpectrum Magazine [link]

\\\ Shorthand Thoughts #1 \\\

1 | In Sana Dati (2013), the power of touch surfaces in the scene where Andrea, in an act of remembering, caresses Denis' face against a bright afternoon sun. The image crystallizes as a singularity between two temporal regimes: the present, where Andrea must confront her wedding with Robert, and the past, where she must painfully confront the memory of her dead lover, Andrew. This gestural act forms a link between two different epochs. It forms a multiplicity in time. Andrea seeks to exhume the image of Andrew through Denis by tracing the curves of his skin, painfully remembering (and forgetting) the figure of Andrew - a love's loss. In a way, Andrea is making an ethical turn. She directly confronts the singularity of this event. She has to make a choice -  a choice not preconditioned by moral codes, in fulfillment of her family's will or in fulfillment of the traditional, disciplinarian society. But this choice is an ethical one - a choice that cements her autonomy, that gives her the greatest transformation. She must reclaim her autonomy to speak for herself - the nearest the movie could get to the tenets of feminism. 

Andrea's personal struggle to remember and forget Andrew forces her to confront a forgotten history - a love at its ruins. Any act of remembering is a (re)creation of memories. The act itself does not retrieve the exact experience from the mind. Instead, remembering fabricates a closest resemblance of a particular event. Denis, the brother of Andrew, appears as a phantom from the past. He propels the narrative towards a temporal fragmentation: past-present-future. He initiates a re-circulation of vast elements from Andrea's past, Robert's past, Andrew's past, and his own, forming an assemblage of memories. We take this assemblage at heart. Within this assemblage is a surging strength, a life affirming message that there is no death in love.

2 | Films like From the Clouds to the Resistance (1979) have impermeable entry points. The same feeling emanates from the works of Hollis Frampton. I've only seen two Framptons: (nostalgia) (1971) and Zorn's Lemma (1970). Aside from permeating the first layer of language, a thick one, From the Clouds to the Resistance creates a departure from solitary contemplation through monologue and a departure from conversation through dialogue. Solitary contemplation and conversation are powerful dramatic devices used by narrative filmmakers to create characters: their expression and gestures. They can be as animated as characters from surrealist films or as realistic as characters from Italian Neorealism. In Straub-Huillet's From the Cloud to the Resistance, these narrative devices are reduced to their basic components approaching a theater-like performance. Solitary contemplation is reduced to monologue: the character becomes vessels of literary and political messages. Their strict and rigid monologues create a specific immobility in narrative flow giving rise to a site of resistance. These immobilizing techniques make the films impermeable. The audience, habituated by preconceive notions of narrative fluidity and sensational flow of affects, confronts this disabling anti-narrative style promoting a sense of loss and disorientation. The film's impermeability lies within these anti-narrative techniques.

3 | Some films are conscious of its techniques (style becomes visible) while some clothe these technicalities by occluding them within a grand narrative (style becomes invisible). The grand narrative encompasses these minute and microscopic stylistic impulses. Some films, on the other hand, proceed with a complete  exposition of its stylistic dimension. To make this observation concrete, we must draw examples. Lav Diaz' Norte, The End of History (2013) and Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) have subsumed the force of the long take within their grand narratives. There is an observable 'invisibility' of the long take in both films. In Norte... (2013), the long takes are calm and tenderly displayed. They fulfill the narrative's demand to situate all characters within its total mise-en-scene - the long take as totalizing style. This play between narrative and film technique rolls out easily in Jeanne Dielman... Akerman creates a single layer from which all events takes place. Narrative subsumes the stylistic demand of the long take. This makes the two films less demanding and 'easier' to watch than films using long takes disjointed from the narrative. One great example of a film with a long take disjointed from the narrative is Whammy Alcazaren's Colossal (2012). The long take in Colossal departs completely from its narrative. The narrative of the film can be found in its aural layer: the voice over. The voice over houses the message of the film. The visual layer of the film, on the other hand, takes a different route. It houses the long take. The challenge for the viewers is to negotiate this departure, this disjoint. This negotiation is agonizing mainly because one of the typical routes for thinking, given this situation, is to create a cognitive connection between this long take and the narrative. The gaping hole Alcazaren created is an experiment in thinking and experience. Through the surfacing of this disjoint narrative and stylistic device, Alcazaren poses a challenge to his viewers to subsume to this orientation in order for us to release thinking. Stylistically challenging films insist on reorientation and reordering of world view, which Alcazaren fulfilled.

||| Playlist #2: Dreamlands ||| 

Once Upon a Time (Lawrence Jordan / USA / 1974)

  1. Cico Buff by Cocteau Twins [link
  2. [album] Nocturne by Wild Nothing [link]
  3. Evangeline by Cocteau Twins [link]
  4. Lower Your Eyelids to Die with the Sun by M83 [link]
  5. Kangaroo by This Mortal Coil [link]
  6. Waves become Wings by This Mortal Coil [link]
  7. Galaxies by Eyedress [link]
  8. Sweetness and Light by Lush [link]
  9. Water Music Study by Teiji Ito [link]
  10. Earth by Third Ear Band [link]
  11. Fire by Third Ear Band [link]
  12. Air by Third Ear Band [link]
  13. Water by Third Ear Band [link]

 #11, Marey <-> Moire (Joost Rekveld / Netherlands / 1999)