July 23rd, 10:01
Dear Olivier, I’ve been gathering thoughts and forms to start over a conversation we began back in 2018 under the spell and the title: Parler l’Ombre — as in to speak shadow, more than to speak from the shadows. It is significant that we chose to take out the proposition and move directly to the noun, towards the shadow rather than its representation. Particularly in regards to cinema, a cinema of the shadows would be one that rejects the tyranny of light and embraces the imprecise borders of the shadows as an accomplice. More than a conversation, Parler l’ombre has become a way of being and making. Here is an extract:
If we consider cinema to be an art of sight, an art dependent on light, then a cinema that refutes the Lights (and its “Enlightenment”), must reconsider what the cinematic machine is capable of doing beyond casting of light as the privileged form of representation. Unlike what is traditionally believed, I like to think that cinema is not only an art of sight but rather that other dimensions of our sensorial apparatus are in motion alongside its engines. Experimental cinema, frequently cast in the role of misfit to so-called narrative cinema, has historically explored the medium’s shady margins and transformative strength in re-shaping our relationships with space and time as well as with the bodies that we co-inhabit these dimensions with.
I would like to take Starhawk’s Dreaming the Darkas a means to consider what Filming (in) the Dark may be. Starhawk’s Dark can be taken as the nebulous matter that puts us at risk, that has no form (yet), no identity, nor shape – all that was rejected by the Modernity of Light. The Dark is not a space nor a figure, neither an ideal nor ideology, it lives in secret and is whispered only in specific conditions, by specific bodies, in situations that elicit and confirm the spiritual dimension of being. It cannot be everywhere as it is always dependent on a somewhere. And it seems that it is precisely this dimension of the “nebulous matter that puts us at risk” that troubles the order of those who trust the Light. I would go so far as to say that it is precisely the fear of risk, inherent to being alive, that has risen the prison walls of modern life.
We could think of the colonial massacres in the Americas or even the witch hunts in Europe as crusades against those who reject the Light, who reject the extermination of risk, who are not reigned from above, but rather from below, whose land does not belong to them but rather who belong to the land.So for me the idea of filming (in) the dark entails a rejection of the all seeing eye who sees from above, who grants meaning and names, rather it knows that a camera is a perspective and hence a body that can only see partially and is traversed by what it films because it is there. And because this translation of being there is so difficult and imprecise, there is always a cryptic dimension to the films, as they cannot make explicit something that is as subtle, tactile and situated as being in the presence of.
To film (in) the dark or mettre en récit l’ombre would beg us to untame our sight in conjunction with our other senses, our capacities to see and to sense, to prolong the experience of presence or, in the words of Rosi Braidotti, to “rethink the corporeal roots of human intelligence”.
Three years have passed since we wrote Parler l’Ombre as a conversation. Yet, a great part of me is still there. Trying to sense, to be attentive to rather than merely seeing. The nebulae of the present hour is thick. It is July 2021, the year already forecast to be the second greatest on record for carbon emissions. Wildfires ignite everywhere. Torrential rains flood even the quietest cities in the European fortress. Thousands of swimming bodies risk their lives coming to the shores of this very fortress. Meanwhile, a global disease, as viral as the system it attacks, kills and sickens thousands of human bodies every day. And yet the only common dream seems to be immunity, nothing else. On the radio, the national health service asks for “people to avoid risky situations and be aware of risky behavior around them”. The most direct translation of any sci-fi novel describing an authoritarian planet that transforms people into police agents. Again, the fear of risk, raising the prison walls of modern life.
After speaking with you today about The Living Journal I noted: Western systems of representation have alienated us, separated us from the body and hence from the earth. A return to the body is a return to the earth. My father, Guilherme Vaz, whose music and thinking you know so well by now from my films and our conversations, used to say that the West has not yet encountered what it calls Art. Rather, it avoids it constantly. I think the true manifestations of we call Art exist in the vibration of the living, beyond any representation.