Cinema can propose many more ways for us to experience beyond the visible, through gestures that reorient us toward these “other dimensions.” After spending time with the contributions to “Peculiar Forms,” I found that rather than “casting light” on a certain precision and clarity around the political, the political emerges from their respective emphasis on the peculiar, in the myriad senses of the word — hyper-specificity, intimacy, and situatedness as it intersects with the non-normative, the strange, the eccentric. You will not locate in the following texts explicit formulations for how to make political cinema, illuminations of a contemporary issue and a prescription for a way forward, and not all the contributions are about cinema, per se. Rather, you are invited into other, murkier dimensions: the disorder of experiments, the foggy space of inspirations, manifestations of anxieties, erotic homages, radicalizing encounters, critical methods, and, as Diane Severin Nguyen states in her interview, “the melancholy of these acts of translation and exchange.”
I found the contributors’ politics expressed through their investments in the peculiar, in alterity; an emphasis on that which is weird. For me, the prioritization of the aberrant, the queer, the unaccepted is where these thinkers opened up the possibility of an otherwise. This is where the politics of attention are enacted, modes of questioning legitimacy are formulated, asking what is worthy of our gaze, and our sentience. This power of art to point to potentials, to novel ways to see and to make, to invest in unexplored experiences and relations — this is where the political lies. A context for creation that allows for experiments with form to take place, for strange shapes to be made, and heterogenous objects to be brought into unexpected proximities. Centering a peripheral position, a peripheral desire, proposes that we reorient, deviate, and invent new forms.
For the launch event of this issue, we’ve organized a screening and conversation in London entitled “Teen Spirits,” during which Morgan Quaintance and Diane Severin Nguyen will speak to the formative years of teenage life as the burgeoning moment of artistic and political awakening. Teenagehood is fundamentally peculiar. In their contributions, both artists mined the awkwardness and alienation inherent in that period which lead them to seek radical and lasting inspirations, and aspire for transcendental experiences which informed their notions of what is possible in both life and through aesthetics.
I’d never specifically thought about form as a personal concern, yet these contributions have taught me that form outlines ideology. It is the shape of our stories and desires, often of our own lives. The shape itself expresses our politics, the way one moves through the world, creates relationships through it, collaborates, and molds it through image and sound. I am grateful to all of the contributing artists who have generously offered us their very personal and very peculiar experiences of seeing, thinking, being, and making.
Aily Tanaka Nash