Day Nine to Seventeen

October 5th

For a brief moment, imagining the possibility of no images streaming under my thumb. Antonioni has suggested that Red Desert was not anti-industrial or a critique of the effects of technology on wellbeing or communication. He seems to adopt an ambivalent stance between a technological future and an idealised past. Dalle Vacche has suggested that the episode of immobility Giuliana’s son experiences may be read as a psychosomatic response to an excess of technology in his environment. Giuliana comforts him with a fairy-tale of a young girl swimming along an idyllic coast, far from any trace of civilisation.

Giuliana’s neurosis and her son’s psychosomatic malady – it is implied – result from the industrial landscape that, as Dalle Vacche suggests, oscillate between the technological present and an allegory about damnation: distinctly Dantean. “In a sense, Ravenna’s modern look is only one side of an environment slipping back into ancient icons of mankind’s plight between heaven and hell, much in the same manner that Giuliana dreams of herself sinking into quicksand during a restless night.”

The past two days have primarily been occupied with the tedious work of administration and application filling. Amid the monotony, I’ve got some more reading done and spent today painting the section of the cloak pictured here; I’ll come back to this later. I find the beginning of a day spent painting challenging until some kind of rhythm is found – and once the momentum is established, the sun is setting. I have this costume garment set up in the studio and have photographed it. I’m trying to relay it without too much affectation, without scrape or drip. After staring at the folds, I spent a small amount of time looking again at a scene from Red Desert. I find looking at and selecting incomplete process images useful; they often suggest or are suggestive – sometimes affirming initial choices, more often than not, describing the need for an alternative approach.

October 6th

For whatever reason, I decided to read a section from Ranciere’s Ignorant Schoolmaster this morning – perhaps a sense of doubt – but a few lines within the section on Rhetorical Madness appear relevant. Specifically, the rhetorician uses the art of reason to annihilate reason under the guise of reason. He discusses this regarding conservative value systems and how those with power use “well-cloaked” authoritarian arguments that are beneficial only to themselves and mainly used to oppose any progressive reform. These words “that throw a veil, pleasant or sinister as needed, over things, the sophistries that serve to associate any proposition for reform with the spectre of anarchy.”

Perhaps the reason I returned to this section was the “well-cloaked” line and a loose relationship with the image from Canto XIII of the Inferno that has caught my attention? Here’s an excerpt from Ciaran Carson’s translation: “The lurid cloaks in which they were encased, […] Without was dazzling filigree of gold; within was lead, of such a density, that Frederick’s copes were lighter sevenfold.”

Aside from the subtext, my material interest during this residency is to consider how painting and video operate in the context of installation; how the site and its contexts might be entangled in this dialogue between images. That the site is a former place of education has given me much to work with – and possibly the reason I opened the Ignorant Schoolmaster today – but not necessarily in terms of its specific history just yet.

Anyway, there’s a section in The Ignorant Schoolmaster broadly related to painting and methods of having a student understand the image-as-language through mimicry, and then being in full possession of that knowledge: “It’s a matter of making the emancipated: making people capable of saying, me too, I’m a painter, a statement that contains nothing in the way of pride, only the reasonable feeling of power that belongs to any reasonable being. “There is no pride in saying out loud: Me too, I’m a painter! Pride consists in saying softly to others: You neither, you aren’t a painter. “Me too, I’m a painter” means: me too, have a soul, I have feelings to communicate.”

October 7th

Today has been spent splicing together scenes, sounds and text, in this case, excerpts from Dante’s Broken Hammer by Graham Harman. Although there is reading around the work – and this is where the installation begins – my hope is that the research is not hung or projected on the walls. So, while it is necessary to add this text now – for whatever reason – The sequencing and pace will be rearranged, and most of this will probably be cut and set to a different rhythm. While I’d hope that any text will work within the overall structure, it must also function autonomously, allowing for points of departure for chains of association – somewhere between documentary, psychoanalytic session and cinematic experience.

Harman reminds us that Inferno is dominated by fraud. Indeed, the Inferno is as subtle as possible in distinguishing between numerous different forms of fraud, making it almost a world of its own. He suggests that the nature of fraud is to fabricate the appearance of a love that is actually non-existent, akin to the infamous email scams of our own day: “My name is Tesoro, the only survivor from a family of nine. I narrowly escaped from the tsunami disaster which affected my eardrum and claimed the life of my entire family.” The pantomime of a disaster to manoeuvre a sleight of hand…

October 9th

When the spaces of a film are photographed and edited together in a sequence, of course, there’s a suggestion they are or should be interpreted as a totality, or sub-totality, revealing an evident order – a macro-structure maybe? The film can present an illusion of one self-contained location but often will be photographed across several. The actual proximity is always veiled, withdrawn by necessity. The entry and exit points in the frame suggest movement through an interior space. They are bi-directional, leaving open paths for the viewer or characters to exit or return. I’m starting to get a sense of what the work I’m making on this residency is or might be.

October 11th

Hours lost in reflections. I’ve made some progress with this painting today and considered how these different kinds of images (painting, photograph, cinema) might work together with the Art Arcadia space. No conclusions; I doubt if there will be. In 1964 Antonioni commented: “we know that underneath the displayed image there is another one more faithful to reality, and underneath this second there is a third one and a fourth under the previous one. All the way to the true image of that reality, absolute, mysterious, that nobody will ever see. Or all the way to the dissolution of any reality. Abstract cinema, therefore, would make sense.” In its compositions and colouration, Red Desert appears to make an advance toward this kind of abstraction.

The street where Corrado finds Giuliana in her shop in Red Desert is named Via Alighieri, a medieval street that, although finely preserved, appears desaturated, uneasy, threatening. While Dante is guided through the landscape of Hell by Virgil, Giuliana is, by contrast, rudderless, seeking some kind of attachment while being unable to recover emotionally from an ‘accident,’ from her isolation and alienation induced by the industrial surround of Ravenna.

October 13th

A long day, loose connections and non-sequiturs. Although I chose at an early stage of the residency to give some consideration to a particular image, one ‘scene’ from the Comedy, and then how Dante’s work has been interpreted in film; through each of these translations and media – and to some extent the site on Palace Street – the subject of ‘guidance’ appears significant to me. I enjoy how this kind of archetypal relationship and its modelling, in all its various forms, is unpicked in The Ignorant Schoolmaster. Choosing to remake images from cinema (Red Desert) using digital models, where time is erased, vacuumed out, in some sense, has something to say about this kind of relationship. Pulses, cuts or breaks are unnecessary or inherently evident in this kind of image – duration is produced through interactive relations, not directly from editing. Antonioni’s neo-realism departed from those typical ‘white telephone’ movies of the 1930s, escaped from the studios and into real towns and real countrysides to establish the importance of place in his cinema. Although, in Red Desert, the ‘natural landscape is then made artificial through the direct colouring he employed and the composition in-camera.

I painted reflections, brushed up leaves, blew up balloons for my boys and watched ‘Ada Twist, Scientist,’ with them: their new cartoon addiction. Somewhere, I cut together a few sequences of subtitles with sound to try and get some sense of pacing with the video I’m making. Except for a small section in one of these two examples, the sound seems too overbearing. Single lines of text are more than enough at any one time.