Sunday, October 17, 2010

Second Field Trip

After a long week and night of tossing and turning with no sleep, I was up and on the road by 7:30am Saturday to drive a gigantic van of 10 students for MJ's second trip.

This trip felt very important somehow, with the serene autumn sun and fog in the early morning. I actually got to pay more attention to the landscape by driving.

First stop was a lovely quiet site, called Hopewell Mound. Oddly enough, just across the street from a correctional facility.

I have a special affection for these places as my grandfather was an amateur archaeologist and spent his retirement digging and preserving local indian sites and artifacts. It is comforting to know that someone has saved these places.

Next was a Dental Museum in Bainbridge, where there happened to be a lovely fall festival going on just outside. When walking in to the Historical Museum, I found the adding machine to pair with my typewriter- mirrored beveled glass on the sides and all. Of course I found that very typewriter in the next room, along with an Edison Kinetoscope powered by a rigged-up gas magic lantern.

In the Dental Museum, besides piles of sadistic dental equipment, were shelves of reference books. I picked up my favorite one on anesthesia.

The next stop was the main reason I felt this to be a monumental trip. My parents and I went to the Serpent Mound when I was about 10 years old. It was the only time I had ever been in Ohio before I came out to look at grad schools. It was such an interesting feeling to attempt to put together impressions from so long ago. Were they accurate? Was it truly special in any way to revisit such a place?

Afterwards there was a wild chase on dirt roads through the mountains, stopping to see a burned out, charred and twisted house.

The last stop was a funeral and human carriage museum. There was a lovely light inside, and a deep sadness, of course. I kept watching mirrors and reflections.

As I walked around, I noticed reflections even more, as I attempted to take photographs in dim lighting on glass. More and more it seemed important as these ghostly figures and preparations for the afterlife became intermingled with our own faces

This entire time I was affected, consciously and subconsciously, by recently viewing a film for the first time by my now beloved filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. I had been reading a book before with incredible quotes about his work and just watched The Sacrifice.

Several sequences affected me so strongly, getting to that space of a dream, in a dream- those intense emotions that one can hardly conjure up again upon awakening. It seems he has filmed all of my childhood memories, anxieties, daydreams, and nightmares. Finally I have found something that so truly and deeply affects me.

Some of his quotes:
Nostalgia, he said, 'is not the same as a longing (toska) for the past. Nostalgia is a longing for the space of time that has passed in vain.' The reason, he explained, is that the 'instant' of the present can be experienced only 'when we fall into an abyss: we are in a state between the instant (of life) and the future (of the end)'.

'…All I knew was that I kept having the same dream about the place where I was born. I dreamt of the house. It was as if I was entering, or more precisely not entering but circling around it. There was some strange shift […] I thought this feeling had some material sense, that one cannot just be persecuted by such a dream. There was something in it, something very important. And I thought, because of something I'd read, that I would be able to free myself from my feelings becuase it was quite a grave feeling, something nostalgic. Something was pulling me back into the past, leaving nothing ahead. […] Well, I thought, let me write a story. However it all gradually began to take form as a film. Moreover a strange thing happend. I indeed was freed from these impressions, but this psychotherapy turned out to be worse than the cause. When I lost these feelings I felt that I had, in a sense, lost myself. Everything was complicated. These feelings disappeared, but nothing formed in their place. Although, to be honest, I had somewhere supposed something of the kind, and even in the screenplay it was written that one shouldn't return to old places, whatever it might be: one's home, the place one was born, or the people one has met. And although that was thought up theoretically, it turned out to be quite accurate. The main thing: it turned out that this sense and idea of the film was not at all to free oneself of memories.'

As I thought of this, and the mirrored photographs, and the longing and searching for something intangible of the past that one does not even know whether one should visit, I continued to make my series of videos begun a few days ago on the act of making: a plate submersed into the murky depths of the acid bath, cranking through the press, the lights and reflection in the mirror and instant darkness of the copy camera with industrial vacuum sounds and puzzling childhood photographs- all ghostly memories seen through mechanical reproduction. It is about our interactions with these images. How to show this without being too obvious or simply looking like a 'how to' video?

More next time...

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