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lunedì 29 dicembre 2014

The intensity of pictures

I've been reading some poems of the Death Notebook of Anne Sexton.
I paused in her Hurry Up Please It's Time, named after that repeated verse in the second part of Eliot's The Waste Land. It is a verse that brings in the daily hurry through which time goes by - and how else could it pass by? Indigestion, buying bracelets, a dinner invitation on a warm day, ketchup. It is time "yet waiting to die we are the same thing".
Hurry up please it's time was the name of an Opera in a Parking Lot 5 years ago where I was a Heraclita, one of many, having the obscure perhaps being transformed in gender and number. Those old women we were, bleeding as if there were "twenty people in my belly"... they were rushing into waiting, rushing into being ready for something else. Slow like a butoh, I walked around the stage shouting few things. Maybe I was immortal, not immortality of achievement, but immortality of waiting. "Hi-ho the derry-o, we all fall down". Mortality is not about death - it is maybe about fear - but it is about waiting. The mortal is under an unknown spell - this is why I proclaimed that no star holds up my future, the insects do.
The intensity of the picture is enough for me. I don't mind how sad or upsetting a film or a book is - to have a convincing picture is the pinnacle of overcoming the uninspiring. In pictures also dwells Coetzee in his Elizabeth Costello episodes. Dialogues are indeed sometimes explicit scaffolding for pictures. Anne Sexton is summoned in the poem: "Interrogator: One day is enough to perfect a man. Anne: I watered and fed the plant."
Peter Handke, in his Essay on Tiredness, is also summoned by an interrogator of sorts. Handke speaks of the heartlessness of his attempt to content himself with "investigating the pictures, or images, that my problem engenders in me, with making myself at home in each picture and translating it as heartlessly as possible into language with all its twists and turns and overtones." Then the interrogator comes in asking about Handke's remarks on the tiredness of working in common and comparing it with the tiredness of solitary work. Handke replies: "When I told you all that, it wasn't for the sake of contrast, but of the pure picture; if such a contrast nevertheless forces itself on the reader's attention, it must mean that I haven't succeeded in communicating a pure picture. In the following, I shall have to take greater care than ever to avoid playing one thing off, even tacitly, against another or magnifying one thing at the expense of something else, in line with the Manichaean all-good or all-bad system, which is dominant nowadays even in what used to be the most open-minded, opinion-free mode of discourse, namely storytelling." Storytelling play on differences. Or rather, in affirmation. We bring something to the fore - in doing that, nothing is said about what remained at the backstage. Negation, in storytelling, is not a non-picture, is another picture with specific details to it. It is not a ready-made picture, dependent on an opposite picture. Negation always invoke the issue of how something is negated. The contrast is an after-effect.
Negation takes place within the space of intensities.
I suppose I think in pictures, in plots and not in oppositions: to affirm rather than to dwell in contrasts. Ontoscopy, maybe; we can find a picture to see something, maybe because perceiving is always creative. I wonder whether this is a non-religious, maybe mystical way of pursuing salvation: there is nothing in itself to be avoided, it is always a matter of how. The adverbs attract me. Pictures. Not substances. I don't believe in them. I don't believe in picture-less substances. In particular, I don't believe in structured negation - that ultimate substance with a ready-made intensity. It presents itself as if it is just the opposite, or rather, a opposite. To me, the macabre, the monstrous, the dark are themselves differences while negation make them all about the same thing. Determinate negation is the opposite of a picture. I'm not sure arguments can always be replaced with pictures - I bet they nevertheless do the complete service. Not the whining.
The picture is in line with the question. How. Questions are what friction pictures, shake them up. Not answers, not contrasts. Sexton closes the poem writing about the intensity of asking:
"Of course earth is a stranger,
we pull at its arms
and still it won't speak.
The sea is worse.
It comes in, falling to its knees
but we can't translate the language.
It is only known that they are here to worship,
to worship the terror of the rain,
the mud and all its people,
the body itself,
working like a city,
the night and its slow blood,
the autumn sky, Marry blue.
But more than that,
to worship the question itself,
though the buildings burn
and the big people topple over in a faint.
Bring a flashlight, Ms Dog,
and look in every corner of the brain
and ask and ask and ask
until the kingdom,
however queer,
will come."

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