Monday, November 29, 2010

The Sonosopher: Some Thoughts

For the DVD that will be out next week, I wrote an essay called "Fixing the Sonosopher." Here a couple of the thoughts that came to me again after seeing the film today:

Fixing the Sonosopher
by Scott Abbott

About three years ago I was bathing with a young man whose development at that time had a wonderful grace about it. . . . As it happened we had just seen, in Paris, the youth pulling a thorn out of his foot. . . . Resting his foot on a stool, to dry it, and glancing at himself as he did so in a large mirror, he was reminded of the statue; he smiled and told me what he had seen. . . . He raised his foot a second time, to show me; but the attempt, very predictably, failed. In confusion he raised his foot a third time, a fourth, again and again, a dozen times: in vain. He was incapable of reproducing the movement. . . . From that day, or from that very moment, forth the young man underwent an unbelievable transformation. He began spending days in front of the mirror; and one after the other all his charms deserted him. (From Heinrich von Kleist’s “The Puppet Theatre,” translation by David Constantine)

            About three weeks ago I had lunch with a man of my age whose performances as a “Sonosopher” have a wonderful, if sometimes terrible, grace about them. We spoke about a film he had recently collaborated on. After seeing himself through the camera’s eye, Alex said, he has been unable to reproduce the movements, the gestures, the sounds the camera recorded. At least he can no longer do so naturally. His charms, he fears, have deserted him.
            I mentioned the young man in Kleist’s essay.
            Exactly, he said. I’ve been robbed of the grace of un-self-conscious movement. I’ve been pinned to a specimen board for observation.
            You feel like you’ve been fixed? I asked.
Yes, he answered. The film has fixed me, neutered me. How do I continue? My work is process, my media are temporal, sonorous, fleeting.
To what extent is that true? I wondered later. Has this film, in fact, fixed the Sonosopher?
As with all works of art, from one version to the next there’s a sense of panic brought on by the knowledge that the composer or writer or painter or filmmaker will have to settle on the final, fixed version, knowing all the time that it is just one of an infinite number of versions. Documentary films of a certain kind work to make their audiences forget that fact, constructing a seamless and supposedly truthful narrative. This, I take it, is what Alex most feared.


Aaron Caldiero said...

This is why the bard and oral tradition are so important! All media is intrinsically a fixed point in time. To transcend this one needs the constantly changing of the guard (avant guarde!).