Welcome to PT2 of my Cinematic Investigations Log for YR 2014! If you missed PT1, you can catch up here.
Before moving on to #18 in this collection, and as a transition toward it, I’d like to make an attempt at generating a synthesis of the two films already endorsed (A FIELD IN ENGLAND X CLOSED CURTAIN). These days we’ve so internalized the ‘freedom of choice’ offered to ‘consumers’ by Free Market Capitalism, not to mention the aid our technology has provided in the obsessive search for ‘The Very Best ____ Market-wide’, that treating synthesis between two seemingly distinct things as an exercise can be quite valuable in opening up different ways of seeing and experiencing, particularly with regards to art. ‘World-views create worlds just as much as worlds create world-views’, someone smarter than me once said. I’ll let you be the value judge in this attempt at generating synthesis. It’s a game!
I’ll start with the suggestion that capital R Reality is composed of many interpenetrating dimensions, which correlate to one another as expressed in the ancient Hermetic Maxim ‘As Above So Below’. There is something fractal about the nature of things. Experience (or LIFE or MENTALITY) is present at all levels. The experiences of 1D can only ever be a partial realization of the experiences in 2D, and so on as far ‘up’ as it goes.
Another way to state this idea would be to say that each atom or particle or element in the physical world has a corresponding pole in the mental world. There is no separation of ‘soul’ and ‘body’, so one cannot be considered a byproduct of the other.
In addition to experience being present at every level, I will add that FREE WILL is present at every level. This makes our reality a PROCESS REALITY, wherein individual occurrences on various planes ‘cohere’ in order to achieve satisfaction of some mutual goal. A goal is formulated based on VALUE. An acorn becomes an oak, a fetus becomes a child. This is cooperation. Working Harder Together.
We’re used to thinking of causation strictly in the material sense, because it is the type of causation that we can measure using our current scientific tools. However, the above suggestion brings formal causation (acorn becomes oak), and final causation (teleology, goal-setting) back into the picture of ‘why stuff happens’.
This brings me to Carl Jung and his conception of Archetypes and Alfred North Whitehead and his conception of Eternal Objects. I think these two ideas are expressions of the same process, for Jung in the psychological realm and for Whitehead in his post-modern cosmological/metaphysical schema. (side note: interesting that Whitehead is the name of the main character in A Field in England, and he is an ‘Astrologer’s assistant’...a coincidence, synchronicity, or intentional reference?)
Given the above suggestions, what are Archetypes and Eternal Objects and how do they operate in our world? According to Jung and Whitehead (or at least according to my very incomplete interpretation of their ideas), Archetypes and Eternal Objects are essentially entities that exist outside of the experiences of linear time, but inform the shape of what occurrences happen in linear time through the preservation, calculation, and presentation of POSSIBILITY and VALUE. They can be thought of as memory nets that collect individual occurrences through time and sort them based on their value for certain goals and processes. There is more information content in an individual Archetype than in any 3D moment of linear time, so often expression happens across multiple dimensions (as an example: a synchronistic relationship between weather patterns and an individual human psychological experience, as can be seen explored during A Field in England).
A positive aspect of the expression of these entities in human experience can be found in the effects of any Genuine Magic in the occult. A Field in England is certainly interested in this theme. Dark Magic pretends at control of immaterial forces through spellbinding (a psychopathic tactic), but genuine magic reduces human agency in the magical act to its ability to approach the surface of an Eternal Object (ARCHETYPE) by consciously modifying its subjective content to align with supra-personal goals. This is a discipline of subtraction (removing FALSE PERSONALITY) in order to ‘clear the channel’ of habitual debris. The magical force, in this case, is the information content of the atemporal higher dimensional entity (Eternal Object/Archetype) allowed to flow like a current through a 3D surface that has deliberately modified its shape to conduct this flow. This allows the 3D human subject a temporary active role as ‘the electric heel of Zeus’. Heavy emphasis on temporary, there...
A negative aspect of the expression of Archetype and Eternal Object in our experience of reality has to do with the destructive quality of evil, as explored microcosmically in Closed Curtain. Eternal Objects manifest themselves in 3D constantly, but usually through the force of unconscious habit. Most individuals are not magicians (whether of the Dark Magic or Genuine Magic schools). The Truth is ‘what happens’, a series of experiences or events, but this Truth is assembled for humans through countless slightly different subjective lenses, all of which tend toward the favoring of energy conservation as a default. Energy conservation on an individual level = the highest possibility for self-preservation and endurance with the least possible effort. This is the general value equation by which animals and most humans almost mechanically pattern their actions and choices. This unconscious process serves many Archetypal goals just fine (the utilization of subjective value to attain higher value), but being largely unconsciously chosen these goals can also be easily usurped to serve Evil at the expense and harm of the collective via selfish and parasitic individual drives. When a parasite dominates a body and drives it to general destruction this can be called Genuine Evil.
Check the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas: ‘If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.’
The ability to gradually make the unconscious conscious through discipline is an activity that is, as far as we know, exclusive to life at the human developmental level on earth. This activity increases individual free will by increasing the recognition of possibilities via the processes of Eternal Objects. It takes loads of energy, but isn’t a requirement. If we do not undertake this task, Genuine Evil has an entryway into our psyches via the concept Jung coined as SHADOW.
All this being said, an important distinction: Archetypes are CONSTRUCTIVE entities, even when they manifest destructively in any given dimension, even when they utilize apparent evil to clear the way for the influx of higher value. However, Genuine Evil (a sort of antithesis to Genuine Magic) is the total dominance of destruction in experience (CHAOS) and is not useful to constructive Archetypal processes beyond simply collecting the memory of factual occurrences in an environment of general meaninglessness. Genuine Evil thwarts a cooperative process working toward mutual satisfaction to meaningless individual facts that can be rearranged to suit self-serving needs only, and even then only temporarily.
Jafar Panahi’s artistic output from the beginning of his career up until his arrest could be viewed as such a cooperative, goal driven process of realization. His arrest and sentence locked him into an Evil dominated experience, and the obvious effect is the breakdown and dissolution of goals that were working toward some sort of satisfaction through his output. This is a still growing ‘Body of Work’ that has been given the death sentence, contained, and left to rot. Qui Bono? Certainly not Panahi, and certainly not his audience.
In summary: an individual can choose to consciously and creatively align oneself with Archetypal processes under play and in constant permutation by a) recognizing them through their shapes and values (POSSIBILITIES), and b) playing an active role in an aspect of their expression in 3D space (RESPONSE-ABILITY, GENUINE MAGIC). This is a cooperative discipline. This is Working Harder Together.
One can also choose to attempt individual control over Archetypal forces by a) obscuring their symbolic representations of information content by arresting symbols between false binaries of choice (THE TWO TOWERS), or b) isolating individuals who were previously part of meaningful processes, and dominate their experience with chaos by ‘fixing the facts around the policy’ in illusory constructs (PROBLEM--REACTION--SOLUTION, GENUINE EVIL).
This is essentially the effect we see in our current world when individual psychopaths and sociopaths seek control over their experiences through various manipulation tactics. Psychopaths don’t work together, they feed their own need and the compounding result of many of these self-serving entities flooding a human body is increased chaos, breakdown of meaning, and general destruction. This form of parasitism has a way of reflecting our own unconscious destructive patterns (SHADOW) back at us, so that we unintentionally aid in the magnification our own personal suffering and goal-sabotage. Soon we cannot see others, we are isolated units floating in meaninglessness. We have only reference to ourselves and project our pain outward onto our environment.
This is The Darkness, this is Genuine Evil. The next film in the series is focused on addressing the Chaos head on. Read on, if you dare...
18) A Spell to Ward off the Darkness (Dir. Ben Rivers, Ben Russell // UK, USA)
Ben Russell (BR) is from US of A. He is an experimental filmmaker who likes to shoot on film and ask questions about film. His creations have an affinity for ethnography and tend to blur the lines between fiction and documentary. However, unlike ethnography, which cheats around the problem of THE LIE OF REPRESENTATION by aligning itself with the sciences, Ben Russell likes to tackle this problem head on as an ‘art problem’ and organizes his films to investigate various experiences of knowing/not-knowing. He uses editing to question whether cultural codes are written into both space and time.
Ben Rivers (BR) is from UK. He is an experimental filmmaker who likes to shoot on film. His creations have an affinity for ethnography, and tend to blur the lines between fiction and documentary. He is particularly interested in marginalized humans embedded in a larger environment, and the ways in which this environment is modified to reflect the inner experiences of the subject. His subjects create worlds within worlds, and Ben Rivers films are intended to be worlds and not theses. He views his process of editing as taking material images that have no meaning alone and giving them a rhythm that enables them to become a unique film experience and not a pretend representation of something else.
In YR 2009, BR + BR toured with a gallery program of their individual films titled We Cannot Exist In This World Alone. Both filmmakers clearly have overlapping affinities, but their approach is distinct. For this program they chose to not distinguish authorship of their individual work. This was for the audience to discern, if they so chose.
In YR 2014, BR + BR decided to meld their individual approaches even further. They created a film together called A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness. Keeping consistent with one of their overlapping process goals, ASTWOTD is both materially a film and literally a spell.
The shape of this particular spell is a circle surrounding a triangle. The opening shot is captured at the center of a lake and pans slowly. The sky is blue above. The water is grey below. At the center of the frame wrapped all around the horizon is land and it is pitch black. The land may consume you, the viewer, most certainly will consume you. However, perhaps the spell will allow for some autonomy before it does so?
An ideal way to experience this spell would be with the opening shot (CIRCLE) on display covering all of the wall surface of a circular room, visible from all angles. The following three distinct sequences of the film (each a surface, their intersecting moments forming the points of the TRIANGLE) would form a triangle inside the circular room. The viewer, mobile throughout the space, would be free to choose any of the three sequences in any order they liked, and titrate between them. However, even without this interactive-editing set up, the film still beckons for our involvement.
The three surfaces of the spell’s triangle are simple explorations anchored by a single subject: black metal musician Rob AA Lowe, who roves in an out of focus in each environment.
a. On one surface, the audience witnesses Intentional Community: the geometry of a hut, the distribution of duties, the exploration of music, a conversation regarding conflict resolution and efforts made for the supra-personal. One woman discusses Temporary Autonomous Zones (T.A.Z.) in connection to rave culture. These people on film are two real Intentional Communities brought together for a week of filming, actually working together materially and conceptually, with a few ‘replays’ of organic conversations that happened off screen. Part of the experience of this surface of the spell has to do with the audience’s active investigation of the parameters intuited from the screen interactions and transposing them to their own patterns of living. Is a genuine sense of autonomy against The Darkness a result, and what would necessarily be modified in my own patterns in order to accommodate such a cooperative flow? What work would I have to do in order to actively participate in equitable and volitional information distribution? What roles would I specifically play? What value would I bring to the functioning of the whole?
b. The next surface is pure Whitman solitude. Rob Lowe is embedded in an open environment. Now the questions are simplified further: what are my basic material needs? What limitations does my environment impose? What limitations does my solitude impose? What does the Free Will space afforded between these two sets of limitations feel like, and what do I want to do with it? By the end of this segment, the actions of Rob Lowe make it very clear that this surface offers up the possibility for autonomy, but it too is temporary in nature.
c. The final surface is a black metal concert. Rob Lowe is a guitarist and singer, and the whole band has painted their faces white. The sweat melts channels into their faces. Lowe lets out a primal scream. The music pummels and the camera flows around the space in nearly one continuous take. The effect is hypnotizing. The type of T.A.Z. explored here is of the Dionysian variety. Instead of an voluntary cooperation between unequal egos in order to foster a conscious group ‘superego’ that is participatory instead of imposed by a culture-at-large (a.), this sort of social T.A.Z. is about the dissolution of ego into a spontaneous and sensual feeling together. The individual is dissolved entirely and there is no separation between entities. It is extremely liberating, and extremely temporary. This section of film features a most successful editing effect to foster this feeling: at one point a song seems to end, but as the camera floats over the audience in silence they are still each bobbing together in rhythm, slowly, slowly, one massive organism.
Can A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness truly succeed as Genuine Magic? Can a landscape transform into something that frees the individual from their preconceived norms? Temporarily, yes, and only if the individual transitions out of the initial time-conditioned flow experience into a continuous life dance: affirm, deny, reconcile. A triangle within a circle.
A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness can be found streaming on Fandor.
Thanks for reading Subject 6400’s Cinematic Investigations Log, YR 2014. Stay tuned for next week, when I attempt to endorse more movies using less words!