sketchbook: Take this Waltz (2011, Sarah Polley) and Europe, she Loves (Jan Gassmann, 2016)

Gesa Helms

10 hrs · 

i watched two films which were quite different about love. Europe, she loves and Take this Waltz.
Both work in the transitions. Both are harsh on romantic love. Take this Waltz is a little bit too much early morning light meets ditzy Michelle, and yet, I love the cuts, the lingering. It has one of the nicest scenes of desire in a cafe I have watched in a long time. And then this: Music kills the radio star on my favourite fairground attraction. Then the lights go on. It closes with her going there again, by herself, in the end. Europe, she loves ends with the woman from Seville driving towards France, the one from Thessaloniki going to Italy.

Europe, she loves in full length here: 

<< both are flawed in different ways; Europe is too leery I find: both on the women’s bodies but also on the centre (a German filmmaker) watching the poor periphery; and, I really dislike Seth Rogen, the tweeness of their couple desires. Yet: keeping hold of the transitions. Take this Waltz has good lines to this effect: Margot talking about her niece as a newborn sometimes, possibly just stepping into the same inexplicable melancholy that she also falls into once in a while; her sister, drunkenly, much later calling her out on: lives just have gaps, that is just what is, but it doesn’t mean you should go about filling them.

Mubi has the habit of hitting play when I open the computer again, so I tend to head the closing credits from the night before early in the morning. I read on a little more and this is a nice write-up of what is good about Take this Waltz: it is ordinary about what we keep with ourselves when we move on, who we remain, what we seeks. https://mubi.com/…/take-this-waltz-then-move-on…

— this describes the opening scene, and we only discover right throughout at the end who the man is that walks by (but, we could have known: it is Seth who cooks in in her first home, not her). 

Sarah Polley’s most pronounced statement in regard to this uncouthness is the scene at the beginning and ending of the film. Margot is cooking at a stove (echoes of her husband) in her new apartment and she sits down in front of it and stares about, while she wonders, thinks, regrets?—we don’t know—just as Daniel (the one she leaves her husband for)wanders in, unfocused, and stares out the kitchen window, though at the end she eventually goes and hugs him, from behind. How can we understand love, loss, need, and other feelings? The images of an actress silently displaying a mix of feelings is the statement, which might only be a catch-22 leading to the cliché, life is hard.

… Wiki writes about her regretting leaving Lou/Seth — she might, but what happens in the last 10 minutes is a time forward piece that moves her and Daniel into a place similar to where she and Lou were, and thus demarcates a lack/ a loss/ a need unfulfilled (that then gets called out by her sister in the scene I mention above).

this is the early scene that tells us that it is about ‘missing connections’, it is a sweet unpicking of one’s own curious anxiety of ‘inbetweens’; Daniel later tells her he may have the same, his conclusion is to move away a few days later:

Research A1: responses (and more thoughts) on the first preliminary questions

the coursework asks for a set of initial questions to be answered and sent to the tutor before proceeding to the Research proposal proper.

I received the responses a while ago, then completed A1 for BoW (which covered a fairly similar ground) and am now returning to the research proposal.

Rachel responded to the post here in a generous and helpful manner (I am leaving out a few procedural discussions from our exchange):

I think I can understand some of your frustration with linearity and literalness, and hope that you can hold onto your anxiety of being a good student as the linearity of research, practice, and study rarely happen as they are presented. For myself, this is part of my own practice research interest in the Deleuze and Guatarri’s rhizomatic interconnectedness, and also the entangled cut together-apart of new materialism. 

Trust that there will be moments of overlap as well as moments of separateness between the body of work and the research, and that though they will often develop as a hybrid, they will also be separated for clarity of explanation and academic format. 

The photographs of the mind maps and concept maps are great to demonstrate your thinking visually, though they are a little hard to read in places, (I imagine they are too large to scan?) 

I also wonder if the concept maps perhaps seem to relate more to your practice than the research concerns? I imagine if this is the case it is because, as you have identified, at this early stage things seem so closely interwoven? Mapping the theorists and writers as well as their concerns in amongst your own concepts as you start to plan the areas of interest for your written work will help you to keep tightening your approach and focus.

In your post, course instructions/literalness you write: 

the Research/ dissertation then underpins some of this a research form that can explore conceptual forms, moves and potentiality; I hope that it will concern ideas of production of space/ site; utopian forms of hybridity and how this relates to institutional critique’.

I think it will help you to write more about what you understand by these terms, and how you are intending on using some them to clarify your intentions for the research. Also try to use the writers/theorists you have included to help situate your research in more detail. It will also help to start to identify the specific texts you are interested in from the writers you identify in your list of resources. 

As you move into the next section before assignment 1 you will be able to spend some time honing your research question and what it will entail. This will help you to think about the focused direction of the research and how it will sit in relation to your body of work.

My response was as follows:

Hi Rachel — many thanks for sending this and for providing such thoughtful response. This is really helpful, also in how to differentiate out Research and BoW at this stage. Yes: you are right, the concept maps are largely about the BoW focus (and I assume the Research will then peel off and focus in on one area where theoretical/conceptual support for the BoW is required). Yes, I completely agree re the poor readability of the maps themselves: they are done in graphite on grey paper, are fairly large (60x100cm or so), and I will see if I want to transfer them for a different format.Thank you for picking out that one sentence — and I will spend some time unpacking this (part of it comes down to my geography shorthand; another part also possibly that I am finding a good way to deal with my previous academic work, without it letting drown out the artistic practice). 
I will spend the time between now and submission of A1 with clarifying/ focussing on some of the writing aspects and what line through the theory/argument I consider as fruitful (while attending to what I may want to keep as options); I am quite good at keeping on to my anxiety and will make a point to get round to Deleuze/Guatarri — my own work was a critical materialism (the left-section of the Frankfurt School, Alfred Schmidt, Horkheimer; then Foucault and Lefebvre), which never valued non-linearity all that much but had a good grasp of overall messiness and how internal relations of dialectics can help us engage with that societal mess. 

To take at this point:

  • the productiveness of anxiety: holding on to it to stay engage; not so much that it blocks you but it propels you on and forward
  • I value that she is doing a PhD and while I haven’t looked at Deleuze/Guattari, they have always been on my list and it will be good to become more involved.
  • the circularity and iteration of the process will be productive (I know how to do that and have employed that as strategy for some time)
  • there is a real sense of being able to bring in my previous academic work and feed it through the artistic processes without overwhelming them. this is really exciting and something I had hoped to achieve over the past few years (when I re-established an honorary affiliation with my old department in order to pursue precisely this).

sketchbook: Mysterious Skin (2004)

Gesa Helms added a post to the album close/open.

[this is from two edited FB posts]

19 mins · 

Mysterious Skin (2004, dir. Gregg Araki) was entirely different to what i thought it was going to be: i thought it was going to be queer teenage angst and a bit of road kill (i obviously went with the upbeat film poster).
there is some incredible stuff contained in it, and in the narration of things. it is on the surface strictly chronological: the events are dated; there are two narrative voices, each clearly distinct from the other. 
i don’t quite know how: maybe my own events in front of the screen account for my utter disorientation (i started watching over dinner, then paused to talk with A, then resumed) but i had no clue that Neil and Brian were at the same event. i also did not realise how Brian came to sit in his house’s basement with a nosebleed. 
it was only when Brian went to meet the girl in a neighbouring town from TV who had more than 20 alien abductions, that i realised that maybe all alien abductions were trauma phantasmagorias of people being sexually abused. — in her case it was surely the father looming in the background.
the way the story splits apart from the event, or even how the event is disjointed already is incredible. it sets up two of the known and distinct responses to severe sexual trauma: one, where the abuse is enframed in a groomed relationships that marks the child as special, the story is told of an 8-year old boy who tells himself that he pursued the coach, was in love (sexually), and lost, after that summer, the biggest love of his life. we see in memory only his memories of joy, laughter and curiosity. it is only when Brian seeks out the boy from his dreams of alien abduction and the missing five hours that summer night that we see a photo of the minor league team of that year and a deeply deeply unhappy and withdrawn Neil, whom we hadn’t seen in his own memory narrations at all.
— the violence that enters Brian and Neil’s lives is entirely differently articulated: Neil becomes a prostitute from age 15 onwards in small town Kansas in the mid-1980s, the physical abuse he obtains by some of this punters doesn’t register until his friends point to the bruises on his body, genitals. For Brian it is nosebleeds and blackouts, a father ashamed of his weak son and a barely functioning self that makes it into early adulthood.
it is Neil’s friend Eric, left devastated by Neil’s departure to NYC, who then meets and befriends Brian. Eric found one night, when returning the pot Neil had offered (along with some VHS porn if he wanted to jerk off), the audio tapes the coach had made of Neil and him and understands. He also points to the baseball shoes that the aliens in Brian’s drawings wear. Brian has no clue but persists and insists, becomes slowly of this world, and then meets on Christmas Eve Neil. Neil takes him to the house, shows him places and begins to tell the story. it is no longer a story of infatuation of the event when the game was called off due to rain, Brian’s mother and father didn’t pick him up ,but instead the coach took him to his house with Neil. 

This is one of the most astoundingly told stories of childhood sexual abuse. It is in the splitting of event and narratives, of agency and of unknowing that is so incredibly well done.
As the two boys never meet until the last scene, the impact of that abuse on both unfolds along two distinct trajectories. 
How these are brought together and held in the final scene is incredible. For once the youtube comments are astounding. I am not sure I can watch the closing scene again but I want to watch the beginning again: how Gregg Araki allows the event to rupture narration, integrity of self for the two young boys and us watching.

The film is incredible as to how dissociation works, how ruptures emerge in narrative and memory, how support structures move into place to facilitate living on, how the noise in the background is never quite right, how easy it is to miss the noise though as what else could there be. It is that which moves me in the film and which is wonderfully captured and retold, held, shown. 
I will never look at stories of alien abduction in quite the same light.
.
There is something incredibly inspiring in this movie: in being able to work with such material and to do so so tenderly and unflinching at the same time. 

Gesa Helms (Christmas Eve 1991) is the clip with the final scene. — one of the boys believes he was abducted by aliens, and then he makes a friend and it becomes of this world. The final camera and narration is stunning, i almost didn’t make it though.Edit or delete this

Gesa Helms that scene is amazing in terms of the relationship between these two young men who had not met in ten years; the knowing and the courage and the tenderness that plays out in that living room (while both of them had told themselves entirely different stories of that summer when they were 8) is so well done. and then there are carol singers at the front door of this strange house, they start to sing and the camera moves further and further up above that sofa lit with a single light source, where the one with a black hole instead of a heart comforts the alien abductee.Edit or delete this

BoW 1: tutor report

I had the first video tutorial following my earlier submitted proposal. It had seemed ages that I discussed actual coursework and so this was good: to ground the work since Summer and to articulate the forward.

In early December, following the progression discussion I almost agreed to a new tutoring arrangement and on Wednesday I realised that it was good to take what seemed the more risk-adverse approach and ask for continuity in Doug remaining my tutor for BoW. It was easy to revisit ground but also to begin to tap out what is all new: in approach, in intent, in relationship.

We spent a good part on mapping forward but also designating the endpoint for BoW and where the final module, Sustain Your Practice will become the realisation of the the Body of Work. So: I will end with a series of drafts, a pilot, or similar to then be finalised in the third module.

It was right for me to start with sketchbook work, to start drawing out what I want to keep from before as method, process, form. Doug brought up a good phrase that I want to use: to take the philosophies that I investigated and developed in Drawing 2 and develop them further – the gap, the expanded field of drawing, the ideas around performativity, instruction, the sensorial and relationships; of institutional critique; how it links to academic practice.

— that the sketchbook work is working, alongside what I have started to do with the gap again is reassuring (also: how I represent it digitally on the blog/IG). We discuss some of it in a fair bit of detail and it’s as always so useful to get some reflections put back at me.

So, attached is the PDF of a report. It is reasonably sparse at this stage but I am also very clear what comes next as ‘gather and manifest’, end of April for this is a bit ambitious but I will see.

Tutor is right to ask for a bit more clarity over scope: what will you do. — I kind of know what it is but I am reluctant to put words to it. So, here some bullet points (am I shooting or being shot at?):

To clarify what the process for BoW would be:

  • A series of performances, experiments
  • To be experimental and artistic (out there; think Yoko Ono and Mathew Barney’s early performances): let it be raw
  • Take forward where you concluded with Parallel Praxis:
    • A particular space/place (e.g. Jonas’s work takes place in a site, is brought together there)
    • Digital/analogue
    • Multi/ or inter-disciplinary
    • Performance
  • What is the relationship with the audience? (for Beckett that is key)
  • For BoW to end up with a series of drafts, a pilot or similar; for SYP then to take that and present it in final form

We conclude (along with stating it a few times as we went on): I should feel quite excited about what has been and what lies ahead. I am indeed.

The PDF, now: