Saturday, September 10, 2011

La Pointe Courte

Agnes Varda’s first film “La Pointe Courte” from 1955 combines staged narrative with reportage. As such, she has been named the grandmother of the French New Wave. The film itself follows the existential discussions of a couple as they stroll through a poor fishing community – the husband’s native village - in the south of France. Or maybe we’re following the town and their residents, which include this couple. Both elements have equal weight. The film can be somewhat tedious – especially the staged narrative – but it sticks with you nonetheless. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Varda was a photographer before she turned to film, so many shots look like well-composed stills with movement. It’s precisely this movement - not precious – that makes what you’re watching so alive. And cats. So many cats doing their thing, making life bearable. See the one in the background here?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy art labor day

(Peter Bruegel, The Harvesters, 1565)

I’m translating the writings of a well-known international artist (TBA). This artist has nothing to do with Peter Bruegel.

What I’m noticing about his language is his assurance. I want X, I will do XX, it will be XXX. It is, to say the least, confident and assertive. I don’t see how any of his readers could suspect doubt. And if there is any, he’s assertive about it.

This is in fact the artist’s strategy; partly how he communicates his intention and partly how he convinces hesitant dealers. The actual and painful doubt of the creative process is kept to himself because it’s not part of the piece as he sees it. Actual doubt is personal; this art is about ideals.

When one of his pieces is ready for viewing, it has to stand on its own, and separate from the viewer. The viewer looks at something that is outside herself. It may become part of her, or resonate with her, but at first, it’s always outside. Sometimes the artist helps the viewer into the piece. I suppose writing can help do that.

Of course, this artist - and artists in general - can’t and don't have full control of what the viewer sees and what all kinds of viewers see. The piece, once outside the artist and once outside the viewer, has a life of its own.