So you would like to know why I left you today. No doubt it will be easier for you to understand than for me to explain it to you, since you are the finest example of male impermeability that one could meet.
We had spent the day confessing our feelings for each other in typed messages, which I read sometimes behind the screen of my desktop and other times in bed, cradling my phone. We told each other how even after not seeing each other for years, nothing had changed; how after all this time, we had grown to be perfect for each other and what a shame this distance is; a remedy for our loneliness that was, after all, nothing remarkable except for the fact that this day together was possible only because we weren't together at all.
As you spoke, the silence in my room became maddening, because this stillness is one that doubts itself. It's not us talking or even me talking to myself, but ourselves talking to one another's self; the voices in our heads rubbing thighs, too, with the insatiable skin of everyone else self-admitted online. And beyond this deafened chatter was a very real chatter and loud cars just opposite my thin walls of my ground floor apartment.
In the afternoon your time, I told you a story about a trader who had an affinity for being flogged by three paid women as he wore high heels and a hooded robe. His arms would be tied together and hung from the ceiling, and the room he would rent for the occasion would always be strikingly beautiful. As I waited for your response, I wondered whether he cried and guessed what he would yell out, what he would want the girls to say and whether they said it; and I wondered about the positions of the women, if they felt empowered or used being the source of such controlled humiliation; and my mind again returned to the excitement of the eyes under that hood when you said, 'Those girls are unbearable, with their eyes so demure as if what they're doing is not prostitution. Don't you know it's never ending when it comes to money?'
You see, my dear angel, how difficult it is to hear one another, and how incommunicable all thoughts are, even between people who say they love each other.
I find myself on this rock, wavering in and out of consciousness. My physical body is but an imprint on the other side. My toes grip on to the stone below yet I am reminded of the ocean that birthed me.
This birth was violent. As the air hit my lungs, the seams of time and space ruptured beneath me.
How did I get here?
I merged into the ecstasy of arrival. It’s tempting for the joy of discovery to spiral onto itself, for demons to grow within.
Yet here, my demons fade as shadows. I am mesmerized by my new reality.
I am no longer in the corner of the frame. This trance is a conscious one, a glowing whirlwind. The beauty of the world by my own design.
In my waking sleep, I am drawn by the light that leads me. Step by step, I break out of the circle.
Who I am begins and ends as I am walking. The nearness of time does not weigh me down. I find myself on this rock. Though I am present, I feel the wind before me.
- Sophie & Soojin
Oh will you take me as I am
Strung out on another man
California, I'm coming home
Written on April 18, 2015
My Norwegian phone ran out of minutes almost as soon as I got here and the cash card I bought on my weekly trip into town expired in 2014. My American phone is finally completely useless – the screen shattered on the kitchen floor and all it does now is vibrate every so often, staring at me with all its vicious void. When it lies flat, as it is doing now across the table from me, it’s the blackest thing I’ve ever seen. At other angles, it still works well as a stealthy compact.
Not that I have anyone here to check my lipstick for. In front of me are fjord Suldal and several large mountains on each side. They look like the tops of fossilized whales. Specks of snow are still sprinkled on the hills, and the mountain in the middle of the horizon, from my view anyways, is almost completely white. It’s swallowed in the fog for most hours of the day. But when the sun hits, the waxen peak looks like a dream.
To my left and right are neighboring farmhouses, about a five-minute walk from me. No one seems to be there. Normally I can’t be bothered with strangers, as you know, and this solitude is a blessing, but I’ve run out of sweets and could use some chocolate.
Behind me is the rest of the mountain – the farmhouse I’m staying in is about a half-hour hike up from its foot – and it goes on for days, I hear. I’ve made it 2 hours up but I always get such a bad case of vertigo whenever I head down. Speaking of vertigo, I watched North by Northwest on my first night here and it made me feel at home. I watched it on a projection screen in the living room.
That’s the thing – the little green-roofed shack I thought I would be living in is actually a shed. I’m living in a much larger house behind it. It has four beautiful bedrooms, but I’ve been sleeping on the kitchen floor wrapped in 7 blankets because it’s the warmest room in the house and upstairs is like a cemetery of frozen flies.
Anyways, I’m not here to write about insects or that verbose, nocturnal fridge, or even Hitchcock for that matter, but about Chris Marker’s La Jetée and Sans Soleil. They’re both in one of the 5 DVDs I brought with me. The others are: Stardust Memories, Labyrinth, 24-hour Party People, and Wild Strawberries. It was the best I could do at Reckless Records in Chicago, one of my secret detour stops before Norway.
I first watched La Jetée in New Orleans after driving from Miami with virtually no sleep. A black cat named Jazz Hands was staring at me, or through me, I should say – I really shouldn’t be so self-absorbed – and I must have been either too exhausted and delirious, or too swept up to realize that 12 Monkeys is not simply La Jetée but it’s Vertigo. I’m not sure how I could have missed it – the hair (except in Marker’s, the swirl is tousled and French), the sequoia tree (“Here I was born. Here I die.”), the music!
The plot is simple: it’s post-apocalyptic Paris and the protagonist is used as a guinea pig to go back in time to bring supplies to the present. He, of course, falls in love with a woman in the past. It’s a story of chasing an impossible memory, an insane memory.
When I first watched it, before realizing the correlation, the originality and the simplicity was intimidating for little old me, the future of anything I would attempt to make. But in reality, it’s all just a re-enactment, isn’t it? La Jetée is Marker’s take on Hitchcock’s Vertigo from 3 years before. It’s all in a conversation, a nod to history, as they say, rather than plagiarism, which is, I guess, along with originality, becoming an archaic concept now. A memory of a memory – everything in the present perpetually composes the past.
I wonder who Marker’s Madeline was, or perhaps still is. I refuse to believe the group of scholars who pontificate about Marker being so obsessed with Madeline, the fictional character, that he created La Jetée as some sort of cinematic portal of communication to reach her.
No, I do not believe Marker was that much of a cinematic extremist. He must have been infatuated with someone real but understood the madness of not loving her or him per se – since no one can really love intrinsically or even know another being entirely – as it was, and always is, a shadow of a memory, an impression, that we pursue after, like fools.
“It’s better to have had sex than to have it.” I read that yesterday, and would have to disagree. It’s in Nausea by Sartre, which is possibly the least soothing book to be reading when alone on a mountain.
Now Sans Soleil – I watched that as soon as you compared one of my films to its introduction, but it was past 2 in my dungeon of a room back in New York, and I was drifting into a deep sleep. In Norway, I’ve watched it 4 times already in my 9 days here.
Immediately, I wanted to write Sophie and demand to know: “Why didn’t we film everything in Korea? The Chinese tourists that kept getting in our way; the weird mining museum; that long line for the strange spider ride we waited in behind the controlling father and his spoiled kids; the flood of drunk students in Hongdae; the casual advertisements for plastic surgery in subway stations; the school girls who couldn’t be more than 16 with fake eyes and new jaws; the pitiful faces of the boys sitting next to them; the crowd of fanatics who gathered to see the black guy speaking Korean – we somehow got on the stage at one point, do you remember?”
After my indignation subsided, I took back my immobile message to Sophie, remembering that we weren’t aware we would be making a documentary. We went to Korea to film Noonday Demon and the documentary just came up from circumstance, mainly because of my mom. But either way, I have to go back to Korea as soon as I can, to stand in corners of subway stations for 2 weeks or so. Sophie might be starting a masters program or still traveling – who really knows at this point – so I might have to do it alone, which I don't mind, but somehow you feel a lot less like a creep filming strangers when you have someone else with you.
Obviously, it goes without saying, that I revere what Marker did with Sans Soleil, enough to make me start planning the entire trip to Korea in detail, involving full days with people who don’t yet know that I’ll be sleeping on their floors very soon.
But there is an undeniable wall in Sans Soleil, a foreign barrier masked by countless (beautiful) views of the poignant banalities of everyday life in Tokyo. They’re stunningly varied and wonderful to watch – I feel like I’ve walked the streets of Tokyo for days after seeing his film – but they are all only exterior shots, facades. The narration, read in monotonous English by a French woman (in my Criterion version), feels abstract, yes, but still waves a pleased air of all knowing. She guides you like a docent through the eccentricities of life in Tokyo, whose residents walk silently like ants, muffled by Michel Krasna’s experimental score that artfully uplifts the poetics of Sans Soleil to an incredible cadence.
The footage that Sophie and I have from Korea is essentially all interviews with farmers and religious militants in their homes. Everyone is a relative, an old friend of a friend. The conversations are much more intimate compared to the narration-over-visuals in Sans Soleil, but to a fault. As it stands, the footage we have is insulated, self-indulgent, and tedious in its own way.
I don’t know how to end this letter. They don’t sell liquor in this municipality, and I’ve just been drinking coffee constantly so I’m not sleepy at all – ever. All I seem to have is time here. Time to write, to cook, photograph, take walks, watch films, to think. In the mornings, I wake up to very particular memories, all of dear friends and lovers from my past who I don’t speak to anymore. They’re not accompanied by a painful longing, as one would imagine. It’s more of a fondness.
The sun sets at 10pm here and sometimes I mistake the sound of the waterfall for static.
Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
- T.S. Eliot
Until I find Wi-Fi,
It's 4:35am and I'm sitting looking out the window at New York City. Earlier, I drank whiskey and wine and ate candy with Liz while dancing to David Bowie with the lights off in this empty office. I met Bradley to go see Peggy Ahwesh's films at Soho House. Neither Day, Nor Night is a 25 minute video piece that cuts through the abysmal exteriors and interiors of Palestine while a voiceover of "Vampires: an Uneasy Essay on the Undead in Film" plays. Many of the shots were from inside a doorway, through a hall, from across the hill – physically inside the world yet distanced from the reality. Sitting in the plush seats of Soho House with predominantly white artists, the distance felt even wider and more uncomfortable. The camera encroaches just beyond reach, finding a way closer and closer to that sweet unease of foreign occupation. There's one scene which I particularly loved inside a shabby waiting area where the camera swoops just above the ground, as if being carried inside a handbag. There are various groups of men sitting on dirty couches talking to one another.
Peggy, Bradley, a few other filmmakers, and I went to grab a bite. Friday night in Chelsea is terrible. I had fish tacos. Everyone else had burgers. They talked about their friend Joe Gibbons who got arrested while robbing a bank for his film. He had done it before and had gotten away. He carries a camcorder and takes somewhere between 1-3 grand each time. His bail is set at $50,000. Bradley told me Joe thought it would be okay because it was for art. I told Bradley that Joe, especially for being an artist, has a strangely optimistic view of society. Joe admitted a long time ago that because he doesn't have the particular personal issues that make interesting art, he creates problems for his art's sake. He initiated a drug addiction and made a film about it, for example.
What would be your most consuming form of art? I was thinking, for me, it would be to physically alter myself over and over again, through facial reconstruction and physical alterations. I would document myself doing various normal things, like doing the dishes, walking the dog, shopping, having sex with the same man. Has someone already done this? You would know.
My echinacea tea just started tasting like roses. Everything should taste like roses.
Now we listen:
With no intent to sleep tonight,
Uniform for two people
a plan that went haywire
neon sign called Rome
This unknown endless day the
endless field of grass we would have to run in
her unlit eyes sunk below
we had meatballs and a whiskey float
she sat in the room waiting for the telephone
she watches TV eating fries
and everything feels like a cloud
In the back room all the women are confident
they stare back at you
looking eyes move
sitting on the train going backwards
I see Philadelphia disappearing in front of me as I drift back
stretching apart a gravitational pull bound around my waist
walking backwards staring at an unmoving dot
what you need to do is love with hatred
Life in Korea told in first person by
an Australian-born Korean talking
about how she knew little of her mom's life
I'm trapped in a home that is going to burn down
everyone hid in the school building
we went to drive a bus to run away
we all had to stand in a line
against the sides to go unnoticed
My home full of people I could not recognize
I want and want
I see my sister and dad
“Bliss — a second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious — lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom. Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find (Tax Returns, Televised Golf) and, in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it’s like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Instant bliss in every atom.”
David Foster Wallace in the note left in the unfinished manuscript of Pale King
"Happiness was never important. The problem is that we don't know what we really want. What makes us happy is not to get what we want. But to dream about it. Happiness is for opportunists. So I think that the only life of deep satisfaction is a life of eternal struggle, especially struggle with oneself. We all remember Gordon Gekko, the role played by Michael Douglas in Wall Street. What he says, breakfast is for wimps, or if you need a friend buy yourself a dog, I think we should say something similar about happiness. If you want to remain happy, just remain stupid. Authentic masters are never happy; happiness is a category of slaves."
Image: Stephen Laub, Smile Support, 1970.
I moved from San Francisco to New York City a year ago, and one of the many things I thought I’d never miss is the fog. Thick clouds of water droplets suspended in my daily existence are a thing of the past. So going to Fujiko Nakaya’s fog installation “Veil” at the Glass House in midsummer felt entirely like a time warp, to my former life in the Bay, and to an impeccably embalmed setting of an architectural triumph in Mid-Century America.
The Glass House was built by Philip Johnson in 1949, and he lived there until his death in 2005. It’s virtually impossible to find the entrance of the property. Once guided past the stone ledge and down a pathway, the entire town of New Canaan gets suctioned out, your entire periphery enveloped by a whole new world. Your eyes will settle on a steel outline of a clear rectangle positioned just above a sprawling valley and pond, and through it you will see the woods. Inside the house, there is a classical landscape painting, The Funeral of Phocion by Baroque artist Nicolas Poussin, propped up by steel legs. The painting and the view mimic each other. One seeps into the other, but architecture interrupts.
Nakaya gained prominence through her first public fog sculpture in Expo ’70 in Osaka as a member of the art collective Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.). Robert Rauschenberg, one of E.A.T.’s founders, had introduced her to engineer Thomas Mee of Mee Industries, and he and Nakaya created the first fog nozzle made entirely of water. She patented it and fog has been her signature ever since. “Veil” is composed of over 600 nozzles, strategically positioned based on temperature, wind direction, and pressure data downloaded monthly through an on-site weather station and sent to Nakaya in Japan over the course of a year.
“Veil” is her most personal work yet. It posits you in your haziest, most overcast memory of home and triggers the dizzying realization that everything is bound to change. The fog rolls and thickens, and the closest comparison I can draw is the strange feeling of dread you get from watching a David Lynch film by yourself — a disorientation that is at once inviting and terrifying. The show runs twice for ten minutes each tour.
To both Nakaya and Johnson, home is synonymous with nature. But their personal relationships with the home are quite split: Johnson designed a remarkably controlled globe of his own, and nearly a decade after his death, the buildings and landscape remain immaculate and intact, as he intended. For Nakaya, home is a place that is ever-changing, far beyond her grasp. Her work reflects an obvious dedication to research, but in the end, relinquishes itself entirely to forces of nature and accepts human efforts as ephemeral. “Veil” exists in a state of birth and rebirth, but after the conclusion of the season, will evaporate and leave behind the Glass House altogether.
Infinite foretime and Infinite aftertime: above your head They close like giant wings, and you are dead.
—Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire
It starts with overcompensating
your own compassion going on
walking valiantly as if your wrongdoings
could never amount to the graciousness of
your patience until your fallacy
teeters then detonates off
the tip of a lip
a finger soaked in filth
and misery until you remember of your
once gallant stance
to go on as a faceless stream and a
withered scream retasting your own confection recalling
the owed memories in defense of the fortress you must
keep enunciating the right words
keep to the step lunge at the vulnerabilities shared
once in the calmness of the night to
keep the fortress you have built for
i tell you it's tough to be alone
say girl what you gonna do
by Charles Baudelaire
One should always be drunk. That's all that matters; that's our one imperative need. So as not to feel Time's horrible burden that breaks your shoulders and bows you down, you must get drunk without ceasing.
But what with? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose. But get drunk.
And if, at some time, on the steps of a palace, in the green grass of a ditch, in the bleak solitude of your room, you are waking up when drunkenness has already abated, ask the wind, the wave, a star, the clock, all that which flees, all that which groans, all that which rolls, all that which sings, all that which speaks, ask them what time it is; and the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock will reply: 'It is time to get drunk! So that you may not be the martyred slaves of Time, get drunk; get drunk, and never pause for rest! With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose!'
"What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF SURVEY?"
- Caitlin Moran
"An April 2013 poll found just 16 percent of men and 23 percent of women in America identify as feminists. The women behind Women Against Feminism aren’t exactly a minority. However, that same poll found 82 percent of all Americans agree with the statement 'men and women should be social, political, and economic equals.' That’s the simplest and most accurate definition of feminism, but the movement has come to be seen as anti-men, liberal, radical, pro-choice, and many other things that it is not."
- Emily Shire.
via Daily Beast.
to meet each other here?