Sunday, April 17, 2011

Susan Sontag and 'Le sang d'un poete' - Brittney's Contribution

So here we have an excerpt perhaps? I'm not sure. A passage written by Susan Sontag for the first  half of this discussion and a video for the second.

The passage was on photography--and boy was it pretty magical {not in a campy way}. Photographs are likened to language, allowing the collectors to own little pieces of the world. It appropriates objects the moment it's taken, like a miniature slice of reality. They manipulate the scale of things, age, reproduce, and deteriorate. They can be put anywhere, into anything. When put in books they don't lose as much quality as paintings do. They provide evidence {though these days now that we know they can be easily doctored}. They can be just as selective as paintings can, as a photographer can take images by changing the lighting, the angle, the frame, and so on. They can discard images they don't like and reach an ideal over time. The methods of taking photographs have simplified over time, changing the subject of images and the technique. With time, photography as art developed as a counter to the industrial culture, which made it possible for anyone to take a picture.

'Le Sang d'un Poete', or 'The Blood of a Poet', is a film made by Jean Cocteau in 1930. I'm not entirely sure about the overall plot. It starts with a guy who makes a drawing of a woman's face, but he smudges out her mouth when it starts to move on its own. The hand ends up on his mouth, he freaks about a bit, touches himself some {I called it--I was amused}, and then falls asleep. He wakes up and puts his hand on a statue and it comes to life, effectively ridding himself of the mouth. The statue starts to talk in French, a chair appears, and he gets on it and goes through a mirror. He falls into it, ends up in a hall of a hotel, and looks through keyholes and sees strange things like some guy getting shot over and over, some shadow hands on a stick of some sort {I couldn't recognize it}, and he's really peeking into as many keyholes as he can, holding on to the doors like he's fighting gravity. At this point I know it's experimental film but this guy had to be trippin' balls. Anyways, he's handed a gun by a disembodied arm and I guess he's being told to shoot himself or he just decides 'fuck it, this shit's wack'. But he just gets magically dressed up and comes back to life and really decides this bassackwards world is really pissing him off. He gets out of mirrorworld and gives the statue the French equivalent of 'the finger' {I think} before smashing her to bits. Suddenly the film moves outside where kids are playing in the snow and these older looking kids sit idly by. One of the kids got injured on the knee and lead away and some French is spoken. A kid is being strangled or something by some other kids and no one's doing anything bout it, really. Finally, a kid throws a damn iron ball at this other kid's face, either knocking him out or killing him. More French is spoken, the kid wakes up long enough to spit up some blood and die. Suddenly a table appears next to him with a few people at it. Some people get ready in some opera seats {you know, the really fancy overhead ones} and some alarm bell is chiming. They go back to the table and I can't stop staring at the man with the mask until he takes it off. Everyone is oblivious to the dead kid. Well, not enough to hide cards under his coat. Alarm bells chime again when we see the opera people. The lady at the poker table starts fanning herself. A man descends from the staircase and covers the dead boy up, some inverted filter is drawn over them, and they disappear. People in the stands look confused and chatty. The man comes back and takes the Ace card from the man who took it out of the boy's coat before he leaves the way he came. When the man's heart beats, his shirt twitches. He takes a gun out of his coat and shoots himself through the head and there was much rejoicing from the people in the opera stands. I think there was a man in a dress up there. I couldn't stop staring at him. Anyways, the lady who was playing cards with the dead cheater throws her cards, gets up, and takes the creepy quiet guy's coat before she walks away.

I had to describe the movie word for word because I couldn't tell what the plot was all about if there was one. I've never been keen on the insights, symbols, and meanings behind pieces like these; I just like to determine how they achieved certain techniques and effects. I've always been more into the technical aspects of things. As for the passage by Sontag, it was nice. I mean, it wasn't different from what I've already known about film--she just takes what I know and organizes it in a neat and lovely fashion. Props to her.

I think I'll go on and answer the questions now.

1. The similarities between painting/drawing and photograph revolve around subject, composition, the choice of lighting, position, and command. They both beget images and they can both be manipulated by the standards of the artist/photographer who brings the image into being. The differences may of course be attributed to speed, quality, and material. What I think of a photograph depends on its presentation. For instance, as a polaroid or in its flatter, two-dimensional form, I tend to lean towards the format of a painting or drawing--other 2d forms. But if presented in a group, in a book, in a stack, stitched together, dangling off the ceiling--essentially fitted for a three-dimensional presentation--then I can consider photographs as sculpture.

2. Doesn't that depend on the image? I'm not sure I understand what you mean. A record of experiences perhaps? Of growth? Of discovery?

3. could be? If amateurism in this case refers to an artist who cannot draw photo-realistically or has yet to reach that level, then I consider it to be nothing disadvantageous or otherwise. It depends on how inexperienced they are. If someone really can't get the anatomy down on a figure, then yeah, they're at a disadvantage. I think it's important to understand the mechanics of life enough to draw them. But it can get in the way of your inspiration if you start to think that being able to draw with ultimate precision is so important that it must be implemented in everything you make. It can consume you if you're a perfectionist, never satisfied with 'okay' and always going for 'exceptional'.

4. Oh! Well, does the part when the guy has a mouth on his hand and he's touching himself counts? I think it did end with a palm to crotch bj, but it cut out before anyone could really come to that conclusion without assuming so beforehand. Then there was the peeking through keyholes in the hotel hall locked in some kind of Gravi-tron. I'm not sure if anything sexual was going on there, but he was definitely interested in peeking through each one. I thought the movie itself {and not just the parts afore mentioned} had a relationship to photography. Hell, most movies do. Now as to appropriation...I don't know. Maybe? What was the movie appropriating, because the imagery was mostly from life, but the events were surely staged. 

5. When I saw it, I remembered something. I'm not sure if it was something we talked about in class or something I heard someone say in a movie. But I remembered that it had been pointed out before that in theater, when someone dies at the end of a play and the curtains start to close, the audience applauds. That, or a character no one really likes ends up getting killed in some ironic/comic fashion and the audience laughs. But it's really quite grim. You're laughing/applauding at death. Sure, it's just an act, but actors are emulating real life. It's a strange reaction, albeit a product of civilization; it's polite to clap after a good round of acting and expected to laugh when the annoying blonde dies in an otherwise humiliating fashion. But in this film, I expected it, so it didn't really effect me. I thought it was a nod to the whole irony of what I had mentioned before.

6. When the artistic voice is being drowned out by overstimulating images, sounds, and movements, then it starts to become spectacle. I didn't find much of this movie dipping into that territory, so I can't really think of a proper example.

7. The people in your images are people you know, so I think. They refer back to you when they present people you know--images taken from your vantage. And what these people are wearing, or what's included around them, if anything at all can refer to your time period. Then there's the media you're using, the technology you use to create it, the quality of the image, what it's printed on, how it's presented, etc. It could all provide evidence of the time it hails from.

8. Digital format is hard, pointy, edgy, and dotty. I claim to see the pixels because I've blown up one too many digital images  on my computer and I have seen them for what they are. Sometimes it bothers me. When it seems like they're trying too hard. Other times they embrace the fact that they are indeed a cluster of digital information that makes up the image they present. The film format is fuzzy, soft, smooth, and true. It's light being reflected, and it just seems more natural, yet chemical. It's not as simple to handle as the digital image and it might not even pay off at the end if mishandled. It suffers from a few more limitations but that keeps it a little farther from harm's way. 

9. It's your thing and you seem to enjoy it. The art world doesn't seem to be adverse to it either. You have the choice of whether or not you want to take it fast or take it intimately. 

10. I'd do her and I'm not even into women. xD

I have no problem with photography. I have to keep repeating that to my printmaking instructor when he notices my disdain towards making digital prints. I just like the intimacy of drawing far more than I like taking pictures. I'm not saying that photography can't be intimate--it just takes a different brand of patience. A brand I don't have and can't afford. I only take pictures when I need references, and these days I pull a good many from the internet, which is like the holy source of images ever bottomless. All I have to do is make sure they're not copyrighted. 

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