Shomali Plain, north of Kabul - Simon Norfolk, Afghanistan: chronotopia, 2002
In London next week: a screening of The Forgotten Space, followed the next day by a panel discussion with Allan Sekula, Noël Burch and Benjamin Buchloh. Ongoing: The Robinson Institute. Also: interviews on art and politics with Nicole Brenez & Thomas Beard; Modernity Revisited; that troublesome Godard period I & II; a letter from Danièle Huillet; Antoine on Raya M; and some pop music.
The massive house of culture encloses minds which are constantly trying to re-decorate it. The cinema is a room in the house, an essential part of the structure. The room has connecting doors and a few windows. The doors, however, are papered with cobwebs and the windows opaque with grime. Beings, supposedly rational, probably human, people the space between the walls, though the lack of light makes precise observation difficult. The room's inhabitants gesticulate continually, mutter printable pieties, stumble up and down. Even though their English is excellent, they seem to have forgotten that the rest of the house surrounds them. They think that the limits of their room are the limits of existence, and they firmly believe what they do within the small space is enough. Like the sheets which have not changed for decades, the ideas which burden the ever malignant air have outlived their inspiration. The people are trapped in their gestures, in their words, in their newspapers. Like the characters in The Exterminating Angel, they dream of freedom (from and to what they cannot remember), kill the occasional stray lamb, even commit suicide every now and again, but since they cannot understand why they are captives in an unbarred room, they continue as before. Seldom but sometimes one of them lights a match, an attempt to see around the cage, but the gusts which ricochet within the running walls, constantly unrepaired by the absent landlord, immediately extinguish the flame and any hope of illumination. This they accept as inevitable, and the act, which emphasises and isolates a single hand, becomes a self-sufficient ritual. The hand, its shape, its crevices, is discussed, debated, defended and derided, often even interviewed. For the lack of anything else it becomes the focus of the room. Its owner loses himself in contemplation, forgetting the others in the room and the room itself. The house is long forgotten.
But under the house in the unpartitioned, dingy cellar where the beams which support the structure stand unconcealed, and where everyone has matches. . . .--Simon Hartog's polemic inspired by Lindsay Anderson's if... (that "romantic phantasy born of political impotence") in the third issue of Cinim, Spring 1969, generously uploaded here. Image: Buñuel's El ángel exterminador, 1962. Title refers to Kafka's Amerika and Straub-Huillet's film Klassenverhältnisse, in which Karl's candle is repeatedly extinguished by the draught circulating in Mr. Pollunder's house: "here there were so many empty rooms, whose sole purpose was to make a hollow sound when you knocked on their doors."