To draw a line; to plot a trajectory; to conspire in secret; a ground plan; the interrelationship of events.
I am thinking about how to write about my experience of Plot, the recent film work by Julia Dogra-Brazell. Thinking about writing as I look and listen and later, as I remember. These words can only be inadequate, fall short of standing in for the diminutive, finely textured pieces in their absence. But if ‘plot’ can be taken as drawing a line, marking a trajectory, then this text too, can try to trace a trajectory as a kind of accompaniment to the series of short episodic film sequences which in their restless movement elude the capture of the so called real. Plot, in marking out an interrelationship of events as film questions our ability to distinguish between real and imaginary in both vision and hearing – instead playing on the collusion between what we see and what we imagine we have seen, what we hear and what we imagine we have heard. These words will certainly miss, but in so doing can maybe draw attention to something which seems to go missing in the films, where sound and image attempt coherence only to continuously disintegrate.
It appears to begin with an image of a turntable and the lustrous spin of a long-playing record, a flash of light reflected as it passes. A record promises music, the pleasure of an acoustic rhythm familiar to the body. But here, music is missing and the absence is a double missing – of music as orchestrated pre-recorded sound, and of sound as a recorded track of the film. Plot introduces itself as a silent recording of a recording that went before, a presence twice removed. And paradoxically, this missing presence refers to an event endlessly repeatable: the sound of music returning, but never the same twice. No sooner have I been caught up in the visible spin of the disc than my gaze is hurled into another turn, a tournament of carved horses spinning on their turntable. Rain is falling. The whirl turns into the turn of a head and a series of abbreviated movements fall in quick succession, a bird is winging, hands clapping, eyes closing, a cigarette is drawn.
I see ink from a fountain pen traversing a sheet of paper, the ink miraculously, a stream of precisely delineated words. I read ‘with silence’. As pen is put to paper the act of hand writing is embodied in vision – script and film intersect. I see the written word in action, but also eclipsed as the blade of the nib cuts across the text and a shadow moves across, becoming the figure of a passer by.
A deserted railway station, waiting. The still image is broken into by the sound of a creaking door as an unseen source of light passes over writing on the page, shuttering the image. The door closes upon an arm raised – I move between eye and ear – the event has come and gone. From here, things begin to fuse and confuse. A view of a winter landscape from a moving train, or is it the shadow of a house in bright sunlight? The horse head rears up and stairs reel sickeningly, twigs shudder and the shadow of the figure slides among the trees – then all goes black.
Residual traces of visual silence and auditory image are interwoven, making a weave with intervals between as broad as night, or narrow as the blink of an eye. A flicker of light slipping into the hiss and glitch of sound draws my attention to the material structure of the work, a texture usually screened out by the drive for narrative. In the flow, this sensory texture is both interruption and continuum, reminding me that the perceptual process itself oscillates between different registers and is not smoothly continuous, but a fluctuating rhythm of change.
Turning pages, another aperture opens and light pours into an empty room, a pool of dancing particles fading (almost dust) until all the light is sucked out. Black. Then white. Turning pages become light touching surface become shadow image become half glimpsed words; all are interleaved in a rush. In this precisely choreographed, restless search I register something which I thought had gone before, or was it after? There appears to be a moving forward – the theme of the journey is explicit – but then a turning back, only to return once more, the apparent chronological structure of the film turned over upon itself. The order of things decompose; after the event turns out to be before the event. This is memory at work as temporality.
Through language I attempt a kind of story (if there is in retrospect, a story here, it is more akin to the delineation of a dream); but as time goes on, the tempo of movement takes over, engaging with my pattern of thought, the complicated relation between perception and recollection. If Proust introduced the idea of the release of memory through taste, here there is the possibility of the emergence of memory through a visual and auditory sensation of speed and change, awakening forgotten experience. The rhythm of editing is not lulling, regulated, but excitatory, arrhythmic, allowing only intermittent rest.
I catch a snatch of an almost image, a play of light and dark slipping past me as if in secret. Talking, the voice of a crowd speaking through a single mouth. The pace of movement is so swift I feel sure there are unseen images condensed in between – optically registered but remaining subliminal. My consciousness of looking recedes, I shift focus, am elsewhere. She turns towards me and in doing so, has disappeared.
From a moving train, a wintry landscape reminding me of a Breughel painting, then a fading shoreline flaring up in the sunlight, I hear the rasp of a lighted match, burning the retina. Surely these images and sounds were only ever dreamed, more real than anything else could ever be, the grain jumping, jittery, alive.
The tightly coiled spin of imagery through which the work opened is slowing down, spreading out, falling away. As I absorb the fleeing images, my thoughts take flight, a dandelion looses its seeds to the wind and everything is in dissolution; words leave the lips strangely voiceless and dissolve into air, a ripple opening out dissipates its energy, being the only story they had, they told it again and again until what was left became commonplace. There is a finality here as each letter is printed out on the screen, definitive as braille. Lips move, I recall the timbre of an earlier voice (not) dying in a foreign land, but dying in a foreign tongue. I am returned to language, the only story we have, a frail guarantee of remembrance. At the same time, I am lost to a frame of mind.
© Susan Trangmar