Three Films: Hallucinating the Real

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Three films of mine are now publicly viewable, The Topologist (2010), its companion piece Collection of Cuts (2012), and Traces (2002), on my Vimeo page. It’s taken some time to put them online as I realize that a film unseen is a gaze unrecognized. I have always been a little surprised by the The Topologist and Collection of Cuts, given their highly personal natures, even as the versions of reality they describe continue to make sense to me. They would make new (non)sense if witnessed by others, as a universalized reality check.

Traces is from a time well before the making of The Topologist and Collection of Cuts, and would seem to have a different nature from these latter works. In contrast to the personal psychic fictions of The Topologist and Collection of Cuts, Traces presents as a documentary work on the intersection of art and science; a synaesthesia of audio tones and their directly resulting visual lissajous curves.

However, it is possible to draw connections between these apparently different works; all three challenge the idea of narrative and are explicitly experimental and exploratory. One might even say that in them there exists a dialectic between inner and outer space, that is, that what is presented as one is really a representation of the other, which leads to a conclusion that the original distinction is a contentious one. One could also say that the fluid reality of the Topologist and Cuts is somehow akin to the ever mutating shapes of Traces, as explorations of spaces that are happened upon, discovered not invented, following some deeper structures.

Furthermore, what if the differences between them only serve to emphasize their unity? Traces appears as a documentary, describing an objective reality that is reproducible and always available to the explorer armed with tone generators and an oscilloscope. Whereas The Topologist and Collection of Cuts are works of fiction, products of the imagination. Does this distinction keep them separate? It would seem that it is precisely this dialectic between the genres of documentary and fiction that helps us better understand the nature of film and the nature of reality. In fact, it is the tension between these terms that allows us to re-produce reality, to make it accessible…to make it at all.

Documentary and Fiction are both forms of re-presentation, each having its virtue depending on intention. It should not be said that one is superior to the other for describing reality. For to construct a documentary, many arbitrary decisions need to be made about content, about the ‘story’ that one wants to tell. This documentary ‘story’ is immediately analogous to the fictional ‘story’; both require choices on subject matter and choices on the point-of-view from which that story is told. Indeed, we approach the tension between ‘imagination’ and ‘truth’, only to realize that one leads to the other, and that there is a necessity for both in the representation of reality, or, that reality can bear being represented in both forms.

Therefore, to say that Traces is simply a documentary of audio visual geometry allows us to miss the significance of infinite forms and deeper structures that have implications for biology as much as for psychoanalysis. These forms can serve to unnerve the notion of teleology and fixed subjectivity. They also exemplify the idea that small changes in initial conditions (e.g. changing the frequency of the audio tone) can lead to vast and unpredictable outcomes (the resulting lissajous curves). But what of the curves themselves in Traces? Apart from the conjuring of archetypal shapes (squares, circles, etc) that verify one mathematical reality, one might, as I do – see letters, biological and geological forms, future design vectors and complex noise.

Similarly, to say that The Topologist and Collection of Cuts are works of fiction is to miss their description of reality. Their non-narrative nature is itself part of this description, but it is the intended poetry of the metaphoric scenes that becomes the better (the only?) technique to describe the character of the Topologist – the way it feels for him, the way he sees and experiences it, and the way he misunderstands things. (One could even say that the character’s predicament is one of topolosoIipsism.) I understand that the best way to describe reality is to fictionalize it. It is through extrapolation, embellishment and invention that the texture of reality is best comprehended. Obversely, if one wants to tell a really ‘tall’ tale, then make it as a documentary.

Lastly, these works have the influence of the 20th century inscribed all over them, from the tropes of experimental film of the 60s and 80s, to the use of a cathode ray oscilloscope. More precisely, they acknowledge that film is the memory of the 20th century, it is its seeing, its hallucination of the real.

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Read the related short essays:

Transfusion: Video, Topology, Sisyphus and The Topologist: Super8 SuperMemory

 

View the related short film and music video:

The Room and Post Utopian Pause

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The Ifs of Language: the Poetry and the Proofs

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The following is the poetry, the voice-over script by Peter Lyssiotis, to the short film The Ifs of Language. The images above are from the proofs of the book of the same name. 

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maybe it’s the words we forget, maybe it’s the sentences we can’t finish that save us

day after day the words they use decay softly, this makes them wise, its makes want to talk again

sometimes over coffee in the kitchen, or while stirring fish soup over a humming gas jet, they begin to accustom themselves to that feeling of tenderness again

language opens up the same wounds as love

everyday all the good words are burnt in a clearing the size of my heart

our joys and our misfortunes are made of the same words

is it silent where the future is? how do you get back those moments words have lost for you? (with words still moist from that other world)

so much depends upon a fresh thought in the middle a frosty red plum

instead of god or the word, the splendour of black

even telephones have lost their voices

words cows words cows words cows words cows words cows words cows

ah, the pleasure of being a word, with other words, in an elegant sentence

why do expect these dry syllable to frame our shapeless worlds?

if we are not the words, can there be a story?

two words, three lies

and always the terrible machinery waits in place

words always arrange themselves to tell the same story, things will change, but words are heretics, and later in the fire, they will deny it all

these words send me aching towards another mistake

beware when an obedient language parts, we can only descend into an empty heaven

a long sentence slouches against the door like an axe with nothing to do

each words a trojan horse

which one of us will be bled to death tonight?

time now for the crying of statues

a man fell in love with the word, but the word didn’t care about him

the man looked for it in a dictionary, a thesaurus, the encyclopaedia, the newspapers, on signs, but the word couldn’t be found anywhere

the man recalled the word meant bird, meant sky, no, it meant homeland, perhaps it meant all these things at once, maybe it came from nowhere and meant nothing

the man can’t remember the word and it won’t let him rest

my father said that when he was young he saw a Greek word leap from the sea heart to the clouds and carry his village with it, but that was when fish were fish, and the the Mediterranean was still a myth

the last word my mother spoke left a small black hole in the air outside her kitchen window, just above the lemon tree…it’s still there

so here I am, a thief, stealing from thieves

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Peter notes: “William Carlos Williams writes about ‘…the ifs of language…’, which I take to mean the possibilities or the potentials of language, that are beyond dictionary meaning. It’s what’s outside the frame, what is absent that interests Williams.”

Peter also notes this by Antonin Artaud: “This is all that language is good for from now on, a means of going mad, eliminating thought, rupturing; a labyrinth of foolishness, not a dictionary into which certain pedants from the environs of the Seine may channel their spiritual awareness.”

Peter: ‘It is the duty of the reader to take the writer to safety.”

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I provided the music and sound design to the film. That music can be heard as part of my album Manoeuvres 1995 – 2005. Liner notes to that album can be read here.

If thought needs words, then they both need proof. This is what language is, a neurosis for reality. And maybe thought needs further proof; in the sound of language, in its music. Music then becomes the sound of thought, its proof.

…the proofs of language.

Transfusion: Video, Topology, Sisyphus

Still from the video clip to the TJ Eckleberg remix of the Tom Kazas song, Transfusion.

Still from the video clip to the TJ Eckleberg remix of the Tom Kazas song, Transfusion.

Q: ??

A: Interesting you should say that, because working on the video clip to Transfusion -TJ Eckleberg remix brought back some of my curiosity about the links between topology and psychoanalysis. It reminded me that the lyrics to Transfusion are from the time I was making my cinema poem (short-film) the Topologist, that in many ways was trying to explore these connections. In simple terms, topology is study of the folding of space, the preservation of properties of space under transformations. This subject matter can also be imagined as the terrain of unconscious drives and desires; where separated histories and urges can come into connection, or where accepted associations become disconnected, where shape does not have to correspond to content, and where visually, (in a somewhat literal rendering for the Transfusion video clip), a multi-surface multi-angled scene represents such psychoanalytic structure and tension, or torsion, if you will. Loss, not only of present fixed co-ordinates, but of nostalgic co-ordinates and future co-ordinates, requires (and required of me in the making of the Topologist), a new way of seeing the world.

Some of these ideas were expressed via the narrative (or more appropriately the anti-narrative) of my film the Topologist; with its unidentified polyvocal voice-overs, its episodic sequences, and its representation of no ‘real-world’ terrain, that tries to question metaphor. With the video clip to TJ’s remix, all this was able to come together in a new way with the inclusion of the 3D image manipulations I created of a still from the Topologist. These image transformations (as seen in the image above) depict this multi-dimensionality and contrasting orientations, with that tiny figure of the topologist himself present in some of these Escher-like and Dora Maar-like scenes.

I was thrilled that TJ’s remix focussed on the lyrics: “I stepped out of the water, walked in from the weather”, because this couplet condenses the idea of transition from one terrain to another, of transformation from one shape to another that struggles for coherence. It poses an escape from a dense bounded space (in the lyric: a bathtub) to a somewhere-else, from a site of elemental turmoil (in the lyric: the weather) to a new space, that in many ways become equally challenging for the topologist. You see, as experimental as I tried to make the Topologist, that is, with its non-narrative features, the lyrics to the song Transfusion are certainly narrative in form. Namely, they describe a journey over time, where this movement can be plotted and its parts related, intentionally problematic as they made be. Elements of the ‘absurd’ now enter, especially with the sense of the absurd that Camus wrote about in his treatment of the myth of Sisyphus. That book became inextricably linked to my lyrics, that found some form in: “I revel in the burden that’s rolling up and down the hill.” But Camus’ book, the Myth of Sisyphus, deals with so much more. For example, how suicide as a response to the absurd is not an acceptable option; not a somatic suicide, not a psychological suicide, not an abandonment or apathy. But it precisely identifies the need for struggle, for a freedom that only becomes intelligible in the face of the absurd. One begins to see the political in this story.

What became interesting to me were the deeper layers to the character of Sisyphus. Sure, he was given an absurd punishment, but Sisyphus is not simply a criminal, nor a simple criminal. He can be understood as a hero. The Greeks certainly rendered him as such. He was a hero that challenged and disobeyed authority, the Law. He was equated with that other great hero who disobeyed authority, Prometheus. Prometheus was also given an ‘eternal’ punishment, but we celebrate his crime because it becomes the very beginning of humanity; we understand this act as a gift. However, this gift is not just that of fire, (the arts of civilisation), but one of the ‘act of disobedience’ itself. Eric Fromm identifies that civilisation can be understood to have been founded with acts of disobedience. It was this Promethean disobedience that brought civilisation to humanity. In the biblical myth, it was Eve who disobeyed and precipitated the Fall, that allowed humanity to begin. These Western creation myths embody, at their very heart, acts of disobedience. It is not a stretch to see that for society to evolve, at many levels, we need to acknowledge this deeper sense of the role of disobedience. (Fromm is clear to differentiate between the right and wrong kinds of disobedience.) Authority, whether political, economic, patriarchal, theological, cultural, etc, needs to be challenged by humanity for society to exist. For me, this is a crucial insight. Sisyphus, in the hands of Camus, becomes a character that disobeys, rebelling against the absurd of his situation. It is in this act that a deeper sense of emancipation is created; a rupture in the repetition. As Camus writes, “one must imagine Sisyphus happy,” and happiest in this situation. So that if freedom means anything, it means a predicament that necessitates struggle, and so this becomes the definition of happiness. These ideas were irresistible to me, so I had to title my ep, (the one that contains my mix of the song Transfusion), ‘Sisyphus Happy‘.

I won’t go into it here, unless you ask me a question on this, but the other major theme on that ep is the tension between presenting different remodellings of one song on the same ep. (There is yet another version of Transfusion, on this ep, called Revel in the Burden). The ep problematizes ideas of the original versus the copy, of cause and result, and of discovering alternate meaning by juxtaposing these remodelled versions. It comes full circle by trying to equate these songwriting ideas with the Sisyphean moments between ascent and descent.

Trying to make sense of all of this can be seen as an act of transfusion; of absorbing this absurd predicament as a life generating act, even as a therapeutic act. My lyric, “I read words for transfusion” not only references that act of reading Camus’ book, but also that words and language, with their structures (and poststructuralist implications), are a way to allow/restrict movement inside this topological terrain. I have never written many narrative song lyrics, and when I do, they generally start off as word poems, with the poetry of the music arriving much later.

Q: ??

A: …

The Topologist and other Cinema Poems

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The Topologist and other Cinema Poems is a collection of the short film and video work by Tom Kazas; exploring his experimental approach, guerilla aesthetic and ontological concerns. They are the search for the texture of a man, within his imaginings.

liner notes here

dvd or free download here

see the Topologist trailer here

more on the Topologist here

The collection contains:                                                                                                          1 the Topologist                                                                                                                       2 Post Utopian Pause                                                                                                              3 the Room                                                                                                                              4 Ο Τοπολόγος                                                                                                                        5 a Collection of Cuts

total run time: 65 minutes