May 22, 2007
Cupboards, drawers, boxes and storage bins are open and private everyday objects are strewn about, turned into something public in preparation for the moving sale. Personal histories related to each item are re-examined. Will they survive without the physical archives? Do they need to?
Le Carré describes this tortuous upending of a home in A Perfect Spy as agents tramp through every cranny and cupboard of her house. Mary’s husband, gifted in the spy tradecraft, has gone missing. He’s taken a ‘retirement’ and is writing his autobiography. I am intrigued by his process because he wants his story to read like a fiction and he wants his hero, himself to be lovable. In her interrogation with the agents, she said,
He’s not writing yet. He’s preparing.
He calls it a matrix.
When he retires, he’ll write.
He’s still finding the line. He likes to keep it to himself.
Listen to this: ‘ When the most horrible gloom was over the household; when Edward himself was in agony and behaving as prettily as he knew how. ‘
It’s from something he read. When he reads a book he underlines things in pencil. Then when he’s finished it he writes out his favourite bits (Le Carré 1986:51).
I think of a mise-en-abime, the hypodiegetic and diegetic framing narratology but this is only a spy mystery. But I also think of the collage-montage and I remember Benjamin. It seems to be what I am doing with my blog. I underline with digg or deli.cio.us. I cut and paste using Flickr, Youtube, Google docs or WordPress itself. But unlike Benjamin or the perfect spy, I scrupulously hot link the most reliable url I can find to every image, citation, idea. The blog itself may seem fragmented or may link the images with new juxtapositions but the sources can be followed by the reader. So my blog is more like a collage-montage than writing.
Before being driven to suicide through physical and mental exhaustion while fleeing the Nazis at the French border in 1940, German cultural theorist, Walter Benjamin was working on a consuming project to educate his own generation and awaken a new political consciousness (Buck-Morss 1991: 336, 47 in Holtorf 2001) . Using the Paris arcades as his prime metaphor, through his passion for collecting fragments of everyday urban experience he wanted his contemporaries to engage in a cleansing memory work, history with an ethical dimension, to revisit 19th century Parisian social and cultural history. He introduced a new form of ‘writing’ which consisted of cutting-and-pasting original citations without citation marks.
Benjamin’s fragmented direct, literal quotations, images and things were purposefully taken out of context. In this way they were deliberately not reduced to generally accepted theoretical or methodological frameworks or categories. He wanted his contemporaries to question unchallenged assumptions about anthropological nihilism, iron construction, the flâneur, the collector and capitalism itself. Something new was created from the old by constructed these fragmented, de-racinated elements into a collage-montage by juxtaposing them in a new way. In this way Benjamin questioned commonly held notions of ‘representation as finding some correspondence with an exterior reality’ (Shanks 1992: 188-90 Holtorf 2001).
Webliography and Bibliography
Benjamin, Walter. 1991. Trans. Buck-Morss. Das Passagen-Werk. Gesammelte Schriften, vol. V . Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp. [English edition 1996]
Buck-Morss, Susan (1991) The Dialectics of Seeing. Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project . Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT Press.
Shanks, Michael (1992) Experiencing the Past. On the Character of Archaeology. London: Routledge.
January 13, 2007
This is a test: Jason Paterson hosts this live web cam of a tank of fish in the Monterey Bay Aquarium Jason’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org he describes the site as follows: “Monterey Bay Aquarium live web cam of the outer bay display. This web cam is live from 7am to 7pm. Feeding times are at 11am Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Keep an eye out for the Great White Shark! Please visit the Monterey Bay Aquariums website to learn more.” Jason’s photo is @ http://jpaterson.googlepages.com/ninjachild70x100.png and he describes himself as “I’m pretty much the coolest guy I know. People call me the H4X0R, Captain, Commander, WastedYeti, etc. What ever you prefer really. I mean I’m just a simple code crackin’, sword swingin’, ninja star throwin’ etc. Shoot me an email if you would like to converse with the most ultimate person ever.”
I read somewhere that one of the earliest moving pictures was of fish in an aquarium. I can’t find the source and I am beginning to question it now but I did find some interesting links to aquariums and the history of moving pictures.
Watching this tank full-screen from this site is oddly soothing. I have the .rss feed on my customized google home page. I’m going to email Jason to thank him and find out if this is a legitimate link! This is his url http://jpaterson.googlepages.com.
I am fascinated by social histories including histories of popular culture. According to David Curtis in his presentation which is now online entitled “Which History?” presented at the Tate International Council Conference on June 1st 2001, the Lumiere brother’s cameraman Alexander Promio who filmed the general section of the ‘Panorama of Liverpool docks taken from the electric railway’ in 1897 was Britain’s first film-artist.
This is Curtis’ full list of his nominations for a moving pictures history: Alexander Premio – ‘Liverpool Docks’ 1897
Chris Newby – ‘Stromboli’ 1990 -1997
Guy Sherwin – ‘Bicycle’ from ‘Short Film Series’ 1980
William Raban – ‘Thames Film’ 1984
Kenneth Macpherson – ‘Borderline’ 1930
Isaac Julien – ‘Long Road to Mazatlan’ 2000
Ian Bourn / Helen Chadwick – ‘End of the World’ 1982
Jayne Parker – ‘Crystal Aquarium’ 1989
Mark Wallinger – ‘Angel’ 1997
Rose Finn-Kelcey – ‘Glory’ 1982
David Lamelas – ‘To Pour Milk Into a Glass’ 1972
Peter Gidal – ‘Upside Down Feature’ 1972
Oswell Blakestone & Francis Bruguiere – ‘Light Rhythms’ 1930
Lis Rhodes – ‘Light Music’ 1975
This is a history of moving pictures in Brighton which lists the “Aquarium Kinema, Madeira Drive, Brighton Film shows were given at the Aquarium before the turn of the century. The Winter Garden at the Aquarium was known as the Aquarium Kinema for a short time during the First World War. After remodelling in 1927-1929, it reopened on 12 June 1929. During the 1930s it was called the Princes Hall (Cinema); occasional film performances, as well as concerts and live theatre, were held here until 1939. During the Second World War it was requisitioned by the RAF. It was used for various purposes thereafter, including the Florida Nights dance hall and Montagu Motor Museum, but none of them including film.”
This 1885 photo of the original Brighton aquarium is hosted on the virtual museum’s site.
[To be summarized]Eugenius Birch’s original design incorporated a variety of styles. Grand archways, columns and elaborate stonework reflected the Pompeian and Gothic influence. Statues of Bath stone, green marble and red Edinburgh granite were used in its construction. The Aquarium’s foundations were dug deep into the ground as the building was not allowed to be taller than the neighbouring promenade, Marine Parade. The distinctive clock tower and gateway to the Aquarium were added in 1874. The four corners of the clock tower bore bronze statues symbolising the seasons. Images of mermaids and sea-nymphs were evident elsewhere in the structure. A frieze inscription at the entrance stated: ‘And God said, Let the water bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that hath life.’ Among those moving creatures were a number of specimens that inspired great interest. The Dublin Bay Prawn of 1874 attracted considerable excitement. In 1880 a manatee was displayed in a huge tank that enabled the viewer to witness the creature at eye level. Sea lions arrived in 1877 and were able to successfully breed. Rather drier attractions could be found elsewhere. The waterfall grotto proved a popular meeting place, and concerts were regularly held in the conservatory. By 1876 the roof terrace had been expanded to incorporate a roller-skating rink and smoking room. Film shows were increasingly common from the end of the nineteenth century, and the conservatory was briefly known as the Aquarium Kinema.
A brief history of moving pictures in Randwick, Australia which included this section: “The Coogee Palace Aquarium had one of the earliest electric picture shows in about 1912. The first film shown was “The Defeat of the Spanish Armada”. Another cinema in Randwick, “The Orient Pictures” situated on the corner of Coogee Bay Road (opposite the Royal Hotel) was an open-air type, which provided “excellent up-to-date moving pictures” in 1911 and probably earlier.”
Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North, (1922) a record of Inuit Eskimo life, was the first feature film documentary or non-fictional narrative feature film. [The word “documentary” was reportedly first used in February, 1926, by John Grierson in his review of Flaherty’s Moana (1926) for the New York Sun. The term may also have been used 12 years earlier by famed photographer Edward Curtis in a prospectus for his Seattle-based Continental Film Company, referring to his film In the Land of the Headhunters (1914).] Flaherty’s film helped to usher in the documentary film movement, although it raised some controversy because it ‘re-created’ or staged some of its hunting scenes, rather than being truly non-fictional. Film site milestones in film history.
This is an excellent site with concise information about the history of moving pictures. I still haven’t found the reference to early films of fish tanks. I remember learning of this through the work of a contemporary Canadian artist who built a makeshift film-making device in reference to this early film using an old wringer washing machine.This particular popular culture history intrigues me since its effect on shared communal memory is probably so profound. Nanook of the North was known worldwide.