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Why is this future not an exploding body?

October 11, 2011 \am\31 8:35 am

When you read Maxim Gorky’s experience of watching cinema for the very first time you understand his terror, and his awe. He is not entirely hopeful for this new medium (in fact, he predicts its speedy descent into poor dysfunctional family films and pornography).

What strikes you when you read at his account of seeing the Hepworth Manufacturing shorts, ‘Kingdom of Shadows’ is his very present experience of his culture and its revolution.

He breathlessly says:

If you only knew how strange it is to be there. It is a world without sound, without colour. Every thing there—the earth, the trees, the people, the water and the air—is dipped in monotonous grey. Grey rays of the sun across the grey sky, grey eyes in grey faces, and the leaves of the trees are ashen grey. It is not life but its shadow, It is not motion but its soundless spectre.

The terror of this sudden autre reality, these spectres, can that still happen? Are we now doomed to nostalgia not just for our own first experiences, but for all those grand first experiences– the telephone ringing, the transatlantic flight, eating a banana after rationing ending– that we can now understand in some way because we have representations. If the avant-garde is really dead, can we still get excited about new shit?

And if it isn’t, its not really new anymore.

I want explosions. And I want to be close enough to feel them and their sigificance.

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One Comment
  1. October 12, 2011 \am\31 5:38 am 5:38 am

    Intriguing post.

    I remember reading ‘The Kingdom of Shadows’ by the window in the first week of my undergrad. I also remember watching Dalí’s short films (among others) about a year later and knowing that that kind of terror and awe can most certainly still happen.

    I don’t believe the avant garde is dead, just that its vehicles have become too familiar. Thinking back to the first time I saw a film in iMAX / decent 3D, it was affecting in a way never experienced before or since.
    The problem now is that the most shocking forms of communication (at least visually) have become the norm.

    Until we have immersive virtual reality or something equally unprecedented, then it might be difficult for the still-breathing avant garde to really get under our skin in the way Gorky means.
    But words are still exploding as far as I’m concerned.

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