THE SPRAWL. METAHAVEN
THE RUSSIAN DOLL
“In that gigantic instant I saw millions of delightful and atrocius acts; none astonished me more than the fact that all of them together occupied the same point, without overlapping or transparency… What my eyes saw was simultaneous: what I shall transcribe will be successive, because language is successive.”
Jorge Luis Borges, El Aleph
I want to make a film with a fragmentary narrative that compiles different times, whereby all three stories each (with their own sequential narrative) are subordinated to one superior narrative: spatial montage. This structure will permit that the three parts act in parallel creating links that can participate in different stories and vice versa. I therefore want to establish a linked narration system that –much like a Russian doll- puts in contact both narration levels within a complex system.
Schematically, this narrative could be defined as a kind of superior cover: a spatial montage (installation and interactivity) that is host to three stories that make up a film. In this montage I aim to highlight the “between” of the stories: the relation between generations. A “between” that takes into account what is not told but what exists as a link and works through synapse, as memory itself does. In this montage, past, present and future can converge, offering us a second level of narrative.
The contact between these two levels will generate intersections between concepts such as times/space and reality/imagination. During the Master, it will therefore become necessary to revise these concepts depending on the evolution of the artistic installation, the internal structure of the film and the relation of the viewer with it. I will seek to develop the construction of a single voice within the narrative. The voice will not be gender specific, but a uniform us (a ‘you’, a ‘me’, a ‘her’) that changes constantly, lending sense to the term “family memory”. The voice thus becomes a collective; a multitude, a family.
Successfully articulating this narrative concept will be one of the main challenges in my research. This necessary challenge will give the project its own language; a language that will be faithful to the complexity of memory and the different space-time layers.
I have sketched a scheme of themes and generational links to organize the structure on which I would later develop the second level with a spatial montage.
SPATIAL MONTAGE WITHIN MY RESEARCH
Lev Manovich defined the term “spatial montage” for a type of montage that modifies the traditional form of perceiving time in narration and that opposes the idea of succession and sequence. It’s a montage whereby there is no continuity among associated images. It’s therefore no longer one image after the other, but one image plus another. The spatial organization does not seek to prioritize or to offer a fixed path. It’s not so much the images that are of interest, but the relations that can be found between the links and connections of the images.
This “between” implies being aware of what is not in the image, that which remains outside. A “between” that Gilles Delluze singled out as the starting point from which modern cinema developed new relations with thought:
“[…] the deleting of an everything or a total of images in the benefit of an “outside” that can insert itself between them”.
Spatial montage thus seeks to become more an image of thought that a reflection of reality. The intention is not to retell a story but to present an image in which we can get lost, that we can construct, de-construct, and find different senses or non-senses.
Although there is a broad range of artists and works that have tried to reflect the concepts and forms hereby described, my intention is to develop this narrative concept through an interactive montage that uses programming and new technologies. This structure, with hypertext features, gives us access to different connections among the three stories.
The development of the spatial montage will imply working together with a programmer and will be one of the fundamental pillars of the research project for the Master.
LEV MANOVICH’S SPATIAL MONTAGE, DEANN BORSHAY LIEM, GEOPOLITICS AND CULTURAL IDENTITY
What resonated most for me within Manovich’s chapter “The New Language of Cinema”, and which relates to our ‘space-time’ theme, is his discussion of the spatial montage. He cites cultural geographer Edward Soja in prefacing the renewed interest in spatial montage, stating that “…it is only in the last decades of the twentieth century that this mode has made a powerful comeback, as exemplified by the growing importance of such concepts as “geopolitics” and “globalization” as well as by the key role that analysis of space plays in the theories of postmodernism” (323). I’d like to briefly explore filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem as emblematic of this particular claim, specifically drawing on her film In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee (2009). Deann becomes a integral player in this kind of wave of spatial montage (or experimentation with such within the documentary filmic form) in a service to a geopolitical analysis of her identity as a Asian transnational adoptee. The film serves as a sequel to her first autobiographical documentary First Person Plural(1999), and takes us on her journey back to South Korea to find the girl Cha Jung Hee who she replaced years ago at the orphanage and whose identity she has assumed throughout her adolescence. Deann’s personal exploration and journey becomes a story about a collective, historically-infused experience of transnational exchange that stems from neocolonial economics and politics from the 1940s onward between South Korea and the United States. She takes up the use of spatial montage within her documentary in order to provide a visibility as well as spatiotemporal simultaneity to the different identities that she has simultaneously assumed her entire life.