Ennui, exhaustion and consumption
Here’s a quote from ‘The Cultural Way of Being’.
“From the hearts of people, this resonant art of the shared life will exorcise the despair of Postmodern distractions—the playing of meaningless games to quell the boredom of a purposeless life. It will gradually fuel the longing to escape the exhaustion of forever consuming, perpetually updating and downloading the next digital fix, injecting into the mainline of your digital self. This art will answer the burgeoning boredom of life and its dissipation through consuming each other or anything else that catches the eye. It will create the hope of anticipation and the longing for redemption, for cultural renewal. It may even point the way. For when artists gather together in a creative community which shares freely with one another, when they are assisted by publishers and gallery owners, patrons and soul-mates, then art can move from the personally expressive to the culturally formative and historically potent.”
Citation from: Hall, Geoffrey; Lorensson, Chris; Hall, Mark (2011-07-11). The Cultural Way of Being (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 114-122). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.
I’m starting to flesh out these thoughts into my art practice, so that they do not remain abstract principles. The worst that can be done with our series ‘Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape’ is for it to become an intellectual exercise aimed at gaining a spiritual epistemological orientation for artistic principles to direct our work, rather than connect and inform our life and practice. If this Spirit is at work in us, then our work will not only intuit perceptual art-making, but be animated, embodied for our audience to experience with us. We move from the art of consumption to the art of consummation. I’d like to put a bit of flesh on those bones of such perceptions and look briefly at the artist fuelling the desire to escape the tragedy of the endless consumption of Postmodern carnival distractions
The art of anticipation – How do we create anticipation? We do so by leaving the door open, by creating a means of conversation in which the artist/film-maker doesn’t supply the answers and that means speaking in humility. One way of doing this is in a process highlighted in ‘The Cultural Way of Being’ – a method to be gleaned from Robert Bresson’s approach to filmmaking.
“Bresson is showing us the effect before we can have any idea of the cause.” Writes Joseph Cunneen in ‘Robert Bresson: A Spiritual Style in Film’ Published by Continuum, 2003. p179.
Or to put it another way, as Gaston Bachelard wrote:”…touch the depths before it stirs the surface…”
A good idea you may think, but how do we put this into practice, how do we ‘do’ this in our storytelling? A few personal examples.
In ‘My Name Is Sorrow’ a drama film about human trafficking, I made a conscious decision not to follow the usual formula of politicising or sensationalising the issue; by showing a political resolution to the problem, or trying to gain the audience’s empathy by showing graphic scenes of physical abuse or brutal rape. What that achieves I think is the opposite of our desire. I understand the anger felt by activists at the inhumanity of human trafficking, but what happens in such an example is that people recoil from the screen and are more prone to disengage from fear.
With ‘Sorrow’ I decided to focus not on the cause but the effect through giving a voice to the victim. Not a voice of the political need for intervention and redemption, but the inner voice of a victim set on hope. In recording the Russian translation Maria Dobraia told me that she thought I’d captured a feminine voice, a woman’s outpouring from her heart, not in conversational English (and now Russian) but in the incomplete phrases we use when thinking to ourselves. With this style, the voice-over was more an inner voice-over. People see and hear the effect of the horrors of betrayal and physical abuse – the imagination is left to make its own images of injustice and brutality. This I think gets to the heart of the matter and encourages us to engage with the issue in a more powerful way.
In a film I’m looking to produce this year, let’s call it ‘Project Rachel’ I’m looking at the demand side of human trade. The usual formula is to look at the supply side, but the reason for the supply is the demand driven by our desires and, as I wrote in ‘The Cultural Way of Being’ “…gradually fuel the longing to escape the exhaustion of forever consuming…” This hope reflects something of Tarkovsky’s analysis for our materialist society, in that we have created the means for our own consumption and highlighted in ‘Translating the Invisible Wind’.
“We have created a civilisation which threatens to annihilate mankind… Once man had turned history into a soulless and alienated machine, it immediately started to require human lives as the nuts and bolts that would keep it going. Consequently man has come to be regarded first and foremost as a socially useful animal… By emphasising the social usefulness of someone’s activity to the point where the rights of the [person] are ignored; we commit an unforgivable mistake and create all the preconditions for tragedy.” From ‘Andrei Tarkovsky Interviews: Conversations with the filmmakers series’ Edited by John Gianvito. Published by University Press of Mississippi/Jackson, 2006. (with apologies to any women readers for the gender language of this quote).
Citation from: Hall, Geoff (2012-07-23). Translating the Invisible Wind (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 747-751). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.
Another example is in the writing of my novel; a work in progress. It is what we may call a ‘social surrealist’ story about passive resistance and the resensitising humanity from the numbing reality of endless consumerism and social control.
Bresson, Tarkovsky, Ozu and Kieslowski all speak to me of a transcendent style of film, a style which points beyond the confines of a materialist conception of reality, which rejects such limitations and points to a life which resensitises us from the numbing effects of sexual and spiritual consumption and the lifestyle of collaboration and conformity. In other words we show the possibilities without being prescriptive. The story rejects the usual methods of resistance (violence and propaganda) and has the characters embody a transcendence which is rooted in what Bonhoeffer calls, ‘living as a body in the spirit.’ Social change then occurs in this novel as non-cooperation with evil and flaunts the actions of adolescent knee-jerk reactionaries. It gives youth a dignity and personal quality, empowering them beyond the stereotypical focus of all youth (allegedly); drunkenness, sexual consumerism, drug addiction and social alienation.
“To live as a human being means to live as a body in the spirit. Flight from the body is as much flight from being human, as is flight from the spirit. The body is the form in which the spirit exists, as the spirit is the form in which the body exists.”
Citation from: Hall, Geoffrey; Lorensson, Chris; Hall, Mark (2011-07-11). The Cultural Way of Being (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 260-262). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.
There is much talk and art which focuses on a disembodied spirituality, abstracted from life in and through the body. What I am working towards is an embodied spiritual life which sees my work as working alongside ha-ruach in transformative, redemptive work, not denying the presence of darkness, but not over-emphasising it either; ‘for the light is shining and the darkness passing away’.
We cannot do this alone. Such work is not about personal affirmation, but a call to humility and serving the community. So, get in touch, let’s start working this out together.