Saturday, 25 June 2011

"Alexis St Martin was one of the 19th century’s most important scientific guinea pigs. In 1822, the illiterate young French-Canadian was working as a ‘voyageur’ for John Jacob Astor’s fur-trading company in northern Michigan. He was hanging out with a bunch of rowdies in the company store when a shotgun accidentally went off and he was hit below his left nipple. The injury was serious and likely to be fatal – his half-digested breakfast was pouring out of the wound from his perforated stomach, along with bits of the stomach itself – but a US army surgeon called William Beaumont was nevertheless sent for. Beaumont was pessimistic, but he cleaned the wound as best he could and was amazed the next day to find his patient still alive. It was touch and go for almost a year: St Martin survived, though with a gastric fistula about two and a half inches in circumference. It was now possible for Beaumont to peer into St Martin’s stomach, to insert his forefinger into it, to introduce muslin bags containing bits of food and to retrieve them whenever he wanted."


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

These few images, from John Gianvito's Vapor Trail (Clark), are part of a montage which is one of the many inserted in the film as part of its dialectic between history and the present. Gianvito's approach is particularly enriching in that not only does it avoid a linear vision of history and narration, it also, as a consequence of this, points out the multiplicity and intricacy of causes behind any one situation.

But in this particular case, it does something else, too. The montage of pictures of American soldiers fighting, or ready to fight, belongs to one of the two archetypes of war photography (the other one being that of the dead bodies). What remains off-screen in both cases is the other side (the enemy firing back ; the soldier who killed the victim) as an active agent, interacting in the same sphere and time frame as the subject being photographed. Gianvito, by inscribing this sequence in his dialectic of present (oral narratives) and history (narratives based on documents), enables a similar dialectic to take place between the images being shown and what their off-screen (hors-champ) reality is : he extends the simple frame of the picture and includes the present reality of the Philippines as the direct but un-represented off-screen space of those marines, a deployment through not only space (the other side of the war line) but also time.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Critique: "reconstructions of the internal logic of ideas, deductions of the intellectual and sociological conditions of their possibility, withering exposures of their inconsistencies and omissions."