Event and Photography: Between Some Thing and No Thing

“The house, as I see it,” says Gaston Bachelard, “is a sort of airy structure that moves about on the breath of time.  It really is open to the wind of another time.  It seems as though it could greet us every day of our lives in order to give us confidence in life.”


An event is a multiplicity of happenstances.  Time fractures singularity into an endlessly coagulating set plurivocal emissions which we often find ourselves, if not central to, then drawn into the web of its becoming.  A cluster of happenstances rolled over each other yesterday, creating an evocative friction illuminating – as the temporal dissonance of a photograph does – a potential for some thing to have force within the “real” world.  The most popularly read snippet of multiples on yesterday’s cycle of newness (“You give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you the world!”) in geographic local of “these ‘ere islands” was the “coming out” of Tom Daley.  The scramble was never going to be about simply where he “came out” from, and where his going out was to get him to: this was only background noise in the plaintive of missives generally reserved for the national mortuary (“bravery”, “exceptional”, “role model”, etc…).  As the words, photographs, music and moving images scrambled over one another – creating an erotic tension prefaced by photomontage in the 1920s – great strain was put upon the coke fires that turn the pistons of the present: the distillation of things into somethings, of happenstances into stories, whereby former subjects of the receding world are tied together in interminable chains of images past, rolled into gear.  Whether one thought Tom Daley was being honest (a hand-held camera as indisputable sign) or opportunist (the careful orchestration of the sign), what was lost was gentle staccato of the atonal passing of life’s rhythms into the backward jolting freeze frame of industrialised sentiment.  People wondered why it sounded like a confession, rather than wondering why confession is at the beginning of subjective possibility for the modern subject, part of the mechanism of its form.  In order to grasp oneself and better utilise such a possession, first confess oneself, give as commodity form.

                Funnily enough, this emis-sion of this con-fes-sion came on the same day as the first episode of “Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves”; a Swedish drama on the impact of AIDs in Stockholm during the 1980s. “Touching, bleak, at times painful to watch, this was a stark reminder of the disease’s impact”, according to one, not atypical review.  Again, the emphasis is not placed on the possibility of refashioning the past into an event of your own writing: and, then, potentially, into an ongoing event of multiple happenstance with creative paths in league with the many ways in which the self is inscribed in banal and ghostly patternations.  But on comforting the event into a homely pastness, where it can lie as an event in a closed archive, where happenstance is neutralised into a narrative which takes us all in our “essences”.  In this way we can poignantly have reminders – in their proper places – of things we have (likely-as-not, for most), not experienced in the way we claim: that is, that it brought back its singularity, its flattening naturalness, it’s death and confusion.  These might have been responses that flowed through the ordinary affects of its spread, but the genius of the film did not lie in this.  Sure, the film took broad strokes: love, disease, and death and the headings for each chapter.  But none are given prominence.  The story is not told in linear fashion; or with one narrative format; it uses not only symbolist poetics (a child’s handprint against a steamed window), but also, and inside the same image, the harsh, realist neon lights of the pornography shop; not just the train as a departure from one world to the other, but the stagger around a city.  It was fabulous, because it interwove these plaintive, multiple forms, to give a plaintive, multiple version of the non-binary sexualities the spread across time; where symbols could turn into refuse just as quickly as the obverse.  This is, by the by, what I think Bachelard means by the “airy structure that moves about on the breath of time.”  It gives a fragrant deconstruction of what happens when events are formed; together with a nostalgia that might permeate the brutality that happens when they do.


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