what to write
Constellation of reading/watching + the process as drawing
Where am I with the film?
Synopsis of salt
I saw a one-woman play named Salt on a trip to London in 2019. The set was not much more than a black box and bench seats. At center stage, a black woman stood in a white dress. In front of her was a table with a pink block of salt the size of a human head, a sledgehammer and a large set of mortar and pestle, Some incense burned, the contour of their smoke visible. A white neon-light triangle loomed above the woman and the table. There were safety goggles on the two rows of seats. I picked a spot on the second row.
During this show, I will be working with a sledgehammer and safety goggles. The rule is, when I am wearing mine, you also need to be wearing yours.
There is a beat after the instruction, before she begins: I am twnety-eight. I am black. I am a woman.
The play is a direct expression of her personal history charged with racism and colonialism. "And we are all descended from enslaved people. On a form, I tick 'Black British'. If you ask me where I'm from I'll say Birmingham. If you ask me where I'm really from, I'll think 'Suck your mom!' but I'll say, 'My parents were born here.'" (14-15)
But the play is more nuanced than denouncing stereotypes, including stereotypes of injustice. She struggles with her identity — "Two halves of who I am, a body that works, educated in white institutions, and a body that feels, nurtured in black homes, smash together like tectonic plates." (20) — and her effort to reconcile with her and her ancestors' past — "It is time travel. Sometimes I stand at the bus stop, and I think about the violence that is in my ancestry, the violence embedded in our lives and the world shimmers and then melts away and all that is left is suffering." (22)
It is this suffering that led to her decision to conduct a travel project. Along with a female filmmaker, "another child of diaspora," she devised a reverse route of the slave trade and making stops to visit her family's past. They spent three weeks on a cargo ship from Belgium to Ghana. She then spent a week in Ghana and two and a half weeks in Jamaica, before flying to North Carolina, US and taking another ship back to the UK.
The cargo ship becomes a confrontational materialization of the slave trade. Loaded with cars and marbles, the ship sails along the East African coast with six white Italian officers, one of which is contractually referred to as the Master, nineteen Filipino crew members and the two black women artists. "And we notice that the word 'nigger' keeps coming up at dinner. I try to tell myself that maybe it is an Italian seafaring word. I hear the master say 'Chinaman'. I give up." (25-26)
Her fear, frustration, despair and pain is palpable on the stage — "asphyxiations and decapitations and drowning, suffocation and flesh boiled in sugar cane, bodies blown up with gunpowder, hanged, burned at the stake, bodies left to putrefy, pecked at by vultures, devoured alive by fire ants, roasted on pikes." (28)
Anger. Frustration. Sadness. Tire.
She hit the salt as she recounted stories, some from her grandmother and parents, but mostly from herself, about slavery, colonial past, loss of identity, institutional racism. I don't remember when I started crying, but I cried throughout the play. I related to her anger, frustration, sadness, tire. The notion of being somewhere yet not belonging. This diaspora (although different in our respective context). This loss of home, being privileged yet forever burdened by the past, this alternating reality of emptiness (deprived of identity, or inability to trace something and make it coherent) and lack of or mis- understanding from others.
As she laid parts of the salt down she visualized institutional racism. And she repeated
INSERT FROM SCRIPT
I was wearing my goggles. And my tears were filling them up.
Perhaps that's how affect worked. Extreme vulnerability, extreme pain, and extreme empathy.
However, I do wonder what the white, especially male and white audience thought of it.
Synopsis of Migritude
Synopsis of the White Book
Synopsis of Limbo
Conversation with Carol
outline from proposal
1.3 Critical Reflection
I make observations on the process of image-making in text and film and make an attempt to clarify the relationship between image and meaning. My main inquiries are: How does an image move someone? Perhaps by a different measure, how does an image embody meaning? When does an image evoke empathy?
These inquiries are informed by my own practice as well as readings of feminist film theory. A longitudinal reading of Laura Mulvey’s essays published from 1975 till 2015 has affirmed my position to maintain a subjective, almost radically personal, approach — by observing how my own memory, narrative/narrativity and aesthetics (appearances, as John Berger calls it) interconnect. I will limit my engagement with, and therefore criticism of discourses that hinge on psychoanalytic, Marxist or Perician/Lacanian frameworks.
My practice in filmmaking has made me more aware of how I use words to construct images. As such, I will investigate two kinds of scenes. First, those I have created in my films: for example, the activity of coffee-making in my graduation project and the hands in my short film Seek (2019). Second, those that have resided in me over the years and that I rewrite for the memoir, including: a cabin I have never visited, lemons and the sky from my childhood. These lead to more specific questions: Am I translating the voice of a writer to that of a filmmaker? How do I convey meaning: with language or with image? How does each procedure of filmmaking (composing an image, blocking a shot, editing) express, interpret or change a feeling?
I will refer to close readings of films and theories that have helped me further these lines of thought. (I have included the list of references in my project proposal, section 3.3.) As I write out this part of the thesis, I hope to define my personal grammar within the poetics of film.
Note: I would like to discuss with Natasha how much abstraction I can — or rather, should — reach within the given word limit with integrity. I have noted the following discourses as relevant, but have not read much of them: life writing, autotheory, phenomenology, new materialism (Deleuzian), haptic visuality (Laura Marks).