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 in London in 2019, written and performed by Selina Thompson. She stood at center stage in a white dress. In front of her was a table with a block of pink salt the size of a human head, a sledgehammer and a large set of mortar and pestle. 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 was a beat after the instruction, before she began: I am twnety-eight. I am black. I am a woman.
The play was a direct expression of her personal history charged with institutional 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) Yet it was more than an outcry for justice. She struggled 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 — "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 was this suffering that led her to 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 boarded a cargo ship, loaded with cars and marbles, that sailed from Belgium to Ghana along the East African coast. The environment was more hostile than they had imagined — or perhaps, than anyone could imagine.
As she recounted the horror, as she traced institutional racism to its very end, she hit the salt with the sledgehammer. With force, with pain, with conviction, line by line.
And this is imperialism and racism and capitalism God knows what else Built on Violence Maintained by it too It decides who matters and who will die
She hit the salt.
It shapes the states
That pressure the company
That corrupts the union
That grinds down the master
He bullies the officers
They alienate the crew
And terrorise the artists
Shouting at them And they're shouting at me And we're still at sea in the morning.
I was wearing my goggles and my tears were filling them up. Her anger, fear, frustration, sadness and despair were palpable on the stage. The experience of oppression and loss of her rang true to my own exile. As she shouted, I shouted inside. Her extreme vulnerability not only touched me — it became part of me.
We carry a contemporary privilege — "educated in white institutions" — yet forever burdened by the past from non-white, non-western homes. Ours is a reality deprived of any coherent identity. We are never belonging, never home.
"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)
Synopsis of Migritude
See updated synopsis of Salt.
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).