Some thoughts on Reading Loop 11/5/11

Hondartza Fraga‘s recent video works – Bearing Elsewhere (2010) and Annorstädes (2010) – explore the journey as an endlessly repeating, perpetually unfinished and non-linear process, a thwarted movement towards an elusive elsewhere (annorstädes in Swedish), within the vast expanse of which we hope (and fail) to beat the bounds of a home. Figments of Home (2011), a black and white video work made from fragments of six films, interrogates the nostalgia which which underpins our constructions of home, staging fictions which speak to our desiring memories.

We discussed home as ‘a dangerous myth that we keep repeating but never resolve’; as ‘a myth-making gesture’ that belies our realisation that ‘we want home to be real, but it never can be’.

Exile, then: ‘both quotidian and profound’.

‘You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of ‘the artist’ and the all-sufficiency of ‘art’ and ‘beauty’ and ‘love,’ back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermude, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time–back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.’ (Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again)

Hondartza is Spanish, Basque, and has lived in England for six years. She explained how she went to Norway and felt at home there, although she does not speak the language… How, then, do we explain the equation of certain feelings with that sense of being at home? Perhaps, paradoxically, it is about being outside and looking in from afar; seeing the city from the window of an aeroplane, neat and bounded beneath you, as though caught in a snowglobe… A miniature…

This idea that in miniature, the city below looks perfect, freed from contradiction and conflict… As Bachelard states, to miniaturise is to resolve contradictions within a space…

‘In looking at a miniature, unflagging attention is required to integrate all the detail’. (Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space)

‘Psychologists — and more especially philosophers — pay little attention to the play of miniature frequently introduced into fairy tales. In the eyes of the psychologist, the writer is merely amusing himself when he creates houses that can be set on a pea. But this is a basic absurdity that places the tale on a level with the merest fantasy. And fantasy precludes the writer from entering, really, into the domain of the fantastic. Indeed he himself, when he develops his facile inventions, often quite ponderously, would appear not to believe in a psychological reality that corresponds to these miniature features. He lacks that little particle of dream which could be handed on from writer to reader. To make others believe, we must believe ourselves.’ (Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space)

We discussed George Szirtes’ poem, The Looking-Glass Dictionary (from The Budapest File, 2000), exploring the poem’s articulation of the resistance of language to meaning. This idea of Lacan’s of one’s homelessness in language…

‘Words withheld. Words loosed in angry swarms. / An otherness. The whole universe was / other, a sum of indeterminate forms / in motion. Who knows what the neighbour does / behind closed doors?’ (George Szirtes)

For L.P., what the neighbour does behind closed doors resumes the whole problem of language: ‘other people’s imaginative worlds are closed off to Szirtes, just as his is closed off to them’.

M.E. raised the question of exile in time… To be exiled in the time in which one lives. Is this, then, what prompts nostalgia? How – and with whom? – do we construct the home from which we are exiled, in time and in space?

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