3 March 2014
"The worst it got was near the end. A lot of people died right at the end, and I didn't know if I could make it another day. A farmer, a Russian, God bless him, he saw my condition, and he went into his house and came out with a piece of meat for me."
"He saved your life."
"I didn't eat it."
"You didn't eat it?"
"It was pork. I wouldn't eat pork."
"What do you mean why?"
"What, because it wasn't kosher?"
"But not even to save your life?"
"If nothing matters, there's nothing to save."
you're back, you think, from a strange place with difficult materials. in all their seeming innocence those materials were calculated to damage you. another person is undamaged and in fact untouched by certain materials which for another person are deeply damaging, you think. like bad sex bad art lowers a person it holds them in a certain grip they can't get out of then it continues to give them trouble. it takes up their time. it uses their time to distance them from the possibilities of other uses. the list of other uses accumulates and grows longer. but before long it lies forgotten. it is the force of the bad art to occupy your mind and your sensing and other systems in such a way that fewer and fewer alternatives appear and become accessible, you think, once started. once started for whatever reason a kind of group and private mania grips the viewer(s), who desire and despite them expect some developments and some improvements. the clearer it becomes that those longed for changes are not forthcoming, the more they desire them, the more, you can say, determined they become to see out this trajectory, to follow it through until the end. it is the third part which won all the awards and the second part can be seen to contain improvements and you can say responses to feedback, and a stronger grasp of the mechanisms. of course your concerns are raised since the last thing you want is greater grasp of mechanisms, greater facility, in the hands of this kind of project, you think, this kind of operator. the last thing you need is to see this genre consolidated, and strengthened, as if, despite all its limitations it is not in fact precisely strong enough, damaging enough, at least for you, you think: at least for me. nothing prepared you for that trilogy, it rose up before th group of you on that little screen in the shellpit cottages and swamped you. some of you it left seemingly untouched. others it immediately began to impact on and to disturb. it s not just the length of those films that disturbs the audience. some long films can easily be watched and some long films, as they say, you never want them to end. you want them to go on and on unfurling and deviating from a straight line so as to be prolonged. some films, even the long credit sequences promise a long and engaging diversion, you think, sitting in the library. it's getting dark. it's monday evening after a long weekend, you can barely think. all that time you were trying to get *out* and a*way*, you ended up being dragged into that film machinery, which caught you up when you were tired and unsuspecting. not wanting to criticise without watching without seeing, you allowed yourself to be caught in watching those films, however they might be. however opposed to human invention those films may be, you found yourself watching them without suspecting they would have the kind of effects they had on you, it never crossed your mind. had you imagined those films could have such effects, rather than being, as S proposed, dumb fun, you would never have watched them, you would have struggled to override them. but they caught you by surprise and quickly, it is fair to say, disabled you further. something in those films immobilises your responses and leaves you if anything more vulnerable you think than otherwise - the way, when Frodo is stung by the spider he goes limp and is made up to look pale and lifeless with little black tell tale marks on his face signifying sickness? of course he is fine. Frodo is fine throughout whereas the viewer is not. hopes high expectations low notwithstanding not a single human moment punctures the surface of those films in the 9 long hours. a person concludes something is broken. a person will have often been shown materials like that and a person knows them for what they are. however, over those 9 long hours, a person begins to experience what they can only think of as a kind of ptsd. a person continues to view the depictions of violence and suffering, but a person feels nothing. after some period, they stop feeling even rhythmic responses, or very basic neural responses to sound and speed. one or more theme tune(s) is/are playing on loops, entering first ears then full interiors of subjects, you think — what can these be, you ask, but signs of damage? if you cannot feel, you think, in the face of 9 hours of mayhem and emotion, this can only be the result of wholesale damage to the sensing systems. there is already damage. the first morning you got there you went down to the pig city. at the time you were taken aback to find it so close to the house, in between the house and the sea. looking back now, you think, sitting in the library where outside it is dark now, looking back that morning is like an innocent opening: walking past the pig city then across the heath to the village shop. the city was full of big pink pigs and those pigs will be there now, in the darkness, in their huts. you saw little piglets and sows and big pigs in herds, sifting through mud with their snouts. you came to a place marked NO ENTRY. PIC and the road was blocked by fluid. you turned right. that night you watched the first film in the series, never suspecting you would end up watching all three films in the series on successive nights until you were literally sick. in the way the artist became ill and then, as they believed, long term sick, from eating the Wall Street Journal, you became sick from watching those films. you sank lower and you became more toxified, as you felt. while the feedback from feelings was of progressive breakdown. when all the signs indicate you have no contact with the world, you think, sitting in the library, even with sound and images crossing the threshold, if there is nothing, you are not alive in a meaningful way, you think, thinking of the damage sustained by those farm workers from falling into effluent in Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Credits / References
'Storytelling; (conversation with grandmother) in Jonathan Safran Foer: Eating Animals. Penguin 2009. pp16–17.
The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson (director). 2001–2003. Based on the book by JRR Tolkien (1937&ndadsh;1949).
Jonathan Safran Foer: Eating Animals.