The Poetry of Not Knowing
My earliest memories of going to the movies are in a theater in Southampton, NY where I grew up. A couple of memories stand out which include Around the World in 80 Days and Song of the South. The former upset me terribly for there was a scene of a funereal pyre. My mother introduced me to the concept that not everything that I saw on screen really happened and that the actors didn’t really die. The fine delineation between fact and fiction. Song of the South of course delighted me and to this day I can sing Zippa- Doo-Dah with the best of them. The essential quality of humability! The composer Steven Sondheim said it best, “Familiarity breeds content.” As I write this, memories of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Willy Wonka and the Chocalate Factory, Doctor Doolittle and Fantasia are also evocatively triggered.
The thing about those early memories though that fascinates me most is that my mother never chose a specific screening. We just went, bought our tickets and sat down whenever we arrived. We’d sit through, say, the last third of the movie, remain seated as the lights went up, people exited and entered and then as the house lights dimmed again proceeded to enjoy the first two thirds of the film. When we reached the point where we entered we simply got up and left feeling satisfied at having seen the full film. Later in my young teens, I remember doing this often when going to the Regency Theater on Broadway by myself at matinees. The mysteries of starting viewing a film, 60% after it began, are inurmerable. The film actually presents many more questions initially and only through patience are answers procured. Not understanding everything never phased me, in fact I guess the expectation of “knowing” never got planted in the first place. My mother’s early introduction of discontinuous narrative may have been vital to my pleasure of not knowing.
Art by in large doesn’t spell things out. I might posit that really good art lures you in with a “not knowing.” Two things are then essential to experiencing art: One is patience and the second is pragmatism. Patience is essential since narrative and aesthetic paydays can be attained long after the initial encounter. Pragmatism is the other cog since not everything will payoff. The pleasures of the Patience/Pragmatism polarity paradigm are also rooted in a suspension of disbelief. You have to release the desire for immediate gratification and trust (have faith) that some possible future epiphany lays in wait, like Tigger about to pounce.
Above all else, the equation stands clear: Seeing(Art)=Potential(Pleasure) or Potential(Insight) The converse is more concrete:
Seeing(Art)=Barren(Landscape/Emotions) It is with these thoughts that I enter a new cultural season of exhibitions, screenings and aesthetic sniffing. Come sniff with me.
-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, October 2nd, 2012
Postscript: These ruminations were ignited by another two hour viewing of Christian Marclay’s The Clock, the 24 hour masterpiece of filmic collage. I’ve now seen just under six hours and I’m simply addicted. To read my thoughts about the film please see my post from earlier this year.