TAFEL

Terrence Malick, Tree of Life (2011), video still

Art     Concept     literature     movie     objecthood     ontology     photography     sound

By watching the movie Tree of Life by Terrence Malick I remembered a sentence about Jorge Léon’s work in the exhibition guide of Extra City, Antwerp. “The tragedy of the body and the freedom of the spirit” was used to describe the condition of the three people in the video Before we go (2014), each of them at the end of their lives.

This sentence always had a strong impact on me. Reasons therefore I tried to express in the text about stones. What’s one’s body to one’s spirit or soul?

Terrence Malick, Tree of Life (2011), video still

Terrence Malick, Tree of Life (2011), video still

Terrence Malick intersects the story of a family that lost a 19-years old son with images of very different nature. Deep sea life, mile-high trees, microscopic filmed amoebes and virtual creatures like dinosaurs pass our eyes for 20 minutes. A woman’s voice talks us through the amazing somewhat dramatic wonders of nature and cosmos. “Find me … We cry to you, my soul, my son. Hear us…”

How to interpret?

Terrence Malick, Tree of Life (2011), video still

Terrence Malick, Tree of Life (2011), video still

Terrence Malick, Tree of Life (2011), video still

Terrence Malick, Tree of Life (2011), video still

While looking at these immense trees, I started thinking – these trees have been there forever, they’ve seen and absorbed so many life. The soul of the dead child has become part of the prehistoric woods. The law of conservation of energy. Antonio Skàrmeta stated in The Poet’s Wedding that each of us carries a dinosaur within.

Here’s another link to Milan Kundera’s statement in Immortality: “There’s a certain part of all of us, that lives outside of time”. And we circle circle circle around this part and attempt to catch and understand the core. The search for the core is reflected in the objects we choose to surround us with. They represent certain parts of us and by keeping them close to us, they tell us who we are.

One of my favorite images made by Ria Pacquée is the one below. The bored woman tries to get rid of all the things her lovers have left her, five ex-husbands in a frame. The personality of the woman displayed on the table, quietly exposed to the viewer’s eyes.

Ria Pacquée as Madame

Ria Pacquée as Madame

The poet Bert Schierbeek wrote in one of his works: “As such the things fulfil us. They say, you’re nothing without us.” Surrounding objects give meaning to or complement our lives.

In relation to this theme I started to read about Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO). Important in OOO is the vision that our reality exists of a bunch of things – i.e. objects, organisms, humans, thoughts, religions… – and that these stand on the same level, have the same value as humans. We tend to only look for idealisms, systems and all-encompassing theories or to put the human at the center of all perception. As if the world only exists in the gaze of human eyes.

There’s a range of philosophies about ontology of things, theory of matter, objecthood, speculative realism –  intellectuals (Graham Harman (Husserl and Heidegger), Bruno Latour, Jane Bennett, Timothy Morton a.o.) who bring the focus back to objects and their qualities, how they relate to each other and we to them and to which extent an object can truly be known.

Some state there’s a subterranean, dark core to everything, that stays veiled by the sensual qualities on their surface. Forever its soul will be unknown to other things.

Still reflecting wether true or false, but sure each thing can be precious matter… Walking around in Minneapolis on the first Wednesday of the month, I got surprised by the monthly test of several tornado sirens – at that moment not knowing at all what the sound was. The atmosphere in the residential streets became magical and sinister at the same time. As if beautiful sea sirens were seducing me to the dark depths.

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