SURPLUS MATTER

                     

 

 

I've only seen one dead body, in real life, up close and personal so to speak. The body belonged to a person that I loved very much, somebody who was inextricably-connected to my own body. It was hard to swallow, completely unbelievable that life could just vaporize like that, just vanish into thin air. Everybody told me that I was too young to understand it, but I still haven't wrapped my head around what it is. I remember being shuffled into a small room, too small and too clean. The body had a glassy quality and the walls were grey, office like, neutral. Everything was extremely still and just as dead and as artificial as that body. I'm not sure if I touched it; part of me is not even sure if this memory is real. It's actually entirely possible that I'm borrowing my image of this dead body from pretend dead bodies in crime dramas - perhaps as a defence mechanism, perhaps even as protection against the banality of a real dead body, which is, after all, just an empty shell. Those dramas glamorize what death looks like, so we don't have to deal with its ordinariness.

 

I dream that this person never died at all, that they were a fraud. When they come back they always reject me and then they disappear again. This sense of rejection is deep and ancient; it is a bodily form of rejection, and by this I mean that I feel ejected, like surplus matter, thrown away somehow like an awkward heap of bones and muscle and blood. It's like the frozen posture of a statue after it's briefly awoken and then forced back into impenetrable silence. It's the puppet that after a brief fervent period of animation returns to its limp posture, hunched and waiting. When I wake up, I become frozen; I'm that limp puppet waiting for activation and for the reassurance of human hands. I become the stuffed childhood animal that lies at the back of its master’s wardrobe plotting its revenge, angry and hurt that I've been forgotten.

 

We all have to live with the knowledge that our bodies will outlive us and return to the world of the inanimate, eventually merging with the ground or disappearing into a cloud of smoke.I believe that, for this reason, it can be difficult to flow seamlessly with one's gestures and master the body; after all, so many of its mechanisms are hidden from us under layers of flesh and conflicting thought processes. Its very inevitability can't help but touch all things, including the various objects we surround ourselves with, things that we touch and in turn give animation to. The weight of this knowledge, that we will one day be disconnected from the world, can also lead to profound levels of self-awareness that can make people feel out of synch with the bodies they possess. I therefore want to question whether it is possible to reclaim that connection, and through this process obtain a sense of lightness and freedom from the heaviness of self-consciousness; or whether, in attempting to do so, the problem is only exacerbated further.

 

Being confronted by a dead body at such a young age possibly contributed to the onset, in my teenage years, of a profound and nauseating awareness of my own body and its many protrusions. Parts of it would loom in and out of my peripheral vision, limbs seemed to move of their own accord, sounds would reverberate in hidden chambers and I could smell things that weren't there at all. Hands were one of the things that worried me the most; there's something about their power to assert pressure, to move and fold things, to crack things open, to hang aimlessly by our sides that disgusted me. At times I wouldn't know what to do with them and I'd become restless. I'd bite my nails and smoke cigarettes; I'd scratch and tap, clench my fists and crack my bones.

 

After many years of suffering from this acute bodily self-awareness, I was finally diagnosed with OCD; but by this point I was finding it difficult to function. In extreme moments, I'd even secretly decided that it would be better to have limbs and protrusions removed rather than have to face the relentless anxiety that my body gave me. Making Artwork started to become a control mechanism and a means of distraction. I had something to do with my hands and while I was in the process of making, I could briefly allow myself to forget. I also took an avid interest in acting and theatre as it allowed me a certain kind of freedom. To perform as another person gave me some relief from performing the role of myself as everything was already dictated, all the lines were already written. Eventually, I found I was able to improvise and that I didn't have to follow people's lines and directions. I could move my body as I wished and everything started to feel natural and pure, like I was in synch. To this day, I still get this sensation when I perform. I can make my body a kind of puppet and pull my own strings.

 

Hands can throw things into animation, just like that. Sometimes they even seem to move of their own accord, following some unknown choreography of gestures, communicating beyond our words. They allow us to breathe our lives into other things. Perhaps this is why dead hands are in turn fascinating and repulsive; they are mementos of other things that they made alive. Even right now, as I type this, there is some hidden connection between the stream of my thoughts and the movement of my hands. It is a kind of collaboration, as I need my hands, or something that acts as a surrogate for a hand, to form things and make things appear in the world. There is a mysterious, incomprehensible pathway between ideas that exist in the mind and the movements of these hands of mine, and perhaps that is what fills me with such dread. What if this connection was severed? This was one of my main anxieties at the height of, what I shall refer to as, my bodily OCD phase. I feared losing the natural pathways between my thoughts and my limbs.

 

In Tom McCarthy's novel ‘Remainder’ (2007), the main protagonist has to re-learn to move after a serious car accident that left him in a coma. His physiotherapist starts by asking him to run through all the motions of lifting up a carrot in his head. There are twenty-seven separate manoeuvres involved in this simple action and he spends weeks visualising them, eventually learning how to perfect them in the real world. After months of breaking down each action, he re-learns how to walk, but things have changed forever. He describes how there could never again be 'doing without understanding' (McCarthy 2007, 22). Shortly after returning home he goes to see ‘Mean Streets’ at the cinema with his best friend. He's struck by the perfection of Robert De Niro's movements, 'Every move he made, each gesture, was perfect, seamless. Whether it was lighting up a cigarette or opening a fridge door or walking down the street: he seemed to execute the action perfectly, to live it, to merge with it until he was it and it was him and there was nothing in between' ….he flows with his movements' (McCarthy 2007, 23). Of course, the irony is that De-Niro's actions seem more real than real and the protagonist is trying to learn how to move and become human again from an actor. He complains to his friend that he has lost that ability to just be and that he's unusual, but his friend tells him that he's just more usual than everybody else. No-one is as natural and as one with their actions as a great actor is; we are all awkward performers copying and repeating gestures we've seen elsewhere. This leads the protagonist to feel that nothing has ever been authentic anyway; all gestures are second-hand and performed. He looks around him and sees the deep level of self- consciousness that hangs over the performance of everyday life. No-one is at one with their gestures, everyone appears to be a fraud (McCarthy 2007, 24).

 

The protagonist craves a freedom from self-awareness and the ability to just exist in the moment, without having to think first. A crack in a friend’s bathroom wall triggers a memory of a place that he felt this freedom, an apartment block that may or may not have existed somewhere in his past; unplaceable but still forceful and vivid (McCarthy 2007, 62). He decides that the only way he can regain this feeling of authenticity is by recreating every part of that apartment block, and he goes on to spend the settlement money he received after the accident in bringing it back to life. He hires actors to take on the role of the neighbours that occupied the original building, one of whom plays an old lady that he remembers passing each morning on the stairs. When his recreation of the building is complete, he perfectly times this banal encounter with the actress playing the old lady. On meeting her on the stairs, he describes the immense satisfaction he receives from this experience, 'For a few seconds I felt weightless - or at least differently weighted: light but dense at the same time. My body seemed to glide fluently and effortlessly through the atmosphere around it - gracefully, slowly, like a dancer through water' (McCarthy 2007, 135). Somehow, despite the explicit artifice of this moment, he feels a sense of authenticity; he has captured and reclaimed a moment from his past and removed it from the endless stream of other moments doomed to fade and be forgotten.

 

As the narrative progresses, the protagonist becomes more and more obsessed with capturing these moments and eventually makes the mistake of trying to merge the re-enactments back into the texture of reality. This proves to be his downfall as, despite his best efforts, he cannot fully synchronize the artifice with the real. He ends up having to take increasingly extreme measures to achieve the sense of lightness and freedom he craves, which lead him beyond the realm of pure re-enactment. For example, after several weeks of immersing himself in his re-enactments, he gets a model made of the building with moveable dolls representing all of the actors. He reshapes and reconfigures their original roles as he plays with the positions of the dolls. This leads him to demand that the actors re-enact the movements of the doll versions of themselves. The protagonist becomes a puppeteer, determined to turn the world around him into his own stage (McCarthy 2007, 153).

 

Just after last Christmas I became distracted from my work by a series of short illustrated stories written by horror Manga artist, Junji Ito. Every spare moment I had was spent trawling the internet for his work. I was quite embarrassed by this new infatuation, but after a while I realised that I just had to trust that there was a reason for my new interest. It occurred to me some time afterwards that many of his stories were centred on the idea of being trapped inside a body or compelled somehow into acts of self-destruction and, considering my history, it started to make sense. There were several stories in particular that deeply resonated with me because of an essential paradox they hold within them; all the characters want to achieve a lightness and be at one with their gestures and movements, but they feel they can only achieve this by creating very specific conditions and rules.

 

One such story is “House of puppets” (http://www.justmegawatt.com/comics/houseofpuppets.html). The narrative follows a family of puppeteers who live their lives on the road and never stay in one place for very long. The father of the family, a dedicated puppeteer all his life, makes the claim that the puppets are a mediator that allows them to access some hidden part of themselves and bare their souls, but the eldest son is suspicious of this claim and believes that the puppets are starting to take control of them. Shortly afterwards the eldest son runs away, the father dies and the remaining children are left in poverty. Many years later the eldest brother invites his siblings to visit him and his family. They accept, and on arrival they are shocked to find that their brother and his family are being puppeteered from the ceiling by a whole team of puppeteers hired to release them from the burden of having to move for themselves. The eldest brother claims that he's in control of the puppeteers, despite the fact that they control his every move. They allow him to be graceful, to move with ease, without self-consciousness. The siblings are encouraged to join him, but the younger brother is appalled at his brother's ever-fading attachment to the world and is determined to release them from their life on strings. His efforts, however, are wasted. One day the puppeteers disappear and the family are left dangling in mid-air. They find that their muscles have lost all strength and they've forgotten how to move: they have become puppets, stripped of their agency and freedom, wooden and lifeless.

 

Puppets can allow a puppeteer a kind of spontaneity; the life of the puppet 'extends backwards into the impulse of the living body' allowing them to access a more spontaneous part of the brain (Gross 2011, 55). In “Being John Malkovich” (Jonze,1999), failed puppeteer Craig suddenly finds himself in possession of actor John Malkovich's body after discovering a secret door into his mind. After some practice Craig is able to puppeteer Malkovich's every movement and eventually possess him completely. He then sets himself the task of turning Malkovich himself into a famous puppeteer and in turn allowing himself to act and speak through the body of another. This eventually enables him to seduce Maxine, a woman whose cruelty and freedom he envies and desires. Craig describes Malkovich's body as feeling like an expensive suit and a shell that becomes a vehicle for sensation. The possession of Malkovich allows Craig to escape from his own cumbersome, awkward body, as well as his profound self-consciousness and self-hatred. His human puppet becomes an extension of his body and a conduit to its hidden desires, spasms and alien gesticulations. However, despite Craig's best efforts, he is eventually ejected from Malkovich's body and must return to his life as a nobody, doomed to watch Maxine from afar. The characters in “House of Puppets” believed they had control over their puppet masters, while Craig makes the mistake of believing that he could live his life through his puppet; both ultimately share a similar fate. When their fantasy of freedom from the weight of their own bodies failed, they were left empty and broken, defeated by their own desire for escapism.

 

Unlike traditional puppeteers, ventriloquists allow their puppets to possess them and talk from deep inside their bodies. By definition they are muted when their puppet speaks and they must transfer part of themselves into their dummy, a surrogate body that feeds upon some unconscious part of their mind. Ventriloquism is somewhat of a dying art in Britain but, as I learnt from Nina Conti's Documentary, “Her Master's Voice” (Conti, 2012), it is alive and well in North America. Nina is a rare kind of ventriloquist; she's achieved huge amounts of commercial success and fame in both the UK and abroad. She credits much of this success to the training she received from her ex-lover, Ken Campbell, who, we learn, passed away several months before the filming of the documentary. Ken's last request of Nina was to take one of his dummies to ‘Vent Haven’ in Kentucky, a museum that houses hundreds of bereaved puppets of dead ventriloquists. Vent Haven also holds a convention that ventriloquists from around the world flock to each year to discuss their act and show off their techniques. Nina meets some incredible practitioners there, including a man who can make the movements of his lips out of synch with his own voice. This sets her on a journey of self-discovery than re-ignites her passion for her art, an art that she was seriously considering giving up for good because of the exhausting mental and physical strain involved in the practice.

 

 

Nina brings all of Ken's puppets along with her, as well as her own, “Monkey”, a sarcastic and wry little creature that externalizes Nina's predilection for mischief and play. She also brings along a puppet that Ken made of himself, a perverse reminder of the man she once loved and an embodiment of her grief. One scene shows Nina lying in bed with this doppelgänger puppet. She wants to tell him that she doesn't think she can continue being a ventriloquist, but of course he's anticipated this in advance. He tells her that her puppet, Monkey, is a surrogate for her aborted child. He questions her, teases her even, ' Are you gonna put your Son in a box and leave him there for the rest of his life?' There is something so sad, yet beautiful, about this; it's an act of sabotage and it's a recognisable sabotage because it's just an external manifestation of that sack of concrete that resides on the ocean floor of every person's mind. Towards the close of the documentary we see Nina give a performance at the convention in which she allows Monkey to speak through her mouth, reversing the role of puppet and ventriloquist. It's an incredibly moving moment because it's a moment of surrender, but also one in which she achieves a kind of lightness and is able to merge with her surrogate body. Monkey has become real through her, and some part of her has been able to reveal itself through Monkey.

 

Nina takes one of Ken's dummies for a swim, the puppet destined to represent him at the Vent Haven museum. Her name is Gertrude Stein, she's wearing a nighty and she talks with a Scottish accent. Nina brings her into the water with a curious combination of tenderness and sadistic pleasure; she wants this puppet to fill with water and become saggy and limp, but she also wants to gift it with the sensation of merging with water before it's put to rest. Nina shoves Gertrude's head underwater and watches her struggle, but can't quite let her sink; she's under there for far longer than any human could survive. When Nina lets her resurface, there's a sense of regret, sorrow even, something a little too real and a little too close. Gertrude cries as Nina wrings her out.

 

What happens to a puppeteer’s puppets and dummies after he/she dies? Do they die too? Or, in the hands of others, do the puppets somehow keep the puppeteer alive? Could Monkey outlive Nina, for example? And what would the puppeteer do if they could puppeteer their own inanimate, lifeless body? Would they have more of a sense of how to make their own body move than they did when they occupied that body? Perhaps, for example, they could make themselves a brilliant dancer, or maybe even an actor. They'd be able to tell just the right moment to move an eyebrow. Being a puppeteer of your own body may seem an extreme concept but, after all, actors already are master practitioners of this exact skill (Gross 2011, 35). They must be aware but yet unaware at the same time; if things are too contrived, people will be able to tell. They must know their lines but also feel those lines; they must be defiant against the constraints of self-consciousness.

 

When I was 18, and studying on my Art Foundation course, I was given a project where I had to go beachcombing for bits of rubbish by the River Thames and then stick them all together to make a puppet for a puppet show. There were broken bits of glass, needles, plastic bottles and plastic bags. There was also the miscellaneous debris that seemed to point at, or refer to, specific unknown events: shoes, jewellery, false teeth and other forgotten or lost objects. About fifteen of us spent a good few hours wandering around with plastic gloves and bin-liners like forensic scientists carefully examining the evidence of things that had once been; things that once had purpose, function even; things that were activated by other things. Or maybe it was more archaeological than forensic; maybe it was more about putting back together little pieces of history in the wrong configuration, like bits of pottery. Whatever this exercise might have resembled, our ultimate purpose was to turn these objects into limbs, eyes, teeth and bone. I made a truly pathetic puppet. It looked like a lonely old pervert who had nothing left to live for. It had one terrible gleaming eye and a dirty old balloon for a nose. I gave it a nasally, squeaky little voice which emerged from a plastic milk-carton mouth. Worse still, he was a terrible performer, repugnant and clumsy in his gestures, always forgetting his lines or saying them at the wrong moment. Eventually he had to be dismantled; I should have given him a proper burial.

 

To take things away rather than add them is a terribly hard thing to do. “To remove the surplus matter” (McCarthy 2007, 87) as the protagonist in “Remainder” puts it. He tells a story about an Art Teacher at school who told him that the form was already in stone, he just had to remove the surplus matter, like Michelangelo. But some of Michelangelo’s statues didn't have their surplus matter removed, either because he never finished them, or he was quite content with them being stuck in the stone. These captives are carrying a lot of extra weight. One of the poor bastards still has his head and most of his genitals trapped. Of course no one would dare to set him free, (maybe I need a chisel to help me write). What would a metaphorical chisel be made of? 'Your task isn't to create the sculpture' he said: 'it's to strip away, get rid of the surplus matter (McCarthy 2007, 87) 'The movement I wanted to do was already in place, I told myself. I just needed to eliminate the extraneous stuff- the surplus limbs and nerves and muscles that I didn't want to move, the bits of space I didn't want my hand or foot to move through' (McCarthy 2007, 88).

 

In the first of his memos for the new millennium,“Lightness” (1988), Italo Calvino talks about the onset of his awareness of 'the weight, inertia, the opacity of the world' in his early writing career (Calvino 1988, 4). He describes feeling as though all the world was enduring 'a slow petrification' as if frozen by the gaze of Medusa (Calvino 1988, 4). However, he does put forward that there is a way of achieving a form of lightness in writing. His method involves looking at the world through a kind of indirect vision, like Perseus, whose eventual defeat of Medusa is achieved by catching her image in the reflective surface of his shield. Perseus' strength, Calvino says, is in his 'refusal to look directly, but not in a refusal of the reality in which he is fated to live; he carries the reality with him and accepts it as his particular burden' (Calvino 1988, 5). In his shield, Perseus has found a kind of lens through which to view the world, a lightness, a freedom. Medusa's blood gives birth to Pegasus, the very embodiment of lightness, a far cry from the heavy burden of his mother, a rape victim, cursed and punished for her victimhood by the goddess Athena. But how, I ask, can this lightness, this overcoming of the skin we live in, this ability to see things indirectly, be achieved in life?

 

Recently I went to a Dacha in the middle of the Russian countryside which, for many decades, has housed an informal retreat for Artists. There was a small museum in the grounds that had once been the abode of many early Russian avant-garde artists, and next to it there was a church. Well at least it had once been a church, before the revolution. It was one of the most beautiful buildings that I've ever seen. Light shone through coloured windows, creating other-worldly patterns on the floor, little pockets of colour, that drifted and faded with the movements of the sun. At its most intense, it felt like a kind of night club, with a huge, impossibly fragmented disco ball at its centre. If there was anywhere that would make me believe in God, it would be there. The tour guide, an elderly lady who lived on the dacha grounds, told us that it had indeed become a kind of night club during Soviet times. The Artists would gather there, dance, make merry, drink vodka and discuss their day’s work. During the 1930s, a huge statue was erected of Stalin in the middle of the former church. It must have been horribly incongruous against the backdrop of all that dappled colour; an unpleasant display of heaviness in the presence of all that beautiful diffracted light. It probably made everybody feel that he was constantly watching, ready to come to life if the wrong thing was said. Not surprisingly, on the day that Stalin died, the artists tore it down. But, there was one fervent supporter that couldn't let him go and so he buried Stalin's dismembered stony corpse under the church, where he still rests today.

 

For some unfathomable reason, nobody has ever sought to find out whether this story is really true. They've never tried to dig him up. I keep thinking about why; were people scared of it or were they just happy for it to rot down there under their beautiful light-filled former church? Whatever the reason, this tale has become an essential part of the building's mythology, part of its claim to fame. Sometimes, at night, I'd lay awake in my cabin thinking about it and then I'd start to imagine it forcing its way out of the ground, gluing itself back together and erecting itself back in the former church. We'd wake up in the morning and it would be crying tears of blood like those Virgin Mary statues in South America, and then, everyone would know that they should never confuse stone with the dead.

 

A week earlier, I was standing in a statue graveyard, behind the Tretyakov museum in Moscow. There were dozens of statues, displaced from their original context and stripped of their meaning. There were statues of lovers, crying children, mythical creatures, naked women with long flowing hair, men merging into their horses, mutilated bodies, Christ carrying his cross and sad clowns. It was a particularly grey day and somehow this seemed to make the statues more powerful, giving them more life and energy against the backdrop of nothingness. There was something pure and also incredibly creepy about them, something in the disparity of styles between one and the other that was curious and confrontational. And then the stillness and silence, and the fact that someone had named this a graveyard, all added to its mystique and its sense of mourning. Perhaps there was something pathetic about them, but they were also survivors, invulnerable to pain, set to act out one scene on repeat for an indefinite period of time, like the characters in “Remainder” (McCarthy, 2007). Some of them were covered in gaffer tape, as if someone had tried to piece them back together, not realizing the inherent imbalance of gravity. Were these statues mourners to something else or were they something to be mourned for? What of the hands that had once carved them? What were their motives? Where were they now?

 

I could also feel a kind of life in them and I felt a deep, irrational fear, similar to the one I suffered with Stalin, that they might spring into action at any time. In “The Dream of the Moving Statue” (Gross, 1992), Kenneth Gross comments that despite statue bodies’ lack of messy insides, they have a deep interiority, a kind of elegance and fluency fuelled by their stillness (Gross 1992, 32). He talks about how the fantasy of human beings turning into statues is always lurking beneath the reverse fantasy; it is both a fantasy of preserving life and creating death within life (Gross 1992, 9). He goes on to mention the prevalence of both fantasies in Greek mythology and states that, ‘as in other fictions such as Ovid, this imagined conversion of a living thing into a statue can seem by turns an evolution and a regression, a finding and a loss, an authentication and a reduction.’ (Gross 1992,19). In other words, it holds within it both the embodiment of death and a state of potentiality. Statues are Bodies that have defeated death because they were never alive in the first place. They are markers of our history and watchers over our graves, carved by human hands only to outlive us and our ideologies. Statues are stuck in a perpetual loop of perfection even as they become weather-beaten and dilapidated.

 

In another of Gross' essays “Puppet” (Gross, 2011), he describes a ballet dancer, who after having once accidentally achieved the perfect lines of a statue, tries desperately to recreate it but drives himself mad in the process. He cannot make his moves seamless enough, much like the protagonist in “Remainder” (McCarthy, 2007) who repeatedly tries to replicate a smooth movement he once achieved, whilst brushing against the edge of his kitchen counter. He can't get it right because our bodies are vulnerable, they have all sorts of things moving around inside them and outside of them: they are unpredictable. Sometimes they even have things growing inside them. In this sense, human beings are performers trying to achieve a kind of absolute connection with their internal vision of themselves and their external posture, but sometimes, in certain states of mind, the very act of moving can sever this tie and cause a fragmentation that runs deeper than just the broken pieces of a statue.

 

The final scene of Jean Cocteau's short film “The Blood of a Poet”(1930) depicts a strange interior/exterior space, part winter snow scene, part opera house and part decadent mansion, which mirrors the logic of the main character, a sculptor’s, unconscious mind. Within this landscape he is both a crumbling snow statue and a man playing cards with an animated female statue. This simultaneous inside/outside space is a psychic space; it’s an emotional space littered with the debris of his past and the pieces of stone that weigh his body down. His task is to try and piece himself back together and reconnect his consciousness to his own body, freeing himself from this internal landscape, allowing himself a passage out into the world. Perhaps I must return here to Perseus' Shield and how it might manifest itself in real life. Maybe it could take the form of a kind of game that one must play; a game that involves rituals and rules that deflect the lack of script and structure to real life. This game would require submitting oneself to pain, allowing it to possess you but also taking control and harnessing it like Nina does when she allows Monkey to speak through her body. The trick is not to get lost in the game and to make sure you don't lose track of the rules, as many of the characters I have mentioned ended up doing, such as the family in 'House of Puppets”.

 

Chris Kraus writes about her experience with sadomasochism as a means to escape the vast sense of disconnection and alienation she felt whilst living in Los Angeles (Kraus 2002, 85). The game she plays is one in which all parties understand it is role-play and a performance, but are also immersing themselves in an intense physical experience. She becomes both puppet and puppeteer, enabling her to fight against the uncontrollability of life where moments blend in with other moments and become lost in memory. She achieves a sense of freedom and lightness but only though the structure of artifice, 'A game that is totally complete within itself' (Kraus 2002, 97). She recounts her experiences with her master, ' He grabs me by the hair “What do you say?” I repeat one of his lines, “Yes sir. Whatever pleases you the most” The lines a trope, pure Punch & Judy, an S/M cliché and yet it's not, it's totally alive because by saying it I know I am inviting him to really hurt me if he wants” (Kraus 2002, 99) By re-enacting the tropes of sadomasochism, Kraus opens herself up to something very real, a deep connection between her thoughts and her movements.

 

It is the connection that the protagonist in “Remainder” (McCarthy, 2007) obsessively seeks but is unable to hold onto because he eventually lets the artifice bleed too much into the fabric of real life. By the end of his experiments the only thing that can satisfy him is the prospect of complete extinction of consciousness through death. While contemplating the last thoughts of a shooting victim, he decides that, through dying, the man had achieved complete perfection. To him, the dying man merged 'with the space around him, sunk and flowed into it until there was no distance between it and him-and merged, too, with his actions, merged to the extent of having no more consciousness of them. He'd stopped being separate, removed, imperfect' ( McCarthy 2007,185) In other words, at the very moment of death, the man achieved complete synchronicity and freedom, but this moment can only be lived through once. It cannot be re-enacted or ever captured by living beings.

 

There can be no easy conclusion. I have only been able to present to you with a series of contradictory ideas that by their very nature could fall apart and become severed from the words on the page. They are like broken pieces of a statue that was already a representation of a broken thing. I've examined both fictional and real characters who have tried to overcome the boundaries of their own body and gain a kind of lightness through indulging in games, artifice and re-enactment, and I have seen that there is a kind of inherent failure within their actions. The idea of living in the moment while also adhering to a set of rules is essentially paradoxical. Furthermore, it seems to be hard to avoid breaking these rules and making the mistake of believing in the artifice too much. Despite all of this cynicism, I do believe that there are undeniable moments in life where things do just synch-up. There are moments of true spontaneity where self-consciousness vaporizes. It's just a shame that they are so difficult to capture and that they can so easily become lost. I try to hold on to them by playing my own games, primarily through the process of art making but, I too, break my own rules and often fail. However, despite this awareness and my acknowledgement of the contradiction involved, I keep striving to take control of the things that I cannot control. And sometimes, along the way, I may be able to access little pockets of true synchronicity, even if they slip out of my grasp before I'm able to pin them down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biblography

 

 

 

Films

 

Cocteau, J. 1930: The Blood of a Poet, Vicomte de Noailles


 

Conti, N. 2012: Her Masters Voice, Nina Conti Production (BBC)

 

Jonze, S. 1999: Being John Malkovich, Astralwerks


 

Russell, K. 1972: The Savage Messiah, Russ-arts

 

 

Books

 

 

Calvino, Italo 1988: Six Memos for the next Millennium, Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP


 

Gross, Kenneth 2011: Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life, Chicago: The University of Chicago press


 

Kraus, Chris. 2002: 'Emotional Technologies', 9in Flesh Eating Technologies, Publisher unknown


 

Gross, Kenneth 1992: The Dream of the Moving Statue, Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP


 

McCarthy, Tom 2007: Remainder, Richmond: Alma


 


 

Websites


 

http://www.justmegawatt.com/comics/houseofpuppets.html: last accessed 27/08/2013


 


 

Articles


 

Seelig, Beth J. 2002: 'The Rape Of Medusa In The Temple Of Athena: Aspects Of Triangulation In The Girl', in The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 83.4 : 895-911.