London Foreword (March 2008)

London Foreword

This is a script for an unmade movie which would show only in London, in front of the work of Canadian video artist Colin Campbell. Though perhaps the name of another eminent city, another perfect artist, could be used instead.

Title: London Foreword

Image: Camera on shopping cart
There’s a moment (snaps finger) it happens just like that and you look around and all of a sudden you’re in London. I mean everything around you looks familiar, it’s the usual thing. That chair, this wall, only now it’s a London wall, a London chair, a London face. You, you must have a London face, and a London kind of understanding.

Title: in me, it is the ear that speaks (fade in last six words)
Image: London trains, shadow collage
So I’m wondering how to get him all the way over there because he’s dead now, and sometimes the dead travel very well, they get bigger, they seem more real somehow now that they don’t have that nasty temper, the weird table manners, those jokes about people, about people who weren’t born in London.

Image: cam on stick looks at passing surfaces (shot from car at night)
But mostly, I think you know yourself, mostly the dead don’t travel very well at all. There was that evening we had together in March, in April, in May, when was it exactly? Mostly the dead, they get in the way of what I need to do right now. There’s only now, don’t bother me with all of those sad old pastimes. When my thirteen year old nephew wants to make someone disappear, when he dishes the diss, he says: you’re history. Meaning you are so over, you are the past, and I walk on the past, it’s beneath me, down there.

Image: me turn on light and speak
What to say about Colin Campbell, then, our father, our father who art, our father who is art. Will he make it all the way over there, like this wall, this bit of tape that’s winding through the heads of a machine behind you right now? I used to be a filmmaker. I used to work with emulsion, the glories of the wind-up camera and 16mm. But I gave that up a few years ago. Now I make video, because video is not about preserving the memory of the dead. No, this tape you’re watching right now, is being rubbed away by the play heads. This tape is not forever, it’s not even for a few more years. Videotape, as Colin knew only too well, is an art of the invisible, it embraces disappearance.

What I don’t know, and what I can’t say yet, is whether any of this is going to make it all the way over to where you are, all the way over to London. Perhaps it’s just as well. I’m sure you have too many fathers already.

Title: in me, it is the mouth that hears (fade in last six words)

I’m recording this picture (looks at watch) yesterday, in your time, yesterday evening to be exact.

The tapes you’re going to see are also disappearing, perhaps they’ve already gone, perhaps there’s nothing left on them after all, though there may be a glimmer, a faint spark you might recognize as your own. And from that light you might begin the work of creating your own pictures, your own city, your own London kind of understanding.

In closing these two lines from Camus’ The Plague, a novel written when he was working underground, about the war he was already in, and the war we are in now.

“But I’m not from here.”
“Unfortunately, from now on you will be from here, like everyone else.”