Innis Town Hall, June 23, 2023
Introduction to screening of Waves (64 minutes 2022)
I’d like to thank the Ad Hoc Collective – Stephen and Jim, Madi, Tess and Bart for making tonight possible. It feels both special and unexpected when screening groups open their doors to local work.
The best part about being an artist that makes movies is that everyone has a relation to movies, everyone is part of the culture. The worst part about being an artist that makes movies is that everyone is part of the culture, everyone knows what a movie is, but for an artist sometimes the most important thing is not to know. How to make an image of the chair you’re sitting on, as if you’d never seen it before, as if you’d never heard the word ‘chair’ in your life.
We’re going to see a series of portraits, and while these people are not part of the same family, they don’t make a group or even a story, they are each seen in a particular way. Each is part of a story of looking, of searching, of trying to find a face or an emblematic gesture, and the invitation is to step into this exchange between what’s onscreen, what’s happening with the camera, and your own history of looking.
I’ve been thinking about ventriloquism, the way that other people project their voice, and it comes out of my mouth. As if it was my voice. This is a popular way of behaving in a family for instance. Or reading the news. I was thinking about this moment of Augustine, the guy who wrote the first autobiography. He’s in a monastery, and at night he likes to relax by curling up with the good book. So he’s reading away when he looks up and notices that there’s a monk staring at him in disbelief. And this monk has gone round to fetch all the other monks. They’re standing there with their mouths open because he’s reading without saying the words out loud. It’s as if the words weren’t going out, they were going in, as if he was eating the words, as if they were his words. This became very important for the church.
The Greek and Roman gods they didn’t care so much about humans, I mean, they were gods. A Roman might burn a little fire once a year, that was enough for their gods. But the Christian god, who is a copy/paste of the Jewish god, was obsessed with certain humans, they were watching all the time, they knew what you were thinking even if it was only about a piece of chocolate cake. Using this technology of ventriloquism, god could exercise a new kind of power and control. We became our own police, but also potentially our own resistance and liberators.
The genius of Christianity was ventriloquism, the way the voice lived inside us, and today in place of the voice of God, we have the voice of corporations, along with their relentless surveillance.
These questions were gathered in the wake of my mother’s sudden and unexpected death at the beginning of the Covid epidemic. If the shots are too long, if the connections are too hazy, I hope you can forgive, because the whole world had ended, and another had not yet begun.