Guilherme Gutman is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, critic and curator in visual arts. He is also the author of “William James & Henry James: filosofia, literatura e vida” [William James & Henry James: philosophy, literature and life].
Film-Curation: the construction of another way of exhibiting images and sound
Translated by Chris Burden
In the times in which we live, it is likely that many visual arts exhibitions are also conceived of as “virtual”; this thought prompted an investigation into the possibilities of creating a curator’s film. Let’s imagine any film shoot: in a room, the works of some artists are arranged on walls, supports or floors, as they would be in an on-site exhibition. The shoot would consist of the cameras panning over the works, like a kind of visitor’s magic eye. Whilst also being a film where choices are made about the works and takes, it lacks interest due to its merely documentary character. It so happens that a documentary film record can also acquire a beauty of its own, for example when documents transition into images, language and sounds that are all somehow connected.
To get straight to the point, in a virtual exhibition the creation of a film seems to us an interesting process; or rather, in the form of a curator’s film, one should strive and seek to find another way of talking about the exhibition. This idea serves not only as a way of temporarily replacing the more familiar forms of curation, but as another way of realizing it. Undoubtedly, many ideas and modes of realization form part of a curation, but less conventional curatorial modes can allow remnants of images and thoughts that contain specific powers to reappear from a shadowy zone.
Whilst preserving the proportions, this idea finds inspiration and indirect support in the research conducted by Camillo and Pedro into Godard’s cinema of the late 1960’s. In his films, Godard allowed for the opening of a space for words within the scheme of the images (which until then reigned supreme in his cinematic work). From the film La Chinoise (1967) onwards, there are things like a dissolution between the documentary and fictional, but above all there is a new mode of construction, with the avant-garde use of sound, words and figures:
“In Godard, following the path opened up by Marcel Duchamp, the artistic work combines, in the same gesture, the acts of cutting, pasting, displacing and resignifying. The new is born out of unexpected relationships. The conscious organizer, in this case, produces relationships – which recalls the work of the curator who builds relationships and, through them, opens up new opportunities for interpreting images (works) and the world”.
In a fragment from the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, it is said that sounds and spoken words can be experienced by some as a kind of “disturbance”. In a completely free appropriation of this, I mentally created the image of “jumbled language”.
This disturbing experience, emerging from the interruption of silence, is intensely unique, and can be experienced as part of the order of what psychoanalysis calls the “real”. In a free and introductory way, this “real of psychoanalysis” will be conceived as a wind that is not captured either by language or thought. Of course, our aim is not to transform a curator into a film-maker; we are heading in another direction: the importance of exhibitions continuing, the need to speak – reduced in some people and increased in many – in other words, the desire for contact with language in the form and medium of speech and its vocalized sounds, as well as through music and images.
The proposal of a film-curation clearly does not make any curator more knowable or advocates, in times of want, for a kind of promotional “two for one”: “cinema and criticism in a single curation!”. It simply allows one to hear one’s voice in the midst of forms of imagetic or sonorous expression, in the composition of the exhibition experience that one wishes to deliver to the public. Through this realization, the experience proceeds to be, healthily, that of each one of us.
Regarding experience, two things have been surprising and disconcerting in the way some of us have come to do and see things since the pandemic and the seclusion that followed it.
Although one cannot ignore all the terrible aspects of the situation, the first thing was that some people began to feel better than they had been feeling, in general or with regard to more specific aspects of life, as a result of their cloistered experience.
The second thing was the need that some people felt to speak more; perhaps merely the opportunity to talk and shut up. Psychoanalysis teaches us the importance of knowing that you are someone who conveys language and who is at the same time subjectively positioned by it.
In some cases, “well-being” in the midst of the pandemic was related to being able to talk about things: of how you were feeling about this or that; or what you’ve been doing in the midst of it all. In such cases, talking and well-being were somehow related. Week after week, over the course of the extended or brief period of self-confinement, people began to participate more in study groups and different courses; or simply made, texting, “chatting” through some application, writing or speaking a more common habit than it had been before.
In the alternation between sound and silence, a curator must speak up and express his ideas about the exhibition which, after all, he created. He must pour into words and images the relationship between the works of different artists, linking words that fit in his mouth; whether they are his or not. It is an open curation, which may include images of works, things, or people, as well as harmonic and dissonant sounds:
“In the construction of these escape routes, Godard’s cinema is both an essayistic exercise and a curatorial practice. These two dimensions complement each other. Cinema conceived as a visual essay, as a montage of fictional and documentary, pictorial, filmic and television images, is always produced as curation, as an experimental exercise in the selection and displacement of images.
(…) To use Godard and his cinematic poetics to think more broadly and airily about the essay and curation. (p.95) “.
In this other venture, it is something snatched in the midst of all the language, in the sense given to it by Freud and Lacan; it’s like choosing a book in the great library Borges dreamed of.
It can also be experienced as a collection of the things of the world, like that achieved by Bispo do Rosário, for a final edition of what we believe in.