Between Visions: An intermedia commentary
presented by Lyn Hejinian, Leslie Scalapino and Konrad Steiner
Program Date: Sunday, December 3, 2000, San Francisco Cinematheque
featuring readings by Lyn Hejinian and Leslie Scalapino, individually and
from their collaborative work Sight, and films New York Portrait, Part II,
by Peter Hutton, Bum Series by Konrad Steiner and The Maltese Cross
Movement by Keewatin Dewdney
Excerpts from the introduction to Sight,
by Lyn Hejinian & Leslie Scalapino (Edge, 2000)
"We agreed that the form of our collaboration was to be in doubles ... and
that the subject, being sight, should involve things actually seen. ...
Sometimes, seeing in real events we had to turn seeing up to an extreme in
order to see it; as if dreaming being supressed were bursting out as
luminous seeing in the waking state."
"Friendship would have to be not just 'being liked.' That one has to be
likable, accomodating. One would have to 'like' also -- i.e. like the other
-- and i think only by being oneself. Not accomodating. My need for
argument in it is that you tend to view reality as wholesome; when I'm
suffering you tend to alleviate to bring suffering in the currency of the
'social,' the realm that is convivial -- whereas I'm saying it's (also)
apprehension itself when it's occuring."
"The accumulation of pairings as 'extreme' sights occurs to the extent of
being as if the writing's faculty, rather than being imaginative images."
"From the outset we agreed that for the purposes of this collaboration ...
the question of experiencing the world would focus on sight -- on the
question of 'seeing': seeing the world, seeing something in it, and being
in it as one whose participation involved such "seeing." The thrill of
acknowledgement (it is, after all, good to be alive!), while being
addressed to what we saw, was also, over and over again, in real time,
addressed to each other."
"As i look at this work now in retrospect, I see it as elaborating problems
in phenomenology but not in description, and this, given our topic, seems
curious. Of course description is often phenomenological in intent -- aimed
at bringing something into view, trying to replicate for (or produce in)
the reader an experience of something seen. But it seems as if our emphasis
was not on the thing seen but on the coming to see. As it see it, this book
argues that the moment of coming to see is active and dialogic, and as
by Ludwig Wittgenstein (Blackwell, 1953)
part II section xi
Two uses of the word "see."
The one: "What do you see there?" -- "I see this" (and then a
description, a drawing, a copy). The other: "I see a likeness between these
two faces" -- let the person I tell this to be seeing the faces as clearly
as I do myself.
The importance of this is the difference of category between the two
'objects' of sight.
One might make an accurate drawing of the two faces, and another
notice in the drawing the likeness which the former did not see.
I contemplate a face, and then suddenly notice its likeness to
another. I see that it has not changed; and yet I see it differently. I
call this experience "noticing an aspect."
[...] p 196
"Now I am seeing this," I might say (pointing to another picture, for
example). This had the form of a report of a new perception.
The expression of a change of aspect is the expression of a new
perception and at the same time of the perception's being unchanged.
[...] p. 197
But since it is the description of a perception, it can also be called
the expression of a thought. -- If you are looking at the object, you need
not think of it; but if you are having the visual experience expressed by
the exclamation, you are also thinking of what you see.
Hence the flashing of an aspect on us seems half visual experience,
Now, when i know my acquaintance in a crowd, perhaps after looking in
his direction for quite a while, --- is this is special sort of seeing? Is
it a case of both seeing and thinking? or an amalgam of the two, as I
should almost like to say?
The question is: why does one want to say this?
(program notes by Konrad Steiner)
"Between visions" is an expression i want to use in two senses. First
in the sense that there is some gap or interval complementary to moments of
apprehension or communication. Between recognized thoughts or images a
space subsists as unacknowledged by us as water isn't by fish. This same
idea could apply for the field that different points of view lie in,
without which they could never be related to one another.
This gap that makes relating possible seems ephemeral yet necessary
for both perception (relating to outside) and dialogue (relating to other).
Reciprocally, from the social point of view, one's glimpse of this space
(or it could be called 'mind') is achieved via perception and dialogue (or
meditation and soliloquy) -- though as itself it does not require any
recognition. We might only get a glimpse of 'it' before the next
'thought' (which might be: "i see it") takes up our attention. That
glimpse is the second sense: visions of between. The possibility of shift
belies the gap.
Mind the gap
One could play with paying attention to what one's not looking at,
peripheral attention, noticing how what's seen consists in also what's
missed. There is evidence of this in noticing some aspect or remembering
some detail that shifts one's view, opinion or understanding -- or in the
dawning of apprehension of what someone meant hours, days or years ago. I
find this experience so fundamental that i would say that if you didn't
miss anything you wouldn't see anything and if you didn't miss and see you
couldn't say you saw or didn't see anything. Missing and noticing seem to
be on the same level, in the sense that you don't have one without the
The point is -- by means of a kind of cognitive parallax -- to throw
attention on mind, not particularly on language or cinema or on their
relation, but to use those to evoke awareness of the vessel of experience,
which lacks essence (definition) and thereby is able to know (to recognize)
and empathize (to resemble).
In tonight's case one of the parallax mechanisms is the presentation
of excerpts from a work, Sight, which is a record of two persons'
investigation of 'catching sight.' Maybe 'playing catch with sight' is a
better phrase for this work. When you read it, you participate in the
intensity of a world without clutching at it. It is writing that shows a
teeming interface between world and mind and persons. They're able to cast
glances quickly and sideways enough to recreate these textural and
evanescent characteristics of experience, at least in the reader not
armchaired by conventional "but tell me what it means" approach to reading.
Other means of parallax will be the verbal response to images (the
poets' work after New York Portrait, part II) and the visual response to
language (my film).
Bum Series is the start of a collaboration between Leslie Scalapino
and myself where i have begun by laying down a visual accompaniment to her
reading of a section of her poem way. As it is, scattered precise sync
events are surrounded by a looser arrangement of visual-chordal innuendo.
Which events are synchronous with the text is purely a matter of
The Maltese Cross Movement is a fascinating rebus of a film. The star
and crescent motif shot through the film can represent so many things. At
first it is the mechanical movement in the camera/projector that slices
flow in just the right frequency and regularity for us to see motion where
there is none. Then this pair goes on to be the sun and moon, as the
astronomical basis for our diurnal and calendric rhythms, they represent
another kind of intermittance and alternation. Then further to be the
symbols of complementarity, one in continuous motion and one intermittant
(with the sound of the ratcheting cogs of the projector). Many images
flash past as the film teaches you various ways to read it. And as the
montage gets ever more ecstatic -- and interrupted -- the text of image,
sound and their synchronization working like a rickety reality, almost
ready to collapse, multivalent and almost intelligible, like the fine
structure of our own experience, the final words, "If i die tonight,
tomorrow "I" 'll be gone" representing a joke.
Keewatin Dewdney has a personal web site:
Leslie Scalapino is publisher of O Books :
Lyn Hejinian is project director and editor with Travis Ortiz of Atelos:
[The joke is that the mind projects its existance in such a false way that
one can state/imagine the conditions of its nonexistance. This is not a
nasty joke, it is like laughing while coming. It is like seeing that you
can't see the gap without a sort of dissolution, which is like mind seeing
mind only when it's not mind. It is like turning around in front of a
mirror fast enough to catch sight of the back of your head.]
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