Monday, January 23, 2012

Nargissi Nargissi...

So just another day i when i was taking my quick evening nap, Dad storms into my room to get me flowers.. but this time it was different.. coz the flower itself was different. And before giving them, he says a dialogue:

"हजारों  साल  नर्गिस  अपनी  बेनूरी  पे  रोती  है
बड़ी  मुश्किल  से  होता  है  चमन  में  दिदाह-ए-वर  पैदा!"

 In my semi-slumber state i confuse the dialogue to be from the movie Mughal-e-Azam.. but then I figure out it's none other than Pakeezah. ahh...well, both are dad's absolute favourites and we've watched them together over zillion times! Nevertheless i do eventually get the beautiful Nargis flowers... overpowered by its fragrance, i put them in my bedroom. So officially i declare it as my favourite flower: Nargis

The poetry is by Sir Dr. Allama Iqbal and the movie Pakeezah ends with this dialogue in Kamal Amrohi's voice... =)

"Hazaron Saal Nargis Apni Benoori Pe Roti Hai
Badi Mushkil Se Hota Hai Chaman Mein Didahwar Paida"

For a thousand years the narcissus has been lamenting its blindness;
With great difficulty the one with true vision is born in the garden.

In White and yellow: Nargis


24.1.12: Oh My! revelation! :) =/ just discovered that the Nargis flower is nothing but a variant specie of the flower-Narcissus or more commonly called DAFFODILS!
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils...
-William Wordsworth!
oh! aren't they just soo beautiful?! =) sigh.

source: Dr Allama Iqbal poetry
read more about: Narcissus the flower


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Water Talk

One of my favourite of the several Yoko Ono conceptual instructions that i read at her exhibition recently...

You are water
I’m water
we’re all water in different containers
that’s why it’s so easy to meet
someday we’ll evaporate together

but even after the water’s gone
we’ll probably point out to the containers
and say, “that’s me there, that one.”
we’re container minders...

To read more of her instruction art visit this site: yoko ono

Friday, January 13, 2012

Persona-Ingmar Bergman

A Sea of Holes,
Amidst the Valley of Silence.

Persona is a film by Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, released in 1966, and starring Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann.
The Latin word ‘Persona’ is the origin of the word Personality which referred to the masks that actors wore in ancient Greek plays. In the Greek theatre, there were often more roles in the play than there were actors. Thus the actor would change personae to let the audience know that a different role was being assumed.The term personality, in common speech usually refers to one’s public image. (However, during the course of the essay, the author shall dwell upon these two terms- ‘public’ and ‘image’.) Personality is one of the vastly studied topics in psychology, so much so that there have been numerous psychologists who have defined and theorized the term personality.
The author however, wishes to analyze the movie ‘Persona’ under broad headings of Pain, Isolation/Alienation, Alter-ego, Silence and Nothingness in correlation to the Existentialist System of psychology (particularly Nietzsche).

Summary of the movie:
This experimental work of Ingmar Bergman is strong in imagery and more theatrical in nature. It was referred to as “one of the century’s great work of art”.
Persona begins with images of camera equipment and projectors lighting up and projecting a montage of images such as: crucifixion, an erect penis, clips from a comedic silent-film reel first seen in Bergman's Prison (depicting a man trapped in a room, being chased by Death and Satan), and blood pouring out of a lamb neck,etc. This is followed by contrasting images of people in bed such as the old lady and a boy who is later shown to be caressing the images of the two protagonists in the movie. A constant image that runs in the movie is that of nail being hammered on the hand and blood pouring out. The camera focus involves a lot of close-up on body parts especially faces,hands and feet.
A young nurse, Alma (played by BibiAndersson), is summoned by the head doctor and charged with the care of stage actress ElisabethVogler (played by LivUllmann), who has, despite the lack of any diagnosed impairment, become mute. The doctor explains that the actress suddenly stopped speaking in the middle of her performance and has not spoken since then. Subsequently, the nurse familiarizes herself with the actress and even reads out a letter from Elizabeth’s husband which includes a photograph of her young son. The doctor of the hospital suggests that to better care for the actress, she be taken to a seaside resort.
 Once they reach the beach house, roles and perception begin to shift.  Elizabeth remains silent, while Alma talks incessantly about her relationships, her own anxieties and sexual experiences. At this point, the movie explores and meshes reality and dream-state wherein Elizabeth is shown as approaching Alma while she is sleeping and embracing her. This image is also recurrent and appears again later in the movie.
As the movie progresses Alma is crossed at Elizabeth when she discovers in Elisabeth's letter to the doctor that she has been analyzing her and "studying" her. When Elizabeth does not react, the nurse flies into a rage and tells Elizabeth"You are inaccessible. They said you were healthy, but your sickness is of the worst kind: it makes you seem healthy. You act it so well everyone believes it, everyone except me, because I know how rotten you are inside." The only time when the actress is seen speaking is when Alma grabs a pot of boiling water off the stove and is about to fling it at Elizabeth, but stops after hearing Elizabeth wail "No!" Alma explains that Elizabeth wouldn't have spoken had she not feared death.
That night, Alma watches Elizabethsleep, analyzing her face and the scars she covers with makeup. She hears a man yelling outside, and finds Elizabeth's husband, Mr. Vogler, in the garden. Mr. Vogler mistakes Alma for his wife and delivers a monologue about his love for her and their son.Elizabeth is shown as standing quietly beside the two,visible to the nurse but not to the husband. While holding Elizabeth's hand, Alma admits her love for Mr. Vogler and accepts her role as the mother of Elizabeth's child.
The climax of the film comes the next morning: Alma catches Elizabeth in the kitchen with a pained expression on her face, holding a picture of a small boy. Alma then narrates Elizabeth's life story back to her, while the camera focuses tightly on Elisabeth’s anguished face: at a party one night, a man tells her "Elisabeth, you have it virtually all in your armory as woman and artist. But you lack motherliness." She laughs, because it sounds silly, but the idea sticks in her mind, and she lets her husband impregnate her. As the pregnancy progresses, she grows increasingly worried about her stretching and swelling body, her responsibility to her child, the pain of birth, and the idea of abandoning her career. Everyone Elisabeth knows constantly says "Isn't she beautiful? She has never been so beautiful", but Elisabeth makes repeated attempts to abort the fetus. After the child is born, she is repulsed by it, and prays for the death of her son. The child grows up tormented and desperate for affection. The camera turns to show Alma's face, and she repeats the same monologue again. At its conclusion, one half of the face of Alma and the other of Elisabeth’s visage are shown in split screen, such that they appear to have become one face. Alma panics and cries "I'm not like you. I don't feel like you. I'm not ElisabethVogler: you are ElisabethVogler. I'm just here to help you!" Alma leaves, and later returns, to find that Elisabeth has become completely catatonic. Alma falls into a strange mood and gashes her arm, forcing Elisabeth’s lips to the wound and subsequently beating her. Alma packs her things and leaves the cottage alone, as the camera turns away from the women to show the crew and director filming the scene and the child caressing the images of the two protagonists.

Analysis:Persona from a perspective of Existentialism
A sea of holes to fill your emptiness,
Painting your comrade-Silence,
The void between ‘I and Thou’
Who really am I, Now?

Existentialism is a philosophical orientation marked by concerns such as uniqueness of the individual, his consciousness of self, his freedom of choice, his quest for values and meaning for existence. Existentialists rejected the tenets of objective, mechanistic, hypothesis-testing science in favour of the study of subjective consciousness and human intentionality.
The following analysis is my attempt to correlate the movie Persona and its themes to that of the system of Existentialism. The major area of focus in my analysis will be Alienation, self-estrangement and in-authenticity, Angst/Guilt/Pain and Nothingness.

Alienation, self estrangement and in-authenticity:
William Barrett writes that ‘alienation and estrangement’ constitute the ‘whole problematic’ of existentialism. He treats self estrangement as a celebration, heroic or masochistic of alienated man’s ‘nakedness’ and ‘solitariness’.Sartre takes up the point that , in alienation the sense is lost that man is ‘essential’ to the constitution  of the world..Moreover, Hegel and Marx identify alienation as that from the world, from others and from oneself. In Hegel’s account alienation from the world is a form of self-alienation of Geist (mind, spirit)from itself.The Existentialist concept of self estrangement is virtually equivalent to what he calls ‘inauthenticity’. ‘Authentic’ here echoes with the meaning of the Greek word from which it derives, namely ‘one who does a thing himself’. Existentialists assert that on one hand a person is free, meaning-giving ‘existing individual’; and, on the other, that a person necessarily a participant in a public, social world where he is the object of ‘the Look’, judgments and categorizations of others .This leads to the ambiguity in human existence. A persistent theme in the existentialist writings is the contrast between the life of the authentic individual and the life which is immersed in the anonymous ‘public’, ‘crowd’, ‘herd’ or ‘mass’. Kierkegard in ‘The Present Age’ says that
‘Public is…an abstract void which is everything and nothing…the most dangerous of powers…the public is also a gruesome abstraction through which the individual will receive his religious formation- or sink…More and more individuals, owing to heir bloodless indolence, will aspire to be nothing at all- in order to become the public.’
We as individuals are so entwined in one another that life in the ‘they’ or under ‘the predominance of the Other’ is described as ‘inauthentic’, ‘self-estranged’, or in ‘bad faith’. Bad faith has to do with self identity, in the sense of a person’s reflective conception of who he is and what he is like. Bad faith is at work, when instead of balancing their various styles of self reflection, a person identifies too fully with one or the other of the competing objects of his reflections- with his past at the expense of his possibilities of the future, or with his body to the exclusion of his ‘spirit’, or with his image for others instead of a more holistically formed self-image etc. The self is only truly ‘lost’ when the person comes to view his ‘directives’ and ‘possibilities’ with the same lack of gravity as the ‘they’ does.
The movie Persona also deals with this theme of alienation wherein  Elizabeth, the actress alienates herself from the world and therefore from her ‘self’. Her perception of self receives a blow when she hears multiple ‘reflections’ about herself such as looking “pretty during her pregnancy” or “lacking motherly feelings”. Her public persona or ‘the Look’(le regard; it is which ‘has revealed to us the indubitable existence of the Other for whom we are’) conflicts as a result of which she resolves the ‘ambiguity’ by denying some of the poles between which her existence operates.Elizabeth’s motive is thus to ‘flee’ into ‘bad faith’ whereby she thinks of herself from the perspective of others.The ‘Other’ ‘public’, ‘crowd’, ‘herd’, ‘mass’ or ‘spectator’ can be attributed to the he viewer of the movie/the audience, to the child that is recurrently shown as embracing the visuals or to the man at the party evoking the symbol of general public. Thus it is seen that Bergman’s work of cinematography requires careful observation to the subtext or layers that the entire movie operates in!
Elizabeth’s alienation can be deduced from all the factors mentioned above such as her past experience of being accused with lack of motherly feelings as perceived by others and her obsession with her appearances and beauty. As a result she alienates herself and becomes a victim of such thoughts that dominate her self-perception. Elizabeth realizes that she is leading an inauthentic life and uses the tool of silence to practice this alienation and self-estrangement. Silence is Elizabeth’s way of escaping and coping in an urge towards freedom and search for meaning in her existence.

The nature of Geist is to alienate itself in order to find itself again. This movement is just what freedom is…by reverting to itself, Geist achieves its freedom…where everything foreign has vanished…Geist is absolutely free, at home with itself.

The ‘absurdity’ of life is such that sometimes, a random thought becomes an idea for existence. One such speculation is my analogy with regard to Words.

Words are like nails, if they can fix, they can even cause holes.

The constant visual of a nail being hammered into Elizabeth’s hand, coerce me to apply my analogy to her context. Elizabeth , ‘bewitched’ by a number of dualistic illusions (such as subject versus object,mind versus body, reason versus passion, and fact versus value) which pervade her life and generate a sense of ‘homelessly’ abandoned in a world devoid of meaning and value finds her ‘dwelling’ through silence. For my belief is that chaos reaches peak in silence and then you make order from chaos. Thus, according to me, Elizabeth uses silence as her weapon to lead her once again from ‘non Being’ to ‘Being’.  Using this silence, she tries to fill the empty spaces caused by the holes of the words of ‘Others’.
The significance and function of silence and the in-authenticity of her existence is brought out starkly in the dialogues of the Doctor addressed to Elizabeth:

You think I don't understand?The impossible dream.Not of seeming, but of being.Conscious every moment. Vigilant .At the same time, the abyss between what you are for others and for yourself,the feeling of vertigo and the constant desire at least, of being exposed, of being analyzed, dissected,maybe even annihilated. Every word a lie,every gesture a falsehood, every smile a grimace.Suicide? Oh, no! That is horrible. You would not do such a thing. But you can stay immobile and in silence. At least that way you don't lie. You can close within yourself. Alienate yourself? This way you will not have to act roles,and not put on false gestures.You think.But, do you see? Reality is in the way,your hiding place is not impenetrable.Life sweeps in through everywhere.And you are obliged to react.No one asks if it is real or unreal,if you are true or false.The question is only important in theatre.And almost not even there.I understand you, Elisabeth.I understand that you are in silence,that you are immobile,that you have placed this lack of will in such a fantastic system.I understand you and admire you.I think you should maintain this role until it ends,until it stops being interesting.The you can leave it.The same way that you left little by littlethe others.”
Another dialogue in the movie that emphasizes the theme of finding meaning in life is when Alma says: “Imagine all your life dedicated to something. I mean to say, believing in something, carrying out, believing that your life has a purpose. I like things that way. Clinging to one thing intensely and nothing else matters.”

Angst/Guilt/Pain and Nothingness:
Central to Existentialism is the theme of Angst which translates to anxiety or dread. It is the anxiety of ‘Being’ or the prospects of Nothingness. Existentialists have differentiated Angst from ordinary fears, explaining that Angst often “does not know” what that in the face of which it is anxious. The objects of Angst could be myself, my freedom, nothingness, emptiness, the world, Being-in-the-world, and death. According to Sartre, Angst ‘means that man is always separated by a nothingness from his essence’, or that the ‘self…exists in the perpetual mode of detachment from what is.’ In Angst, says Heidegger, all entities with the world…sink away’. Nothingness is a presence within the Being of Non-Being. To fall into nothingness, means to become nothing. Death is the absolute Nothingness.
In Persona too, Elizabeth’s character is shown as falling into the dreadful abyss of Nothingness. There is this uncanny emptiness that has masked her life and aspects of self. There is an experience of groundlessness, chaos and disorientation portrayed in the lives of Elizabeth as well as Alma and both are striving to find meaning of their existence and actions. In Existential terms, the Non-Being has invaded Being, which has manifested itself in the form of alienation and isolation and thus to an inauthentic existence leading a life that is nothing, meaningless and void. Elizabeth’s fear of death or as mentioned above the absolute form of Nothingness comes to stark notice when she shouts “no” in defense against Alma. Both Elizabeth and Alma face an existential crisis with regard to their self-perception and the ‘publicly interpreted’ persona.A closely related existential term that I would like to associate here is Guilt. Existentialists believe that one thing that humans can never transcend is guilt, which is essential. This is ‘the true, inexculpable guilt of having spurned possibilities of Existenz’.Sartre says that we feel guilty for discarding the other choices to become something else. Elizabeth is angst-ridden and guilty of not living up to her multiple reflections, that of mother being one of them. She chooses her career of theatre over her motherhood but is later tormented at the pain of neglecting her child. She shuns away her responsibilities of Being and is thus trapped in the cellar of void existence. The accusations of plasticity of her existence impinge on her and make her feel the insatiable pain that is evident in the visual of nail hammered in hand.Many words and such nausea...Incomprehensible pain!”

The Nothingness, The Sea of Holes and Silence are beautifully portrayed in the movie when in the end Alma approaches Elizabeth in the hospital bedroom and she says:
“Now listen to me. Repeat after me, Nothing...Nothing. No, nothing... Nothing. That's it. That's good. That's how it should be.”

Alma and Elizabeth
The character of Elizabeth and Alma can be seen as an interpretation of each other’s alter-ego (often referred to as the other aspect of oneself or the other ego).  There are many instances in the movie that indicate the interwoven personality of the two actors, whether it is through camera work or dialogues.
Alma: When I got home, I saw myself in the mirror and thought: "we are the same." Don't misunderstand me, you are much betterlooking, but we are similar. I think I could become you, if I made a real effort. I mean from the inside. You could become me like this, with nothing else.Although your soul would be much bigger.I would overflow all over.
Further elaborating on this concept of alter-ego, I see the representation of the two characters  as antithesis and a form of  visual dichotomy between the Dionysian and the Apollonian aspect of one’s personality as expressed by the existential psychologist-Friedrich Nietzsche.  ‘Apollo is the Greek god of light and reason, and Nietzsche identifies the Apollonian as a life- and form-giving force, characterized by measured restraint and detachment, which reinforces a strong sense of self. Dionysus is the Greek god of wine and music, and Nietzsche identifies the Dionysian as a frenzy of self-forgetting in which the self gives way to a primal unity where individuals are at one with others and with nature.’
The character or Elizabeth can be attributed the Apollonian aspect of personality while Alma for me symbolizes the Dionysian aspect of the personality. The two characters are like the two impulses of art which are intimately intertwined to make a coherent piece of art.
Elizabeth stands for everything Apollonian in nature-  striving for form and structure; associated with beauty & appearances, images and dream state to create order; plastic art; detached;self control and perfection;the principium individuationis or 'principle of individuation' that symbolizes man's separation from the chaos of life when under the protective influence of Apollo.
Whereas, Alma represents the Dionysian aspect- chaos; instinctual; pertaining to sensations of pleasure and pain, dissolution of identity and all boundaries and  wholeness of existence or leading to ‘Primordial Unity’.
The Dionysian and Apollonian elements of life have been artistically woven together. The interaction between the two characters represents the interaction of these aspects of the personality. Bergman has poetically juxtaposed the two personalities bringing out the inherent contradictions in both. On one hand we see Elizabeth who is supremely concerned about her career in Drama and threat to her beauty on being pregnant. She is nothing but what Nietzsche regards as a sculpture with clearly defined form and boundary which seeks to represent reality in its perfect form. She is represented as one who lives within illusions of a world and life that is under control and has clear notions of personal significance and greatness. But it is, as Nietzsche observes, an Apollonian aesthetics, Apollo is the god of plastic arts and of illusion.
When this world of illusions was challenged and shattered into multiple broken mirrors, on arrival of her son and insult on her motherly feelings, she comfortably renders herself ignorant of reality’s dark side and finds solace in silence shunning herself in the plastic art through Drama, performing this character in silence.However this darker side of reality is experienced by her once again through her alter-ego Alma. The plasticity of Elizabeth’s life is brought out when Alma observes her sleeping and says these dialogues:  “When you sleep your face is flaccid. The face is swollen and ugly. You have an ugly wrinkle on the face. You smell of sleep and tears .I see your pulse beat on your throat. You have a scar that you normally cover with makeup.”

The Dionysian aspect of Alma is clearly visible through her anxiety and chaos,lack of order or “ambitions” in her life; her graphic description of instinctual energy as expressed by her incident at the beach;  literal and metaphorical ‘drunkenness’ or self-forgetfulness; and the dissolution of individuality that she experiences as shown in the visual when Elizabeth embraces Alma.Alma embodies the wholeness of nature and herself as the work and glorification of art rather than as an artist such as Elizabeth.Alma in true sense encompasses the vitality and passion that Elizabeth lacks.
“I am not like you. I am not Elisabeth Vogler!” When analyzing the subtext of these dialogues, they indeed refer to the paradoxical nature in which they operate and Alma’s inability to differentiate between appearance and reality.

‘Nietzsche claimed in The Birth of Tragedy, in the interplay of Greek Tragedy: the tragic hero of the drama, the main protagonist, struggles to make order (in the Apollonian sense) of his unjust and chaotic (Dionysian) Fate, though he dies unfulfilled in the end. For the audience of such a drama, Nietzsche claimed, this tragedy allows us to sense an underlying essence, what he called the "Primordial Unity", which revives our Dionysian nature - which is almost indescribably pleasurable.’  Taking this analogy from The Birth of Tragedy, it can be said that it was Elizabeth’s Apollonian consciousness which like a veil hid her Dionysian world from her vision. In Apollonian ideals, the character of Elizabeth suggests distance which separates her from her closest emotions, which in turn separates her from her essential connection with self. Whereas Alma, or the Dionysian embraces the chaotic nature of such experience as all-important; not just on its own, but as it is intimately connected with the Apollonian or in other words Elizabeth. In essence, Alma magnifies Elizabeth and brings out the harmony that can be found within one’s chaotic experience.

Thus Persona for me is a work of art bound by the Apollonian and Dionysian duality, a contradiction, the bliss born of pain!
According to Nietzsche, the purpose of life is Art. The artistic expression (that particularly includes Art, music and Tragedy) lead us to meaning and direction of the existence and the world. I completely accept this opinion as art for me too sustains my life and makes it worth living. Art is the supreme delight of existence!

Sharing my reconstruction of Calendar of 'existence' (which is nothing like calendar-art per say, but my interpretation of calendar in art nevertheless!) manifested through graphics from self clicked photographs of trees. (usually the bare ones)

Calendar: A Reconstruction













. References:
*Cooper, David E. (1990) Existentialism, A Reconstruction. BasilBlackwell Ltd. Cambridge:USA
*Nietzsche, Friedrich.(1995) The Birth of Tragedy.Translated by Clifton Fadiman. New York. Dover Publications