Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 48 (Trinh T. Minh-ha)

Cinema Interval by Michael_Kelleher
Cinema Interval a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Minh-ha, Trinh T.
Cinema Interval

Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books. I think Susan Howe recommended this. Either that or it was on a reading list for her class. I seem to remember that it was a recommendation. I can't remember anything about the book, however.

Not surprising, I suppose. I've forgotten a lot more than I'll ever remember. I guess I didn't feel a very powerful connection to this book. That's the assumption, anyway -- that one remembers what is important to them. What is important is something that provokes a strong emotional reaction.

Therefore, if I remember something, it is because it is important to me.

I find this kind of thinking difficult as I approach middle age. I meet hundreds of people every year and in many ways they are all important to me. This does not prevent me from forgetting their names or even their faces. I feel badly when I do, mostly because I am sure my forgetfulness makes others feel as if they are not important to me. This seems to get worse as I get older. I just can't remember people I meet once or twice and then don't see for six months.

The same, I suppose, goes for books and films. The other night, for instance, I forgot that I had already seen the WWII British Whodunit, Green For Danger. I saw the film two years ago when I was staying alone at my mother's in Florida. When I saw that it had appeared on Netflix streaming and that I had not given it a rating, I assumed I had not seen it. Lori hadn't seen it either, so it seemed pretty sure I was correct in my assumption, as we watch movies together most nights. Five minutes into the film it began to seem familiar. Twenty minutes into it I was sure I had seen it. Nonetheless, much of it seemed new and I could not remember who'd done it or why.

I suppose I am more likely to watch a film a second time than I am to read a book a second time, mostly because the time commitment required of a book is much greater. Films that I deliberately watch a second time and books that I deliberately read a second time are definitely important to me.

Could the same be true of people? Maybe those that are important to me are those I actively seek out, those with whom I proactively collaborate to maintain a friendship over time. I remember them by seeking them out, by wanting to hear what they say, by listening to them and talking. Passive memory, then, would become a poor marker of importance. I think the assumption behind the original statement is that important memories stay with us despite ourselves and less important ones fall away.

But this is little more than the lotto theory of memory. Most people prefer to see (think underdogs in sports, lotto winnings, sweepstakes, etc.) events unfold in exciting and unexpected ways that do not require agency. Luck and chance are valued more highly than skill. If you have to work at it, then it isn't a gift, goes the theory.

Memory is viewed the same way. It is assumed that if I don't passively remember something that it is not important to me. I don't think that is true. Not for me, anyhow. I remember things I work hard to understand. Some element of emotion is involved in this. If a person or book or film does not provoke strong emotions, or if my seeking them out is not the result of some previously felt strong emotion, then I am unlikely to pursue them further.

This may go all the way around to proving part of the same point. I remember things that are important to me. But I remember them because I continue to seek them out, not because they stirred up my subconscious to the extent that it acted on my behalf.

from Cinema Interval

The relation of word to image is an infinite relation. What is released on the film screen is neither given up to sight, nor put safely under the shroud of invisibility. Between love and death, freedom and madness, the widest range of strange sound harmonies can be heard. Whereas between a passion and a passion, between a desire, a sickness, a pain of consciousness and another, endless modulations of dissonances are to be predicted. An image is powerful not necessarily because of anything specific it offers the viewer, but because of everything it apparently also takes away from the viewer. Nothing and everything, including specifically the ability t put into words what the body feels, to articulate or to name once and for all.

1 comment:

praxispaghetti said...

great photo - it looks like the photo face on the book is morphing into your head

dove sta memora