If you were as I was, obsessively following the American presidential campaign, you might have heard Joe Biden’s speech when he said, “The arch of the universe is long but it bends indeed towards justice”. The wording may be questionable – whether or not the universe should actually bend over – even if it is towards moral righteousness. Yet he draws quite a striking metaphor. A metaphor displaying a curious blending of general relativity with a far-west notion of final cause, as if one were living inside a self-contradictory ‘Weltanschauung’. Yet, one shouldn’t think that the democrats’ strategy is oblivious to paradigm shifts. For a culture is not only constituted by the scientific models it produces, but also the coalescence of belief systems it both amasses and sheds. That is why Freud needed only to listen to his patients – “my sons are the cross I must bear” – to understand the reason for their lower back pain. “Cross” is, after all, in German, the word that designates both the intersection of an upright and a transverse piece of wood, and the lower back region. Known as somatic inscription, the bodily imprint of a metaphor is understood to convey a repressed thought. Repressed thoughts express themselves through condensation and displacement, which Jacques Lacan later came to identify as metonymy and metaphor, respectively, since, as he put it, the unconscious is structured like a language.
Such a language, however, psychoanalytical insights notwithstanding, speaks of more than just suppressed personal motives. It speaks of the impossibility of neatly discerning the self from the world. Like a Klein bottle – whose inside is also its outside – it describes the manifold ways through which sounds – like the phoneme ‘cross’ – light, odors or bodily sensations prey upon our thoughts and inflect their leanings. Yet, in an era that has pathologized poetry so thoroughly, it is easy to forget that language is onomatopoeic sound and metaphorical rhythm inasmuch as it is the shareability of meaning.
In “Basking in what feels like ‚an ocean of grace‘ I soon realise that I’m not looking at it, but rather that I AM it, recognising myself,” Emily Wardill used a software-composed music score to time her movie’s rhythm. The film pans through grainy images of flashing strobe-lights and city streets to the sound of the puzzling tune. Like a digital xylophone, it sounds algorithmically simple yet metaphorically knotty. When the film’s midpoint is reached the music inverts itself and begins to play backwards. Inconspicuously, it becomes something else. The camera zooms into a room where we see a ‘focus group’ engaging in an animated discussion. We are not granted access, however, to what it is that is being discussed there. The film coordinates the rhythmic pattern with the group’s physical motions, and we are left with nothing but sensorimotor and mnemonical cues. Whatever they are talking about remains immersed in colour and sound and in the allusion to a spiritual subject that stirs up mental sequences of painterly tableaux, where the meaning doesn’t coincide with the matter depicted but rather opens up the possibility of diverse readings. Allegorical readings. Like seeing both people and patterns blending into a manifestation of ‘élan vital’, which doesn’t recognize a rift in between matter and meaning, but unfolds as a smooth, ceaseless continuum.
Supportico Lopez is a project space run by Gigiotto del Vechio and Stefania Palumbo. The project, which started in Naples in 2003, was formerly run by two artists and a curator and would function as room for public exhibitions of international artists within a private flat. Taking its name from the street in which it was located in Naples, Supportico Lopez continued to run under the direction of Gigiotto Del Vecchio – one of the founders – now together with Stefania Palumbo, also an art critic and curator.
Emily Wardill, Still aus dem Film „Basking what feels like…“ (© Courtesy Supportico Lopez Berlin)