Long live the new text: eight responses to as many Nicolas Provost shorts

15 March 2013

On 8 March 2013, Newcastle's Star and Star Shadow Cinema screened eight shorts by Belgian artist Nicolas Provost. Found therein were images violently torn from their contexts and reappropriated, given new life and meaning,
responded to here with original prose, thoughts, images, scholarly texts and extracts from an unpublished manuscript.

Strangers on a plane
[Moving Stories, 2011]

Jeffrey Beaumont, detective and/or pervert (that's for him to know and you to find out) awakens from a velvet slumber and turns to her with sandy hair, whose golden locks turned a blue key to other suburban pastures long before that Polish neighbour made her grace(ful) Zabriskie point, greeting her with sandy hair with thoughts on a "brutal fucking murder" (brrrootuhl facking murrrdahr!). Jeffrey is a handsome beau, held aloft with femme fatale, and his disease is still inside of her... make that Daddy, shithead. Is your fucking bourbon duty-free? If so, I'll have another, on my way to a world anew. Look, daddy, there's a plane overhead I

[Plot Point, 2008]

wonder where it's going, the little boy said on a Manhattan street. We knew better: the vehicle flew to LAX, where McCauley meets his maker, and his pursuer looks off-screen left (he sighs: "Yeah"), thereby denying a narrative resolve that, as per western literary tradition, would take a left-to-right flight of progress. Barbecues and ballgames likewise denied by a city that never sleeps, observations and editorial manipulations of which imbue otherwise absent suspicions and evoke a procedural aesthet(h)ic. Does God move over the face of the waters? Do you? A queue of lights, the red and the blue, perform to camera like a parade of unwarrantedly proud bastards. On the walk home from the cinema last week, two coppers pulled me over as I matched the description of someone who'd just smashed a car window. My one-word answers (yes, no) and my posture (hands behind my back) pulled the rug from 'neath their booted feet. I don't know why - they're humans just like me - but I wanted to fuck their faces up real bad for the arrogant way in which they got my attention. 

DOOR DIVE ME (aka dangerous methods [to their madness])
[Long Live the New Flesh, 2010]

wath's wonrg wtih my cdoec? ["Re: is a musical project of Aden Evens and Ian Ilavsky (also members of Sackville), who have been working together since 1996."]

A loose succesmeself echoes Vidend as an exploration of bodily limitatiodrom, the film is a welc to a kind of filmmaking thitat is ideas- and image-driven. In this sense, comparisons to debud beauty clerks, it t director Brandon Crerg’s father Daonenbvid are inevitablesion of riffs on a the and, pry to expectations, profitable. Wh its dystopian setting and a foc technocrats anreseus upon intevin infiltration, Anral recalls Scanners (19ome and rather old-fashioned return81); its gradual incline towards a claust nightmarish suerhaps contrabjectivity that never quite resolves ite (198r-corporatioti3); aons in an age ofmbles The Fly (198rophobic,7).

Causal sex

[I Hate This Town!, 2002]

Readers used to complain that Ulysses has little story; about enough, say, for a novella. That is true; but Ulysses does not aim to impart its story. It takes its story for granted (and the title announces that the story is so familiar we can find it in Homer).[1]

In order to respond to the above assertion, it is necessary to make a distinction between what might be meant by “story” and what I would argue as more dominant in Joyce’s Ulyssesnarrative. Story is, in simple terms, a sequence of external events. A story operates linearly, by way of cause and effect. It has a logic: an individual incident, such as someone turning a car ignition, has no story unless there is another resulting incident.[2] In even the simplest of stories, there is a causal chain implied: the car crashed into the ditch because its driver had been drinking, for example.

But stories are different to narratives. If a story is a sequence of related incidents, narrative is the sequencing of them. Narrative is the vehicle for story, that by which a story is communicated; if story is a pre-requisite for any chosen narrative, the reverse is equally true: in order to be told, a story must be narrated, and the way in which it is told is at the narrator’s discretion. Narrative may also offer the causal chain a rational link by way of internalisation: psychological insights not immediately apparent in the external sequence.

Returning to our car in the ditch, for example, in narrative terms, the omission and placement of the details depends on the aspired effect, and in turn decides the genre; we may know the reason for the crash beforehand (and thus the narrative becomes a suspense), or we may only become aware of it after (in which case it becomes a mystery). In Ulysses, Joyce seeks beyond such external events and turns them inward: he wishes to know why the driver had been drinking, and how much he drank; he even wishes to know the drink of choice, so lateral are his interests.

[1] Hugh Kenner, ‘Circe’, in James Joyce’s Ulysses, edited by Clive Hart and David Hayman (California: University of California Press, 1977), p. 344. I would go one further than Kenner: Ulysses relies on more than just Homer for its meaning. If Joyce draws parallels to The Odyssey in his title and schema, the novel has a rich allusional fabric that references many other works just as vital for their meaning. As only one example, if Stephen corresponds on one broad level to Telemachus, he is just as much a self-declared Hamlet. Furthermore, as my argument here states, Ulysses is a topographical novel: much of our understanding depends on the geography of Dublin just as much as Homeric parallels.

[2] Already we may see how Joyce describes an insignificant, non-story incident as a story in itself, as in the dense way in which he represents the turning of a key in ‘Ithaca’. See James Joyce, Ulysses [1922] (Oxford: OUP, 2008), p. 656.

[Storyteller, 2010]

Edison's 'The Kiss' (1896): thenceforth
[Gravity, 2007]

He told me of a time in Norwich, when Ursula had gone to a morning class and he had remained in her bed, and how he couldn't bring himself to wake up properly, or make an effort to get up and make breakfast, fearing he would encounter her house mates, with whom he got on but didn't wish to see in that sort of context, in the absence of Ursula; that it would feel like some betrayal of space, an intrusion; and so he'd remained in bed until she returned at noon, having been out in the world and having acquired an energy from it; and she'd immediately feigned a mother's outrage at his bed-dwelling laziness, and it made him laugh and seek sanctuary beneath the covers, under which he could smell himself, and also smell her; and she pounced on him, on the covers, pretending to attack and punish him, looking for ways to penetrate his shelter, tickle him into submission, before eventually he regained composure, strength, and emerged from beneath the covers with an attack planned of his own; but she quelled all such strength immediately by kissing him with an urgency, with passion; and immediately he channelled all his physical strength into affection, into a physical passion of his own; his physical body, naked, enveloped her own, and she could not remove her clothes quickly enough; but sensing impassioned haste, impassioned clumsiness brewing, he took her entire physical existence in his arms and pinned her to the bed, on her back; and she began to struggle, but he applied more pressure, and with a slight giggle she stopped squirming; and he retained the pressure, asserting his strength over her; and she settled into this non-movement, this silence, and looked him in the eyes, as he did hers, and they kissed at once, with a love and drive that he had never felt for anyone before; and again, immediately, he sensed a haste in her, a hunger, and through his tongue he channelled his body's strength, to determine a slower rhythm, a more controlled air; he kissed her cheek and she let him; it was fresh, cold, cold with the freshness of the world outside; he kissed her neck and she lay there, startled, as if feeling his tongue upon her flesh for the first time; her body tensed and relieved itself immediately, into a released sense of admiring resignation; the sensuality, the softness; he moved down and upon her, seizing still her hands, their fingers entwined and their wrists gliding atop of one another, as his entire physical endeavour seemed to come down to the concentrated movement of his tongue; now the shoulder, now the wrists, now the chest; lifting her shirt, he kissed her stomach; it was like silk, he said, pure, untouched, pulsating as if being touched and exposed for the first time; this virginal quality in her, barely concealing a tamed tigress beneath, waiting to emerge, waiting, waiting with a patience, with this need to be caressed, kissed, cared for; to be loved, to feel the love being shown to her; he continued down, loosening her belt and unbuttoning her jeans, pulling down the zip and, in one sweeping motion, rising his body to pull them with ruthless, probing care, he pulled them off her legs and cast them to the floor; he came down upon her once more, breathing into her ear, which he said really got her aroused; and he felt the heat in her groin, the moistness to which his careful hand seemed to glide almost upon instinct, independent of a broader will; the tigress beneath this virgin, delicate, tamed, arched her back up from the bed, so that his other hand could find its way to her bra, fumble clumsily with it until loosened, while the other hand pulled, still clumsily, at her knickers, sliding them down past her knees, upon which she raised one leg and with the other, cast those too onto the floor; and while he himself moved down her body, feeling the flat contours of her flesh, examining it with a contained passion, and finding her cunt and rubbing it and licking it, she removed her shirt and bra so that she was naked with him, fully naked in the flesh, cold and fresh and trembling, moist; he licked her, sucked; he enjoyed the taste of her, he said, it was the unique taste of woman; she squirmed, he bit her gently, massaged the inner thighs, rubbed her clit, swollen and red; slid his fingers up her, and felt her trembling inside; he liked to bring the fingers back, he said, into her inner lining, her trembling tissue, and with the palm of his other hand apply pressure onto the same area externally, as if to invest the most pressure, passion, sensation, into it all at once; the palm remaining there, the fingers thrusting inside her; and all the while they eyed one another, as if partaking in some dangerous, forbidden ritual, exploring depths both physical and emotional, sensual, which nobody else dared do lest they face their own embarrassed selves; her loins fully aroused, the tigress emerged fuller, moving her head up to kiss him, a thrusting tongue of her own, inside his mouth, and with her arm sliding round his back, his shoulders, she pulled him up and on top of her; and his cock slid into her, raw and wet, dripping and throbbing, pink; and they seemed to lie in perpetual silence and non-movement, so as to savour the sensation of initial entry, an inimitable sensation indeed, he said, whichever the girl and whatever the context; and he moved back and forth inside her, swollen, throbbing, his tongue on her neck, on her hot erect nipples; her ankles clasped behind him, trapping him into this lair of tingling pleasure. Often, he wrote, in the final moments leading to his ejaculation inside her, he would bury his head into her shoulder, to concentrate on the moment; in these moments, he said, he would often close his eyes, and, groping her body, usually her hips or buttocks, with an intensified desperation, he would imagine he was holding another woman; people they knew, her friends, her mother, girls from his past with whom he'd never shared so much as a kiss – people of whom fantasies are easy, he said, because literal sex would always be forbidden, aloof. He confessed this to her once, he said, and she hadn't liked it, though he suspected that it stirred some immense if quiet curiosity in her, something vaguely appealing, erotic. But on that particular occasion, he wrote, when Ursula returned from a morning class, he made love to her without such fantasy; they did not change positions, they did not close their eyes; they remained as one, he on top and inside of her deep, with their eyes locked even long after they had come; and they came together, for when her face began to glow red and he began to feel her thighs shudder at his hips, he had thrust harder and faster, and the eye contact seemed to draw his own eroticism in, intensifying his concentration; and when he came, and could feel the blunt tingle of his come shoot deep into her, his remained fixed on hers, bewitched by them; and their look said more than any verbal declaration could have; and he remained in her, sunk on top of her with his full weight, and she cradled him tight, their hearts beating a syncopated frenzy of love.

[Stardust, 2010]

This is a sequel to Plot Points (see above).

(extract from an unfinished manuscript // He told me of one student night, particularly busy, during which he observed a policeman-in-training, a 'community support officer' no older than himself, taking much apparent pleasure, and with a sense of great occasion and authority, in walking up to an oblivious student, who had by habit thrown his cigarette butt to the ground. The 'officer' had words, he said, and apparently told the boy to pick the butt up and put it in the nearest bin. “It was at that moment,” he wrote, “that I realised the extent of the division between the state and the people. Lenin was right to call for a violent revolution, not out of choice but out of necessity; this is the sort of petty bureaucratic cynicism we're up against. The officer, with delusions of authority, was no teacher, no moral guardian. I can't even say he was up-keeping a law; there were many other cigarette butts on the ground, and students were probably even throwing their butts to the ground at the same time as this telling-off, to say nothing of chewing gum, shards of glass, and the very flyers I am paid to hand out.")

Seven samurai out of ten
[Bataille, 2003]

Returning to the provocateurial - that is, to the Provostian - mirror: Autechre soundtracks a fight scene in Kurosawa's Rashomon, with the frame halved so that the combatants emerge from one another, fold into one another, move across and become one another in a pantheistic harmoniousness. Sticking with/to/on Kurosawa, here's my favourite Japanese band, Les Rallizes Dénudés, and their fittingly titled "Enter the Mirror":

Newcastle's Star and Shadow Cinema screens a season of Kurosawa samurai films in May - on 35mm! The Invisible and the Real season, of which the Provosts were a part, concludes on Sunday 24 April with Clio Barnard's The Arbor (2010) and John Smith's Girl Chewing Gum (1976).