I was looking through the foreign section of Frys' DVDs when I came across the Stan Brakhage DVD released a year ago, not long after his death. I had just asked Robert Polidori if he'd seen it, and coming across it in Frys was something of a surprise. I'm still surprised at times when I find something out here that I think of as east coast.
They did a wonderful job transferring the films to DVD, I'm surprised that DVD would handle the single-frames so well. The compression work is exceptional, as it should be for such a set of images.
I hadn't seen Brakhage's later directly painted work...God knows how many hours of Brakhage films I've sat through--possibly more hours than I've spent sitting in Greyhound busses. And I've done Greyhound busses.
The transfer was good enough for me to be absolutely transfixed by the images on my monitor. Brakhage films I always hear more than I see, even though they're silent. I guess there isn't much more for my eyes to bring to the images, my body instead reacts synaesthetically, and I settle into hearing the rhythms, pitches and timbres of the images as they pound past. What I get out of it, besides the sensual pleasure of the experience, is the sense that THERE IS SOMETHING PRESENT. There is a referent, somewhere between Brakhage, the painted film, and my self, that is present like a spirit, that, for moments at a time, while I experience the film, exists.
Not all art form provide that presence. Usually songs don't. Not for me. They aren't sensual enough, there's too much pre-agreement to the rules of the game. But sometimes there's an articulation that reminds you of the inner muscles in the throat, or a timbre that suddenly modulates from scratchy to smooth and hard, or a counterpoint that has you parsing the phrasing one way, then shifts and forces you to parse the same notes differently. Something happens between the form you hear and the ability to hear at all, and suddenly you glimpse into the interstice between the surfaces, as they shear and suddenly there is a depth there, a dimension that wasn't there an instant ago. And ya know I could fall into that depth, and so it isn't just another aspect, it's one that I have purchase in, and yet this is just sound. How can I have purchase in sound? But here it is, and I don't just hear it, I care about how it evolves, even though its only a sound.
So the Brakhage images remind me: there is this place, a place that has always attracted me, where for brief moments at a time, I am sensually aware of my immediate existence in a way where there is a break in time itself, which I recognize as an a-priori necessity for such a perception to take form. A fissure in the sensual stuff that is composed, a fissure that appears unexpectedly and invites my scanning senses to fall in, and at that moment I feel a vertigo that has nothing to do with the physical material of the composition except that I'm present. Because all that occurs in the presentation is a change: it is my self that supplies all the vertigo. And that is the moment I feel my existence, with its own texture.