“A boy shuts his eyes for a moment. When he wakes the world he once knew is gone. His room is an unfamiliar place. His language has failed him. he has forgotten everything and everyone he ever knew. Gone. The world he now lives in is one of lost things.”
From this terrifying conceit, Hiraki Sawa’s two-channel film “Lineament” draws us into a surreal world of dream-like continuity and disjuncture, in which we are taken from the familiar world and into the logic of the film. In the same way, in the corner of the ICA studio there is a record player playing the sound, a palindromic score, and on the screen we see the same record in different situations, playing on a beach, held up to the ear to try to listen to it without playing, or merging into someone’s head like a halo, or being played in strange rooms.
Curator Fatoş Üstek has spoken of a desire to create a “continuum” through the 50 weeks of fig-2, with threads continuing through the whole year, incrementally resulting in a “subliminal constellation of meaning.” One of these threads is this week literally represented by thread. Throughout the film we see black string stretching between spaces and experiences. We see the vinyl record being played and as it is played, the outer grooves come away as string stretching off elsewhere, visually dramatising the ephemeral act of listening/apprehension as the vinyl disappears into thread, drawing off a three-dimensional artefact into two-dimensional string vanishing into the single dimension of a vanishing point.
This is itself interesting and beautiful, but it also ties into a primal theme in the production of art: the line. This is where it all began. Recent cave art has discovered abstract line drawing created by neanderthals half a million years ago, and pretty much all of what we think of as visual art can in some sense be reduced to ‘the line’. Cubism developed Cezanne’s theory that be everything could be broken down into cylinders, spheres & cones (lol note: not cubes). He thought these could then be shown to recede to a central point; note that another contender for oldest identified work of art is a single red dot made 40,000 years ago.
Fatoş Üstek has identified “stretching a line” as one of the themes of her intended “continuum” for fig-2. For Week 4, and, wait for it, next in line, we look forward to the poet Simon Welsh, whose basic building block for poetry is, of course, another kind of line.
What Hiraki Sawa does with his line is to desconstruct multi-dimensional space (ie. the record disintegrating into string) and then to repattern it according to a dream-logic that works by visual association and transformation. We see the string proliferating into series of lines coming down a wall. We see beautiful webs forming, which are then echoed by images of chandeliers and clocks and gears, radiators and plugholes. These are the visual vocabulary of the film, elements which are repeated in different configurations and which echo or transform into each other.
The string is pulled into strange machines made of outsized old-fashioned clock parts, which then join with the central character of the film, not physically but compositionally; we also see him as a soft machine with the string going into his head and out again through the ears.
The film enacts an attempt to reconstruct memory by contructing a new (sur)reality out of these abandoned objects all connected by a thread that is symbolic of silence: when the vinyl record has turned to string, all this is left is this connecting material, which is in turn symbolic of the order of meaning-making whereby, according to poststructuralist theory, objects (such as words) do not have inherent essences but are used to create meanings that exist between them rather than arising out of them.
This is how we construct and reconstruct reality every single day, constructing and reconstructing the present out of the forgotten lost things of the past. In the same way, I have constructed an at-this-precise-moment meaning for the film “Lineament” by connecting the objects according to ideas I am familiar with, arising from what they bring up from my memory. But really there is only the line, and clocks, and rooms, and the objects in those rooms. What they mean is whatever you can make them mean by drawing connections out from your amnesia. And now, perchance to sleep. The point about a nightmare is that you wake up.
Link to fig-2 website for Week 3: http://www.fig2.co.uk/#/3/50