I hope this email finds you well. Seeing your post on ASPHALTE's film issue made me happy, as there are not a lot of publications that allow for intersections of poetry and film, and especially not with the free attitude that I was used to when I still wrote for Jugend ohne Film. Patrick Holzapfel, who started the blog, met Pedro Costa several times in the small booths of the Austrian Filmmuseum, which definitely impacted him and our approach to film writing. The scrapbook you mentioned is something I cherish a lot, as it reminds me of a kind of inner cinema that needs to exist, but in a way that should not be shared with everyone. Maybe only with a handful. And somehow the books retains the feeling that the copy you hold in your hands is as much your own as it is Costa's.
Generally, I'm glad I've stopped engaging with cinema culture — especially on a social level, since it's pushing an unconsciously globalist agenda due to its widespread dematerialization of images and content. I have seen this even more during COVID, when online film festivals fell prey to the interchangebility of images that in my opinion became heartless, even though the making did not. I'm troubled by it, but it has also sharpened my eyes to a very select company of filmmakers who were on this critical trajectory all along. I'm thinking of the Scottish Margaret Tait, or the farmer-filmmaker Pierre Creton, who happened to have made a pilgrimage film about Bataille and Vézelay, as well.
Anyhow! Let's get to the heart of it: over the summer, me and my longtime friend and mentor, Bibi Straatman, have been researching and reading Georges Bataille's work, which she has done for many years now, and to a very thorough extent, since her home in France is really near to Vézelay, his final resting place. We talked about his work, the context in relation to place and the timely questions we ourselves strive to derive from this engagement. Bibi is currently writing a book on Teresa of Ávila in which she gives Teresa a central place within the European notion of freedom, and how it's a very precarious and feeble thing that we cannot take for granted. And she is stating that in fact, we have not moved on much, seeing that our interiorities are still so easily manipulatable by global and technocratic forces. Bataille, in his first publication Inner Experience, deeply tries to share with the reader the inner dialogue that Christian mysticism has helped him te cultivate (vis-á-vis an inner monologue). He regularly cites Teresa and her companion St. John of the Cross. In line with this, obscurity, definiteness and the role of security are three notions that seem to return in everything he wrote. His commitment to leave the centre of Paris for what was then a neglected town with a forgotten past, is related to his refusal of the name – and the definitive act of naming as such – and his method of accessing the empty place within himself, on which the Dutch Bataille scholar Laurens ten Kate has written a tremendous book (supervised and introduced by Jean-Luc Nancy). In it, the fostering of an inner dialogue is posited as a necessary attribute in order for any citizen to start speaking, confidently, en publique. And this, in Bibi's view, was the kind of work Teresa of Ávila already started, intuitively and bodily, during her life in the 16th century, which she managed to develop in the midst of the harshest oppression possible: it was not for nothing that during her entire life, she was surrounded by actual patriarchs, who immediately after her death canonised her in order to veil and hide the consistency with which she maintained her troubling position of holding power as a woman. This was unearthed in a great feminist revisionist text by Alison Weber: definitely read the intro, you can find it here!
When visiting Bataille's grave together, Bibi and I strongly felt how the fetishization of his grave was something to be cautious of. I undertook several trips, and every time the place seemed to rejected my attempts to projectivize it, which I started to understand was part of his mission (and not his project). So how to write about Bataille and his stern refusal of instrumentalizations of any kind, without naming, including the invocation of his own name, which inevitably would attract an entire chain of cultural associations and contexts within the reader's mind? Which is exactly what he tried to resist? Byung-Chul Han and his writings on boundaries and transparency are deeply tied into my writing and filming of this poem, in which one's own interior castle (to talk in Teresa's vein) can never be foregone by something that is not cultivated and fought for within oneself, otherwise the other will become complicit in what inevitably turns into the much-feared and unprivate project, which again is tied to B's pursuit of the community. It reminds me too of how in many protestant societies, everything needs to be transparent and out in the open, otherwise it does not exist (work must always be seen and performed). Of course, the complexities of Bataille's in/visibility question are very loaded, since far from everyone can decide to disappear willingly, especially if one has not inhabited a metropolis like Paris in the first place, which provided him with the contacts and experiences from which he could start his own process of reduction, so to say.
What are your ideas on this? I have included the current version of my poem as well as three stills of the material that I filmed in July.
image description : the bloomed poppy
image : a still of the snail that sits on top of the L from the ''la morte'' carving
image : a still in which one can only just discern ''la morte'', the two words that someone carved on the right-hand side of Bataille's grave
I look forward to your response!
All my best,