Friday, 24 September 2010

Bricklaying for Bergson

As I've noted in previous posts, the architectural uncanny is a metaphor and often the arena for intimate states in literature and film. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (2000, Pantheon) involves parallel narratives and arguably parallel universes. There are several realities that the book suggests. A young man, Johnny Truant, finds a study of a documentary written by Zampano, who is blind, in his new apartment. This film is the legendary work filmed by Will Navidson. He made the film under abstract and strange circumstances. As we learn about these circumstances we become closer to the psychology of the young man. There are also letters from Johnny's mother and transcripts of interviews by Karen Navidson, Will's wife. These different worlds are visualised by the use of the layout of text on he page. Text may appear in a square shape with footnotes, or a page may just contain a few words. the words and the relationship to the space of the page resonates with the way the people in the films are resonating with the architectural and psychological spaces they inhabit.

The content of the Navidson story documentary interests me most. The Navidsons move into a house, they are a married couple with young children. As they embark on DIY they realise the inside measurements of the house from furthest wall to furthest wall are not equal to the outside measurements, they are bigger. It seems that the house has started to grow. This idea is not new, but this is no tardis. The house has agency and grows at its own pace, the inhabitants, unlike our beloved doctor, have no control over this expansion. Oh how the Islington property developers would swoon! No need now to knock down treasured council estates. But this creeping growth, like a cancer is deeply disturbing and seems to reflect the couple's relationship more than effect it.

A door appears, a corridor starts to grow, a set of stairs leads down into a pitch black labyrinth. Navidson and his brother set out to explore, the tone of the documentary suggests a Scott like headstate, as he heads into the void. In moments of pressure couples writhe around in their own vomit. This surely is the privilege of intimacy, the ability to go there into the abject, to absorb this lack which is too full and suffocating, and to navigate back out together, sometimes with little more than the knowledge that together, neither will get lost or stuck their forever. A mutual acknowledgement of their own mess, and a restoring to order. Lovers are the ultimate horror film directors.

The book throws into question the reliability of any text which professes to be non-fiction. The psychological quandry Danielewski seems to be obsessed with is the idea of the endless mind, the endless perceptual shifting created by a psychotic hermeneutics, freefalling interpretation.

So far, I think the thread which connects all these spaces and the intimate relationships which they house is the idea of the ambiguity which must be at the heart of intimacy. Intimacy brings two people as close as possible, physically and mentally, we say 'I know him inside and out' but the truth is we never can, and even if we could by some feat of telepathy, our own internal voids pervade. The endlessness of interpretation, the never really knowing, the void, the unreliable narrator, paranoia, the space that isn't itself. If a relationship is about the space between two people then the knowledge that that space can never be measured or controlled can result in morbid ambiguity or a revelling in the instability of giving up control. Here the uncanny is the ambiguity of interpretation. More to come. Next up, Fritz Lang.

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