The memory of Film

The seat I am sitting on is warm. The leather has formed to accommodate the buttocks of the person that sat on it before me. It demonstrates the memory of his body. The warmth it still retains, the vicarious experience that is still here when he is not.

I am in the Tate Modern Cafe, my frown momentarily broken by a polite smile to the cashier. I am taking my latte and make my way across the room, passing mothers with children and fathers with Blackberries, and find an empty seat next to a couple that will not utter a word to each other for the next thirty minutes.

From all the sights I saw today, the best was not on display. Five men were taking down the giant plinth that Film was projected on. They were standing on a platform, elevated by a crane, the metal rising in braids towards the ceiling. They were deconstructing the giant screen piece by piece, a cheer of excitement filling the Turbine Hall every time one was safely touching the floor. The crowd was clapping. I felt a pang of sadness.

Someone compared the Film project to the monolith in the last scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and watching it being deconstructed made me think of that link; of an end; of a memory; of the end of memory.

Art is eternal; film is temporary. Light burning it every time it shines through it, it’s projection the ultimate reason and end. Digital form exists or doesn’t; film deteriorates slowly, having a life of its own, a journey from beginning to end. It is not meant to live forever, but to illuminate a life.

Film does not only capture. It creates. It is not a depiction of reality, but a construction of it. I remember a picture I took in Sweden, when on our way to our room, we passed from an open door. I stopped; craned my head to look in. The residents had left, and it was now being cleaned for the next ones. I quickly sneaked my camera out and took a picture, without having a clue how it will come out. When I developed the film back in London, the print looked as if it belonged in someone else’s roll, in someone else’s life.

Sheets on a hotel, laying still, stuck in the moment they were wrestled off the person’s body, stuck in the second after the friction caused them to form swirls of fabric. There is a bleached blood stain, the edges forming a sun of human cells. A life spent on beds, seats, looking up at the ceiling, outside the window, remembering, constructing, recreating, reproducing, looking for memory where there is none.

You walk up the stairs and you fail to notice the beauty around you, because you are so engrossed in what happened today in the office, at work, at the coffee break, at lunch, on TV, on the screen, everything locked inside your head, invisible verses of a poem that you keep reciting, carved in your memory, already forgotten. The words change but it is always the same.

Film is like memory; events are not reproduced; they are reconstructed. The small speckles of light and dust that travel in front of it become a part of the outcome.

The couple next to me left, and a family with two small girls rushed to take the table. The smallest one sat down in a huff, with a handful of crayons from the Tate shop, and started drawing on her place mat. She drew a purple sun and a tree with green apples. And just like that, the sun rose inside the café, and its rays were purple.




11 thoughts on “The memory of Film

  1. That essay truly was a magnificent something. I enjoyed every single word! It interests me that the subject of seeing or failing to see beauty is the subject of much of the 100-days journey that I am taking with a friend. We are on day 22. Synchronicity is awesome!

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