Monday, 28 June 2010

Research Paper (Idea #1) and Institute Benjamenta the film

For the research paper I thought of questioning the act of recording symbolic objects to come out as ordinary. In an earlier tutorial session with Andy, we spent some time discussing how this could be accomplished. A first stage could be trying to remember what triggers memories for me, and how could it be viewed by others, would it trigger their memories as well since there’s a sense of the personal in there? I thought of the close up, the indoors, the private as a way to get closer to the one on one experience which would simultaneously relate to the objects theme as ordinary. How could recording ordinary objects lead to a personalized history? As a first draft I would include the following points:
- The idea of the 'museum of everything'
- The notion of clips of information compared as a different form of objects in a museum
- The idea of a rush of visuals that I would like to explore
Few days ago, I was watching again the film by the Brothers Quay called Institute Benjamenta or: This Dream People Call Human Life (1995) and I got carried away with the opening sequence by the use of still objects recorded as film.

The Brothers Quay usually work with animations, this is their first feature film. On a technical and narrative note, the director of photography uses a shifting light on still objects to create an ongoing transitory clarity, empowering the objects that are main elements in the film and engaging the viewer in a hypnosis state. These objects later on turn out to be elements that indicate the type space filmed. According to Anton Bridel, in a review for “Eye for Film”, ‘Perhaps the titular establishment is a curiosity shop, or a nightmare, or a tomb, or a fish bowl, or a snow globe… It is an abstract, uncanny experience which, like any good servant, is far too tactful just to blurt out its masters' secrets.’

On the narrative theme of the film, Anton Bitel says: ‘All of which is to say that Institute Benjamenta is the proverbial riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Freely adapted from the 1909 novella 'Jakob von Gunten' and other writings by Swiss modernist (and asylum frequenter) Robert Walser, this is a film of layered moods and textures rather than broad narrative sweeps, and yet the hermeneutic labyrinth whose shadowy corridors it traces is (to paraphrase Virgil's words on the Underworld) easy enough to enter, but rather more difficult to leave. After all, its obsessive themes and images will continue haunting the hallways of your mind long after its well-honed sound design has finally fallen silent.’
"Perhaps", speculates Jakob, "there is some hidden meaning to all these nothings." After all, nothing itself is a recurring motif, enshrined in both the 0s that appear in different guises throughout the film and even in the circular nature of the narrative itself, beginning and ending with a line that denies beginning or ending: "All around hangs a slumber upon these halls, and things as yet unfathomed still occur."

As a book resource, I only thought at this point of the title Extra/Ordinary Objects: Colors.

Here is the scene from the opening sequence of Institute Benjamenta.


  1. "We can express our feelings regarding the world around us either by poetic or by descriptive means. I prefer to express myself metaphorically. Let me stress: metaphorically, not symbolically. A symbol contains within itself a definite meaning, certain intellectual formula, while metaphor is an image. An image possessing the same distinguishing features as the world it represents. An image — as opposed to a symbol — is indefinite in meaning. One cannot speak of the infinite world by applying tools that are definite and finite. We can analyse the formula that constitutes a symbol, while metaphor is a being-within-itself, it's a monomial. It falls apart at any attempt of touching it".

    Andri Tarkovsky on Symbols vs. Metaphors

  2. you should see Tarkovsky's "Nostalgia"