17 March 2008

Lost word

Last week, I went to see the new Gondry's masterpiece, Be Kind, Rewind. In all of his works, what strikes me the most is the brightness of his ideas, of his imagination. In that particular movie, I was touched by his reading of the (hi)story of cinema and of popular culture. But moreover, he subtly demonstrates how we need fiction to function, how we create narratives to make sense of reality and how we tell each other stories in order to connect, to live together (as in a polis) and to get a sense of belonging to a community/a family.
While I was watching the movie, I thought on another brilliant inventor, John Cage. I was then reading a book of conversations between Cage and Daniel Charles, called "Pour les Oiseaux" / "For the Birds" (a wordplay around the birdcage). What got me to think of him was a word that came back often in Gondry's movie: "sueded". In Be Kind, Rewind, the owners of a video club are shooting their own versions of movies like Ghostbusters, 2001, A Space Odyssey, Rush Hour 2, Boyz in the Hood and many more. They qualify their "remakes" as "sueded" because, as they explain, the tapes are "imported from Sweden". In an interview for the LA Times, Gondry said he "wanted a name that meant nothing". And from that he created a verb that means re-doing/re-interpreting/re-creating/re-composing just about anything, including webpages (in the movie's official site, you can find samples of Goolge and MyFace).
But the thing is what are the chances of coming across a word that doesn't exist twice in a week in 2 different contexts? In For the Birds, Cage uses that exact same word in its French verb form "suédé". So of course, after the movie, I go back home and start browsing the book in search of the paragraph, to compare the 2 meanings. But I browsed it again and again, 4 or 5 times, but I lost it. I can't find that word again. I thought for a bit that I dreamed it, that it's all a mix in my head, a Cage-Gondry conspiracy. But I'm convinced I did read it, because I remember thinking what the hell is that word "suédé"? what's the concept behind it? Maybe one day, when there's a digital copy of the book, it'll be easier to look into it. For now, I prefer to play around more obvious concepts addressed all over the book: silence, nothing, void, space, ecology, technology, references to Thoreau, Fishinger and Backminster Fueller..
In a last associated thought (who said again that the brain functions with associations?), reading Cage made me think about a wonderful project that Cati blogged about: "OTTO" created by Duncan Wilson and Manolis Kelaidis at the Royal College of Art.
An excerpt of the description: "OTTO (Greek for ‘ear’) is a device that makes hidden sounds audible. (...) Every object and surface in our environment has a whisper; subtle tremors and vibrations that are usually undetectable to the human ear, produced by the activity and movement of daily life. What if these sounds were audible? How would that change our aural awareness, perception of space and attitude towards objects? Would it be possible to ‘compose’ our own soundtrack using our walls and objects as a new form of instruments?"
For me this is more or less achieving as a standalone technology what Cage elaborated in his theories and his compositions: a way for us to hear the silence, the sound of objects, of our environment and make a sense of it: being an audience and a composer at the same time.

-- Joëlle.

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