In the Beginning Was the Image, before the Beginning Was the Avant- Garde

By Whitehead, Peter | Framework, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

In the Beginning Was the Image, before the Beginning Was the Avant- Garde


Whitehead, Peter, Framework


By virtue of its position-avant, in a montage of texts- should the preface not aspire to be an artifice worthy of being dubbed avant- garde (by the voice of the reader)? A threat rather than an invitation, an attempt to soften up an entrenched enemy, a plan for the murder of the watchmen-avant- garde, garder, regarder ... where to begin?

PREFACE: Preface for a Proposal for an Avant- Garde film.

Title: "A GIRL, a TREE, the FALL."

Titles: Handwritten (not in copperplate style), white on black.

Dedication: To Jean- Lucifer Godard and Guillaume Apollinaire.

Epigraph: Handwritten in smudged crimson blood- spattered red ink over black- and- white "still" from the film Le Petit Soldat: "Il faut imaginer les victimes heureuse" [It is necessary to imagine the victims happy]. Sound track over titles: "Blonde" ... by Guesh Patti.

Image 1

The liminal of the forest, a huge pine tree, reverse- silhouetted in light, towering above the canopy, the edge of darkness below. A mythic image. Posed on the threshold between order and adventure. On a crucifix of bleached tree boughs, one painted in lush gold leaf, rests an ea gle's nest; as neatly woven as a Pathan girl's veil. A male voice intones: "Is this the tree of life, or tree of death?"

Music: "Electronic Wind," from the sound track of the film Fire in the Water.

Image 2

A lovely young girl, long blond hair (Rus sian peasant style), in jeans and arctic coat, with climbing spikes on her boots and a rope around her waist and the tree, starts her climb from the base of the tree ... dissolve ... she arrives at the huge nest. Taking out a multicoloured rope from her rucksack, she ties it to the golden bough and flings it into space, where it falls uncoiling in slow motion like a molecule of DNA, creating life.

Music: Pink Floyd, "Shine on You Crazy Diamond," from Wish You Were Here.

Image 3

Several pairs of hands tying planks of wood, steel hammers, bags of nails, ropes, buckets, cartons of food, plastic containers of water; fastening them to the rope before it is hauled above by the girl.

Music: Miles Davis, "Ascenseur pour l' échafaud."

Image 4

A white- headed ea gle circling in the sky above the nest.

Music: Stockhausen, "Light."

Image 5

A panoramic view from the nest. The margin of the arctic, the once treeclad tundra now an industrial wasteland; scattered as far as the eye can see [with] the splintered remains of a million felled trees. Huts. Machines. Diggers. TV news cameramen.

Music: Sibelius: "Finlandia."

Image 6

The tree house is complete. Under her makeshift roof, the girl sleeps. At peace with herself.

Music: Kraftwerk: "Trans- Europe Express."

Images 7- 70

(As we can easily imagine the rest of the REAL, unfolding narrative, we do not need to see it.) Instead we imagine with the girl; we enter into and witness her dreams of how it might have been if she had full control of the images created of this consummate per for mance of hers, living in her nest for three months or so- the film she would have made of the joy she had known in life and nature, and the misery now, of the death of the tree of life. Over this long montage of sensual images, a desolate sound track: a man's voice describing the impossibility of making a film that will change anything. That time cannot be reversed. The tree once cut down, has gone. Avant or après ... we live and die on the pivot word: Time.

Music: Verdi's "Requiem."

Image 7

The body of the girl lying on the ground next to the bole [trunk] of the tree, where she has fallen. Slow pan toward the machine that will cut down the tree, next to the ambulance, blue light circling.

Music: Pink Floyd, "Dark Side of the Moon."

Image 8

The ea gle circling in the sky above the canopy of the few remaining trees of the ancient forest. …

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