Saturday, May 19, 2012

Relative Dislocation

I usually do not post excerpts of criticism for I see film criticism, as well as the art it describes as a giant Deleuzian abstract machine (as Adrian Martin describes it in his essay on Tsai-Ming Liang's films: water as the abstract machine) wherein influences/loans/inspirations are absorbed by a part inside the whole mechanism, and then passed onto the other parts: thereby, a massive circulatory system, or a network, if you may. As such, a critic or a film writer or a film director is perpetually quoting, or deriving, or posting excerpts, even if not consciously. Such circulation of influence or (at a lesser-glorified level) riffing is an event one must not and cannot resist. However, I feel this excerpt below from an interview of (who else, but) Adrian Martin, conducted for the Slovenian journal Ekran by Nil Baskar describes so perfectly the situation a number of exciting critics/curators/cine-lovers feel in India currently, and therefore, must be shared as a conscious decision:

Q: You live in Australia, which does not enjoy – at least until now – a reputation as a particularly cinephile part of world. Does this relative dislocation from some of the important sources of contemporary film, Europe and the States, somehow affect your critical work?
AM: To answer this question, we must rehearse the entire geo-political history of film criticism! Seriously: in a sense, I will answer you as any serious film critic from Ireland, Taiwan, Canada, and so many other similar places – places that have been ‘in the shadow of the great world powers’ – would. Because we are talking about a long history (mention of this is made in Movie Mutations) in which – just like in the art world and other cultural/intellectual spheres – the ‘centres’ or capitols of film-thought and film-discourse were taken to be only France, USA, to an extent UK … And it didn’t matter how rich or alive the film-culture scene was in your ‘local’ scene – if you weren’t from, or in, one of those ‘centres’, you simply didn’t exist on the ‘world stage’ as a critic. (I know it well personally: for my first 15 years as a writer, I barely appeared in print outside of Australia. There would be many similar stories.) As a result, we (in general) know the identity of so few of the best critics (or the best teachers, or the best journalists) around the world who worked over the past century … And it is not just a matter of ‘small countries’: Spain, Germany, Russia, Austria, Italy and Japan (to take random examples) have remarkable histories of film culture, but they too have barely been recognized, for so long, on the cinematic ‘map of the world’. So, to come back to your question: does this ‘relative dislocation’, as you put it (one could use less polite words, like imperialism, geo-political oppression, colonialism, etc!), affect the critical work of me or my Australian colleagues? Of course it does; invisibility is both difficult (you feel alienated from so much going on elsewhere in the world) and enabling (you have a dream, a Shangri-La, a Utopia to strive for!)

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