Dominique Koch & Normen Perke
On Culled Emotion
by Melissa Steckbauer
Up until they circle back to the subject of aggression, a second time at about 11:00 min., there exists a cool passivity to the four participants of the conversation presented in, Imagine a Situation Where the Rules of the Game Change, 2012, a video piece by Dominique Koch & Normen Perke. Each entrant in the game is hard to read, maintaining a fluid intellectual ubiquity. No one is particularly willing to take a stance or impose on the abstract nature of the conversation and they seem to float in a raft of social graces, tethered to the assignment but rather unwillingly. With small curt smiles at the corners of mouths or in tiny but generous nods to their colleagues, their mutual performance of knowledge or philosophy--or whatever the umbrella term might be here--is engaged and “on”, while they maintain a distance as if the other might not smell so good but the camera shouldn’t see. No one ready to risk too much but all the while playing with metaphors which relate to the very undercurrents of their tension.
Despite their efforts at politeness, the tender skin of feelings peek out. We can well imagine them. A thin layer of sweat, a contracted diaphragm, and a pulsating heartbeat; nervous laughter when someone suddenly brings a hurt out front, causing a thin tear in the top sheath of etiquette. But first to acknowledge the reason for the risk: they are strangers to each other and the camera is on! There is of course an on-going performance one plays for the outside and for one another yes, but here there is an unknowable number of viewers involved (namely amongst us fair reader) and the documentation is made to last. The weary targets are (very likely): social shame and fear of the unknown. --and yet, risking all of that, as one says, for art! To come sofort dabei when the act of making is at the fore. How gorgeous!
Oh what sweeping pride to have in humanity (or perhaps just the Left, as I know nothing of these individuals--are they famous thinkers? Are they in fact the average French population? Ha, what a lovely thought: this is on average a slice of what it is to be French!). It is, if nothing else, surely a slice of what it is to be human. They are speaking about communication and finding themselves quickly in heady spirals of violence, species-ism (cats vs. dogs), and self vs. other.
But this, “Jede Art der Besserwisserei erscheint mir aggressiv,” I love. This I know for myself to be one of the risks made in exchange, and especially amongst strangers. This highlights the meta-layer of their talk which is that there is a primordial level of knowledge regarding affect which might be the driver in so many of these conflicts. And what is the response when one member is confronted with a certain kind of behavior? Deflection, projection, and further distance: all on the table. What they are likely struggling with is the undercurrents of affect which language has as of yet denied space for. His experience, her experience, and theirs together exist within a melange of inter-cultural and inter-personal “truths” of what is felt and understood to be “shared and knowable experience.” The communal, i.e., community, social structures, commerce, etc., all expounding from these tenable strands of emotion and identity. Their feelings are hardly quantifiable or possible to legitimate under such dainty circumstances, thus they are left only with each other to make more or less “violent” or let’s say harmful, their exchange.
How sincerely trying it is to but have a conversation. Just a conversation and the heat and passions of human wanting will of course flare up. That it were a child standing between them, a pile of money, or the reins of a nationstate, one can only imagine the risks. But that is the read. We are but beginners in social development and it is not for a lack of philosophy nor a quotable knowledge of the past that we cannot make our way together “civilly” but rather for our lack of self-awareness and our mistrust of our deeper and secondary, but albeit more refined senses: intuition, perhaps instinct, and perhaps neither.
Finally, the film winds down on a warm note, exemplifying these--as of yet--ambiguous qualities of connectivity. Where the carriage of conversation rides is clearly up for grabs but the adventurers herein seem to have been loosened gently in the tussle.
22/08 – 28/09/2014