Mount Analogue Revisited
Walker and Walker
The film Mount Analogue Revisited (2010) is based on a reworking of René Daumal's Mount Analogue: A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing (1952). This was the author's final work, which remained uncompleted due to his premature death and was published posthumously. The book is the story of a voyage to an unknown island in search of an improbable mountain, the link between Heaven and Earth. Walker and Walker take as their starting point a short passage from the book in which, upon arrival at the shores of an island, the boat's crew are escorted in silence to a municipal building and asked by an official to give an account of who they are and what the purpose of their visit is. Within the confines of this meeting, Walker and Walker invent a conversation between three of the crew members, the official, and the author himself. The events play out purely through dialogue within a single room, as the characters speak of the difficulties involved in making a journey to a superior world so different from our own.
Although the film holds true to the spirit of the book, it is not a literal adaptation, for the conversation that ensues references a broad number of writers, such as Novalis, Stanislaw Lem, Edgar Allen Poe, Maurice Blanchot, Hermann Hesse and William James, all of whom advocated the breaching of the limits of rationality in the pursuit of a Utopian society. The ending remains unresolved as the viewer is left unclear if the voyagers' arrival at this place has been instigated by the inhabitants of the island itself, or driven by their own efforts. Mount Analogue Revisited is an adventurous philosophical tale, encompassing poetic passages and evoking a spiritual quest bordering on science fiction.
UNFILMED MOUNTAIN: Walker and Walker's Mount Analogue Revisited
by Fergus Daly
"There's a temptation to show a mountain [...] then one fine day you realize that it's better to see as little as possible" – Jean-Marie Straub
"Lord, we don't need another mountain,
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb,
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross,
Enough to last till the end of time" – Bacharach & David
In The Logic of Sense Deleuze wrote that thought has a geography: "It appears that thought itself presupposes axes and orientations according to which it develops, that it has a geography before having a history, and that it traces dimensions before constructing systems." Deleuze goes on to describe the dominant image of the philosopher, head in the clouds, ever ascending in search of purity, truth and high principles, the movement of thought being one of ascension up out of the earth and into the world of the intelligible. Plato is the model here, and radical philosophers in the millennia since have tried to give thought a different orientation (or dis-orientation) than that of height. Artists too have inhabited this problem-space, seeking out ever new ways to think in space and time, trying to orient their activity. John Rajchman has discussed the post-war move in sculpture away from the 'figure-on-a-pedestal' model as a response to the need to invent new ways of 'having an idea in sculpture', in other words, to figure out how to think materials, space and time as a mode of orientation, both conceptually and practically. And this new configuration of artistic and philosophical problems began to take shape across the arts, including in cinema where the search for a new orientation or 'image of thought' led to the invention of new signs and images, chronicled by Deleuze in his two-volume study of cinema, amounting to "an original audio-visual way of thinking—a peculiar relation of thought to aisthesis, a whole aesthetics" (Rajchman).
Sculpting in Thought
From the beginning, Deleuze was taken by the dual Kantian notions of "aesthetics". In Kant the idea of forms of sensation (space and time) as conditions of possible experience was combined with a theory of beauty (and art) as a reflection of real experience. Deleuze sought to reconcile these two senses, dismissing the search for conditions of possible experience in favor of a search for the conditions of real experience under which something new, as yet unthought, could arise. This would be a plane of experimentation, of 'immanence' prior to subjects and objects. Deleuze challenged Kant's contention that what is given to our faculty of knowledge is known only by virtue of its conforming to the a priori principles of our intuition and understanding—the French philosopher wanted thinking to live in the space hollowed out between intuition and understanding, setting space and time, the forms of sensation, free of the categories and syntheses of a unifying 'I think'. Art would then be experimentation with sensation, with what can only be sensed and which would be subject to the new kinds of a-categorical syntheses found in artworks. "The work of art leaves the domain of representation to become 'experience', transcendental empiricism or science of the sensible..." (Difference and Repetition).
Contemporary art is still taking place in the zone Deleuze opened up, and Walker and Walker's work is at the forefront of these issues in contemporary art. To a large extent contemporary art can be defined by the unique ways it discovers to sever space and time from the understanding, re-orienting or dis-orienting its concepts and practices. This would be an aesthesis liberated from Kant's doctrine of regulated faculties, testifying to what Eric Alliez terms the contemporary aesthesic regime in contrast to Ranciere's notion of an aesthetic regime. Here, unregulated sensations give rise to other spaces, other times. Deleuze sees Hamlet as the first 'persona' to live in this other time. He situates Hamlet's refrain 'the time is out of joint' in the context of the Copernican Revolution of Kantian critique: time is unhinged, off the hinges that subordinated it to movement, that made it the measure of movement. Time unbound now subordinates, conditions movement. This has profound consequences for the Subject: "time moves into the subject, in order to distinguish the Ego from the I in it. It is the form under which the I affects the Ego, that is, the way in which the mind affects itself...our interiority constantly divides us from ourselves, splits us in two: a splitting in two which never runs its course, since time has no end. A giddiness, an oscillation which constitutes time" (On four poetic formulas which might summarize the Kantian philosophy).
Walker and Walker's film Nightfall (2004) dramatized this splitting of the subject: "beyond light...beyond darkness," it is Time which is the force welling up inside us, overwhelming us with its unpredictable forkings and oscillations.
Their more recent film Mount Analogue Revisited continues this problematisation of the 'I' (a major theme of the source novel by René Daumal) but extends further their exploration of thought and its orientations, and in line with all that's best in contemporary art and film, asks questions about how to dramatize ideas, and to transform accepted notions of visuality, spatial and temporal construction. Far from turning their backs on the Romantic concerns of Nightfall they probe further into its nebulous universe: if that film explored the post-Kantian sense of time as internal form of intuition "the internal space peopled by ourselves alone" (as the voice-off put it), Mount Analogue Revisited undoes the Kantian space of intuition (that which determines all possible external perception). Just as Nightfall ended with an echoing cry of 'Falling', so Mount Analogue Revisited begins with an echoing 'who are you?' The recent work will concentrate more on sculpting new creative co-ordinates in space and continue their preoccupation with the limits of the sayable as it relates to creative thought.
As such, Mount Analogue Revisited intervenes in the most pressing current debates surrounding the relationships between aesthetics and philosophy, and ultimately the question of what it means to be contemporary. The idea of Utopia that in René Daumal was the driving force of the novel is no longer tenable: Mount Analogue Revisited takes place amidst the debris of the historical failure of Modernism's utopian dreams. Walker and Walker stress Belief as today's problem for art; belief in all its forms, from artistic forms we no longer believe in to an image of thought that's no longer productive. Daumal, a writer and noted mountaineer with links to Surrealism, was a follower of Gurdjieff and committed to abandoning the egoistic self and finding enlightenment by way of initiation into the Path (Dharma). His unfinished novel (he died in 1944) Mount Analogue is the description in allegory form of this spiritual journey and, steeped as it is in the history of Western and Eastern philosophies, proves an exemplary source for conceptual artists like Walker and Walker. It's a virtual typology of modes of rationality, an epistemological theatre of the faculties whereby reason, will, thought and imagination are set with and against one another by turns in a drama of "endless speculation." As with Nightfall the preoccupation is still with the faculties but now with the genesis and structure of thought, with geographies of thought, limits and boundaries, and with the notion of 'extending the realm of the possible". Modernism's artistic utopias are deconstructed through their residues in artistic thinking. Walker and Walker seek to get back to that atopia which has put an end to all utopias—that strange 'nowhere' of thinking prior to territorial/geographic co-ordinates.
As Deleuze taught, great artists are also thinkers, thinking in terms of percepts and affects just as philosophers think in concepts: just as when painting Walker and Walker think in terms of lines and colors, as sculptors they think in terms of materials in space and time, so it is that as filmmakers they think in audiovisual images; or rather, they think film sculpturally—not just visual images but voice and language too become materials to carve out in the pre-categorical spaces of artistic ideas.
Mount Analogue Revisited links up with the artists' earlier works such as Unpainted Mountain and The Wanderer where the distinction between real space and virtual space played out as an analogy between the free-standing sculpture in the gallery and its deterritorialisation; injecting the figures with a certain lightness, the artists sent them floating in space, playfully un-grounded. Mount Analogue Revisited continues this de-territorialization of conventional art forms and practices.
From the outset of Mount Analogue Revisited, Walker and Walker seem to play with both senses of the term analogue, the technological and the literary, pegging a sceptical view of Daumal's utopian sense to a critical approach to more contemporary technotopias, in particular the vision of a Digital utopia brought about by science and technology founded on the 'disappearing' of all things analogue. (Tacita Dean, surely inspired by Walker and Walker's use of Daumal's text, borrows from Mount Analogue in her recent Turbine Hall installation Film where she seems to lay claim to analogue as our lost Holy Mountain). Art today, they seem to suggest, struggles with the informational regime of control, our contemporary rival to the activity of thinking. To sustain a scepticism towards technology in holding onto analogue whilst simultaneously displaying suspicions about analogical thought is a treacherous path to tread and one of the great successes of Mount Analogue Revisited results from the artists' careful negotiation of that pathway. Nothing is resolved here, ideas are simply laid out, mise en scene.
As a result, what we have is not a piece of video art but what is from the outset presented with deliberation as 'a film by Walker and Walker', shot on HD yet using a 35mm lens.
That Walker and Walker have tagged on to Daumal's original title the word Revisited calls to mind so many iconic pop cultural sojourns of the past: Highway 61, Brideshead, Babylon and perhaps of more relevance the dystopian vision of Brave New World—theirs too is a work that meta-reflects on the idea of Modernist utopianism and diagnoses the utopian vision as tied to a geo-philosophical distribution, an architectonic system (in the shape of a mountain). We no longer believe in an ideal imperium or land of truth, a community of the imagination, only in the un-landed erewhon, the 'now here'.
Although they don't use the subtitle of Daumal's novel A Tale of Non-Euclidian And Symbolically Authentic Mountaineering Adventures, as the film develops the viewer progressively loses his inability to orient himself in hodological space. The space of the second half is increasingly "pre-hodological", becoming an abstract space of potentiality. Walker and Walker undo the conventional readings of Kantian aesthetics grounded on the axioms of Euclidian geometry, presented by the German philosopher as a priori forms of intuition determining the forms of outer sense and therefore all possible modes of seeing and sensing in space.
The novel describes the plans and preparations of the narrator in the company of one Pere Sogol to embark on an expedition to the mountain Sogol believes to be 'a bond between the earth and the heavens'. Eight explorers in all prepare for the voyage aboard the yacht 'The Impossible'. Through a combination of science, calculation and providence, they gain entry to the island and begin the ascent of the mountain. Daumal's chapters range in mood from humor (it's surrealistic side at times taking it into Flann O'Brien territory) to metaphysical speculation, from scientific deliberation to ecstatic lyricism, whereas Walker and Walker's is a dialogical, almost monological form, and their cast is limited to four - the unnamed official and three of the book's eight travellers: Sogol, the author René, and the linguist Ivan Lapse.
Walker and Walker have selected a key scene from the book and built around it a series of conversations exploring different modes of rationality and their claims on truth and belief. They have distilled Daumal's narrative down to a single sequence and a single confined setting: the episode following their arrival on the island where the travelers are quizzed about their identities, beliefs and intentions by a 'man in mountain dress', clearly a figure of authority since 'all authority in this country is held by the mountain guides'. The set-up in the official's room connotes officialdom, therefore legitimate discourse coming from on-high, the men wear de-individualizing uniforms (prisoner's outfits?), and never move. A sense of menace pervades the official's relationship to the three men. Continually prompted by the official, Scheherezade-like they narrate as if to save their lives, each prisoner seeking in turn to define the others identity. Through their angle of attack on Daumal's text, Walker and Walker quickly dispel any attempts to interpret the work as a blind affirmation of the cliché of mountain-climbing as an analogy for the search for knowledge, or the mountain as icon of human striving for the unattainable such as in the genealogy of 'feelings about mountains' undertaken in Robert Macfarlane's book Mountains of the Mind.
A room therefore (and an indeterminate 'elsewhere'—but, as Sogol remarks—"does not a simple container also define that which is outside or beyond its capacity to contain?"), four speakers, relatively inert visuals—at times one thinks of Sartre's Huis Clos. But, as Raymond Bellour has reminded us, the room has a unique place in the history of art. From the camera obscura to the cinema theatre and the space of the gallery installation, the room is where aesthetic events 'takes place' and Bellour gives us an inventory of the rooms that haunt contemporary art; from the literary chambers of Proust, Kafka, Beckett and Barthes to the gallery rooms of Vostell, Nauman, Graham and Viola.
Daumal covers this episode in less than a page before the visitors are led to what will be their living quarters for the duration of their stay on the island. In an extremely skillful manner, Walker and Walker stage the episode in dialogical form, allowing them to borrow freely and seamlessly not only from the remainder of the novel but, perhaps more importantly, from the writings of several other philosophers and writers, effectively extrapolating from Daumal to create a sampler of the history of western thought, invoking by turns Plato, Novalis, Poe, William James, Hesse, Lem and Blanchot. Through veering between the poles of Greek idealism and a range of purportedly irrationalist 20th century thinkers, Walker and Walker map out the co-ordinates of Rationality as a prolegomena to re-orienting that thought in a direction other than the 'ascensional' model that the search for the mountain implies. The figure of Sogol is essential in this regard, his name is what's known as a semordnilap, a special type of anagram of the word Logos. He is obsessed with the powers of thought but lends them a set of arithmetical co-ordinates, his adherence to a rationale valuing the divisions of a unity reminds us of Bergson's critique of cinematographic thought. Walker and Walker pick up on Daumal's valorisation of the power of human thought but stage it in different conceptual (non-arithmetical) terms.
The argument of the book is structured around a conventional series of oppositions: theoretical versus practical reason, science versus metaphysics, the abstract versus the concrete, belief versus dialectics, the possible versus the impossible. The reputation of Daumal's book being one that questions the limits of reason (thereby appealing to their Romantic side) must initially have drawn Walker and Walker to Mount Analogue. But today we are
in a different universe to both Daumal and 60s Conceptual artists like Sol LeWitt with his famous declaration: 'conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists, they leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach'. In Mount Analogue Revisited different rationalities compete as each of the three voyagers picks up the narrative in turn, all versions concurring that, as the journey advanced, there was a progressive replacing of the laws of reason by "an intuitive force". However, contra Lewitt (and Daumal), Walker and Walker seem to question the co-ordinates of this zone of the 'un-reasonable'—each discourse representing an Architecture or Land of thought, an Orientation.
If there is one thing taken for granted by contemporary artists it is thinking itself; there is still a widespread belief that 'we all know' what artistic thinking involves. But, as Deleuze made clear, there are as many internal as external clichés and they are always trading places, deluding us with self-evidences and impeding genuine thinking. Walker and Walker clearly are concerned with thinking about the kind of thinking that artists do when they create. Through staging this rationality, Mount Analogue Revisited goes a long way towards offering a diagram of a new aesthetics of thinking and exemplifying ways in which new rationalities can be introduced into art, instilling creativity into our lives. Perhaps the defining statement in Mount Analogue Revisited comes from Jean-Francois Lyotard, spoken by the official: "one must receive what thought is not prepared to think. Only this deserves the name of thinking."
Walker and Walker's Minimalist approach seeks to reduce illustration and narrative to a minimum. Restricting the setting to a single room allows Walker and Walker to de-dramatize the space, rendering it dramatically inert in order to reveal the intense forces lurking beneath what might seem to be transparent: a site empty of incident enables them all the more to film speech as 'a material in movement' (Alain Philippon). Next, they must empty out as far as possible the communicational aspect of speech—the actors speak as in monologue, they recite rather than express, at times
displaying difficulty in handling the material. Sogol's statement from early in the piece: "there is a level of thought where words have little or no part to play" would seem to rhyme with Deleuze's words: "Perhaps speech, communication, are rotten. They are already penetrated by money...A turning away from speech is necessary. To create has always been something other than communicating. What is important would perhaps be to create voids of non-communication, interruptions, in order to escape the control." Deleuze doesn't therefore abandon language, but only its conventional use—there is a poetic use of language and an economy of speech that doesn't mirror the economy of market circulation. As in Daumal's novel Mount Analogue Revisited contains a lengthy section on the economic and political structure of the island and the place in the power structure of the peradam, a currency intimately tied to novel notions of credit and debt/death.
The monologic quality of the speeches in Mount Analogue Revisited runs counter to classic film wherein speech is used to promote social or amorous interaction. Walker and Walker's work is in tune with innovative cinema from Modernism and beyond wherein speech takes on a new function. In Deleuze's words: "you cut back on the dialogue because the dialogue transmits to speech the elements of power and makes them circulate: 'it is your turn to speak!'...you amputate the text because the text is like the domination of language over speech and bears witness, too, to an invariance or homogeneity."
It isn't easy to pinpoint all the many subtle effects of this film, for example the actors' stressful delivery of their lines and the hidden forces affecting the postures of their bodies are a testament to the tentativity and profundity of what's at stake here. There are allusions to Kafka; it's a police investigation of sorts, not of any crime but of an idea, a belief, or even of a cultural moment. It's some form of diagram or theorem in which conceptual forms and their mutual migratory connections are laid out before us in space, in the problem-field of the kinds of imagining, apprehensions, and inventions that produce ties between politics and aesthetics.
In this, Walker and Walker pick up from the work of Gary Hill and others who've made the material of language central to their work (contra the banishment of language in search of the purity of images both in structural filmmaking and in early video art). They are also close to another filmmaking duo: Straub and Huillet. Like Straub and Huillet Walker and Walker tear from texts the speech-acts that de-territorialize them and enable them to flourish 'inside the time of speaking' as Gary Hill puts it, to burrow through to the Anti-Logos hidden within the Logos itself. Deleuze's books on cinema showed how Modernism irreparably severed the audio and visual images, the speech-act no longer functioning as a component of the visual image, "becomes autonomous and creator of legends and events, act of fabulation". Creative fabulation gives birth to what the philosopher calls 'giants', characters and events that go beyond the givens of perceptual and affective states. Sogol is such a giant in Daumal, the physical embodiment of a certain rationality and Walker and Walker play with this character, multiplying him (the official is like his Double) fabulating a heterogenous creature capable of asking: what does it mean to fabricate 'the new' and invent the spaces for its fabrication in our societies of control? Walker and Walker's take on Daumal contrasts with another free adaptation of the unfinished novel, this time a baroque 'maximalist' version at the opposite pole of Walker and Walker's minimalism: Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain (1973). Jodorowsky is at great pains to show the mountain and the film is closer to the Macfarlanesque vision of the mountain as analogue of transcendence (albeit with great slabs of irony thrown in). Walker and Walker's approach is closer to Straub's magnificent formula: "There's a temptation to show a mountain...Then one fine day you realize that it's better to see as little as possible. You have a sort of reduction, only it's not a reduction, it's a concentration and it actually says more. But you don't do this immediately from one day to the next! You need time and patience. A sigh can become a novel."
Walker and Walker ask: what would it mean today to question the assumption that human thought and imagination is always striving upwards, acquiring knowledge, reaching out for truth as it ascends these mountains of the mind, liberated from the man-made limits of reason? Furthermore, what would it mean to ask this question filmically? Walker and Walker's is a major contribution to the re-formulation of the relationship between ideas and drama further to Deleuze's analysis of the specific theatricality of a certain cinema. Moreover, in John Rajchman's words "the problem 'dramatizing an idea' is also one to be found in philosophy from the start (with Plato's Dialogues), and forms part of a long history. 'Having an idea' in philosophy involves a whole theatre, an 'agon' with a changing cast of characters, in which new sorts of personae emerge." A film then, but ostensibly in the form of a Platonic dialogue. One immediately thinks of Rossellini's Socrates or Plato's Symposium filmed by Marco Ferreri as The Banquet. But the mise-en-scène here is of another order, closer to the works of Straub and Huillet and their Minimalist visual aesthetic (which brings the Kafka reference closer—the French duo's film of Kafka's Amerika, entitled Class Relations (1984), being an exemplary case of how to adapt a literary masterpiece). Walker and Walker seem closer to the later Plato and the aporetic dialogues wherein a wayward dialogue evolves around a single problem, here, the problem of utopia:
"The essential issue, once raised, remains unresolved: in these works, the very question of 'what is...?' consists in something closer to a pretence or ruse under which wholly different concerns are smuggled into thought...The irony of the Platonic Idea, at least as far as Deleuze is concerned, is that its will to determination should give way at a deeper level to a remarkable mise-en-scène (Gregory Flaxman).
To stage an idea in art today is to overturn the Logos, to replace its co-ordinates with a dramatization (which is why the concept of the 'Dispositif'—in the sense of a spatio-temporal assemblage or set-up comprising heterogeneous elements brought together to achieve a singular artistic goal—is taking over the field of critique in both art and film studies), capable of constituting a special kind of theatre which owes nothing to Theatre as we know it but which is the field of the not-yet organized, pre-categorical forms of intuition that awaits new orientations.
A film then, a series of aphorisms and exchanges, often contradictory or aporetic, and ending, cleverly, for a film about belief, in the official's weary nod to Christianity and "the ontologically determining force of love."
The contemporary regime of art is defined by its heterogeneity, by ever-new modes of connection between art practices and by the cinematographic image of thought as the horizon of thought for all the arts; the model being the cinema dispositif liberated from its rigid institutional and social forms. In the words of Luc Vancheri: "the cinema has drawn the line of a problem which has been imposed on the other arts, on the idea that we have of art, indeed of other, non-artistic practices and other spaces of knowledge... the cinema, therefore everywhere present in the form of a plane of orientation of thought, whose co-ordinates it constantly modifies."
What is perhaps most striking about Walker and Walker's work is that it asks questions about the place of Speech within this new regime, and if there is any link to the work of Gerard Byrne then it is to be found in this particular problem-space wherein theatrical and literary texts are less plundered as archive materials than deterritorialized, used to initiate a new dynamic (unique on each occasion) between voice and image.
Walker and Walker ask: what then is it to have an idea in art, one involving speech and a mistrust of the self-evidence of the visual, to probe with words, with the mise-en-scène of speech, to fabulate a theatre of speech, searching for new spatial co-ordinates, a new image of thought and, inversely, to search for new forms of filmic speech using these new spatial co-ordinates?
The heterogeneity that defines the contemporary aesthetic regime promotes the mutual deterritorialisation of mediums, genres and art forms. Therefore if there is a theatrical quality to Mount Analogue Revisited it is due to its staging of concepts in a way that employs a theatre-effect which cant be found in any existing theatre but is a result of an experimentation with deterritorialized theatrical possibilities. Continuous migration between art forms is the principle governing creativity today, territories of art are no longer distinct and thinking involved in artistic creation must be similarly un-anchored.
The real problem is one of "orientation." As Mount Analogue Revisited progresses it constructs a zone that is increasingly indeterminate and wherein spatial construction happens before the spectator's eyes, giving rise to dialogue that oversteps the limits of dramatic interchange. If at the outset the visual clarity appears to prop up the Logos, by the film's suitably abrupt ending it has been well and truly inflected by the Pathic, that realm of affect and sensibility that carries words and images toward a new orientation. By restricting the setting to a single room with nothing to anchor the four bodies but a desk and a single window the filmmakers are free to empty the space of the co-ordinates that moor the dominant image of thought—a surface freed from the dominance of height and depth becomes shifting and paradoxically layered, the multiplication of interleaved planes constructing a single multi-layered plane of immanence. This is achieved through the use of lenses lending an extremely shallow depth of field to the space now constantly in the process of construction.
The space of Mount Analogue Revisited's room in many respects echoes the architecture of Leibniz's monad: minimally furnished and with its frosted window maintaining its isolation from the external world and diminishing its inhabitants perceptual possibilities, it is a dispositif that resonates with the situation of Leibniz's 'lower monads'. These lower monads never accede to the illumination of the higher floor (or Holy Mountain) even though, as we've seen, it's not the Reason necessary to attain the ideal that Sogol and the others lack, it's the Mountain that's missing, and, despite Sogol's best efforts to convince him otherwise, the official doesn't represent any "superior being" or enlightened elite.
There is a certain Leibnizianism prominent in experimental filmmaking today (Leibniz re-discovered via Beckett and Deleuze), especially vis-a-vis what the French call le flou, what in the profession is termed 'soft', the presentation of images of variable degrees of less than standard focus. If there is a Beckettian side to Walker and Walker this is where we may find it—the 1980s German TV films come to mind but also the famous 1950s book-Trilogy: in Malone's room visibility becomes a "grey incandescence" which precisely recalls Leibniz's concept of clear-obscure. The concept of 'le flou' too relates to Leibniz's idea of the clear-obscure, that which is both clear and confused, prey to an indistinction that evades reason.
In Leibniz's philosophy, lower-level Monads have diminished zones of clarity, ie those zones which express their accords with the monads they are compossible with. It is at this level of baseness that Beckett's Leibnizian characters exist. Malone's room, for example (whose base quality he shares and with which he becomes synonymous) allows only diminished perceptions. One can align the frantic, compulsive storytelling in Mount Analogue Revisited with Molloy's programme 'to tell "four" stories.' As Garin Dowd writes in his study of the influence of Leibnizian ideas on the Trilogy: "The folded, indeterminate and obscure zone with which Worm identifies is beyond the sphere of influence of rational projection. unable to locate himself/itself either inside or out, in the mind or in the world, the organless body without locality, without the capacity to cross the threshold into the realm of reason." Again, in Walker and Walker, reason is re-directed from its given course and lends to sensibility the power to create a new way for things to appear.
In our post-utopian times, we no longer believe in Leibniz's hierarchy of Being; there is only the base of the pyramid and the odd fleeting fantasy of an unattainable mountain. We can site Deleuze's famous diagnosis of the contemporary condition: "The link between man and the world is broken. Henceforth, this link must become an object of belief: it is the impossible which can only be restored within a faith. Belief is no longer addressed to a different or transformed world. Man is in the world as if in a pure optical and sound situation. The reaction of which man has been dispossessed can be replaced only by belief. Only belief in this world can reconnect man to what he sees and hears. The cinema must film, not the world, but belief in this world, our only link."
Midway through Mount Analogue Revisited, and seemingly generated by Sogol's words "there are those who refuse to see," we suddenly shift to a more diffuse image and to a high-angle shot (at the outset seeming to be a visual comment on Sogol's Platonic aphorism: "only that which is above can know what lies below, what is beneath has no way of knowing what is above"). It's as if speech will now become inscribed in the visible, speech conjuring the visible yet sharing its new quality of indistinction. Walker and Walker split the screen into a series of sheets, shards of surface imagery forming the bridge between various levels of reality. Montage becomes linked to a new form of rationality, a consistent set of rules relating to camera angles, head posture, isolation of the figures, tighter cutting on individual shots of each character speaking, each now isolated from the others in its increasing figurability.
Whilst the discourse focuses on the current state of belief, the visuals progressively take over the task of seeking the impossible—oppositions between the real and imaginary, the true and false become (literally) blurred, making the distinct and the obscure indiscernible. The emphasis on diagonals early in the film giving way to an increased use of extreme close-ups but now faces tend to abstraction in their materiality—closer to Figures than characters. The ever increasing flattening of the image through the use of lenses and the blurring of large areas of the frame that ensues removes the figures from any determinable orientation in space. The surface of the image becomes all-important. By using a 35mm lens to flatten the image and salvage digital filmmaking from its chief selling-point—its clear, 'good-looking' image—Walker and Walker align themselves with Alexander Sokurov's fight against three-dimensionality; a battle that takes place at the point where film and painting converge: the picture plane. Walker and Walker use film technology to de-digitalize the image just as Sokurov battles western optics and the image of thought its images testify to. The real becomes pictorial, bodies, now mere Figures, dissolving into the surface becoming a single depth-less plane teeming with virtual energy and indeterminate lines of force. In the official's words: "thoughts are a part of reality."
The space of each shot becomes disconnected from every another, there is no general space to which each close-up shot refers, until finally, when the official turns to move in the space, it's a repeat of the first shot of the film (preceding the second shot in which he was established in the room with his interlocutors), except that now he has literally no-place to go to.
Even the final speech about love can't stitch together a meaningful inter-subjective space. Loss of social utopia brings an uprooting of community wherein each person becomes a ghost for the other. The final baffled words of the film 'its almost as if we were expected' chimes with the Kirsten Dunst character Justine's words in Von Trier's Melancholia (2011) 'what did you expect?' In this instance, it finally dawns on Sogol that things are out of the individual's control because our motivating forces operate on a micro level, under our perceptive radar. When Mount Analogue Revisited ends, the space of the film has reverted to the abstract "pre-hodological" (and non-euclidean) space of pure potentiality—bringing the mountain down to earth in an aesthetics of immanence wherein the impossible and the transcendental are attainable only immanently, in the realm of art. The future will come but ill-seen, ill-said.
The above essay was originally published for the exhibition Sleepwalkers: Walker and Walker - Barry Flanagan held from 22 February 2012 - 10 June 2012 at Dublin City Art Gallery, The Hugh Lane, Dublin.