The Attic Which is Desire

There exists a curious analogue between the works of Stan Brakhage and William Carlos Williams.  Brakhage and Williams are literalist, they present shots or words not always for their analogous, metaphoric content but often only for their physical (colour, rhythm, pattern) impression.  Brakhage will often cut a shot just at the moment it starts to imply narrative, elide a rhythm if it grows persuasive.  In a film like The Act Of Seeing with One's Own Eyes , an autopsy is filmed in 16mm colour bearing a tonal resemblance to Chardin's paintings of skates or Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp:  the examination of bodies is the discovery of colour, shape and rhythm in a field of content which we don't normally equate with beauty.  An autopsy may be expected to be read as droll and clinical, perhaps gruesome and unsettling, Brakhage attains some kind of strange autumnal koan.  By filming these bodies he is performing an autopsy of his own.  He refuses genre or accustomed meaning.  There are no scenes and if there are, these are poetic modules presented for contextual emphasis, not as units of a theatrical narrative.  Williams, in the same vein as Ezra Pound's Cantos, employs words in the manner of  Cubist collage.  For example, Williams' poem The Attic Which Is Desire, the description of an illuminated sign advertising SODA projecting an alternating pattern of light and darkness onto the rafters of an attic room. The soda sign is presented on the page thus:

* * *

* S *

* O *

* D *

* A *

* * *

This motif is placed within poetic time (the poem still has a meter and a form, despite these being suggestive or provisional) where it is tested as new content for poetry.  Brakhage too, in films like Mothlight, adheres the actual wings of moths and vegetation to celluloid.  In projection, the film's flickering light is reminiscent of moths swarming a light source at night : the throw of the projector bulb (the films of Brakhage are not well served by video) pierces the variegated apertures formed by the spaces between the glued wings of moth and foliage on the surface of the film.  Here analogy is conveyed through techne, as opposed to the literary play of filmed language or poesis.    The work of the hands (techne) presides over the creation of a new poetic of forms, because it able to apprehend, beyond craft, a largely unconscious, unintellectual field of use which is almost sub language, being closer to instinctive impulse as opposed to cultural form.  The cinema of Brakhage is the phenomenology of seeing.