Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Coming undone.

Embeddedness. Deferral. Difference. Differance:
This is how she understands the making and unmaking of meaning.
Context is everything. And context, she will tell you, comprises space and time.
What happens, so, when there are rents in both? Do you surrender yourself to an inevitable unravelling?
Is this sordid or delicious; self-indulgent or all-subsuming? Does she ask too many questions? Doesn't she always?

These fevered - I could lie and tell you they're dispassionate, but why bother - musings were occasioned by the arrival into my little idyllic campus-kingdom of three veritable giants. Kings. Not from the Orient, but very wise nonetheless. One of the joys of 'belonging' to a wealthy university-home is that it lets me play. We can invite scholars and artistes from world-over to come and feed into our manifold programmes and classes, and provide our students (and ourselves, so much more importantly) with myriad perspectives; give them the lushness only polyphony can bring to discourse(s). The three I speak of - circuitously because it's the only way I know how - here, are men I have the distinct honour of thinking of as friends and comrades-in-arms against the fact of the yawning, gaping neant that is the world as we know it, through the ambiguity of our lived realities, broken and fragmented as they need necessarily be.

Matthew Pateman was my teacher while I was a student at Hull a decade ago. He guided my Master's thesis, and is largely responsible for who and what I have become - and become every day as I live and breathe in my chosen profession of vagrant academic - and he is one of the most erudite and self-reflexive men I have ever had the pleasure of watching at work. His mind is a thing of beauty; his hair even more so. Glibness aside, watching a thinker, a pensant, and I am certain, a flaneur extraordinarie, lay bare his heart, his soul and his thought processes for us to partake of, in a fucking classroom - mine - no less, is one of the singularly moving experiences your scribe has yet borne witness to. It was nerve-wracking to have him sit in on my introduction to semiotics session and watch me teach; humbling beyond measure to have him not tear my sense of self to shreds on the other side of it. He didn't have to, you see. Like him, it is my lot to do that to myself, and on a routine basis, thankyouverymuchforasking. Matthew means the world to me, and the gift of him - again, 10 years on - is one I'm grateful for beyond words. Or as Matthew put it, in another time and place, before language.

Next, there is the force of nature known as Aryan Kaganof. Aryan is a filmmaker. And a writer. And a Derridean, Matthew and I have decided. And a thinker beyond compare. And a chronicler of otherness and the back-breaking burden of inequity, wherever he sees it, whatever its roots. Aryan is the best example I have seen yet of one who will forge an idiom if he must, to tell the stories that he must, because only he can. His aesthetic is a searing one: from the delicacy of his utter and completely masterful edits, to the choice of lexicon - yes, for he speaks the language of visuality better than most I've known - that determines each shot's framing, his work is testimony to the fact that to 'mean', art must do. It must speak the languages simultaneously of its medium, of citizenship, of a rights discourse, of love, loss and everything it means to live and more crucially, be alive. It must be seeped in and of the worlds it gives birth to even as it elaborates and 'names' them into being. Aryan Kaganof is a master, and I am deeply beholden to him for being. For speaking to me across space, time and contexts; for showing me that the quest for the universal - that which marks us each as human - is not a futile one.

And then there is the fact of Kyle Shepherd. Truth be told, if I've held off writing this piece for as long as I have, it is largely because of the affect-ive aspect of this man's work. Which, so you know reader, is the same as the fact of this man's being. Kyle is a musician. But that doesn't seem nearly descriptive enough: the best I can do is to suggest that when he plays? He is music. I've heard him live four times. On three occasions, he's moved me to tears. I could try and work out why - I did, actually, once. I scribbled away furiously at one of the gigs in Bombay - but in breaking with a lifetime's habit, this time, I really don't want to. He was here to talk about what went into the making of a film Aryan, he, and the legendary Zim Ngqawana had collaborated on following the vandalism of Zim's institute a few years ago. Kyle isn't prone to speaking much. Or at all, come to think of it. But the way that he gave of himself during the sessions that followed the screening of this film, and engaged with the (okay, in-joke time:) "rhythms" of this particular situation filled me with awe. He is a man with an enormous amount to say - of staggering worth - and this time, I had the singular pleasure of hearing him hold court across two mediums: his music, and my language. He played a solo piano gig in our auditorium on the eve of their departure. My students and anyone else who was fortunate enough to be present there that night cannot possibly have left that space unaltered by what we had witnessed. Playing on the back of a screening of Aryan's delicate and exquisite 'An Inconsolable Memory', it was all I could do to remember to breathe as this man played. He hadn't, in the ten days he'd been here (something of a rarity, from what I understand), and on a less-than-concert-worthy piano with a squeaky ruddy sustain pedal, he transported us; imagined us into an elsewhere. The contours of this 'elsewhere', through his aqueous - the Cape rises and falls with him, decidedly - transmissions, were as hybrid as must be expected in a place which has polyphony at its heart: when you speak, read, write, dream, listen, hear and cohere across many languages and cultures, which are each evocative of homes known and not, lost and reclaimed, real and imagined, your sound cannot be reduced to a monolithic category or compartmentalised into a genre or style, except at great - tragic, even - loss.

That he was able to do what he did, and then smile as the audience accorded him two standing ovations and wouldn't let him leave yet, is near incomprehensible to me. Surely he leaves something of himself behind every time he plays? Surely he leaves it behind in the safe-keeping of the many - so many - who are fortunate enough to have 'been there'? This little metaphysical conceit is one I'm terribly fond of: the idea of leaving shards of stories - one's own - in the safe-keeping of others. It implies returns and re-voirs, if you see what I mean. And that, I kid you not, is a large part of what is keeping me going.

So weep for me, reader, for these three kings have gone; returned each, to their own worlds. And I await the day when this is no longer so. Imagine me now an elsewhere.  

1 comment:

Faa Fuu said...

Nothing else can be explained more perfectly to me other than what is right now, and in this moment. Everything else is just.