Autosymbolisation On Set
I’m starting having trouble telling whether I’m speaking about the experience of an outside world or the methodology of an artistic practice. These questions, concerning the ‘almost’ quality of the evental, did emerge out of artistic processes. The temporal quality of my film works materialise in the editing process. This process, in which raw material is ultimately reconsidered and reconfigured, always seems to perform an exorcism of the eventality of the film shoot. The moment substituted with the repetitive scrolling back and forth inside an action; the splicing together of variating takes, into the illusion of continuity; splices that glue a morning shot to an afternoon shot, seamlessly; the post-production sound work that drags the sequence of happenings in one location, into the reality of another – subliminal bridge. There might be something eventful about the word ‘action’ being said out loud, constituting the commencing of something planned and rehearsed. A shared moment of presence where everybody holds their breath, because it might get caught on tape. But there is an inherent lie to the eventfulness of the film shoot and the collectivity it proposes. The performers split their actions into sections. Nothing fully transpires, only parts of a whole is presented. Fragments of an image to assemble in the mind (and later, on a coded timeline). The set does work in unison, pushing bravely towards a collective finishline. But the performativity of the process to get there, covers every moment of the process in a wafer-thin film of pretence. The hierarchical arrangement of the film set varies in how dictatorial the pecking order is framed, but it is always a hierarchical arrangement. A self organising principle framed by self-symbolisation.

In ‘The Murmuring of the Artistic Multitude’ (2009) Pascal Gielen elaborates on the concept of keying developed by American sociologist Erving Goffman in the seventies. Keying is described as ‘the strategies people use to move from one frame of reference to the other’ (2009), during an event. ‘[A] process by which a set of conventions that gives meaning to an activity is transformed into another set’ (2009), in the process changing the meaning of said activity. An example of this form of keying could be a fight breaking out in the streets or one taking place in a boxing ring. The framework, the keying, brings the meaning of the same action into another set - from brawl to competition. One of the keys that Goffman proposes is the ceremony. The ceremony gives an event a frame of reference, and is particularly common in the world of cultural heritage. Goffman describes the ceremony as ‘an important key which detaches us temporarily from everyday life and puts us in another frame.’ (Gielen, 2009) Thinking about social rituals such as baptisms and funerals, commemorative ceremonies and coronations, Goffman stresses how the ceremony differs from other keys, like the competition or the game, because of its reliance on autosymbolisation. Gielen writes: ‘ In the game and the competition, the actor takes on the role of an other, while the participant in a ceremony represents himself. In a ceremony, the role that someone or something plays in everyday life is magnified and at the same time reconfirmed.’ (2009) In the coronation ceremony the queen (soon to be crowned) is not present in the proper function of queen, but rather self-performs her role as queen for the sake of the ritual. The people, gathered to witness the event, are themselves also merely auto-symbolising their role as the people – not really living out their citizenry at this coronation, but rather taking on the roles of themselves, of their citizenry, for the entirety of the event. This social and cultural arrangement of autosymbolisation (symbolising of oneself) is mirrored in the film production. It is as well a ceremony, where the participants play out their roles - roles representing their own positions and skills. They’re not only doing the thing they do, but also play into the collective theatre-act of doing this. The grip performs the role of grip, in this theatre of mechanical functions. The actor does not merely act out the role she’s casted for, but plays the part of actor, as well. Acting like an actor, taking on that role in the ceremony, elevating it to what it is. The director also performs the role of director – not just directing but really re-performing the role of a director directing. I have always considered this notion of self-symbolising as a way to frame the dramaturgical mechanics of my film productions – and to let these mechanics frame the outside socio-political mechanics, as well. The space that these productions bring into being - existing in the membrane between reality and fiction, the document and the fabricated, the occurring and the dreamed up - take form in an awareness of this ritualistic theatre and importantly how it mirrors the theatrics of the politics of everyday life; the way in which an action is represented concurrently with its actual playing out; the way the role of the citizen is taken on as one goes about being a citizen. It makes for a certain remoteness to life in the very experiencing of it; a remoteness that may enable the conduct allowing for the theatre of society to flow, but one that also somehow bars us from ever taking truly part in it. There is a certain ritualistic theatre going on in the production of film and it is the full blown conscious self-delusion of the entire venture that perhaps enables its constructions of castles in the sky. A machine that works only because all the cogs auto-perform as cogs. Like in the coronation ritual, the situation of auto-symbolisation makes the hierarchy of the seance weirdly flat. Everybody is dependent on the same auto-symbolising performance, no one is actually placed in the hierarchy, its all performances of such placement. A sweet idea for sure, but as the performance plays out, the true hierarchical nature of the theatre play reveals itself - as stress builds, collegial environments turn hostile and heads start rolling. The ‘almost’ quality of this event still ripples into the reality-world of all its performers.