A seminar by Istanbul-based author Jalal Toufic, followed by a public conversation with Eduardo Cadava of Princeton University, with screenings of Toufic's videos
Video Program February 5; 1:00-5:00pm
'Âshûrâ': This Blood Spilled in My Veins, video, 80 minutes, 2002.
Al-Husayn, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad and the son of the first Shi'ite imam, 'Alî, was slaughtered alongside many members of his family in the desert in 680. This memory is torture to me. But, basically, one can say "this memory is torture to me" of every memory, since each reminiscence envelops at some level the memory of the origin of memory, the torture that had to be inflicted on humans in order to make them remember (Nietzsche). The memory that the yearly commemoration of 'Âshûrâ' is trying to maintain is not only or mainly that of the past, but the memory of the future, namely the promise of the Parousia of the twelfth imam, the long-awaited Mahdî—notwithstanding the passage of a millennium since his occultation—as well as the corresponding promise of Twelver Shi'ites to wait for him. 'Âshûrâ': a condition of possibility of an unconditional promise.
The Sleep of Reason: This Blood Spilled in My Veins, video, 32 minutes, 2002.
The organic dying of a (resurrectable) human is as nothing compared to that of an animal, exemplarily of a bull in a corrida; the only phenomenon that equals in intensity the death of a bull in a corrida or of a cow in a slaughterhouse is the resurrection of a human, Lazarus coming out from the grave. The living woman in T. S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is found settling her pillow to sleep when she encounters the undead. Why are you settling the pillow, why are you so sleepy? What disclosure are you thus trying to elude? "Tell you all," Lazarus says in Eliot's poem, and would that "all" not also include himself? Did Lazarus come back to tell himself about death? And did he find himself sleeping then?
Saving Face, video, 8 minutes, 2003.
Were all the candidates' faces posted on the walls of Lebanon during the parliamentary campaign of 2000 waiting for the results of the elections? No. As faces, they were waiting to be saved. Far better than any surgical face-lift or digital retouching, it was the physical removal of part of the poster of the face of one candidate so that the face of another candidate would partially appear under it; as well as the accretions of posters and photographs over each other that produced the most effective face-lift, and that proved a successful face-saver for all concerned. We have in these resultant recombinant posters one of the sites where Lebanese culture in specific, and Arabic culture in general, mired in an organic view of the body, in an organic body, exposes itself to inorganic bodies.
The Lamentations Series: the Ninth Night and Day, video, 60 minutes, 2005.
It would be felicitous were a Shi'ite to make the first great film or video on the lamentation of Judas Iscariot during the interval between his delivering Jesus to the chief priests and his hanging himself. Judas had prearranged the following signal for the apprehension of Jesus: "The one I kiss is the man; arrest him." Given that Jesus had told his disciples, among whom figured Judas, "If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also" (Luke 6:29), why didn't the one who was kissed by Judas turn the other cheek for another (perfidious) kiss? Given that Judas did not sin against the Holy Spirit but only against the Son of Man ("Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven" [Matthew 12:32]), why didn't the one who was kissed by Judas miraculously move time backward till before the birth of his betrayer ("It would be better for him if he had not been born" [Matthew 26:24]) in forgiveness? If the one who was perfidiously kissed by Judas did neither, was this because he was not actually Jesus Christ?
Mother and Son; or, That Obscure Object of Desire (Scenes from an Anamorphic Double Feature), video, 41 minutes, 2006.
My experience of collaborating in an untimely manner with Gus Van Sant was not a happy one. Had he heeded my suggestions, he would not have tried to do a remake of Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) in which he reproduced each frame of the original largely in the manner of Hitchcock, but would instead have done a Psycho in the manner of Sokurov, so that the resultant film would have been: Psycho, School of Sokurov (as The Betrothal, circa 1640-50, is by the School of Rembrandt). Such a programmatic film would have proved all the more appropriate when Sokurov went on to do a seemingly programmatic cinematic work, Russian Arc (2002), a 96-minute film videotaped in one continuous shot. Since Van Sant did not heed my suggestions for his remake of Psycho (1998), I did Mother and Son; or, That Obscure Object of Desire (Scenes from an Anamorphic Double Feature), 2006, in lieu of the failed untimely collaboration.
The Dancer's Two Bodies
February 5; 6:30-8:30pm
Seminar by Jalal Toufic, followed by public conversation with Eduardo Cadava
Taking its point of departure from a film in which a dancer enters a painting, the seminar by Jalal Toufic will begin with a fairly conceptual question: what kind of body image is produced by dance, especially when this dance enables a body to do what normally cannot be done? The question suggests that there may be different ways of considering what dance is, and even what a body may be. In one way of thinking about dance, the dancer remains in the homogenous space and time where his or her physical body is--this is a form of theater or performance rather than dance. But another kind of dance projects a dancer into a realm of altered movement, body, space and time specific to it. Following the strange, but related logic of these two versions of dance, the seminar and conversation will consider the relation between dance and cinema, what Walter Benjamin called a medium of sudden "changes of places and focus." By exploring the fractional dimensions of the altered space of dance, with its flat backdrops and its zones of spatial inexistence, we can perhaps come to understand the unusual space-creation of the dancer in general.
Jalal Toufic is the author of Distracted (1991; 2nd ed., 2003), (Vampires): An Uneasy Essay on the Undead in Film (1993; 2nd ed., 2003), Over-Sensitivity (1996; 2nd ed., 2009), Forthcoming (2000), Undying Love, or Love Dies (2002), Two or Three Things I'm Dying to Tell You (2005), 'Âshûrâ': This Blood Spilled in My Veins (2005), and Undeserving Lebanon (2007). Toufic has taught at the University of California at Berkeley, California Institute of the Arts, USC, and, in Amsterdam, DasArts and the Rijksakademie. He currently teaches at Kadir Has University in Istanbul. His videos and mixed media works have been presented in North America, Brazil, the Middle East and Europe, most recently at the 16th International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA).