Wants

The pot of gold at the end of this blog entry is yet another of my “artsy-fartsy” videos; I like to warn you guys about them because I don’t want to dupe any reader into watching something they ultimately won’t enjoy.  But, while I normally just put these things out into the world with minimal explanation and hope for the best, I thought this time I’d talk about the video a little bit first.

The main propulsion of the video is one of my favorite poems, “Wants”, by my absolute favorite poet, Philip Larkin.  Larkin was an extremely cynical, sad poet who tackled topics just about anyone else would be afraid to touch.  His poem “Wants” (which I have included in full after the video) is ultimately about this idea: everyone—everyone–to some degree, craves solitude and, ultimately, death.  That is putting it bluntly.  A more delicate way to put it is that, running underneath all of our everyday lives is a desire to experience absolutely nothing, to be completely alone, and to drink of what Larkin calls “oblivion”.  This is something I understand.  I am not suicidal (although I’ve certainly gone through suicidal phases in my life) and I am happy, but still, from time to time, an urge hits me: wouldn’t it be fine to not exist anymore?  Wouldn’t it be great to wake up to nothingness?  In Larkin, I’ve found a man who felt the same way (and who thought all of you did, too.  I’m not sure if I agree.  My video asks you the question of whether you agree).

So, I wanted to make a video highlighting “Wants”, but I wasn’t sure where to start.  I knew I wanted spend the time in the video thinking about other human beings, and what is going on in their private worlds, and whether they crave oblivion, like Larkin thought they do.  And so, as I was walking on the streets of Philadelphia a few days ago, I simply pulled out my camera and started filming people.  Just…filming people.

It is mostly just me passing people on the street.  Ultimately, by itself, very visually uninteresting stuff.  But when juxtaposed with the poem and the music (we’ll get to that soon), it is my intention to transport the viewer to a new way of seeing these people, force a more complicated or nuanced perspective of them, which would, in turn, ideally have the viewer look in upon themselves with new insight.  You know, the ultimate aim of all art (yes, I’m considering this to be art despite using someone else’s poetry and music, simply by my decision to bring these disparate pieces together).  Some of the shots of people are quite different than others: some suggest a subject for the viewer to follow or focus on, while other shots make no suggestions, leaving you to find your own focus, follow your own curiosity (after which you might ask yourself why you chose to watch the person you did).  Some shots shy away from having my subjects realize they are being filmed, while others acknowledge the subject, and they have clear moments of recognition that they are being filmed; for me, this moment of transition from voyeurism to an open exchange flipped the shot on its head and opened new layers of exploration.

The song I chose to accompany the video is, admittedly, not a song most of my readers would choose to listen to.  It is a long, dark, brooding instrumental by post-rock grandfathers Godspeed You! Black Emperor.  The song is called “Mladic”.  The title is a reference to Ratko Mladic, a Bosnian Serb ex-military leader accused of war crimes…including genocide (ie, bringing a massive amount of people to a state of oblivion).  It is also, no matter how you pronounce it, certainly a sideways play on the word “melodic”, which is not one of the first words you would use to describe the song.  The song ebbs and flows and contains many sections that elicit varying tones of emotion and levels of anxiety, which seemed perfect for the viewer to internally explore the depths of Larkin’s poem and its implications.  The song begins with a looped audio of people talking over a radio, “With his arms outstretched.”  “With his arms outstretched?”  “Do you see him?”  “Shoot.”  Although the band, being as media-unfriendly as ever, won’t tell anyone what it is, it is believed to be perhaps the words spoken by Serbian security forces upon Mladic’s arrest in  Serbia in 2011.  I must warn you, this song is not happy, and the video and the poem are of a dark bent.

The poem is two stanzas in length, the first stanza dealing more with the desire to be “alone”, the second more with the desire for “oblivion”.  I have a long pause between the readings of the stanzas in the video (I personally read the poem) in order to allow the theme to build as well as to keep the poem the center of the piece  throughout.

I hope you like it!

“Wants” by Philip Larkin

Beyond all this, the wish to be alone:
However the sky grows dark with invitation-cards
However we follow the printed directions of sex
However the family is photographed under the flag-staff –
Beyond all this, the wish to be alone.

Beneath it all, the desire for oblivion runs:
Despite the artful tensions of the calendar,
The life insurance, the tabled fertility rites,
The costly aversion of the eyes away from death –
Beneath it all, the desire for oblivion runs.

4 Responses to “Wants”

  1. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    First of all, how recent was that shot of you wearing the beanie at the tail end? If it was within the last couple months I’m gonna think that’s ridiculous. If I put on a beanie right now, in my house which has a fan blasting on me three feet away, I would catch on fire!

    Lines like “…despite the artful tensions of the calendar, the life insurance, the tabled fertility rites…” and fucking deep. The whole second stanza could have just been, “We’re all gonna die”, but it’s so much more interesting with the right words. “Yes, Kyle, it’s called poetry!”.

    The video at times felt like if ‘Kyaanisqatsi’ was directed by Michael Meyers. I feel like Dennis Miller with the obscure references! I found the shot of you standing behind the guy texting on the subway bench to be especially harrowing with the timing of the music that accompanied it. The more I watched it the more I felt the mood of the accompanying stanza’s mood.

    Invite all your local friends over for an ‘NCIS’ watching party (everyone loves that show). The instead of watching that drivel tie them to chairs and make them watch this.

    • Damn you, Sherlock! I honestly didn’t think anybody would take note of the beanie there at the end. Turned out I needed about 19 minutes of footage but only had about 17. I ended up going back to older material to fill it out. There are a few shots throughout where you can see people who are dressed for winter.

      That really is a great Miller-esque reference! Thanks for that, and also giving it a close viewing with keen observations. Much appreciated!

      If I had local friends, they would not be the type of people to be swayed by NCIS :)

  2. Cory Warchola Says:

    Hey, the first few minutes of this were great. But I simply CAN NOT have an artist describe their intent before I view the piece. It leaves me on edge, willing my vision to be exactly as the artist intended. To each their own process, but I simply can’t watch this with blinders on. It’s imposibly uncomfortable. Like, Guidance-councelor’s-hand-on-your-upper-thigh uncomfortable. I can’t explain why, but from here on out, is it cool if you send me the vid first and then let me read your intent? Thanks Noodle! Perhaps I’ll be able to revisit this in a few days. Heart you!

    • I definitely understand, and it’s not something I do often, but frankly, for the most part people have stopped reading/ watching/ reacting to stuff I make and do, and while it is true that I make stuff for my own joy and pleasure, it’s much more fun when others are along for the ride. I thought maybe an explanation like that would bring more people on board, but it didn’t seem to work, so don’t worry…it probably won’t be happening again :)

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