I often teach a painting of Caravaggio’s, Supper at Emmaus. Christ is sitting before us in an alcove against the “back wall” of the painting. We face into a dinner table covered with things for the meal. We are quite sure that the edge of this table is identical with the absolute front of the canvas. But then one undergoes a troubling sensation. The basket of fruit, the edge of the wicker basket, sticks out into our “actual” space, our here and now. The host suddenly recognizes the stranger at his table as Christ and throws open his arms, like this. [Gestures.] His left hand comes out, beyond the border—further than the sacramental grapes in their wicker—out here into the same air that you (and I) are breathing in the National Gallery. At the same time, his right hand penetrates the crucial illusionistic space, the alcove in which Christ sits. What he does, by going like this, is enact what it is to be “taken” by surprise, to be, suddenly, in that spiritual place where the otherness of the world, of possibility, “turns” one’s soul—taking one off the path of mere “ongoingness” onto the other path of “journey.” At any rate, the host’s gesture connects that immortal-because-imaginary space Christ occupies, with the mortal one of the gallery in which I am standing breathing my minutes—and you suddenly realize Caravaggio has activated what I call the “sensation of real time”: the time of the painting’s represented action has crossed over into the time in which my only days are taking place. So you cannot read the painting without being inside the terms of the painting, which are these graduating degrees of temporality: mortal time, immortal time, represented time, actual time, the “time” of process. The activity of the painting is to do that. The host is crucified in this position—a position the artist is also in—saying, You reader and you subject (God, Christ), I have put you two together. It’s my job. That’s what the meal is. That’s what we eat.
Saturday Night Live – George F. Will’s Sports Machine. “As always, the questions will focus exclusively on baseball, the only game that transcends the boundary between fury and repose.” Also, “The answer is: the exhilarating tension between being and becoming.” This kills me. (via)
Not even Reich’s music is as exhilaratingly tense as “Doing it to the Death,” or “The Payback.” Reich’s pieces take long, extended journeys; they are exquisite processes which slowly unfold through time, irreversibly. Brown’s best music never takes a journey: it’s either just where it should be, or tantalizingly close to where it should be.
Strangely enough, I think that ”The Payback” has more in common with Tristan und Isolde than it does with Glass or Reich. It’s all about tension and release.
Are you going in or are you staying out? In the world of The Searchers you must choose. You can’t have both. In this movie, everyone is on the threshold of that choice. And for some, it isn’t a choice at all, it’s just the way things work. Everything you want, everything you search for, is “out there”, or, on the flipside, everything you want is “in there”. There is a giant gap between in and out. Characters are seen standing a bit away from the house, with people clustered in the doorway, and it seems like anything, anything can happen in that gap.