An Imperfect Cinema is an anthology of four digital video installations based upon and inspired by the essay, For an Imperfect Cinema, which was published in 1969 by the Cuban Film maker, Julio Garcia Espinosa. The works (with Espinosa’s essay being the catalyst in their creation) were brought to life after indulging in a meditative process over the course of the last six years. 'Each one of these four works in the anthology has been an inward journey, a pilgrimage, at the end of which I have found myself standing at a juncture where it becomes imperative for me to share with the world what I have created (or rather, what has created me),' says the creator who goes by the name Lallan. 'The work’s primary motives for me, are to create spaces which enable me as an artist to share my perspectives regarding the existence of the form ‘Cinema’ and its meaning and implications, and to initiate dialogue with anyone who experiences these works.'
In his seminal essay, Espinosa describes imperfect cinema as:
“The opposite of a cinema principally dedicated to celebrating results, the opposite of a self-sufficient and contemplative cinema, the opposite of a cinema which ‘beautifully illustrates’ ideas or concepts which we already possess.”
Selected excerpts from the essay have been used as cues, as a birthmark for each of the four works in the anthology, also becoming a part of the installation as whole, serving as a thread in the combination of the works, with the root of their origin.
“Each one of these four works in the anthology has been an inward journey, a pilgrimage, at the end of which it becomes imperative for me to share with the world what I have created (or rather, what has created me).”
This work is an investigation in the pictorial communication of visible events. The imagery used is born based on its total separation from any motive, and longs to express an anecdote, which is beyond any definitive measure, and is open to reception of all forms via the tools of absolute cinema.
The camera has been used as a separator between the subject and the artist, rather than a means to connect the artist with the subject. An isolation reeks from the frames upon repetitive viewing of the footage, where the subjects are seen reacting to the device, and not the person holding it.
A collection of these experiences from the road is presented as a visual montage on the soundtrack provided by Jamblu, contained in a four-minute video loop, which is mixed with mirrors as reflective screens in the installation.
Stasis: a state or condition in which things do not change, move, or progress, a period or state of inactivity or equilibrium.
The word Stasis can be borrowed to express a certain emotion one feels, when sitting in a boat being rowed across the Ghats of Kashi-the oldest city in the world, facing the remnants of all time, including the now, caught in stasis, in all its permanence.
That being the focal current to the work, it is a visual mélange formed by filming the Ghats in their many shades, across seasons from the boats, by rigging the camera to them, making the motion of the boat, the rhythm to the experience.
This has been layered above an orchestral cinematic score to create a short film, which was screened individually for many of the city’s primary inhabitants: the boatmen who live on the Ghats, and are the bridge between the world’s people and Kashi itself.
These screenings have been filmed live, and combining them with the film for the installation, creates a video collage, which is a visual paradox, when looked at from a perspective outside the screening of the work, where ‘the viewer is seen watching a film which is being watched, also watching the film’s viewers at the same time'.
‘The word' in its primal sense is pure sound. It is always sound first and its meaning later. Sound in its element is vibration, which exists as the axiom for the universe. 15th century Indian weaver poet-Kabir in his poetry, takes this ‘Word and the Sound of it’, and describes its impact on the listener as a wound. This wound as an experience, is honest and profound in its nature, and pierces the listener’s soul, after which a transformation happens:
As jolaha ka maram na jana, jinh jag ani pasarinhh tana;
dharti akas dou gad khandaya, chand surya dou nari banaya;
sahastra tar le purani puri, ajahu bine kathin hai duri;
kahai kabir karm se jori, sut kusut bine bhal kori
“No one could understand the secret of this weaver who, coming into existence, spread the warp as the world; He fixed the earth and the sky as the pillars, and he used the sun and the moon as two shuttles; he took thousands of stars and perfected the cloth; but even today he weaves, and the end is difficult to fathom."
Kabir says that the weaver, getting good or bad yarn and connecting karma with it, weaves beautifully.
'In much ways, the lines featured above, sewn around the life of a weaver or Kabir himself, pierced my mind upon hearing them for the first time. After dwelling on it, I saw myself traveling to the ancient weavers town of Chanderi in central India, and living with weavers for a month, trying to fathom the music of the warp and weft, sailing in the convolutions of the wreathe, and immersing myself in what would later become the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life.'
The installation, born as a reaction to that journey, is a juxtaposition of the poem by Kabir, overlaid on an excerpt from a conversation with a master weaver - Abbas Ansari, and visuals from the historic town.
“I see the weaver here as the metaphor for the human being, and the complex process of weaving: Life itself.”
Toward An Impure Poetry
The work is an on-screen adaptation of Toward an Impure Poetry, written in 1939 by Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda.
In his piece, Neruda attacked the idea of ‘pure’ detached poetry and argued instead, for an ‘Impure’ poetry committed to the mundane realities of life. He calls for severe attention, more specifically to the moment: moments that define life, moments of ordinariness and extremism that shape it.
'If Pablo is calling the reveling in the moment, and all of its details a form of poetry, then the camera becomes the pen that writes it. Cameras have the power to call the attention to footprints, and fingerprints and barrels and baskets, and all the other objects that he spoke of. This piece led me to dig out from my video archives the severity of the utmost ordinary, the otherwise neglected, the very dull, and the seen-yet-unseen. My encounter with the piece made befitting meaning of every visual experience that I had recorded, but had never used in a context. The poetics that I discovered in the process, a play of the experiences from which the work was born and yet beyond the very ways in which it was lived, also led to the very birth of this anthology; and somewhere, I also believe that Espinosa’s exploration of imperfections in cinema were inspired by Pablo’s in poetry.'
The nine-minute video features footage of over eight years of my travels from all across the Indian subcontinent, mostly from places where every single phrase from the essay still holds relevance. The narrative of the essay in English is treated as the score (sans any music or sound).
About the artist
Lallan was born in February 1986 to a tribe of pastoralists in a valley of the Aravali mountain range. While growing up, he inherited poetry, music and folk traditions, primarily from his grandmother, alongside other members of the tribe. He has been painting and working with wood since the age of five. He works with text, video, performance, new media, fabric, mixed media and earthen material to create expressions.
In the early years of his professional career, he was commissioned projects by United Nations, UNICEF, Ford Foundation and other organisations, while working alongside and for various ministries like the Ministry Of Information And Broadcasting, Ministry Of Environment, Ministry Of Human Resources, National Green Tribunal, Ministry Of Water Resources et al, majorly creating works concerned with migration, ethnicities, displacement, agriculture, human rights, women and children issues, labour rights and issues, employment and environmental issues. Lallan lives in the foothills of the Dhauladhars.