Monday, October 17, 2011

On Content

A new guest contribution by Daniel Gallay. – D.D.

Content: A Brief Statement
(or: “You know nothing of my work! How you got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing!”)

I’m convinced that there isn’t a word more accurate than “bankrupt” to describe certain experiences I’ve had in the cinema. There have been films I have seen that as I watched them, I felt a certain suspicion. Not only was I not able to ignore this suspicion, it became the central element of the experience. I felt, almost from the outset, that there was a hollowness to what I was seeing and that beyond the surface of the image lay nothing at all. The images, although imaginative and aesthetically sound, carried with them no substance or presence of any content. In one such film, this was the intent of the director, and there is a story to illustrate why. This director, as was fairly common during the period, experimented with LSD under the supervision of his psychoanalyst (Cary Grant did this also, and praised it as a tool of self-realization). The experience this director had was one where the definition of all things fell away and he was left in a hellish landscape where nothing held any meaning whatsoever. The experience led him to the conclusion that since the definition of any object is always provided and constantly renewed by the viewer of the object, objective meaning, by the very nature of perception, is impossible. He found that this then freed up his ability to create images since he wasn’t bound by having to attempt to instill objective meaning. “The fire and the rose,” he said, “became one.” This is problematic, if only because it is the perfect definition of solipsism, but it brings me to the point of my statement. My point is this: Is there not an element of an experience that is common to all those who experience it? Take this essay as an example. As you experience it, my consciousness (or perhaps, more so, the consciousness of the essay, which may or may not be my own) and your consciousness are present. There is the presence of each independent of the other, but there is also some point at which they touch and overlap. As each person reads the essay, each of their experiences will differ; these experiences will not be necessarily definable, but necessarily existent. That perhaps is a definition of content – the overlapping of one consciousness with another where a personal experience can take place. The infusion of an object with consciousness relies to a great extent on the intentionality of the creator – if the intent is shallow, the results will likely seem shallow; alternately, if the intent is joyous, the results will likely seem joyous. So, as in the story of this director, if there is no intent, there is also likely no content. If there is no content, then the object will be hollow, and the experience of it will be likewise. If nothing is returned for the viewers’ investment of consciousness, bankruptcy results. It’s perhaps the most unforgivable form of thievery – a thievery not just of time, but, more importantly, of spirit.

Daniel Gallay

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