My birthday was the debut of the week. Although traditionally, celebration remains modest since I value more biological age over its chronological counterpart, I was determined to write a little text for this moment of the year. In the meantime, there came with a last-minute fixed-hour contract starting from last Sunday to this Thursday afternoon. Having spent numerous hours supporting this year B.A. Fine Art Degree Show, it comes eventually to the instant I intend to write celebration.
I have been on the recent research 1 about the present found in Rancière’s Les Temps modernes. Art, temps, politique (2018). It emphasises once more the ‘hierarchy of forms of life’ separating human with their activities between those who have time(s) and those do not. In a corresponding manner, modern society would still prefer to draw the line between the head and the hand, or categorise those access and contribute intelligence and those who offer labour, mechanical work or techniques. The time de soi consistently evokes the temporalities of a human being who lives across those two categories. Despite the whole pandemic year of restraints, the recent refusal of institutional funding extension appears to shift and remix together Rancière’s active part and passive part on my practices by making ‘sacrifices which particularly concerned those whose working time was remunerated in wages’2. But the undisturbed constituents are the primary enthusiasm and passion of researching, teaching and coaching on art and sport. I am still far from ‘the discovery of boredom’. On the contrary, the present wide span of life journey transmutes and releases a structure of rationality. And it remarks the first cause to celebrate.
When a few students were not confident and would be conscious of the lack of knowledge on audiovisual art, the viewpoint on this could be beyond the control of computing and software techniques. We can argue that various skills formulate a form of practical knowledge with the perfection of action by repetition. But l’Art académique sees its historical context through Charles Le Brun and Aristotle. Disciplined beaux-arts, or Fine Art is concurrently shared, practised and created in studio space.
When helping students with their audiovisual presentation, one approachable endoxon to demonstrate the differences between an original work and an exhibit is the narratives of timeline. In a conventional gallery space, or we can call it a white cube, if the audiovisual artwork is on the auto-play mode with content looping, the presentable timeline would only be triggered by the visitor engagement. Therefore it is not the display of a time-based artefact but the spectation of the audience that makes the work exhibit. When an audience walks in and then walks out of the curated and redefined space with the wandering or immobilised viewing activities in-between, their existential presence actualises a type of temporal timeline of life from their own. It contemplates an audience narrative.
The submission deadline clicked, the atmosphere among students turned into a mood full of atmosphere. Maybe Satre would hold a different view of celebration in his autobiography ‘The Words’ (1963). Still, the dominant joy accompanied the artists leaving the building and raising a glass to their fellow practitioners and academics under the sunshine. While the group was in the hour of enchantment, I made a final patrol in the uncrewed exhibition rooms. Understanding this was the end of the assignment, I decided to leave quietly from the scene for a quick swim. It was an ‘active’ work break by positioning the body horizontally in water with physical performance and self-reflection dynamism. For a little while, I remembered the day when I watched Chris Marker’s A.K.(1985). Yet, what made me recall further was that how many times I have been through Kurusawa’s Seven Samurai.
We have two major groups throughout the narrative to form the our or the good side: the farmers and the seven samurai. Those samurai are actually identifiable as nobushi (野武士, のぶし) or rōnin (浪人, ろうにん) since they were ‘masterless’ drifters and wandering around in town before accepting the assignment to protect the farmers or the people (百姓, ひゃくしょう) and their village from a bandit attack. Here we can borrow Plato’s tripartite soul of human and city from the Republic. When the seven arrive at the 16th century’s mountain village, the audience will experience the temporality of a micro polis. The autonomous community consists of the people as appetitive, the rōnin as spirited. In order to actualise the Platonic formation, cineaste and co-scenarist Kurusawa would offer two unique leading characters among the seven.
Key figue one is the first-hired rōnin, named Kambei and cast by Takashi Shimura. A transitional plot sets the local sage in the film to initiate a call-out for Kambei’s appearance. Both roles relate closely to the virtue of wisdom. The former stands for the village’s man of wisdom (知恵者, ちえしゃ) while the latter reflects consequently the man who loves wisdom. Individually, Kambei deploys his knowledge of leadership and martial arts to influence the narrative and even run the ephemeral community of fighters and workers. Hence we can then suppose the blended version of two virtues, rational and spirited, taking shape in the character development. Joined by his fellow rōnin, the unique collective of seven completes the guardian class.
But as suggested by the hand-drawn symbols on their battle flag, one of the seven (the triangle sign) does appear to indicate the misfit to the initial guardian class. And we would also have the other leading role as Kikuchiyo cast by Toshiro Mifune. Kikuchiyo is a rogue or idler who keeps pretending to be a samurai but uncovers himself by manifesting the characteristic emotion and desire throughout the film. Kikuchiyo would eventually proclaim his real identity with the exclamation: ‘This is me (in the past)!’ The moment denotes one of the most significant declarations of the narrative. The emergence of being both samurai of courage and people of emotion equals the appetitive and spirited in unison.
On the other side it lies the group of bandits. They are depicted as rapacious, immoral while visually and physically frightful. But the fiction in the late Sengoku period saw ambiguities in illustrating the idea of citizen and poses some inevitable questions: Who are those bandits? What made those bandits become bandits? Or, were/are they also the other type of rōnin?
The ending scenes start just after the defeat of bandits:
Fade in on high-angle medium long shot of a group of village men standing knee-deep in one of the flooded fields playing drums and flutes. They are swaying about in time with the music. Among them is RIKICHI playing a drum which he has hanging round his neck.
It is the time to mark the eventual harvest when the atypical alienation from the blended class as Kikuchiyo and the others of bandits are no more present. The three survived rōnin completed their assignment, and their relation with the village comes to an end. People celebrate their ceremony with chanting and dancing, and the camera positions them in front of those isolated and forgotten guardians. Without Kikuchiyo, the order is separated again into two groups of human contrasting between courage and emotion.
‘We have lost again.’ Kambei says, ‘The farmers are the winners. Not us.’
Here what we have lost might not be a mere battle of honour with classified lives of mercenaries, villagers and bandits, but the actionable temporality of redistribution towards the unanimous tripartite soul in fiction. Screen size changes from 1954 to 2021, and screening space varies from theatre rooms to Netflix. I would question whether Kurosaw’s fiction would relay Satre’s view:
The movies proved the opposite. This mingled audience seemed united by a catastrophe rather than a festivity. Etiquette, now dead, revealed the true bond among men: adhesion.
Together.eu, a pan-European community, held in May an online event called ‘Music Europe Day’ (MED). The tagline was to celebrate and offer ‘a musical journey throughout the European Union’. I was certainly intrigued by the event due to its large scale of nations and musician selection. But the presumable proposition followed with two modalities as musicality and human linguisticality: the dominant musical form was US-influenced pop and rock, and the voice was often anglophone which found in both musician interview and their lyrics. It undeniably reflects English (mainly ‘Euro English’ on this occasion) as our current Lingua franca.
One of the few exceptions was introduced by the musician David Walters. Behind the name, the Marseille-based artist performed with Afro-Caribbean influenced works. Maybe the idea of ‘world citizen’ overreaches D.W.’s music. Still, alongside the prominent stance of linguistic and musical appearances, we could also narrate the anthropological reconstruction and conceptualisation of cultural studies and social science thanks to the fiction of the otherness.
One of David Walters’ E.P. called Mama (2019), and the main track goes with a passage of lyrics written and performed in Haitian Creole:
Lé ou pati, pas gadé deyé ‘w
(When you depart, don’t look back)
Fok ou vré epi kow’, vré epi moun
(You must be true and true, true and human)
Kouri mem si ou ka fè moun ri
(Run, even if they make fun of you)
Quand tu pars, ne regarde pas en arrière
Tu dois être vrai et vrai, vrai et humain
Lance-toi même si tu fais rire les gens
It enlightens and celebrates the birthday and the week.