First published in La Furia Umana (Paper Issue) 8, 2015.
In answering the question: ‘What is Cinema Becoming?,’ I return to Raya Martin’s Ars colonia (2011). What I am after really is to find a line of critique – what is becoming in cinema – and to insist that there are no ‘beings’ in cinema, only ‘becomings.’ Consider this a ‘monstrous’ writing, a writing emerging from the back alleys of rhetorical writing, a polemical miscarriage, a vomit of words, an ejaculation of death… While the conventional road of linear discourse can acquaint me with nursed and dolled-up concepts about cinema, I insist on slippages of anything onto everything: netherworlds and farmworlds folding into the thickness of the vegetation; the thinness of the earth folding into rhizomes of the universe – an adieu au langage. One must open the language to let ‘becoming’ take place.
I return to Ars colonia to pay it a visit, to reconcile myself with its images. One night, I was half-awake in bed knotting thoughts upon thoughts: thinking, nursing a monster in my head, creating a dwelling place, a scary place, a decentered place, lingering and looming in the darkest corner of the mind – and it was there, the film becoming a nightmare, a monstrosity.
I return to Ars colonia not to write about it as a subject, but more of elaborating an encounter, a dream, a feeling, a memory of coming back, of coming into sense. I have been haunted again and again by the image of soldier walking at sea in Ars Colonia. I wonder why such a walk would involve a vast sea accompanied by islands. I wonder through and through, in sleeping and waking up, in lying in my bed, in my friend’s bed, in my lover’s bed with his arms wrap around me. I wonder about the soldier and sea and the islands and the explosions and the marching on and on and on… The film, although only one-minute in length, lengthened inside me to hours, days, weeks. It folded the past into my present. Its images distorted my thoughts like how all memories became – a forgetting. The gesture of walking, the feeling of the water brushing through the myriad spaces of the trousers, the weight of the metallic gear on the head – all form an assemblage of an Ars colonial soldier – a haunting, a ghost from the netherworld – I, myself, beginning and becoming the soldier in my dreams.
Ars colonia is a parcel of Martin’s labyrinth. As part of a labyrinth, one does not simply arrive in Ars colonia. One wakes up inside it, trapped and punctured by the lines and forces it bequeaths, for to experience is not to ‘be’ but to ‘become’. To see Ars colonia in its full state, one must ‘become’ the eye of a dreamer sleepwalking along its intersecting planes of virtualities. Ars colonia is an ‘and’ between Independencia (2009) and Buenas Noches, Espana (2011), two other labyrinths in Martin’s career. Ars colonia says goodbye to Independencia by walking out of it, carrying within its body remnants of colors from the last shot of Independencia: a sky etched with sanguine blood seemingly bridging and continuing towards the colored skies of Ars colonia; whereas Ars colonia’s hues and saturations continues towards Buenas Noches, Espana. In effect, Ars colonia becomes a short conduit between the two feature films. It is not, however, a bridge but a passageway, an underground tunnel buried beneath the surface of the earth. It is not a canal but a rhizome, a segment that transforms as it transports liquid. The color effect in the two films Independencia and Ars colonia achieves a tectonic state in Buenas Noches, Espana: as the latter film among the three, Buenas Noches, Espana settles the destiny of its colors by transforming it into an earthquake, a catastrophe of saturations, a chaos aimed to break the retina of the eye more than what Godard’s two films Film Socialisme (2010) and Adieu au Langage (2014) can do.
The Ars colonial landscape is choleric born from Martin’s etching of the celluloid with colored felt-tip pens. Martin suspends, via this process, the portraiture of the ‘old’ in the film, disturbing its supposed historical body with evasive coloring of the sky and the sea. In effect, the whole figurative landscape achieves a vibrational state, heaving and breathing, life-like but animated. The colors’ coarseness, its disruptive energy, leaves a trace of the past in the present. It is as if the artist’s manipulation of the color takes the shape of penetrative pulses of the present intervening the past.