The Light & Shadow Salon
CHIARA AMBROSIO/ JULIUS BELTRAME/ JOHN BENTLY/ PETER BLEGVAD/ MARCIA FARQUHAR/ KITTY FINER/ JAMES HESFORD/ FIAMMETTA HORVAT/ CHARLIE KAUFMAN/ KRYSZTOF KIESLOWSKI/ MIKEY KIRKPATRICK
and more tbc
While sifting through the shelves of Bookartbookshop in East London, where serendipity reigns supreme, I discovered a copy of Unknown Public* 14, titled "Bloody Amateurs". The concept of the "Amateur" chimed strongly with me, especially at this moment in time when finding ways to engage and grow within one's practice continues to be challenged not only by a chronic lack of funding and platforms, but by the widening schism in the arts between what is considered to be mainstream or professional work and what is perceived to be marginal, underground, obscure or esoteric, that which is fashioned out of almost nothing, against all odds out of sheer need to pay witness to a fleeting and mysterious life, and for the love of it.
I myself often oscillate between a wild belief in what I am doing and a profound terror that I may be standing, alone, in a huge and empty void created around me by my stubborn refusal to adhere.
Here is an excerpt from Peter Blegvad's text "On the Word Amateur":
"In the 1970s I lived in NYC. I put out two issues of a little magazine I called Amateur, a word that in our culture often denotes a lack of commitment or skill, but which derives from the Latin for love. With Amateur I wanted to explore and celebrate marginality in general, with a particular emphasis on the marginality conferred on individuals and enterprises by failure. Of course, affecting disdain for success is a defensive strategy so transparent that only the desperate resort to it. But Amateur's assignment was, more positively, that old chestnut- the search for the marvellous in the everyday. Failure and marginality offered conditions in which the marvellous often flourished- for instance Outsider Art or Art Brut came about as an antidote to the slick commercialism of 'career' artists."
It strikes me that the need to create a platform to discuss doubt, fear, marginality and idiosyncrasy remains precious and necessary even more so now that we are vehemently exhorted to become part of a whole in order to avoid a state of perpetual economic and social struggle- absorb the values and expectations of a wide world web in order to better be consumed and digested, and ultimately contained and silenced.
But by what standards are success and failure really measured and quantified, and is an abstract goal (so distant and volatile we should by now understand it for what it is) really more important that the journey towards it?
All the demons we daily encounter and challenge in the privacy of our rooms- on the blank canvases, sheets of paper, empty frames, glaring piano keys- may be a fruitful pool of potential if brought out into the open and explored as a fundamental part of the process, without lonely shame and desperation. The freedom to change, the courage to dissent, the testimonies of our perpetual struggle to grow by discarding the ideas we thought belonged to us- these are important constants in the creative process, and what is art if not a tool to ask questions and know ourselves and the world a little bit better? Observe, imagine, remember, dream and pay witness, also on behalf of all the people who cannot.
William Burroughs once said that a society that cannot dream is destined to psychosis and destruction, and that it is the artist's role to dream for the collectivity.
But within what space does dreaming occur, what is the responsibility of the dreamer, and its relationship to ideas of professionalism and marginality?
Tonight we will explore this fertile soil and celebrate all the struggle and doubt, rejoice in all the things we choose to do for the love of it, and consider ways in which this may constitute a fundamental path into the future.
"Thank you very much. I’m actually really happy to be here; at least that’s what I’m telling myself. I’ve never delivered a speech before, which is why I decided to do this tonight. I wanted to do something that I don’t know how to do, and offer you the experience of watching someone fumble, because I think maybe that’s what art should offer. An opportunity to recognise our common humanity and vulnerability [...]
What can be done? Say who you are, really say it in your life and in your work. Tell someone out there who is lost, someone not yet born, someone who won’t be born for 500 years. Your writing will be a record of your time. It can’t help but be that. But more importantly, if you’re honest about who you are, you’ll help that person be less lonely in their world because that person will recognise him or herself in you and that will give them hope. It’s done so for me and I have to keep rediscovering it. It has profound importance in my life. Give that to the world, rather than selling something to the world. Don’t allow yourself to be tricked into thinking that the way things are is the way the world must work and that in the end selling is what everyone must do. Try not to.
This is from E. E. Cummings:
‘To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.’
The world needs you. It doesn’t need you at a party having read a book about how to appear smart at parties – these books exist, and they’re tempting – but resist falling into that trap. The world needs you at the party starting real conversations, saying, ‘I don’t know,’ and being kind."
Charlie Kaufman (addressing his audience at the BFI Masterclass on Screenwriting)
The Light & Shadow Salon is a place for artists, writers and audience to meet and share ideas about the past, present and future of the moving image in all its forms.
The Salon is a place for exchange, interaction and cross-pollination and it welcomes active contributions and interventions from all its participants.
The Salon endeavours to support a structured and informed dialogue around film, the moving image and all that it involves: from magic to science, from sound to the eye, from ritualism to storytelling, from myth-making to hypnosis.
The Salon intends to act as a temporary and ephemeral container for all the work, ideas and people with an independent, radical and idiosyncratic nature, who renounce to find a home in existing movements/institutions but rather embrace the nomadic and transitory nature of art.
The Salon supports individual thought, inquisitive minds and a desire to further knowledge through dialogue and exchange.
‘So when you hear yourself invited to ‘see’, it is not the sight of this eye (of the flesh) that I would have you think about. You have another eye within, much clearer that that one, an eye that looks at the past, the present, and the future all at once, which sheds the light and keenness of its vision over all things, which penetrates things hidden and searches into complexities, needing no other light by which to see all this, but seeing by the light that it possesses itself.’ (Hugh of St Victor)