bright and dark    bright and dark text

  frame image

 film index 

 1995-96 ,16mm, 3 min    


cineworks gave me my 400 foot roll of color neg just as i was leaving for san diego. i put it in the trunk of my car and took it with me. i was gone for three months: i left the film in the trunk and it went everywhere i went -- to UCSD, to the hills, to the ocean. the sun shone every day but two. i fell in love. i learned freeway driving. some days the car sat all day in a parking lot on G street. i knew the film was baking slowly in the heat, but i kind of ignored it.

when i got back to vancouver in january i missed my friend and i missed the sun. it occurred to me that if my filmstock was visibly fogged it would be a sort of cumulative record of a time i had liked. scared moments on the freeway, days and nights at G and fourth, road trips with my friend, would all have contributed their heat to the film.

i also liked the idea of filmstock transforming continuously over a long time and as a volume, not frame by frame in split seconds. that way it would seem to keep a privacy like the inside of the body, because the film would have responded to the light without ever having been exposed to it. the film in its taped can would be like tissue sealed in the skin, sensitive, but in a slower and different way than skin is.

when the fog test came back i saw that the film was not only fogged, but fogged in such a way that it shows big cellular-looking clumps of grain that squirm biologically in projection. the color timer at the lab found me an un-lit looking dull red i thought looked like intracellular fluid. instead of cutting the image track i gave the timer a score for printer lights. i tried to time the opening and closing of the shutter so it would be like a breath, brightening in and darkening out the way sensation does inside the body when you breathe.

there is no one sixth sense; there are a lot more senses than five. the sense i wanted to talk about doesn't have a name. it's not much discussed. it is esoteric in the sense that we don't have cultural markers for it though other times and places do. i call it electric touch, but in fact i don't know whether it is either electrical or touch. it's a bit like subtle, internal forms of other kinds of touch -- the sense of temperature, the sense of pain, the kinesthetic sense. it might have something to do with electrical or magnetic fields, because sometimes it seems to work at a distance. what it reports is currents of connection between bodies and within bodies. when the connection is pleasant it is like a subtle flow of light. when it is unpleasant it can be a kind of electronic buzz in the shinbones. it takes a while to notice you're feeling it, but it isn't subjective. sometimes you end up with people who aren't paying attention to it, but with other people it's a perception as mutual as sound. 'do you hear that?' 'that faint hum? yeah.' 'did you feel that?' 'that current between our knees? yeah.'

the soundtrack of bright and dark has a couple of very short stories about electric touch. most are personal but at the end of the track i quote mechtild von magdebourg who wrote in medieval german about a light of touch that flows through bones and flesh. when we know more about the subtle senses we may find that what we have called mysticism was in fact sensory research. the work of the women mystics may be research into senses particular to or more usual in women.

one more thing i wanted to say in bright and dark is that when women's eroticism is described as passive a stupid equation is being made between attention and passivity. close attention is intensely active. receiving a touch is as active as giving it -- sometimes more active, more skilled and more consequential. erotic attention isn't an empty bowl touch is poured or pushed into; it is more like a living antenna with a million fibers actively searching the space of the touch for its shape and meaning.