the origins of feeling

philipa rothfield: sandra parker, the recording

Phoebe Robinson, Fiona Cameron, Trevor Patrick, The Recording, Sandra Parker

Phoebe Robinson, Fiona Cameron, Trevor Patrick, The Recording, Sandra Parker

ACCORDING TO MICHEL FOUCAULT, DISSECTION OFFERED MODERN MEDICINE A CERTAIN CONCEPTION OF THE BODY, THE RESULT OF OPENING IT UP TO THE SCALPEL. FOUCAULT’S POINT IS THAT SLICING THE BODY IN THIS WAY CREATED A MODE OF THOUGHT. SANDRA PARKER’S THE RECORDING MAKES ITS OWN CUT INTO THE FIELD OF FILM AND MOVEMENT.

The room is a tableau of ladders, lights, microphones, cases, monitors and screens. It is a mise en scène. We are inside a set, in the middle of something. The lighting designer (Jenny Hector), composer (Steve Heather) and audio visual operator (Chris Wenn) are visible, working to the side. House lights are up. It is as if these people have been at it for days. We are not there.

Three performers wander the set, absorbed in whatever it is that they are up to. A series of travails follows. Scripts flutter, lighting is positioned, ready for an enactment of sorts: a rehearsal or maybe the real deal. The ensuing action is projected onscreen. No words are spoken. Contextual cues suggest that there is a drama within and between these ‘actors.’

Each person has a solo: the face in close-up onscreen while we watch the body perform. An emotional tenor is expressed in the torso, gestures, postural tableaus, arms and legs which incline this way and that. Our perspective on the performer before us is rather different to what we see on screen. It is as if two events are happening, not one.

Fiona Cameron looks directly at the camera, almost without affect. We have to search for meaning through corporeal cues. Trevor Patrick’s face likewise betrays little of his movement. Is this what people are like? Deleuze writes of the face as distinct from the head. The face is composed. It is a social and cultural product, whereas the head is open to a plethora of forces. The head deconstructs the face. The Recording offers a view somewhere between these two conceptions: the faces that we see on the screen are not naturalistic. They are evacuated, not of thought exactly, but something of the everyday has been taken away. They offer themselves to the camera, to the audience, a cipher to be analysed. The face becomes a head.

Trevor Patrick, Fiona Cameron, Phoebe Robinson, The Recording, Sandra Parker

Trevor Patrick, Fiona Cameron, Phoebe Robinson, The Recording, Sandra Parker

What happens in the body is key. We, the audience are privy to a multiplicity of gestures, the serial embodiment of feelings and interactive dramas which we see in the flesh. A collage of dialogue from crime shows is played. It is fulsome, complete, in contrast to the pared back action we observe.

The trio interact explosively. Two people land on the floor, one upon the other. The third (Phoebe Robinson) gesticulates towards them. Audio visual operator Chris Wenn speaks out, offering direction which has been notably absent in this film set, calling for a repeat of the action. We watch Fiona Cameron fall and fall and fall, initially underneath Trevor Patrick but later alone. Finally, we see Phoebe Robinson frame the event with her indicative arms, pulses of emotion. This happens again and again. She is the child of the event, watching an enigmatic primal scene.

Unlike Hollywood film, the narrative drama between these three people is not the centre of the action, which is displaced, split up and distributed between several nodes: the perspective of the screen, the atmosphere generated by the music, the bodies beyond the screen, their distal interiority, and finally, the space between all these elements in their differences.

The trace of The Recording is not that which is preserved on tape. It is the impression left on us. Scraping back the usual surfaces of cinema, The Recording offers a view of the body flying beneath the radar of cinematic visibility. This is a world of quiet intensities and silent behaviours, a place where feelings originate. Parker allows for these alternative depths, she seeks them out. Although not part of the everyday, they are its alter ego, the other side of familiarity. If mainstream film is a place of recognition, The Recording is not. It offers a corporeal uncanny carefully constructed from the bare bones of the film studio.

17 March 2013
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