…much of what the dossiers call Pirate Prentice is a strange talent for-well, for getting inside the fantasies of others: being able, actually, to take over the burden of managing them…It is a gift the firm has found uncommonly useful: at this time mentally healthy leaders and other historical figures are indispensable. What better way to cup and bleed them of excess anxiety than to get someone else to take over the running of their exhausting little daydreams for them…to live in the tame green lights of their tropical refuges, in the breezes through their cabanas, to drink their tall drinks, changing your seat to face the entrance of their public places, not letting their innocence suffer any more than it already has…to get their erections for them at the oncome of thoughts the doctors feel are inappropriate…fear all, all they cannot afford to fear…
-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
At the beginning of his magnum opus Histoire(s) du Cinema, Jean-Luc Godard states his goal: to present a history of all the films that were never made. Over the hour of the first installment, his own chanting voice layered over itself with tape effects suggesting a religious chant melting is paired with snippets of popular songs and dialogue from movies played over snippets from these and other films, stills of historical events and famous paintings. These images fade in and out of each other, blink back and forth rapidly. Sometimes they’re held in stillness. They sometimes cut to images of Godard himself poking at his typewriter or thumbing through titles on his bookshelf. Other times they cut to patches of black blank screen.
As the film progresses, the importance of the title makes itself apparent-sandwiched between history and cinema is the “s”. The parentheses around the “s” are just as important; they present it simultaneously as a letter we can see and the implication that it isn’t actually supposed to be there; a speculation made concrete by the conjuring power of the language, be it a typed phrase or the space between the images in the film reel. The unreachable sublime object that forms the center of the title the same object being reached at throughout its run time. Images mired in context are brought into the space of dreams; what was the Brechtian device of distancing in the avant-garde structuralist cinema becomes in fact the very space of the immersion of dreams. And as we know, the operations of dreams far exceed the strictures of the pleasure (of their) principle(s).
In the weeks and months after the Zuccotti Park uprising was suppressed by the storm troopers, rumors and excited proclamations still abounded. I got a phone call saying tents were going to be set up in Bryant Park that December; excited I shared the news only to arrive at the same ice rink, the same giant library steps, the same little shops with the same conspicuous trinkets, the same Bryant Park I’d always known, and in the these presences I saw only the lack of tents. I wandered a bit. On a bench I sat and stared at the excessively well dressed couples lazily gliding on the ice long enough for my mind to begin the actual wandering I’d come for.
These proclamations distanced themselves as echoes do. Eventually they stopped altogether. And so the repression begun by the police in the space of the physical had to be completed by the Occupiers in the space of the mind. Further calls of a reemergence were soon met by other activists with angry chastisements made in the guise of practicality or “being real” that it wasn’t going to happen. Underneath this anger sat, of course, the fear of another heartbreak. The many onlookers, some of whom had sent money or visited the Occupation, who had seen it the entire time as a space to watch from a distance in which they could once again be freed to daydream their long repressed daydreams of the possibility of something else, repeatedly asked and continue to ask in confused tones “Where did it go?”
Occupy was the “s” in the parentheses. And in the hasty essays which have since and continue to be piled into the lumpy monolith of the digital left, we see, etched into its surface, tessellated images of a couples’ dance between the possibility of the parenthesis and the frustrated enclosure of the redaction. And we squint; we want to see what these dancers that have so mesmerized us look like, to ponder their faces like those of Hollywood actors or those well-manicured suburban lawns of boys and girls in the catalogs, to wonder if they’d like us or what we’d chose faced with the possibility of rejecting them, secretly secure the odds are against us ever consummating that horrific encounter with their actuality. While squinting sometimes the faces look familiar. Punch and Judy perhaps? But which is Punch? Which is Judy?
Is it naive to consider the revolution any differently? And so, to those who ask of my prior anecdote, “Why didn’t you bring a tent yourself?”, therein lies both your answer and my evasion. And in my evading, I must ask whether the stigma on the evasion is performed with the proper weight.
All that has taken the mask of the practical has led us here.
And so I keep squinting, writing the histories of all the revolutions that were never made.