"!" [Hollywood Blues] July 2013 - Page 16

It was Aristotle who proffered the insight that remains a source of powerful unease in contemporary understanding of images of death and suffering (still or moving, analogue or digital): ‘Objects which in themselves we view with pain,’ he writes in the Poetics, ‘we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies.’ The delights of looking at pain, pleasure in the suffering of others. Aristotle is at the origins of a tradition of thinking about the arts as a source of transformation: the sight of death, of suffering, can become an object of pleasure – rather than, or perhaps as well as, pain – via the act of looking that intervenes to protect the beholder from horror.7 The scandal of reproduction – nowhere more apparent, perhaps, than in the genre Easton calls ‘Hollywood Blues’, its privileged tempo of exclamation – is that it can help us to bear, even to take pleasure in, what has been, for someone else, the unbearable. Occasionally, history intervenes to show up the dangers of the game (or, as the psychoanalyst Hanna Segal once put it: ‘the curse of the schizophrenic is that their wishes comes true’).8 But is there another art of disaster? A different way of looking and listening? Take the pictures away, put voices in their place. Conjure with darkness and proximity, with bodies stilled but made alert (one reviewer describes the ‘black box’ from which “!” [Hollywood Blues] echoes, as if its very staging is the recording of an accident).9 A slap in the face. Groundbreaking. Lesley Wood, Arts Agenda read the review 7 For further discussion of theatre, tragedy and 9/11, see Martin Coulson, A Forum on Theatre and Tragedy in the Wake of September 11, 2001, Theatre Journal 54, 2002, p. 133: ‘It may be that part of the unfolding horror of ‘9/11’ belongs to that disorienting mistake. ‘I cannot count the number of times,’ as Mark Coulson puts it, ‘that I heard some variation of the phrase “It seemed like a film” from people attempting to articulate their reaction to images of the disaster.’ On the development of technologies of vision and the question of suffering, see Lebeau, Childhood and Cinema, London: Reaktion Books 2008. 8 Hanna Segal, Interview with Jacqueline Rose, in Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, ed. Nicola Abel-Hirsch, London: Routledge, p. 246. 9 Dany Louise, Review of “!” [Hollywood Blues] by Rowena Easton, 7 November 2012, http://www.a-n.co.uk/interface/reviewers/single/69036 (accessed 31st July 2013). 16