July 16, 2007

Mala Mar

This image is a tribute to Phil Wagner, who, when told that I had bought an Olympus "Mu" digital camera --one that is capable of shooting pictures below the sea without a special housing-- Phil responded: "Just don't shoot the usual touristy stuff, shoot the trash or something."

Alright Phil, here you go.

But we'll have to risk representing treacle as I try to convey the life we live here in Tossa de Mar. It's awful sweet here too, Phil. And those of us in the artworld intelligencia who are too wary of the sweet stuff will just have to deal with a little bit of "awful" if they want to sweat off some of that jaded feeling. So brace yourself, my blogreader, you international sophisticate, you. This is a report of a sun soaked CopperTone weekend at the beach in the Spanish Costa Brava.


A good t-shirt, that.

The anxiety of sophisitication aside, the sea was a bit of a disappointment this weekend, so the image above isn't too far off the mark.

The first snorkel run was out to look for lampas. But the sea was as rough as the sky beautiful. A south wind blew delicate mats of a lil'sargasso sea of trash onto the shore and the waves were powerful enough to throw us onto the mussel encrusted rocks.

So this was an aborted mission. It was also an abortion in the execution of my first undersea movie adventure. I thought I shot three or four segments, but fumbling with the movie controls for the first time, I actually got only one.

Oh well. Onward and upward.


Back on the beach, I thought about how to take a movie and show you all the beach life at Codolar Cove. But the thought of walking about as a older guy on a beach where toplessness is natural, handling a digital camera, in Speedos? would be a bit too edgy as it is predictable. The solution? Employ the services of Nacho and Leslie's young Berta. This 8 year old was precoscious and charming enough to do the job.

I marvelled at the way she used -or misused- the camera. Even though she let the instrument dangle and flop about, there is a wonderful consistancy in what she produced. She aimed the camera only occasionally. But she was always aware that she was doing something with a camera. What resulted might seem a jumble, but her amused awareness in the instrumentality of the media strung together the jangle of images and sounds, like a pearls on a string.

What a word, "dangle".

On the second filming, our director became a journalist, interviewing me and a a few of our friends on the beach. Asking the hard hitting questions, she used instinct to follow the things she knew ("?Cuantos a?os tiene? / How old are you?, ?Que pesas? / How much do you weigh?") and dropped routine as soon as routine lost her interest, inventing and playing all along the way.

Sometime a public that might be called Philistine would let fall the old chestnut: "My child could do that.", and certainly artists look for inspiration even when it comes from the hands of babes.

What I realized was that there was yet another way to record a movie with a digital camera's .mpg capability, one that stepped aside from the standard protocol of subject and center and tracking and station. Subcontracting kids was one way to subvert self consciousness (at least for a time), but adopting a new protocol from this special auteur was another:

1. Know that the camera is there.
2. Play.
3. Use any structure at hand to move the project along. (?Cuantos a?os tienes?)
4. Push the pointy end of the camera toward the business once in a while like a dopey big green inflatable alligator raft in the surf.
5. Keep amused.

It was the kind of thing that some of my painter friends were talking about (like Hiroshi Sugito or Bart Exposito): looking for a way to "crack" their approach with something that could be called "bad painting" or f**ked up technique, so that something new might ooze out of the fissure.

Verrrry interesting, this "angle of the dangle".

But I couldn't interest Berta in another video after this one. She had exhausted her joy in a career of filmaking after two projects. She was off to other horizons like Robert Irwin driving into the sunset in a fast car with the cold cash from his Macarthur "genius" grant. (This is an inside joke. Robert Irwin liked to race through art media, thinking he exhausted the possibilities of each as he went along. Check out his biography in Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin.)

This is the thing about that old chestnut. Sure babes can do things that look like contemporary art. But can they do it over and over and over with real curiousity, avid duration, a vivid interest and a search-based-variety for a lifetime?

Well then. (Arms akimbo.)

So in this video, I thought I might employ some of this ing?nue-auteur's technique. I didn't sing songs whilst skipping along, but I cooked up the strategy of taking the camera out to the middle of the cove to play fetch with it on the sea floor, letting it dangle from my wrist in between shots.

(Hey! The angle of the dangle! I'd like to do this on my scooter when I get back to LA! I can let the camera hand from my wrist with the movie on record. Yeaaaaaaaaaaaa.)

Along the way, I got stung by a medusa.

A jellyfish!

Gobsmacked I was. (Now I have a good definitional reference for that quirky word, "gobsmacked".)

I couldn't see the critter, even as I repelled from the sting. If it wasn't the fat big lazy white or purple ones, it must have been those nasty tiny brown guys. They're the worst. The strike was like getting smacked upside the head. At first I thought I had hit the boat, and then the second reaction was a deep desire to exit the sea. A sting with a wallop, it was. It was the chemical based explosion of a multitude of oozing toxin darts, hammers on the bell of my nervous system.

It was like getting wapped by your dad's big hand.
(Or mother nature: 'Pay attention, son.")

With his fat wedding ring on.

Fun's over.

Itching for days and days.

...and days.

Mala mar indeed.


Posted by Dennis at July 16, 2007 11:26 AM

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