Dersu Uzala directed by Akira Kurosawa (1975)
The film is based on the 1923 memoir Dersu Uzala by the Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenyev about his exploration of the Sikhote-Alin region of Siberia over the course of multiple explorations in the early 20th Century.
Your own mind
The trajectory from the playlist to the written/2-dimensional inspiration to the work at Intersection:
Christine Ponelle: Dersu Uzala (Akira Kurosawa) is a tale of relationships: on one hand, its narrative depicts an enduring and life changing friendship; on a wider scale, set in the context of the Siberian wilderness at the turn of the 20th century, it reflects on the relationship of man and nature as wilderness gets eroded by advancing civilization. Dersu embodies the primeval man whose spirit, principles and intuition have been shaped by his life in the wilderness. Ultimately it is about man’s relationship to his own nature.
The Deep Dark Clouds (Tom Verlaine) is an emotionally moving piece of instrumental music that is open to interpretation by the virtue of being lyric-less. It’s evocative of its title, calm and yet potentially foreboding.
The selection of the mind as “location” was to open the playlist further, bringing in a psychological element: the subjectivity of perception. There is a number of ways to look at this proposition: it could be a physical place or anything generated by one’s own mind.
Annice Jocoby: So sometime last summer the three cues for the Vanishing Terrain challenge arrive, with the team insistency of a treasure hunt. Ah, the list is familiar yet shifted.
Start with the movie, now on a pirated CD, throwing me back to the first time I saw Derzu Uzala, in an baroque movie house in Buenos Aires, after a late lunch at Palacio de los Papas Fritas, after driving to Argentina from New York, eighteen months on the Pan American Highway, except in the Darien where the car traveled on a banana boat, a thousand side trips leaving the P-1800 under guard, while jumping on rafts to navigate the Rio Napo or dozens of other tributaries with incremental ecosystems. I still have the parrot fan from Coco, the treasure stones from Patagonia, the bowl from Otavalo, where gravity changes direction. The film was seductive and sad. That night Derzu entered my dreams. I slept late.
So I watch the film in 2011, on my laptop in an airport, waiting for a delayed flight. I didn’t remember anything. It was as if I had never seen the movie, which now pulled me in with a rapid river current, successfully disappearing the florid lighting, the chorus of announcements and restless boredom. The pain begins in the opening, foreshadowing the demise of the main character, destined for my love for him, which grows as the film shows his moral superiority, strength and connection to nature. I am immediately struck by his resemblance to my grandfather and realize they were both born in Russia, speaking languages that have been eclipsed in the last century. I mingled the loss of Derzu’s birthright land with my attachment to my grandfather’s land – a wonderful summer resort upstate New York, with hundreds of acres of fields, forests, lakes, amazing wild blueberries, the center of summer family life for decades – now also gone.
So I listen to Tom Verlaine, the next cue, and use Verlaine’s music as a ballast, enjoying the edgy, elegant and very contemporary soundscape. I like to paint clouds, usually billowy and lofty, but also love a charcoal streak against a smear of apricot and purple, the dark kind of sky marvel the music invokes. NOW is refreshing after the tug of the irretrievable past, the buried and dismissed histories, in Russia, or here with America’s trail of tears.
So, I turn to the last cue….. a location, and the command is “your own mind” and instantly love the trump – knowing that is the only place I have every been – even when “out of my mind” with the usual tools for dislocation – art, sex, intoxicants, grief, horror, loss and love.
So the poem is offered as homage to Nathan Jacoby, born Natan Yakubowicsz, and Derzu Uzula, the land and language, and the eternal tug of romance, the last and the next dance.
So I send the poem to Christine for a response to my call. Like boarding with carry on, we squeeze the piece into the allotted 500 words. It finally fits. Christine goes to work in the beautiful and infinite landscape of her mind.
Christine Ponelle: The intent of the Broadside image was to convey some of the themes in Annice’s poem: the ultimate recycling of all things living and inert (and all things equal). The image suggests the primordial man, with ancient knowledge, who attempts to survive in and overcome the “Vanquished Terrains”. This being is part of the elements and will dissolve into them.
Re-interpretation/contemporary expression of the traditional “broadside”:
The last part of this collaboration addresses loss and longing, memory and place, timelessness, using archetypal visual elements. The early broadside was mostly text before granting more of its space to image. The American Declaration of Independence is one such example. Image first came as decorative border, single element that illustrated the main subject matter. In our technologically advanced contemporary culture, words’ meaning seem to have taken a back seat in the flurry of information, our own leaders/role models use them nonchalantly to further their agendas. They are found lying? Not to worry, more words, this time of apology, will be dispatched as damage control. There seems to be no end to the manipulation of language whether to bend the rules (the Law) or market a product to a ‘target audience’. On the other hand, images are carefully edited for content. This re-interpretation of the traditional broadside takes the assumption that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. It explores human experience using the power of image, where the script is replaced by brush marks that in the process, become symbols.