Dead man - still from 'head_phone_film_poems' by Ross Gibson
Dead man - still from 'head_phone_film_poems' by Ross Gibson
Stories & Ideas

Thu 08 Jul 2021

Making head_phone_film_poems: Ross Gibson in conversation with Maria Tumarkin

Art Exhibition Interview
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Learn more about Ross Gibson's approach to using archives as 'readymade' source material for his work, in this talk with Maria Tumarkin hosted at ACMI as part of the Art + Film series.


Maria Tumarkin: I'd like to acknowledge and thank the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung people of the Kulin Nation, we and the audience, in Melbourne, are on their country, I'd like to acknowledge the elders, past and present, and any First Nations people in the physical and virtual room, 'cause I know it's this part of this event is been live-streamed. I also would like to acknowledge that it's the NAIDOC week, and also that we're talking with Ross about remixing archives, and of course, some of the most important urgent work around archival interventions. I'm trying to work out where to look Ross, sorry, around dismantling colonial archives and building new life sustaining archives, is being done by First Nation's artists, curators, writers and activists. So that feels to me, very important to acknowledge. I also would like to kind of proudly declare Ross' singular influence on me, as a thinker, artist and human being. I often think, "What would Ross do?" I look to Ross and his work when I feel stuck, not in a good way when I feel depleted and empty. And I know we don't have much time tonight, but I just want to bring Ross's idea of what a conversation is, in this short conversation we're about to have. Ross, can you hear me? Is this-

Ross Gibson: Yup.

MT: Okay. I'm just checking in with you. And this is a quote from Ross that I, that has guided my kind of thinking around what is possible in a conversation. And that's what I'm thinking about as we're about to embark on this conversation. So this is a quote. "The first thing I like about the word conversation is that it has versa inside it. Versa, like the fold of earth made by a plough blade, like the layout of paper in an open book. These things that can turn over productively, dot, dot, dot, ellipsis, a conversation can bring people together to cause something to turn over. So it's in the spirit of turning over, turning up, turning, that I am kind of thinking about this conversation, and in a funny way, the fact that Ross is not with us, in Melbourne, well, extremely annoying. And just said, for me personally, for many of you kind of make sense, because of the fact that this conversation is already kind of fragmented by screens and lockdowns, and it's beholden to electricity and technology that tend to malfunction, as we see in Ross's work around neighbourhood epiphany footage. This kind of non smooth, already interrupted conversation kind of feels exactly right for discussing Ross's work, and much as I miss sitting next to Ross, I'm into it as well, into this thing that we're having. So Ross, I want to go small before we go big, or we will just go small and big all at once.

I want to ask you about, so 'Dream_Child, Part Two'. So this, for people in the audience, that was the second piece that we watched in the compilation tonight, the one where people were, so it's a surveillance footage, people were entering and exiting the same sort of space. So this is from, it's a kind of remix, re-imagining dream sequencing around footage from Asia archives. So I kind of want to know about how that piece of work got made, and why it got made. So maybe this is a way for you to talk about other works, and this project overall, or we can just stick to that particular, startling bit of work and just talk about it.

RG: Thank you, Maria. It's so good to be talking with you and to be with everyone. I'm beaming in from Gadigal country, the South Harbour Shore of Sydney. And that piece, "The Dream_Child" piece arises from looking at that ACO material, that is now in the public domain, and that has been not in the public domain for such a long time, and now it comes back to us, and it comes back to us on a 50-year time delay. And looking at it and expecting to have a certain range of feelings, when you look at it. Expecting to be kind of mildly outraged about the surveillance of citizens, and expecting to have all of those good liberal feelings, a different set of liberal feelings came from it, where I just found that these people being observed, it was so poignant to be watching them, and that there was so much that was mysterious about the rhythms of their walking, and the way they'd pause and turn to each other now and then, and then just that sense that got stronger and stronger, as I looked at it more and more, that all of those moments happened dimly once, and have never happened again. Those special idiosyncratic singular moments were there and are gone, and that sort of sense of the specialness of every single moment got stronger and stronger to me as I looked at the material. And so that sense of repetition, that sense of cutting backwards and forwards, that's in the internal editing of the ACO material itself, but also the pacing back and forth of all of the people. That sense of iteration and reiteration, and circulation and circulation. I thought all I could, we could put some of that wonderful music by Cat Hope over that, and that would help with that sense of reiteration and reiteration, and reiteration. And that was satisfying in itself as just an emotional exercise, because with these films, I make them on my phone, and I have resolved to try to please no one but myself. And so I can just look for the patterns that turn up, turn up in them. And apart from that being an interesting and satisfying exercise, just to get those repetitions going, it just started to help me think, again, about a point that you made right in the introduction, about the Indigenous intervention in archives now, and how there's this sense that we all need to get stronger in ourselves. This sense that this country that we're walking over has, if you do the mathematics, 60,000 years of generations, of somewhere between 100,000 and half a million people on the continent, at any one time for 60,000 years, it's got tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of human lifetimes walking over it. And that, so it's one of the deepest places of human history in the world, even though everyone likes to say how sparse it is, and how sparsely populated it's always been. And so we started small, but we've gone, I'm going very, very big here. Just this, it helps me. Some of this work helps me with this idea of, just getting a more personally felt understanding of the depth of human activity and the depth of human heritage, and the depth of human knowledge that has been infused into this country. So these little projects just really, they're for my personal curiosity and satisfaction, but I do like it when they open up a little aperture to, into a larger idea. And that idea of the depth of human heritage in this place is the one that I'm happy with, in that piece.

MT: It actually looks really incredible on the big screen. Having watched, even though I know your preferred... I think you said somewhere that you prefer people to watch it on their phones with headphones, while they're on the move, but there's something to be said for watching it on the big screen, Ross. So I was quite startled by it in a really excellent way. You talked about sort of watching and rewatching, and being inside the archive till a certain kind of feeling, an unexpected feeling, not the feeling that you thought was about to arrive, of liberal outrage, or whatever, but the feeling of poignancy sort of arrived and guided you, in some way. Is this how you work across these different pieces? And I sort of know that you're doing different kinds of archival interventions using the forensic photography, crime scene photography, and something I wanted to talk to you about in a moment. Imagining collaborations between the kind of an accidental poet and an accidental filmmaker, and then, of course, creating your own archives of kind of late night and uncanny suburban, I think you call it infrastructural haunting. So you're doing different kinds of things, but I'm interested whether there is method to your madness, and that method starts with that search for a certain kind of feeling, in the presence of archive, whether the one that you are have created yourself, or those institutional archives, you now have access to.

RG: Thank you, that's exactly the way into it. It's this process of just waiting for something to burst through or to pop through, or to burst into flames for a little bit. It's just waiting for something that's in what you're ordinarily looking at or what you're ordinarily working through, say at nighttime, with the nighttime stuff, and just waiting for something out of the ordinary to come out of the ordinary. And for me, I've always been very taken by the, an epigram that Patrick White uses at the start of his novel, The Solid Mandala. And it says there is another world, but it is in this one. And so that sense of always waiting for these, I guess we can call them epiphanies, to just occur to you, and they can occur in the built environment. They can occur in the city that you walked through, but they can be cashed in the many occasions, in the archives, as well. And mostly, it's just what we expect to see. And every now and then you see a whole lot of stuff that you have to learn how to read again, or read it a new, and that's important. But every now, even more rarely than that, every now and then, you'll just see something that is just absolutely puzzling and absolutely stopping to your thinking and your feeling. And those are the little bits where I just try to grab them and set them aside, and then mull over them for as long as it takes to feel one's understanding change a little bit. And then you might even have an understanding of how to work with them, how to put that one thing with something else that you've put aside for awhile, with the hope that that other world, that's in the world that we're in, that that other world can be mapped a little bit with some of these epiphany pieces.

MT: I'm going to do something completely not connected to our conversation, and I have a trillion questions for you. I just want to say to Serena that there is no time here. So if you want me, because Ross and I, this will be, it will be midnight before I am aware of the time. So please signal to me when you want me to stop. Sorry, Ross, timekeeping. So just kind of listening to everything that you've said. I was just thinking about your use of intertitles, your use of kind of textual interjections. They are not, they're kind of misdirections and complications, and digressions. They are not helping us hold what's happening on the screen. They are dragging us in different directions. And I was interested in you talking about why you are so intentionally creative work that can not be absorbed at once. And this sense, and why is it so important for you to foreground, to dramatise that sense of, that we are missing an enormous amount of what's happening, even as we take in what we can, and so forth. So I think it connects us to some of what you just said about what you are looking for when you sit with that material, and when you're waiting for that material, so I'm just interested, and of course, music also, is a force that does not work to smooth things over and bring them together, and contain again, I feel it's creating a sense of uncanny complication. And so it's like, oh my God, I got like 1% of what just happened. So can you talk about this?

RG: Thank you, yes, exactly. I mean, I've just, I've got to a point where I'm not that interested in explaining things. And partly because the explanation of something pins it down, and you can feel, okay, that's taken care of, next, and move on. And that's important, obviously, that needs to have a kind of hand rail that can take you through the confusing world. And so things well explained are very important, and that's what teachers have to do a lot. But there's another role, and that's, I guess, is the role of artistic activity a bit more. And let's just remind ourselves that art tends to be about things. Art goes around and around an issue. It doesn't necessarily go directly to it and pin it down, but art tends to be about, it tends to try to give you a fuller, slower appreciation of an issue by looking at it from a peripheral perspective, sometimes, or at a tangential angle, oftentimes, and oftentimes not. So oftentimes, it's trying, also, to appeal to other modes of cognition, other modes, other than the well-reasoned logical rigour that we know is important to have, as well. And so there's just these other ways of being cognisant of the world, that I'm interested in, in these spaces. And once again, I'm interested in them for my own sake, in a way, I just, I'm just trying to puzzle things out. And as you say, there's 1% of the comprehensible that we're likely to be grabbing at any one moment. And if we get 1%, we're doing pretty well, and I've always, always remembered Greg Denning saying once, in a conversation, that the past contains more than any one of us will ever be able to understand. And so if that's just the past, the record that the past has put down, what is going on in the present, as well. And so there's just not much that we can grasp, but that, and that can be a reason for being dispirited. But I think it's also a reason to feel one distract, to just think, look, there's so much more to comprehend, and I've been, always been interested in forms of art, which befuddled, but also the guile, and that leads you on and bring you back to them again and again, like really, any great piece of art, no matter what its format, you'll find can come back to it again and again, and get the richness out of it. And I think that it's something to do with formal qualities in the work where you, as the appreciator of the work, can see that there's been some formal adroitness applied, and that something really well-formed has been presented, even if all of its sense has not come through to you entirely. And that sense that you have to come back to it again and again. And so in these pieces, with the way that the text works and the way that text requires a different mode of cognition from the apprehension of imagery. When you're looking at imagery, you're applying a certain part of your mind. And when you're interpreting text, you're applying a different part of your mind. And so you're shuffling back and forth, and I've been interested more and more in this process, whereby you might feel that you're, you, as the audience, you're stumbling along and catching some good sense. But there's much, much more here that you haven't caught yet, and that you might need to come back to it again and again, and just, I'll wind up my spiel in a second, but it is also guided by, a little snippet I saw in an interview with the Cohen brothers a long, long time ago, where they were talking about one of their favourite people on the film's crew, a person who's not on many crews nowadays, but for them, it's an important person. And that's the person who keeps a track of the tempo, of the dialogue. And they were saying that during the golden age of the screwball comedies in Hollywood, the dialogue was meant to be going at about 40% faster than normal dialogue in real life goes. And the idea was that these people, Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, for example, the way they're talking and the rate at which they're talking, they are like super people. And I, and the audience, I'm only catching a portion of what it is that they've got to tell me. And rather than that being distressing, that's exhilarating somehow. And so I've always been interested in that idea that if you can get the formal qualities right in the work you're doing, at the same time as you show that there's a lot, lot more here than what you've just caught, that that could be a beguiling quality for the work, rather than frustrating qualities for the work. And then, of course, if it's on your phone and you're able to just shuffle back and forth and do your own curating of the experience, then it's possibly less frustrating as well. You can come back and keep catching stuff in the piece.

MT: This is so cool, about the super people and they're 40% faster. Okay, so I'm thinking about cinema now. So let me ask you, just thinking about, just for, again, for the audience, the piece that is called "Accidental Music, Part Two", which is the crime scene photography, sort of remixed in a filmic, what I imagine offers as a kind of a cinematic way, I'm interested in sort of what is made possible when you bring montage, which you describe as the engine of cinema, into certain kinds of archives. So can you talk about the relationship between archives, montage and what you think is made possible by their collision?

RG: Great, yeah. I mean, I think that that's what archives are there for. They are there for you to dip into, pull something out and put it on a hook, and then go back into the archive and pull something else up, and pull up 100 things, and see if any of those 100 things need to be together. And not because they were once in the past together, but because by bringing them together, something good happens. And so that you're constantly reaching into things that have a kind of gleam to them, they're glittering for you, for some reason, and you think, oh, yes, I must pull that out. And then they really start to have value, when they start to have systematic relationships amongst them, rather than them just being good, in and of themselves, each one being good in, and of itself. And just a little quick tangent, I mean, one of the things I've learned is that if you pull, if everything you pull out is a bright diamond and you put all of those things up, it doesn't kind of work too well. So you've got to have the prosaic and the banal in there, as well. And so that's one of the things I love about the crime scene photos, is most of them are utterly prosaic, utterly, quite banal. Every now and then, there's something that's been, that just looks like a wonderment. It looks like an epiphany of some kind. And its epiphany quality is even stronger, because it's embedded in this, all of this prosaic material. And so in a way you're looking for the poetic that can jump out from the prosaic, but you've got to keep working with the prosaic level, as well. And so that then becomes this kind of question of how you can put together a system of relationships amongst these single component parts. And I mean, I've always, well, and especially now, when there's so much material online in the world, it's this idea, I think, of putting the relationships together from stuff that already exists. That idea is, for me, more appealing and more imperative than the need to make something entirely new. And I'm just to throw another quote out. I've always been guided by a moment in one of Mallarmé's letters in the 1890s, when he's replying to his publisher, and the publisher's saying, "You really need to get a new thing out soon," and he's writing back saying, "I actually, I don't think I'm very interested in anything new anymore." And then he says to his publisher, "The main thing is not to make anything new, because there are already so many objects in the world. The main thing is to find new and better relationships amongst the things that already exist." And that's one of the reasons archives are there for us, I think we've got to delve into them, and find more illuminating relationships amongst the stuff that is already there, that is already in patents that we think we understand, but that material is there, ready to be repatterned. And in the re-patterning, entirely new understandings that might be able to be forged, somehow.

MT: Ross, I'm wondering how you think through the violence of archives. I was thinking about what you said about the depths of, the depths, plural, that are there for you, when you're thinking about what this project is about, what about the depths of violence? I mean, if I'm thinking about is there, that mundane seeming footage, is part of the kind of the global archive of state surveillance, that in Australia may not feel quite as terrifying, but if you think about it in kind of global transnational terms, is a repository of violence, betrayal, broken families, It's very, very confined material, life and death stuff. The violence is everywhere in the archive. When you talk about getting into the archive and imagining the new and better relationships between things that are there, and those things are not just pockets of knowledge. They're the kinds of things that you were talking about, that sit outside of knowledge and narrative, but what do we do with the violence that is just everywhere, that is just the air of the archives?

RG: First thing is just knowing that it's there. Okay, it's there. And true, sometimes, the archives themselves are part of that weaponry. They're used, of course, to establish, to try to establish particular versions of the truth, and to reemphasise, again and again, particular versions of the truth. So they're obviously used, often, for that purpose of the continuation of the violence. But just as importantly, they're used counter to that. And for example, I mean, a poet like Natalie Harkin a great contemporary Australian poet, Natalie, from an Indigenous perspective, goes into the public records and finds things to retrieve and to put together in certain relationships, in such a way that it shines this vivid light back onto the perpetration of the violence. And so that it illuminates the, from the inside of the machine, it illuminates the machinery of that particular type of violence. And so I think it's so important to have a whole cast of people who are adroit at doing that, of getting inside the machine and turning it back against itself. And producing work from inside the machine, that is stronger than the machine itself. And I should also say that the absence of an archive is its own version of violence as well. For whatever reason, and then there are several reasons, I think, in Australia, at the moment. But for whatever reason, there's, at the moment, a kind of failure of archiving, like the National Archives of Australia is simply underfunded to the extent that it cannot do the storage. It cannot do the collection and the keeping of the materials that people in 50 year's time might be able to work with. And so one could say that there's a sort of deliberate amnesia going on in the defunding of the archives here, right now. And there's definitely an element of that. At the same time as, I think, there's this sense that everything that wins funding now from this particular mode of government has to be lobbied to get the funding. And because we've so long believed that the memory keeping of the state is a public necessity and a public good, I don't think anyone has done a lot of lobbying. Literally, they are lobbyists going in and saying, you've got to put 500,000, 500 million aside for the National Archives of Australia. So all I'm saying is that this sort of sense of the persistence of records as means, but whereby state violence occurs, that's true, but also where the storage of records don't occur, where deliberate amnesia occurs, that's its own terrifying violence also.

MT: And I've been told I need to stop. Just for the record, I wanted to talk to you about Natalie Harkin. I wanted to talk to you about, so you know, about Saidiya Hartman and her idea of critical fabulation, and also wanted to talk to you about collaborations, but mean-spirited people here are just not letting us. So it's time for questions. Just asking people, there's a roving mic, I think, please speak into the microphone and then Ross can hear you. Otherwise, I will have to repeat your question, and God knows what I might do to your question in repeating it, so, yeah. And Ross, please tell me if you cannot hear, even if I assume that you can.

RG: Sure.


MT: That is not a good sound, Ross.

RG: No, I can't hear. You might have to catch it and repeat it.

MT: Microphones are being exchanged.

Audience member (anon): Yes.

MT: So it's fine now.

anon: Thanks so much for that, Ross. And it was really great hearing you talk, and wonderful questions, as well. And I was really inspired by the work that you showed. And I particularly liked your thought of the artist, as kind of collector, curator, organiser, was really interesting. For me, the, looking at the ACO footage. And in some ways I was very disappointed to find out it was ACO footage, because as I was looking at it, I was inventing a whole lot of other things about what was going on. And I particularly liked the way that it was positioned, the camera was positioned from the position of the voyeur. And what that allowed me to do was then invent what all of these people were doing. And I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on the idea or on the possibility of the audience actually being just as much the maker of the work as the artist is, in that always inventing a whole lot of stories throughout that process. And then in some ways, my creation of that artwork was completely subverted by your description of what that artwork was, which is quite an interesting event, I guess.

RG: Thank you. I mean, I think your invented artwork is the good one and, but that's exactly what I was trying to get happening in these pieces, where whatever is the presumed subject of this material, there are a million other things going on in excess of what that material seems to be proving for the ACO people. And so there are many other stories, so many other sets of emotions, so many other drives and fears, and aspirations, and anxieties going on for everyone who gets pictured in those pieces. And it's so important to have some degree of access to the possibility of all of that rich humanity going on there. So that sense that you were putting together your own set of stories is exactly what I hope happens. And it's, just quickly, with those sorts of pieces where there's the intertitles going on, or the subtitles, I prefer to use intertitles mostly, these days, partly because it's guided by a little quip that I read in an interview with Alexander Kluger, the German philosopher and filmmaker, where he said, to him, cinema was at its greatest moment before sound happened. So in the 1920s, when the intertitle was doing this wonderful, political, imaginative work, he said, if you think of how the intertitle works, before the intertitle turns up, there's a sequence of imagery. And the viewer comes to a certain understanding or a certain belief or a certain projection of what's going on. And then they intertitle comes in and tries to wrestle the meaning down to what the words have to say. And Kluger says that the best thing that's going on there is the viewer can choose to take the guidance of the intertitle, or to dismiss the guidance of the intertitle. And so, actually, my idea's better. And so Kluger, there was this kind of dialectical imagination going on in the form of cinema itself, where you would constantly have this shuffling back and forth, between imagining being told, making a decision about whether to obey what you've just been told, or to throw it away and go with your own imagination. And so, to just work with that form, again, with these little phone-made films, once again, just an interesting thing for me to make sure that the intertitles don't pin things down quite so much as keep sparking other ways to think about better possibilities or more intriguing possibilities in the material. And also to get this into play going between one's audio-visual cognition, and one's textual cognition, and to feel what an interesting shuttle that is, when it goes back and forth like that.

MT: Thumbs up, I think. I'm just waiting for more questions.

RG: Thank you, I have to imagine.

MT: Yeah, people are smiling. Those people who are not wearing masks, I don't know even if it's allowed, but it's smiles. Smiles are great. Just waiting for the microphone to make its way.

Audience member (Felicity): Hi, Ross, Felicity here. Lovely to see you. I just wanted to ask you about nostalgia. I didn't feel nostalgia when I was watching the material online today, or even watching it on the big screen tonight, but I wonder, especially in the beautiful, coloured footage from the Wimmera, one of the feelings that I had is that comparing that with some of the midnight footage of Alexandria roaming the streets, I just had the feeling of a kind of human that doesn't exist anymore. And I don't know whether we're, that's really exacerbated by what's happened in our weird lockdown experience and mentality. But putting that aside, I just wanted to ask you about nostalgia and about the Thessalonians. Could you comment on the Thessalonians?

RG: Yes. Good, remind me to talk about the Thessalonians if I forget. But the nostalgia thing, I love this, that statement you just made for us, about a kind of human that doesn't exist anymore. When I started to look at this material and the crime scene material, especially about 30 years or more ago, that was the first thing that struck me, was just, wow, people stood like that in the streets, in those days. They stood that close to each other in those days. And they just carried their bodies in ways that are different from how people carry their bodies in public spaces now. And I still don't quite understand how that has happened or what that actually means, but it was the same thing that I felt, that I didn't name it as well as you did, that these are kind of humans that don't exist anymore, that I'm seeing. And I'm seeing them very directly, vividly here in these pictures. But it's, there's a gap between them and us, and it's not a gap that's got this lovely nostalgia. It's actually very mysterious, and needs a lot of thought, just to see what it is that has happened. That means that we're with, we seem to be formed in different ways than they are formed, and that the public domain that they're in, somehow is different from the public domain that we are in. Also, I mean, I think that blur that happens when you look at that gorgeous, the Wimmera material, and what I wanted to do was find a way for it to feel like it was in a dream, rather than that it was in some gorgeous, better world. And so that sort of sense of, maybe these are people I know, but if I dreamt about them, they'd be in this colour with this sort of, with these filters on them. And the way you do that is, or the way you try to get that idea across is how one might work with the music and that overlays the imagery and so on. That's one question, then the second part was about the Thessalonians, and how to explain this quickly.

I'm getting more and more interested in how these artworks, how good artworks work when you feel you're in the presence of something very compelling. Let's say you're listening to 'A Love Supreme' by John Coltrane, for the very first time. and it hangs together, and you know you're in the presence of something wondrous, and you're utterly convinced by it, but you just don't understand it, and so you have to come back to it again and again, and again, and try to understand a bit more about it. And it comes back to this idea of form that I was talking about before. I think often the form of, say, a good line of poetry, a good line of language, but also the form of a good run of imagery, often has a kind of cohesion to it, which convinces your aesthetic senses long before your brain can work out why it's making good sense. And an example of that was, I've just been listening to Joni Mitchell a lot lately, because of the 50th anniversary of the album, Blue coming out, and you just go back to this magnificent body of work. And there's a line in her song, 'Hejira', where she says, sort of says and sings, "I'm porous with travel fever." And when you first hear it, you just go, I got it, I know exactly what you mean. And then you think about it and you just go, what does that mean? I'm porous with travel fever, and it's something to do with the form of the words, the way, the openness of "I'm porous with," all of that sort of comes from the back of your mouth. And then it moves forward, where you have to sit, where you say, "with travel fever." Where you say that stuff, travel fever, with the noises, all come from the front of your mouth. And so there's this weird push forward that happens just by the form of the language, and your body gets convinced by it way before your brain can even take hold of what it is she's saying. And you can think about what it means to be porous with travel fever, just as a meaning for a long time, but you get it immediately, in your aesthetic senses, that there's something very compelling in that statement. And so it's just that kind of interplay between the form and the meaning. And so if you go to Thessalonians 14, so, where is it? I wrote it down. But if you go to Thessalonians in the king James Version of the Bible, and you read that piece, it kind of doesn't make sense semantically, but there's a rhythm in the language that completely convinces you of this idea that's going on in that portion of Thessalonians, which is St. Paul is writing to these people and saying, "Have faith, the Lord will come and hold you up, even though you're laden down with horror," you'll get to this sort of suspension, where you'll be up in the air at the same time as you're being slammed down on the earth. And that is only convincing in the language itself, in the form of the language. If you go back and make sense of, if you try to make sense of that Thessalonians paragraph, just in its grammar, you'll never get anywhere, it'll drive you insane. But if you pay attention to its music, it is completely convincing. And so that's why I was kind of happy to have that Thessalonians thing start the programme tonight and finish the programme tonight, just because you would have had three or four, or five runs at it, and I'm sure it still didn't make much sense to you, but I think, also, you may have kind of felt a convincing formal music to it. And it's that weird interplay that interests me, between the form and the sense.

MT: Lots of smiles.

RG: Yeah. I mean, I don't know if that, any of that made sense to anyone there, but Felicity, I hope it somewhat addressed what you were talking about.

Felicity: Yeah, thank you, Ross, again.

MT: She looks convinced, Ross.

Audience member [Susanna]: Hello, Ross, it's Susanna here, sitting next to Felicity.

RG: Oh, hello, Susanna, hi.

Susanna: Hi, I just wanted to say, first of all, thank you so much for the work and the talk, and it's completely overwhelmingly, intensely fascinating. And the thing, I think, that I wanted to pick up on, because it really struck me in terms of my own work, was when you were talking about going into the archive, and you said you can't just pull out the diamonds, that doesn't quite work. And I thought, "Oh my God, I'm going to immediately use that in the, to guide me in the project I'm doing." But then I thought, "Ah, I wonder if there's something there about psychic states, as well, and what it means to just stay with the diamonds, and how that doesn't work," and whether that's akin to something that's almost like a mania, or something close to something hallucinatory, and what it is that we need in order to mitigate the almost blinding quality of the diamonds. Does that make sense?

RG: Totally, totally. And it's something that I had, I took a long time to learn as, and I guess this is any younger person trying to work out what they're capable of, and when they were writing or when they're making stuff. Usually, you try to turn everything up to 11, to make sure that it's all impressive. And I vividly remember a moment in a conversation with my dear friend, the late Andrew Plein, a great editor and sound designer, where Andrew was saying, we were talking about the Chris Marker films, that we both love so much, and he was saying, "If you look at them, most of the, your memory of the films is a memory of brilliance," and that's so true. Like they're just vividly brilliant films. But he said, if you look at any sequence, most of the footage that you're looking at is really drab. It's very kind of ordinary, and there's only, every now and then, there's something astonishing appear on the screen. And that was Andrew's point. He was saying that it took him a long time, as an editor, to understand that in order for your stuff to have real impact, you have to lay down a prosaic bed out of which the really bright stuff can burst. Otherwise, everyone's just kind of dazzled to the point of boredom, by all of this stuff turned up to 11. And so this sense of modulation, just as a maker, I think, is something that we all have to learn how to work with really well, rather than just trying to be impressive all the time. But I think it's also the quality of the archival material that we look at. Most of it is prosaic because most of life is prosaic, and every now and then, there will be something that bursts out. It's just a question of whether the thing that bursts out, and is intensely meaningful for you is the thing that those in charge wanted you to find as the meaningful thing. If you can find other things that are countervailing the story that's being established, well, then you're really starting to do some good work inside the archive.

MT: Can I just repeat, dazzled to the point of boredom? Well, Hmm.

Chelsey O'Brien: Now I'm sure we could all sit here and listen to Ross speak all evening, it's been such a delight. But unfortunately, we are slightly over time, so we will have to end it there, but thank you so much, everyone, for coming. I'd ask that you give the biggest yell that you possibly can, so that Ross can hear us all in the cinema. Let's go crazy. I'm really pleased. Thank you so much, Ross and Maria, for joining us this evening, it's been so delightful and thrilling, and we've all really enjoyed ourselves. So thank you so much.

[audience cheering]

MT: You could hear, Ross?

RG: Yes, Maria, thank you. Let's continue the conversation in the coming weeks, you and I .

MT: Yes. Thank you, please.

RG: Yes, thank you everybody.

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