Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Giving an Account of Oneself

Approaching Jericho, Tasmania. Photo by Stephen Ginsborg
I am at an impasse with the edit of the film and the re-write of the edit script. Co-supervisor Katrina Schlunke, looked at the edit and raised tricky questions about narrative certainty:
1. For a postcolonial text the film/me has too much authority
2. She wants a more sophisticated take on who I am
3. I maintain the centre...I need to lose it
4. More of the process of making it...the difficult spaces; the intractability
5. The ongoing force of Indigenous sovereignty - where is it?
6. She interrogated my use of the words amnesia, mourning
7. She said 'reading' a film text was hard for her...not like reading a written work
8. She said perhaps non-Indigenous Australia has a very persistent and creative and pervasive practice of forgetting that works through 'knowing' - that its styles and sets of knowledges that have arisen through western enlightenment etc but have been honed through the process of colonisation.

It sent me back to reading philospher Judith Butler's, Giving an Account of Oneself . How to translate into images:
Since I cannot tell the story in a straight line, and I lose my thread, and I start again, and I forget something crucial, and it is to hard to think about how to weave it in, and I start thinking, thinking, there must be some conceptual thread that will provide a narrative here, some lost link, some possibility for chronology, and the "I" becomes increasingly conceptual, increasingly awake, focused, determined, it is at this point that the thread must fall apart. The "I" who narrates finds that it cannot direct its narration, finds that it cannot give an account of its inability to narrate, why its narration breaks down, and so it comes to experience itself, or, rather, re-experience itself, as radically, if not irretrievably, unknowing about who it is... The "I" is breaking down...It does not know itself, and perhaps it never will. But is that the task, to know itself, to achieve an adequate narrative account of a life? And should it be? Is the task to cover over the breakage, the rupture, which is constitutive of the "I" through a narrative means that quite forcefully binds the elements together in a narration that is enacted as if it were perfectly possible, as if the break could be mended and defensive mastery restored?" Judith Butler, Diacritics 31.4 (2001) 22-40

So my attempt to confront cultural amnesia and the repression of the violent face of colonisation in Tasmania has become an enactment of defensive mastery? Yet another colonial gesture disguised as reparation?


  1. Not sure that I get all of Katrina's points - #8 is particularly illusive but I'd like to understand it better - still there are interesting and unsettling ideas there. The Judith Butler excerpt is pretty exciting though - brings to mind something of Trinh T.Minha in Reassemblage. I adore how she cuts up her own narration and repeats and elides it - treating it like material for editing like all her other source material. At the same time she manages to achieve a certain kind of lyricism with the way it is presented in the film that also speaks of rupture, complexity and uncertainty. Love, love, love it!

  2. Bettina, I understand Katrina's comment #8 as something like this:
    my 'knowing voice'  becomes another form of  (colonial) forgetting (of dispossession); so my very attempt to know -  repeats the very problem I am trying to address. That's why Trin's narrations don't fall into the quagmire, precisely because, as you describe, she cuts it up, she dismembers it, 'elides it; At the moment the narrative voice (s) I am writing are too much in command...I'm working on it.....Jeni