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Critics' Choice V: Hugo Emmerzael

Als onderdeel van Critics’ Choice wordt de vertoning van La flor (Parte 1) di 29 jan, 09:30 voorafgegaan door een video-essay van Hugo Emmerzael, Jan Pieter Ekker en Dana Linssen.

Note(s) on Absence

Yesterday, before falling asleep, I was exploring the many essays and blogposts printed in the recent posthumous publication of Mark Fishers writings called K-Punk. Speaking about absence: not only will his style of writing be missed, but also his profound critiques on writing, music, politics, culture and film. Fishers individual analyses of cultural artifacts amounted to a larger, coherent critique on the machinations of late capitalism, or as he described it in his breakthrough work Capitalist Realism, a deeply laconic state where everything – from the state of healthcare to the new David Bowie album - feels off all the time, but capitalism is somehow never to blame for it.

Accidentally, while reading his condemnation of Bowie’s The Next Day – truly a miserable Bowie lp -  I might have come across his notes on absence. Describing The Next Day’s lackluster rehash of the cover of Bowie’s Heroes, Bowie on his best, now repurposed with a giant white square pasted over it, Fisher writes:

“The image becomes more than a comment on Bowie – the man who once traded on his ability to escape the past is now trapped by it. It also functions as a diagnosis of a broader temporal malaise. What is this white space, this void? An optimistic reading would construe it as the openness of a present that is not yet decided. A bleaker take – one in keeping with the hackneyed quality of the music – would see the white space as standing in for the vacancy of the present, with nothing there except a necessarily failed attempt to escape and recover the past.”

At my most optimistic, I also feel that criticism is able to fill that white void, the way Fisher fills it for David Bowie. Criticism can decide on some of the openness of the present surrounding us, making it whole or at least approachable again. However, it should also be in the nature of the critic to call things by their name (ahem), and in some cases that means describing a vacancy of the present, a failed attempt to escape and recover the past. Isn’t this the plain of duality a critic is always on? I hope criticism can keep the spirit of Fisher alive by honoring in their work both of those things at the same time.

Hugo Emmerzael is a film and music critic from the Netherlands. Besides his main occupation as editor of De Filmkrant and Gonzo (circus), he regularly contributes as a program advisor, writer or journalist to film festivals in- and outside of the Netherlands. His work for Golden Apricot International Film Festival got him more involved in Armenian and Eastern-European/Eurasian cinema.

Photo in header: Still: La flor (Parte 1)