JAMES COLEMAN: OPENING LINES.
Indeed, when recognizable images eventually appear in Photograph, they show nothing Romantic. Two young girls stand before a wall painted a shade of cream that instantly spells "institution." In the series of pictures that follows, a blackboard identifies the place as a school. Solemn of affect, the girls don't so much interact as stand in each other's neighborhood. They wear the cheap, bright-colored sweats and sports clothes that you see the world over; but then, as the group expands in ensuing slides, the clothes become improvised theatrical costumes--leotards, mascara, feathers, silver and sequins, bracelets. Gathering in a school hall, the kids strike poses, practicing to perform.
Meanwhile, on the sound track, we hear a girl speak, at a hesitant, thoughtful pace. Her words have the rhythmic cadence of nineteenth-century poetry, and a sensibility of sensitive introspection: We hear of a lone spirit, of dark hours, of a silent soul. The pull of the language, though, is less toward the cliche than toward the familiar; there are no obvious quotations, no lines you recognize, just lines that sound like you could, as if the script were a kind of doctored collage of phrases that barely missed Bartlett's (which is exactly what I suspect it to be). Such language today seems too weak to carry the weight of subjectivity that the words connote. And yet, spoken by a child, it sustains a certain gravity, for it suggests an effort to come to identity--to know the developing self--that must be respected, even if the intimations of personality being reached for are secondhand ones. (In any case, having reached for a similarly Romantic content in front of the amorphous abstractions, one cannot feel su perior.) Performance, it seems, even if it is a matter of inheriting shopworn roles, may also be life's opening, a way up and out. Which takes you back to what you hear as the cycle begins: soft breathing, and the sounds and small sighs a child might make while sleeping--or, just as possibly, while thinking very hard.
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|Date:||May 1, 2000|
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