055: Someone’s Story

Consider the short film someone . . . by John Timmons. Some of you will know what I’m referring to as “you” as audience may include contributors to a project called 100 Days and “you” will already have “considered” the video, which would mean that I’m asking you to consider it again, forcing a revisitation. Others, which is another “you,” will not know what I’m referring to and will click the link, open the video, and consider it. This member of an audience will perhaps return here curious as to why I asked you to consider the video in the first place. The contributors to 100 Days will either click the link, watch the video again, which is 33 seconds long, or simply recall the video from memory and continue reading.

Both members of the audience might be eating an apple and will find the act of clicking on the link somewhat difficult as the juice of the apple may be running down the side of his or her hand. But this is merely an inference.

The video is composed of sound, which may be a recording of rain. It’s composed of a steady capture of clouds over a greater period of time than 33 seconds. We know this because in our experience clouds change their shape slowly (typically). Therefore, the image of the moving clouds in the video is an illusion. Even so, the clouds are significant to the video in that as the dialogue progresses the clouds thin and nearly disappear (sec 27). But the clouds reform in the video plane’s horizontal center soon after. The video is also composed of two voices, a woman’s voice and a man’s voice, both illusions, also. The woman says, “John, someone’s died.” The man (who’s acting the role of a child) says, “Well, who, Ma, who?” This declaration/response dialogue is repeated. But each iteration of the call and response is manipulated into an echo, so that the final instance of dec/res repeats itself internally to each clause. The final sequence goes: “John, John, someosomeone’s dieiedd.” “Well, who, Ma, who Ma, who who.” The dialogue, therefore, behaves like the clouds as the period of normal experience for each element of media has been altered. It’s interesting that as the dialogue is manipulated, it turns into a form of music, into a series of fluid beats and rhythmic sounds.

Here’s an interpretation: the dialogue repeats because the video expresses the point of view of the man’s voice, who is playing the role of a child named John. The video expresses an exchange between a mother and her child. The mother has kneeled to the child in the kitchen. She placed her palms on the child’s shoulders and says, “John, someone’s died.” Of course, as the mother has said “someone,” the child asks who has died because the child wants to know. The video expresses the child’s internal anxiety not just about death but about the identity of the dead person. This person is, of course, Grandfather, whose place of burial days later is narrated visually in a video called perusals. The clouds are a metaphor for the human drama of life, which fulminates and races, builds and flattens and is continually reshaped by life experiences, and then disperses. But then the clouds return: the narrative of life and death can be articulated as cyclical. The video’s great human theme is the cycle. I’ll show you why this is not really true later.

Or, the mother has entered John bedroom. She shakes John awake. She shakes him gently, as mothers do. John opens his eyes. The mother says, “John, someone’s died.” John, whose conscious attention is still deep in the waters of sleep, asks, “Well, who, Ma, who?”

We hear the sound of John’s voice in proto surreal state. We imagine that John is actually quite alert after a few moments and is scared. We imagine that the mother says “someone” because she wants to diminish the force of the blow.

John, the mother understands, will soon know what it feels like to lose a loved one. He will soon know what death feels like. He will soon learn the lessons death teaches. That the dead person will never be present physically to him again. He will never see that person (or the cat) again and this he will never really understand.

But I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that the video exposes truths, truths in the form of real occurrence. You’re thinking that every element in the video comes from real life. Of course, in real life there is an actual mother who has actually said, “John, someone’s died.” This is entirely “probable.” (More likely it’s possible). But to keep to the logic of induction, I would agree with you. A mother has entered her son’s room. His father was an American soldier or a merchant in New Orleans or an accountant in Haiti or a nurse in Santiago. No longer alive. In this sense, fiction is a displacement or re-placement of truth. I understand.

But what’s my real concern? You’re probably wondering, if you haven’t already stopped reading. My real concern is this: that story is always hidden and should be kept hidden. Indeed, I would argue this: John Timmons’s video is about the hiddenness of story. I don’t know if it’s a kitchen or a bedroom. Story, however, is its theme, not cycles or death or injustice. In modern fiction, story is a hidden concept (this why the walls of buildings are opaque). It’s never revealed. I argue that only the audience can reveal or feel it. In fact, fictions or non-fictions that provide the story (and their themes) are false fictions, fictions to be avoided. Even Paul Henning knew this, as his series of fictions were about “A man named Jed . . .” The “about” is the hint: “about” reveals subject only. Watch out what waters you step into, reader, as story is a maw with a million teeth.

Yes, I understand your disagreement. You say, “But maybe Timmons didn’t intend to tell a story.” I would respond: “Subtract, therefore, the first two words of your sentence. I never said he did intend this.”

But to conclude:

If you, reader, go back and reconsider the first paragraph of this writing, you’ll note that I asked you to “consider” John Timmons’s video someone . . . . This was a vague request. You will, perhaps, have had a different interpretation of the video. Perhaps you made the elements of the video your own, remembering the deaths you’ve experienced in your own life. Perhaps it brought back to you fond or painful memories. What I really asked you to do is to willfully join me in an act of destruction and theft. Which is death. Which is change.

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