EPISODE 3a: The Screen Will Be White

Lu Cafausu, Italy
June 1, 2016

This is part one of the third episode in Lu Cafausu’s series of five stories. Read Episode 1: A Mirror For Five, Episode 2: Anna Vaniglia, Episode 3b: The Screen Will Be White, Episode 4: The resurrection of the wizards, and Episode 5:Battle.
The screen will be white, and will remain so throughout the scene. Two voices, M and S, are engaged in a dialogue that at times sounds intimate, at times is interrupted by long pauses or instead by subdued noises and whispers that are hard to decipher. Phrases shift by on the lower part of the screen, which might seem like subtitles at first glance; actually they are phrases written in pencil, with a nervous hand, like notes hastily jotted down. After a while it becomes clear that these strange subtitles have nothing to do with the off-screen dialogue; they are clearly not its transcription, nor are they its translation into another language. Instead, they seem like instructions given to the viewers; or hypotheses of interpretation; or hints at motivations and theories that according to the artist (the filmmaker) come prior to and determine the work (the film).

It is not clear what the story is. Many elements, in fact, would seem to persuade the viewer to think that the story, seen as a sequential narrative development, has been denied as a possibility here. The white screen clearly points to invisibility, or perhaps an entropy of the narrative image, just as “white noise” is a sum of sounds that become indistinct. The voices are captured in separate moments: probably these are segments of recordings made by the two in different situations and moments over a rather long period of time. The idea of the recordings came from M, the result of an obstinate belief that the best way to work through a difficulty (any kind of difficulty) is to observe it through the mediation of an artistic language – represented here by the simple presence of an activated recorder. S seems to put up with this situation with slight irritation – as if in this way a useless filter had been imposed on their experience. At times S seems amused, though, almost relieved by the expression of weakness of which M offers a glimpse, in a way that seems childish, a bit awkward, a bit thoughtless.

The white screen clearly points to invisibility, or perhaps an entropy of the narrative image, just as “white noise” is a sum of sounds that become indistinct.
We hear the voice of M: “I am thinking about a film in which you see nothing, you can only hear two lovers, us, who speak when we cannot make love… we talk about ghosts that make one impotent… But it should be a fundamentally erotic film.”
S: “Why do you want to make it? And why is this supposed to be erotic?”
“I would like to explore the fact that words can be vehicles of excitement for the listener, but also for us, in our dialogue. Between the real experience and the construction of a film, I would like to make a flow pass that can bring desiring energy and meaning to one and the other.”
“Say it more clearly: you want to transform reality into art, to anesthetize the parts that hurt you: you want to outflank reality, to take it by surprise, to bypass it. Sometimes I think this prevents you from really living.”
“I wish it was the opposite, I would like… vitality to be fed by awareness, by the ability to change vantage point, by a dance we do around it…”

The recording continues, but the voices are so low you can’t understand the words anymore; maybe they are not even words, just slightly audible sounds.
A gap.

...somehow manage to lick the most sensitive parts of the viewers, in order to make them feel the physicality of the piece.
…somehow manage to lick the most sensitive parts of the viewers, in order to make them feel the physicality of the piece.

M speaks again; the background noise sounds like a car, running at a steady speed: “…now, what happened with you? This is the first time I’ve heard that an erotic game of submission was experienced, by the person who was topping me, with a high degree of excitement. I could sense your ability to act, to recite, to play (in English in the original text) the dominant role, which was surprising. You know, with other people I always felt like things were forced, a false situation, constructed just for my benefit; and that made me lose the whole fantasy… I was surprised by how easily it came to you, by how I could see that you felt like the role was ‘yours’… Maybe that is also why I suggested that we work together on this film.”
S: “But how does this interact, I mean how do I interact, with your sense of guilt?”
M: Softly, almost murmuring to self: “The sense of guilt…”
“Speak up.”
“OK, sorry. What they teach you, from when you are a teenager, is to belittle attitudes of submission. There is a deep sense of guilt that comes before the erotic dimension, and has to do with masculine identity itself. You aren’t really a man if you get excited by submitting.”
“And you believe that?”
“I would like to free myself of that belief, but I am not really free to do so: this, for example, is the first time I have talked about it in front of a recorder… But down inside I think that this contradiction of mine – the shame regarding something that attracts me; the excitement and inhibition that reveal themselves and grow together – has contributed to develop particular forms of sensitivity, and of attention with respect to my own thought mechanisms. The negotiation between such a secret thought, so charged with excitement, and the desire to be normal, and to be not necessarily like others, but definitely with others, has always taken place in solitude, and has developed an aptitude for self-analysis that has made me become an artist.”
“You still haven’t answered my question.”
“…You and my sense of guilt… at the start it was traumatic. Your voice that said certain things got into my head and woke up ghosts that seemed to have a diabolical power.”
“What did my voice say?”
“Er… I don’t remember the exact phrases… The meaning was, let’s say… a game… A situation in which (here the tone of M’s voice changes slightly, and gets a bit more guttural. The background noise has subsided to a great extent, and the dialogue seems to be happening in a room)… you were a professor and I was a student, clearly very excited but… I mean, at the same time, overpowered by desires, wishes, whims, the… moods of this… of his professor. The student had to kneel before you, and… to use the tongue, exactly where and how you ordered.”

“Keep very much in mind the fact that it is a privilege if I let you touch me with that tongue of yours.”
The voice of S also changes tone, getting slower and more provocatively cutting: “Remember, I still haven’t given you permission to do that. Keep very much in mind the fact that it is a privilege if I let you touch me with that tongue of yours, and if I agree to get pleasure from your gesture, from the contact of my body with yours. Before I give you permission to lick me I want to hear the words, and you have to say them well, clearly, to make me understand. You can recite them, if necessary; you have to convince me and please me, with their meaning and also with their sound. I certainly hope you have thoroughly studied what interests me…”
“There, that was incredible… That voice, your voice… has expressed in its very own way… I did not construct the scene; maybe you were encouraged by my attitude, but you constructed the scene. It was the first time something of the kind had happened to me. That night I was very upset; the excitement was overwhelmed by fear… the terror of being possessed by ghosts. I had always created images in my head, how and when I wanted to. And instead in that moment I felt that the images were no longer the same, and they moved in reality, on their own, they no longer depended on me. I was afraid of losing control over the line that separates the two worlds, inner and outer, imaginary and real.”

(END OF FIRST PART OF EPISODE 3 in the series by Lu Cafausu)

Translated from Italian by Steve Piccolo

Lu Cafausu

Lu Cafausu is a collaborative art project initiated by Emilio Fantin, Luigi Negro, Giancarlo Norese, and Cesare Pietroiusti in 2006, then joined by Luigi Presicce in 2010. Lu Cafausu, an old coffeehouse located in a small town in the south of Italy, has become the inspiration for stories, performances and actions in different European and American cities.

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