Conscientiousness

Super 8 finished on low band U-matic, B/W, Colour, 8’50”

Cinematography and Sound recording by Philipa Veitch, editing by Mark Luxfordadditional  footage by Vanessa S. Jones

narration by M.J., C.V., C.R.

1991

(screenings see below)

 

Philipa Veitch, Conscientiousness, production still, Super 8 finished on Low Band U-Matic,  B/W & Colour, 8’50″

Back in 1991 I decided to make a short film in which I hoped to document or capture some of the more intangible or ambiguous aspects of human existence – instances of the uncanny, supernatural phenomena, and other worldly encounters. I was aware of one or two friends who had had these types of experiences, and so I began by interviewing them, eventually expanding my recordings to include a wider circle of acquaintances. In these interviews – which I recorded on audio cassette – I asked them to recount experiences of premonitions and coincidences, of occurrences that were foreshadowed in a way that made the eventual appearance of that event take on an added significance. I chose three of these narratives, all of which related to a premonition of a death, and edited them together to form a short film, Conscientiousness.

In the three narratives, the moment of prescience is enfolded within an everyday occurrence that is perceived by the subject as being inconsequential, yet charged with a sense of uncertainty or disquietude. Lacking the means to resolve the seemingly irrational desire to attach meaning to a chance event, the narrators dismiss it, only to later re-interpret or re-assign the episode as one that anticipated the event – the death – that was to come.

This is an edited extract from my 2001 Masters Thesis ‘Nature Strip’

 

Conscientiousness / transcript

Part one

Back in 1981, on the 19th of March, in the evening, I finished reading a long article by Jacques Derrida. The article was called ‘Living on – Borderlines’, it’s a very beautiful piece of writing. In this text, Jacques Derrida, analyses or looks at, a poem by Shelly, called ‘Triumph of Life’ and a text by Maurice Blanchot, called ‘Death Sentence’ and attempts a translation, from one to the other. And this extraordinary text, at the end of it, Jacques Derrida, makes an unusual move. For in the Blanchot story ‘Death Sentence’, a very complex, text. There is a…. in that there is a transition, from life to death, and back to life. And there is an interplay between two women. One is never sure which one is living and which one dead. And in this Derrida says, what he desires of the text, that in this text, one may live, so that the other, may die. In one living the other dies.

I was very moved by this, by the way in which Derrida wrote about it. And what makes this uncanny, this event of reading so strange, is that on the following day my wife gave birth to our first child. We in fact had undiagnosed twins. One of whom had died three weeks before. They were identical twins, and there was a struggle in the womb. So that, one had to die so the other would live.

I could not believe, this event that was happening, at the birth. It was beyond, comprehension. Save for the profound, coincidence, of what I had read the night before. This sign of life.

Part two

Some years ago I worked in a community. Sometimes, or quite frequently really, I would have a dream, in which there was a sailboat on the water, without the sails up, just the mast. And it was always indicative of the fact that somebody in that community was going to die.

Eventually I would find out that indeed somebody was extremely ill, and, people were worried as to whether they would live or die. And then, I would have another dream, with the boat, with the sails up. And then, I discovered, that that was, a symbol, that they were indeed going to die very soon. And I could tell, by, the colour of the water, whether the sun was shining on it, the colour of the hull, the condition and colour of the sails, as to the condition of their soul I think because everybody’s was different.

Once there was a young person who dies and the water was sparkling blue and the hull of the boat was, dark blue and the sails were really white, and the whole scene was sparkling. There was another time with a woman who’d led, probably a more dubious life, and, everything was grey. And other people were in between.

But always after I had the dream of the boat with the sails up the person would die probably, in a day or two at the most.

Part three

Um, well, some years ago I met, um, a person, who was very psychic, and he um, he used to read palms, as, at a party. And um, these people, he, this friend of his would hold a party, wanted to hold a party to, so that he could read everyone’s palms, you know, just for fun. And when he was halfway through, he met this, he had a look at this man. And his palm was, um, saying, um, that…it was just blank, there was just nothing there. And he said “That’s strange, this is the first time this has happened, I’m not picking up anything, there’s just nothing there.” And um, so, um, so he said, he tried for a few more minutes and still couldn’t get anything.  And he said, “Well, I don’t know what to make of this. This is the first time this has ever happened, but I’ll read everyone else’s, and at the end I’ll come back to you and try again, it may have cleared by then.”

And so he read everyone else’s palms, all with all this accurate knowledge, and information. And um, and then he came back, and , but the guy’s, palm, was still blank again, there was just nothing there. And he said, he couldn’t understand it at all, and the, and the man said he couldn’t understand it either but he’d had a thoroughly entertaining evening listening to everyone else’s, ah, readings, so he didn’t mind at all.

So they all began to leave, at the end of the evening. And they were all milling around outside, saying their goodbyes and getting into their cars, and so forth. And ah, (ha ha) and then, (ha) the guy who’s palm was blank, ah stepped off the pavement in front of a bus and was killed on the spot, (ha ha ha), right in front of all of them. And, they realized then, that the reason, the psychic hadn’t been able to see his future, was ‘cause he didn’t have one (ha ha).

 

 

Screenings

1994 (Experimenta Tour #3: Diversionary Tactics National and International Tour) La Trobe Valley Arts Centre; Warrnambool Regional Gallery; Campbelltown City Gallery; Benalla Regional Art Gallery; Lismore Regional Art Centre; Bathurts Regioanl Gallery; Woollongong City Gallery, Mildura Regional Gallery, Nolan Gallery ACT; Albury Regional Gallery, Shepparton Regional Gallery; National Gallery of Victoria; Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; 24Hrs Contemporary Arts Centre (NT); Canberra School of Art Gallery; Tin Sheds Gallery; Devonport Gallery and Arts Centre (TAS); Perth Institute of Contemporary Art; Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide; 9th Fringe Film and Video Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland

1993 European Media Art Festival, Osnabruck Germany; Image Forum, Tokyo,  Japan; National Film Archive of the Republic of China, Taiwan; National Film Archive of Thailand; Impakt Festival, Utrecht, Holland; Australian Cultural Centre, Jakarta, Indonesia; Snark on Arte, European Cultural Channel

1992 Experimenta, Melbourne; Frames Film Festival, Adelaide; Matinaze, Art Gallery of NSW

1991 Sydney College of the Arts Degree Show ‘The Increased Difficulty of Breathing’