May, 2011 Archives

My favorite Russian photographer Evgeniy Kashirin loved to photograph ordinary village life – babushkas, clouds, puddles, communist meetings. This one is called “Boys and Ducks”. When I saw it, I was struck by absence of water over the boys’ feet. I was puzzled about why their feet aren’t submerged. I then realized that they are running on ice. So, there is a bit of a delay between the first experience of absence and the interpretation that makes sense of the experience. In fact, I wonder how to properly understand the initial reaction. Is there just a feeling that there’s something wrong with what the boys are running on, or is the first experience that of absence? If it is of absence, then of what?


“Physically, it’s not a very demanding job. The only thing that can get a bit trying up here during the winter is, uh, a tremendous sense of isolation.” We (together with Wendy) witness the product of Jack’s isolation – a pivotal point in Kubrick’s The Shining, when Wendy becomes convinced that her husband has gone insane. Picking up a baseball bat, she wanders into the large hall in the Overlook Hotel and finds Jack’s manuscript. She flips through hundreds of pages he has typed over the winter, only to discover absence of any coherent text. Interestingly, Wendy did not have specific expectations about the novel: she knew nothing about Jacks’ work and so was not imagining particular words or a plot. This shows that we often see absences without having concrete expectations (or detailed visualizations) of the things we are looking for. In this case, all Wendy expects is a kind of a meaningful variation in the text. Instead, she sees a horrifying absence.