Leon Filter: Grafted Origins: Lineages of the Index


Advisor/tutor: Sven Lütticken
Arnhem, June 2018


"One strand in my practice is dealing with anecdotes of my father and their effect and connections to the formation and diagnosis of my subjectivity. The work “MUMMUYTHEDADDY,” consisting of the enactment of a script, deals with indexical navigation through a recollection of my family history. By placing the spoken presentation in a cinematic setting, the question was as well, how to deal with images when they might not be visible. Of course, the performative presentation of the text has in itself visibility. The spoken text is accompanied by a blank projection filling up the whole canvas behind the speaker and shrinking during the performance to a size, which frames the speaker’s body. The tracing back of the family history (a classic patriarchal ancestry portrait gallery) arising from son to father, grandfather, great-grandfather and at last the great-great-grandfather, focussing mostly on their military history, while always implying a queer clue about their narrated life.

This monologue was one of my main points of departure to think about indexical structures and their appearances, as well as one of my favorite movies La histoire du vent by Dutch documentarist Joris Ivens. It is his last film, and last works tend to be read as legacy. However, in manners of documentation (describing a subject with the capabilities of the medium), it failed in a way but does something different from that. Ivens had asthma, and the whole movie is about him trying to find a steady breath. He visits martial arts masters to learn about proper postures and aligning the body and breath with the flow of the wind. He then visits all kind of places to study different kinds of wind. Most significantly, there is a scene with him sitting in the Sahara desert and listening through headphones to the recordings of the wind. The astonishing thing for me is that he worked in a medium in which it is impossible to show his subject – breath, and wind. There is just no possibility to show the subject directly. Breath and wind become visible only in the body’s breathing motion or trees that are swinging. It would also be possible to say the film is about visible artifacts of invisible labor or force. The most exciting scenes in this sense are, when Ivens holds a microphone in the air, while the display of a measurement device is shown, to translate the subject’s invisibility into visible signs. It is implicated that something is there, that something is driving the things in the image. In a way, the question that I will formulate later in this essay already emerges here: To what is the image an index? What is being connected and how is the index functioning?

I will look at indexical structures, lineages, and genealogies – structures that use or rely on a previous action, statement or being, that create a relationship between an image and reality; how this appears and therefore to think in reverse about how these aesthetic index practices are shaping our perception of reality."