Caitlin Almond's Quarantine Inspirations
“In the books and films that I have chosen, there is a passage or a moment in which the imagery grips me and holds me, and it stays with you just like a good painting. Painting, for me, is this attempt to recapture that moment or passage of affective suspension.” – Caitlin Almond
Today, we’re sharing ten films and books which have been important to artist Caitlin Almond, who will be exhibiting with BAF next month. Ranging from theory and philosophy to contemporary Tim Burton movies, this is an honest and personal list of creative works that have shaped her as an artist.
Don’t miss Caitlin’s installation Crosshatch, which will be on view in BAF’s Garage starting in June 2020.
1. The Moviegoer, Walker Percy (256 pages, 1998)
The Moviegoer established Walker Percy as one of the major voices in Southern literature. The novel is heavily influenced by the existentialist themes of authors like Søren Kierkegaard, whom Percy read extensively. Unlike many dark, didactic existentialist novels, The Moviegoer has a light and poetic tone. It was Percy’s first, most famous, and most widely praised novel.
The novel centres on Binx Bolling, a young New Orleans stockbroker who surveys the world with the detached gaze of a Bourbon Street dandy even as he yearns for a spiritual redemption he cannot bring himself to believe in. On the eve of his thirtieth birthday, he occupies himself dallying with his secretaries and going to movies, which provide him with the “treasurable moments” absent from his real life. But one fateful Mardi Gras, Binx embarks on a hare-brained quest that outrages his family, endangers his fragile cousin Kate, and sends him reeling through the chaos of New Orleans’ French Quarter. Wry and wrenching, rich in irony and romance, The Moviegoer is a genuine American classic. (Wikipedia, Goodreads)
2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera (393 pages, 1984)
In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera tells the story of a young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing. The novel juxtaposes geographically distant places, brilliant and playful reflections, and a variety of styles, to take its place as perhaps the major achievement of one of the world’s truly great writers. Taking place mainly in Prague in the 60s and 70s, it explores the artistic and intellectual life of Czech society from the Prague Spring of 1968, to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and its aftermath. (Wikipedia, Goodreads)
3. Spectres of Marx, Jacques Derrida (288 pages, 1993)
In 1993, a conference was organized around the question, ‘Whither Marxism?’, and Jacques Derrida was invited to open the proceedings. His plenary address, ‘Specters of Marx’, delivered in two parts, forms the basis of this book. Hotly debated when it was first published, a rapidly changing world and world politics have scarcely dented the relevance of this book.
The title Spectres of Marx is an allusion to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ famous statement that a “spectre is haunting Europe.” For Derrida, the spirit of Marx is even more relevant now since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the demise of communism. Derrida seeks to do the work of inheriting from Marx, that is, not communism, but the philosophy of responsibility, and of Marx’s spirit of radical critique. (Wikipedia, Amazon)
4. In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust (4215 pages, 1913)
Also translated as Remembrance of Things Past, In Search of Lost Time is a novel in seven volumes. It follows the narrator’s recollections of childhood and experiences into adulthood during late 19th century to early 20th century aristocratic France, while reflecting on the loss of time and lack of meaning to the world. On the surface, it is a traditional journey of self-discovery, but this complex book is also a panoramic, richly comic portrait of France in the author’s lifetime, and a profound meditation on the nature of art, love, time, memory and death. But for most readers it is the characters of the novel who loom the largest.
In Search of Lost Time is considered to be Proust’s most prominent work, known both for its length and its theme of involuntary memory, the most famous example being the ‘episode of the madeleine’. The novel had great influence on twentieth-century literature; some writers have sought to emulate it, while others have parodied it. (Amazon, Wikipedia)
5. The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard (241 pages, 1958)
The Poetics of Space is an appealing, lyrical explorations of the concept of home from French philosopher Gaston Bachelard. Bachelard’s phenomenological approach to architecture takes us on a journey, from cellar to attic, to show how our perceptions of houses and other shelters shape our thoughts, memories, and dreams.
6. Boy, dir. Taika Waititi (2010)
Boy is a hilarious and heartfelt coming-of-age tale about heroes, magic and Michael Jackson. The movie tells the story Boy, a dreamer who loves Michael Jackson. The year is 1984, and he lives on the rural East Coast of New Zealand with his brother Rocky, a tribe of deserted cousins and his Nan. Boy’s other hero, his father Alamein, is the subject of Boy’s fantasies, and he imagines him as a deep sea diver, war hero and a close relation of Michael Jackson he can even dance like him. In reality, his father is in prison for robbery. When Alamein returns home after 7 years away, Boy is forced to confront the man he thought he remembered, find his own potential and learn to get along without the hero he had been hoping for. (Rotten Tomatoes)
7. Rear Window, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1954)
Laid up with a broken leg, photojournalist L.B. Jeffries is confined to his tiny, sweltering courtyard apartment. To pass the time between visits from his nurse and his fashion model girlfriend (Grace Kelly), the binocular-wielding Jeffries stares through the rear window of his apartment at the goings-on in the other apartments around his courtyard.
As he watches his neighbours, he assigns them such roles and character names, voyeuristically inviting himself into their lives. Out of boredom, he eventually concocts a scenario in which one neighbour has murdered his wife and disposed of her body. Trouble is, that just might be the truth.
As in most Hitchcock films, the protagonist is a seemingly ordinary man who gets himself in trouble for his secret desires. The movie explores themes of voyeurism and scopophilia, and has also been analyzed from a feminist perspective for its prevalence of the male gaze. According to film critic and historian John Belton, “Rear Window’s story is about spectacle; it explores the fascination with looking and the attraction of that which is looked at.”
A crackling suspense film, Rear Window is considered by many to be Hitchcock’s best work, if not one of the greatest films ever made.
8. Black Orpheus, dir. Marcel Camus (1959)
Winner of both the Academy Award for best foreign-language film and the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or, Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus (Orfeu negro) brings the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice to the twentieth-century madness of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. With its eye-popping photography and ravishing, epochal soundtrack, Black Orpheus was an international cultural event, and it kicked off the bossa nova craze that set hi-fis across America spinning.
Orpheus is a streetcar conductor; Eurydice has just jilted her lover and is attempting to escape his wrath. Orpheus himself falls in love with Eurydice, whereupon her ex-lover, disguised as the Angel of Death shows up and kills Eurydice. To reclaim his lost love, Orpheus enters “Hell” (the Rio morgue) and uses supernatural methods to revive the dead girl.
9. Alice Neel, dir. Andrew Neel (2007)
The life and work of Alice Neel (1900-1984), American portrait painter. Part of the film’s narration is chronological, and part consists of interviews with friends, other artists, scholars, and family members, her two sons, Richard and Hartley, and the filmmaker himself, Neel’s grandson. The film also includes footage of Neel herself later in life, painting, talking, appearing on television, and giving lectures. Throughout the movie, we see her paintings, bold, frank, and direct. After years of poverty and obscurity, fame finally came to Alice Neel when she was nearly 70. (IMDB)
10. Big Fish, dir. Tim Burton (2003)
The story of a braggart and exaggerator, Edward Bloom, and his son William, who after a long estrangement, returns home only to learn his father is dying of cancer. Desperate to know the complicated man before it’s too late, William sets out, trying to unravel fact from fiction.
The film’s theme of reconciliation between a dying father and his son had special significance for Burton, as his father had passed away in 2000 , followed by his mother in 2002, just a month before he signed on to direct Big Fish. The film was shot on location in Alabama in a series of fairy tale vignettes, evoking the tone of a Southern Gothic fantasy.(Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes)