I got the chance last week, to curate a small cine-club session organized by Danielle Willems (see her essay for the Funambulist) who was kind enough to ask me so. I chose two movies that I was not necessarily associating but whose connection will have to be made in an upcoming article about what Deleuze calls the Power of the False (La puissance du Faux). Those two films were Punishment Park (1971) by Peter Watkins (see the previous articles about it) and A Walk Through H. (1978) by Peter Greenaway about which I already wrote but I would like to reiterate in order to open a new category in the archives that I will elaborate about in the coming weeks. This category concerns Maps, their subjectivity and their power. I already archived in it previous articles that are related to this topic and more will come.
I still need to research more information in order to write something about the subjectivity of maps as a mean of representation of space, but of course that is the main topic of A Walk Through H. whose narrator is so obsessed with maps that he ends up seeing them on every piece of paper that gets in his way and the film is registered in a slow process of abstractization of those maps that create new spaces rather than representing them.
The following text is what Peter Greenaway says about this film, immediately followed by thirteen of the ninety two maps painted by P.Greenaway himself that constitutes the movie. I don’t know if there has ever been an exhibition about them but I would be amazed to see one being organized :
Like most people, I suspect, I am interested in maps, cartography, plans and diagrams. The map is an extraordinary palimpsest to tell you where you have been, where you are at this present moment, and where you could be, and even in subjective tenses, where you might have been, where you could have been. It’s a total consideration in the sense of temporality as well as spatiality. I have this fascination that I often utilize for making many paintings which had maps and cartography as their basis.
The secondary title of the film is The Reincarnation of an Ornithologist. I certainly don’t have any true belief in reincarnation but found it amusing conceit and the title itself, A Walk Through H. would suggest certainly a question or a query of what H. stood for. I am sure that one will not have to travel very far before coming up with the notion that it could very well stands either for Heaven or for Hell, also in consideration that one man’s hell could be easily another man’s heaven and vice versa. So here is a presentation of a series of maps that would lead the soul, if you believe in reincarnation, from the moment of death to the nether place whether that indeed would be heaven or hell. There are maps that are particularly made for one occupation or fascination or obsession, and that has to do with ornithology or bird watching. It could be equally considered that this series of maps would be completely different if you were a baker, or if you were a miner. So that suppose, as the film suggests that every person needs a series of maps to get from this world to the next. The maps themselves are often extremely small, almost made on the back of an envelope so there is another peculiarly physical fascination with filming the manusia (?) of these maps and often they don’t necessarily represent beautiful production values but are ripped and torn and full of ambiguities. That’s part of the game because, in a sense, you have to interpret a map and its full meaning is not always available because maps are about codes. Who would imagine in another circumstance that a cross on a stick would indicate a wind pump?
In this film, armed with his ninety two maps, an ornithologist makes his journey from this life to the next.