Letter from Stan Brakhage to Clayton (3/11/1971)

March 11, 1971
Dear Clayton,
It is again beginning to be difficult for me to write: I want, to get
another letter off to you before my inner blizzard shuts me off entirely.
"Shakes up"/? -- as you put it — , yes!, trembling often: I am in midst
one of the root extensive transformation yet in my life: it would was
huge except that it remains personal: it happens to me: it has been
coming onto me for o long time. And what is this "It": I don’t really
know other than that its effect is as of a storm that destroys many things before it — some of them in on instant — ,’trees’ that have been growing years ’buildings' of seemingly solid architecture, much of 'earth' itself turned to ’duet’ in this. The signs of its on-coming have s-reared clearly again and again over these last two-three years: but I could never have
imagined the largesse of this change. This all sounds pompous: but that
is simply the bluff of the ’weather bureau' within me, that quality of dignified behavior which, wants, always, to screor topside and unsurprised.
First, all attempts to work further with found, in film, wars stepped about two years ago. Then almost all Sifting, in any previous sense of the term -- certainly all Montage -- was abandoned, painfully, a little at a time, over the last year-and-a-half . . . all that, in other words, which right be called the distinctly Intellectual aspect of film-making (that is, where The Intellect seeks to distinguished itself from the totality of Immediate Experience, thus from the Emotional responses to same, etc.) — the green-eye shade Editor chewing cut, etc. Finally, the paint-pots and chemicals for altering film were given sway. This was ’stripping-down’, occured as absences before s storm.: and almost every step in this direction was as if
forced upon me.
No, it all ’reads’ too NUTZ herein. How can I write it the simple way it happened end is happening? I'11 stick to what's now happening, has just happened with this Pittsburgh film.
The ball-bearing's split stopped the process machine just short of the major bulk of the 'hospital footage': the stoppage 'destroyed' a roll of
film I'd photographed from the airplane on the way back, from Pitts. and 'ruined' most of a roll I'd taken of on ©levator door, to be used as central Arch in the imagined film-to-be OF hospital. The 'ruination' of that elevator door accomplished exactly what I had wanted when photographing but had not had sufficient quantity nor quality of light to accomplish at that time: (Sally
Dixon can testify to my frustration at being unable to open the lens increasingly for repeated overexposures and to my struggles for increasingly yellow illumination): the ’ruined’ toll flickers beautifully into exJT^FHK overexposure
and has taken on a quality of brilliant yellow flaring — all beYOND expectation yet explicitly thus.
The ’destroyed' elavator-door footage air-plane footage did indeed look
destroyed or first right, appeared as clear leader: but, or. closer inspection,
I noted fire linos and curves of image form left ephemerally within the white; and I scratched the title "Angels"’, then lifted some of it, then struggled with it, added two blinks (short black leader spaces), lifted finally two-thirds of it, signed it, and submitted it yesterday to the lab. as a completed film.
I similarly tackled some footage of Ken Jacobs and family, photographed
in a Syracuse airport, which had been 'ruined' by the lab. five months ago, and emerged with a three minute film titled "Fox Fire Child Watch", which went into the lab. yesterday.
Words just don't describe even the differences of my behavior these days.
I have often before used lab. 'failures' in my work (and have even created tech. failures in processing): but this is somehow different; and I cannot
seen to verbalize that difference. It has something more to do with Acceptance. Yet that word, would seem to imply I'm moving in the direction of 'found object art' and/or 'chance operations'. I am not ! I am oddly further than ever removed from those aesthetic lures -- my nails rooting themselves rather than resisting nulls in one or another direction. I have previously made films without ONE splice in them: these two new works sound edited by comparison:
but they are not!: they ere Accepted — it is the best word I can. find to
approximate the quality of the working with them ... yes I, with them. Yet,
1 have always taken my instructions from the film strips: what's the differ-
ence. I cannot say. It is perhaps too early yet.
It has always been the case that the least edited films were the hardest to make: labor, after all (that labor of making dozens of splices per foot
of film), is easy. Acceptance is hard, HARD, GOD! what a struggle: although
TOTAL Acceptance is of course so easy that it is as a Being-Nothing-There: (maybe that absolutely total Acceptance is HARD, again: but we do see men make
Systems and totally accept them every day; and we do know that as the undoing of every possible growth on earth): the quality of my Acceptance is as diffi-
cult as I can make it without losing acceptability altogether.
I distrust Magic, will NOT lean on Religio-cane/crutch whatsoever, nor any System other: but I will ACCEPT the occurences as magically and mysteriously
as they come and work with then from now on. I write this as if it were a decision on my part — oh! The Ego ... ECU it pushes for ’the driver's seat-- : but the truth is that these changes are (NOT forced)/(but) gifts to me.
The open heart surgery footage remained loot in The U. S. Mails. As day after day passed, I began to search for some magical purpose to thin loss. And I began to feel that come of that footage needed to be force-processed (to make it lighter) in the lab. I remembered the amount of it as five rolls; and I called Western Cine four times, each time changing the force-process instructions for each of those rolls, as numbered 15 thru 19. The fifth day the rolls arrived and were force-process 'accidentally' somewhat differently than ANY of my sets of instructions; and they are perfectly marvelous (and obviously having needed force-processing) as received by roe yesterday afternoon. It is a dance! I cannot see the dancing partner (anymore than you can see unprocessed film to, for instance, KNOW how much 'forcing' it might or might-not need). I know the dancing partner is substantial; but I do not care to L.'u upon that sub-stance anymore than one would use one's lover as a crutch: such spoils
The Dance. I do not dare to trust the dancing partner, more than The Dance itself makes clear as possible, because such trust is, in fact, lean-to itself, all lien, etc., as I've experienced it as debt/black-magic. I cannot even trust The Dance if I would keep it free of Sytem so that it can grow and multiply in the varieties of It's life.
The hospital film will be called "Deus Ex"
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