Artist Emily Jain Wilson is one of our three art-and-conversation hosts for SLOW ART DAY, April 27.
In his anecdote “That Bowling Alley on the Tiber” from the collection of the same name, Michelangelo Antonioni reveals, “When I don’t know what to do, I start looking at things.” Master of the long, slow gaze, Antonioni made spaces for what film theorist Daniel Frampton, in his book Filmosophy, calls “image-thinking.” Giving a viewer time to consider, most of Antonioni’s oblique movies date from the ’60s and ’70s, a too-brief opening in history when it seemed possible for art to disrupt political and cultural paradigms.
Last year, when I heard Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point was about to show on a big screen, a cinema-savvy acquaintance said, “Go. It will reflect your resistance to the rational.” I fled to the theater and surrendered not by identifying with the film’s story (its words) but with the projection of its look: Daria’s unself-conscious, confident stare thoroughly destroys one of capital’s signatures, an expensive home perched high above the land.
As her brainstorm pans into a sublime, shaky Disneyland of debris, it falls into Pink Floyd’s “Come In, Number 51, Your Time Is Up” — a reformation of their notorious “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” — and grooves to a reverie of destruction, which includes pretty much everything you’d still find in today’s well-dressed residence with the exception of the flailing books (today they’d be computers and smart phones). When satisfied with her rampage, Daria smiles and looks away, thereby switching off the soundtrack’s scream.
To experience Zabriskie Point is to succumb to the lingo of the shadow, a recollection of our co-opted future. Art’s power is the freedom to disrupt and warn. Look deeply; look long. If what you’re viewing doesn’t make sense, look again.