notes on courtisane


Time and time again we are asked the same questions: what is this thing called “Courtisane”? What exactly is it that you are proposing? And every time our response falls short. Because the honest answer is that we don’t know very well either, and that, perhaps, we don’t really want to know.

Time and time again we are told that we need to define ourselves. Communication specialists have been saying for years that we ought to think of a “unique selling proposition”. Specialists of whatever kind have urged us to be clear about our “identity”. And yet we feel increasingly incapable of coming up with the right words, words that somehow feel right.

Surely, we whisper hesitantly, it must have something to do with “cinema”, as a configuration of images and sounds, an experience of seeing and listening, a surface of percepts and affects, a construction of a sensible world for us to engage with. And yes, there was a moment when we proclaimed that we were defending “cinema at the margins”. As if that in itself meant something. As if defining oneself as the other of the same, as the outside of some inside, could really make a difference.

And yes, there were moments when we foolishly fell into the trap of some kind of sectarian academism, considering films as scientific or historical objects, testimonies of all that was other or all that had come to pass, museum pieces to behold in all their rarity and sterility. It’s not that we were all that wrong, it’s just that we didn’t say what needed to be said: that what you are seeing up there, flickering on the screen, are not some dead objects. That they are very much alive, alive with sensation, affect, thought.

And that they can make us feel alive in return. Isn’t that what matters most after all? In a world where it feels as if our places have always already been decided on and our paths have been set out for us, where we are constantly dared to be different and perform our own little micro-revolutions, without ever being able to question “the way things are”, isn’t it this aliveness that can give us the energy and courage to trust in what we do not know, in this as yet unknown place of possibility for which we crave to take responsibility?

Glauber Rocha once recalled a Portugese saying: we don’t know where we are going, but we know we can’t get there this way. Perhaps that is the choice we are trying to make: to leave the safe grounds and start trusting in what we see in front of us, even – especially – when shrouded in darkness. To leave behind the categories pinpointing us to places that could be easily recognized and identified. To put our confidence in what resists us, what forces us to think anew. To realize what we have been sensing all along, that there is something else at stake. To let go, slowly, of the certainties of knowing and accepting one’s place. To get lost.

How utterly naive, you say. We don’t even disagree. In light of the all too contemporary mindset of rationalism, cynicism, and common sense realism, we prefer to be naive. It’s not that we are turning our backs to the world – that would be plain nihilism, and there’s too much of that already. We certainly do not want to turn a blind eye to the petrifying darkness surrounding us, nor revel in fantasies of colored rainbows and shiny meadows. But we do need to allow ourselves to dream, dream out loud, dream with our eyes open.

Our “proposition” is perhaps just that: to give you some things to wonder about, things that, maybe, just maybe, make you want to wander yourself. That is all we can do, the rest is up to you.

Apart, Together, or the other way around –
we get there when we do.

(Courtisane festival 2014, 2 – 6 April)