11.12.09

Viriconium Knights

A young man enters into the service of an oppressive authoritarian queen, and (inevitably) is betrayed into the hands of her enemies. During his flight from the city, he is confronted with visions of alternate selves, other choices, better worlds he could have made. He cannot stand it. In his despair and rage, he resorts to his old grasping ways, but is wounded almost unto death. Wandering, hunted, haunted, he comes across the body of a dead knight, a relic that reminds him of what could have been. He inherits the fallen's mantle and sword, and continues. In the distance, the city he saw in his visions rises before him. His brutal life is transformed and his dreams become reality. And engaging with art (and history?) is the catalyst for this process.

Or at least, that's what I got from the story. M. John Harrison's imaginings are rich and evocative, and you can engage with them in many ways. I was reminded of something Guillermo del Toro said in his commentary for Pan's Labyrinth: that the genius of symbols is their ambiguity -- how they suggest a spectrum of meanings where the individual picks out the ones particularly pertinent for them. A symbol that only has one meaning is a cypher, inert and powerless, intriguing only for those who like crossword puzzles.

I've realised that my approach to art is kinda like that. It's a historian's approach, where your material is a source and your task is to unravel what went on in the brain of the person who created it. I've been looking for objectivity in a place where the goal is the opposite. I've slowly been realizing, as I've been writing this blog, that the ideas I've ascribed to creators are probably better understood as my own ideas. Or at least, ideas that float somewhere between the creator and me. When I'm reading (or watching, or listening), I've been engaging in a dialogue with persons unknown, through the shifting, ambiguous, materials they have left behind.

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