Walker and Walker
Walker and Walker
Unfilmed Mountain: Walker and Walker's Mount Analogue Revisited

Fergus Daly

The Logic of Sense Deleuze wrote that thought has a geography: "It appears that thought itself presupposes axes and orientations according to which it develops, that it has a geography before having a history, and that it traces dimensions before constructing systems." Deleuze goes on to describe the dominant image of the philosopher, head in the clouds, ever ascending in search of purity, truth and high principles, the movement of thought being one of ascension up out of the earth and into the world of the intelligible. Plato is the model here, and radical philosophers in the millennia since have tried to give thought a different orientation (or dis-orientation) than that of height. Artists too have inhabited this problem-space, seeking out ever-new ways to think in space and time, trying to orient their activity. John Rajchman has discussed the post-war move in sculpture away from the 'figure-on-a-pedestal' model as a response to the need to invent new ways of 'having an idea in sculpture', in other words, to figure out how to think materials, space and time as a mode of orientation, both conceptually and practically.

Far from turning their backs on the Romantic concerns of their previous film
Nightfall, Walker and Walker probe further into its nebulous universe and its problematisation of subjectivity (a major theme of Mount Analogue, the source novel by René Daumal): if the earlier film explored the post-Kantian sense of time as internal form of intuition "the internal space peopled by ourselves alone" (as the voice-off put it), Mount Analogue Revisited undoes the Kantian space of intuition (that which determines all possible external perception).

As Deleuze taught, great artists are also thinkers, thinking in terms of percepts and affects just as philosophers think in concepts: just as when painting Walker and Walker think in terms of lines and colors, and as sculptors they think in terms of materials in space and time, so it is that as filmmakers they think in audiovisual images; or rather, they think film sculpturally — not just visual images but voice and language too become materials to carve out in the pre-categorical spaces of artistic ideas.
Mount Analogue Revisited links up with the artists' earlier works such as Unpainted Mountain and The Wanderer where the distinction between real space and virtual space played out as an analogy between the free-standing sculpture in the gallery and its deterritorialisation; injecting the figures with a certain lightness, the artists sent them floating in space, playfully un-grounded. Mount Analogue Revisited continues this de-territorialization of conventional art forms and practices.

Walker and Walker have selected a key scene from Daumal’s novel and built around it a series of conversations exploring different modes of rationality and their claims on truth and belief. They have distilled the narrative down to a single sequence and a sole confined setting: the episode following their arrival on the island where the travelers are quizzed about their identities, beliefs and intentions by a 'man in mountain dress'. Continually prompted by the official, Scheherezade-like they narrate as if to save their lives, each prisoner seeking in turn to define the others identity.

Walker and Walker ask: what would it mean today to question the assumption that human thought and imagination is always striving upwards, acquiring knowledge, reaching out for truth as it ascends these mountains of the mind, liberated from the man-made limits of reason? Furthermore, what would it mean to ask this question filmically, in a film ostensibly in the form of a Platonic dialogue? One immediately thinks of Rossellini's
Socrates or Plato's Symposium filmed by Marco Ferreri as The Banquet. But the mise-en-scène here is of another order, closer to the works of Straub and Huillet and their Minimalist visual aesthetic. Like Straub and Huillet Walker and Walker tear from texts the speech-acts that de-territorialize them and enable them to flourish 'inside the time of speaking' as Gary Hill puts it, to burrow through to the Anti-Logos hidden within the Logos itself.

The film considers what it is to have an idea in art, one involving speech and a mistrust of the self-evidence of the visual, to probe with words, with the mise-en-scène of speech, to fabulate a theatre of speech, searching for new spatial co-ordinates, a new image of thought and, inversely, to search for new forms of filmic speech using these new spatial co-ordinates? It asks questions about the place of Speech within contemporary art, and if there is any link to the work of Gerard Byrne then it is to be found in this particular problem-space wherein theatrical and literary texts are less plundered as archive materials than deterritorialized, used to initiate a new dynamic between voice and image. As
Mount Analogue Revisited progresses it constructs a zone that is increasingly indeterminate and wherein spatial construction happens before the spectator’s eyes, giving rise to dialogue that oversteps the limits of dramatic interchange. By restricting the setting to a single room, with nothing to anchor bodies but a desk and a single window, the filmmakers are free to empty the space of the co-ordinates that moor the dominant image of thought — a surface freed from the dominance of height and depth becomes shifting and paradoxically layered, the multiplication of interleaved planes constructing a single multi-layered plane of immanence.
The ever increasing flattening of the image through the use of lenses and the blurring of large areas of the frame that ensues removes the figures from any determinable orientation in space.

The space of each shot becomes disconnected from every other, there is no general space to which each close-up shot refers, until finally, when the official turns to move in the space, it's a repeat of the first shot of the film (preceding the second shot in which he was established in the room with his interlocutors), except that now he has literally
no-place to go to. Lost is any sense of a meaningful inter-subjective space. Absence of social utopia brings an uprooting of community wherein each person becomes a ghost for the other.

In this instance, it finally dawns on Sogol, the traveller whose name is what's known as a semordnilap, a special type of anagram of the word Logos, that things are out of the individual's control because our motivating forces operate on a micro-level, under our perceptive radar. When
Mount Analogue Revisited ends, the space of the film has reverted to the abstract “pre-hodological” (and non-euclidean) space of pure potentiality — bringing the mountain down to earth in an aesthetics of immanence wherein the impossible and the transcendental are attainable only immanently, in the realm of art. The future will come but ill-seen, ill-said.