Sunday, July 5, 2009

philomena, phenomenophile

Although I had the pleasure of reading almost all of Rei Terada's recent book, Looking Away, before it was published, I must have forgotten most of what I read. Like the flat cow that Philomena had in her crib, as Rei noted, we get to know things, in order to forget, in order to remember, to be reminded of an elusive familiarity. That's the point. So maybe all along, I've known that Philomena is a phenomenophile, and it's just taken a while to put a name to the face. If the woman at the Hollywood farmer's market, who so rudely told me that Philomena's name did not suit her, was just asking a hypothetical question, it's too bad; I thought she really wanted to know how babies think. Like little Isabella's mom, who I met today outside of the Downbeat Cafe, put it, "I try to look at her at least once a day." It's an expression, I think, of trying to see change, to see (if not to remember) its gradations. I tried to tell the woman at the Hollywood farmer's market that I thought babies thought by perceiving contrasts, between light and dark for example, because I have noticed how Philomena becomes fixated by various forms of light--shadows on the wall, or the glow of sun from being a curtain, a certain shine to the ceiling where deflected light is hitting. Or because it seemed like she tried to focus, in her early days, on the contours of things, trying to discern an edge, a line, a frame. Now she can see the cat, but we're still talking about tracking movements, as a form of recognition.
picture: Bellman Bar, Berlin