“I CANNOT REPEAT A SINGLE MOMENT OF MY LIFE”: EVAN ISOLINE’S PHILOSOPHY OF THE SKY

The cinema is a metonym for reality.

Cinema (n). from French cinéma, shortened from cinématographe. Kinema – movement. Cinéma – the latinized form of this. Then combined with the suffix “graphe,” to write. The reality is this: the cinema does not record movement, it writes it. So, as the cinema ‘stands in’ for the real metonymically, this paradoxically means that cinema, by its very nature, must be unreal. If ‘the cinematic’ is only a metonym for reality, then it is impossible for ‘the cinematic’ to be real at all.

Evan Isoline’s debut book Philosophy of the Sky proceeds from here, from this base understanding that the visual is inherently about the binarization of real and not-real, here and not-here, seen and not-seen; never mind that Philosophy of the Sky is a ‘book,’ it is a film in which none of the images are readily presented to us. “The camera is rolling. / It’s only me and the image I control,” Isoline writes, and, crucially, “I don’t know why there aren’t any words,” understandably a crucial statement in a book, typically an object understood through the fact that the underlying architecture is the sequential ordering of letters and then words. So, if we take Isoline’s book at face value – for what its first page presents to us – we must accept that we are responding to images rather than words (sign-signifier-referent) and proceed from this fundamental point.

“Therefore, I call the sky a ‘theory.’” Never mind; the panoramic image view is just an idea and even images are, apparently, constantly replaced. So, note this as the overall effect of the book, then: Isoline’s text engineers itself so as to reduce imagery to an idea, so that imagery itself quite literally moves from the visual to the written. Kinema-graphie, indeed. 

As readers we become complicit in the foundational act of transforming the written act into an act of movement; this is something we take part in by turning the page. In Part Four of Philosophy of the Sky, “Chymical Welding,” Isoline parodies the academicism of typical poetical texts. Where line and stanza numbers often run down the side of the page, this book replaces ‘logical’ or ‘sequential’ counting with layers of text and sometimes numbers placed parallel to each other, so that ‘order’ is reduced to a mere illusion. The job of the reader is to take part in the ordering process, and the structure of the book inevitably coalesces into something kinematic in this regard. The reader’s eyes must actually materially move in order to ‘take the book in’ and construct a method of movement throughout the images presented to the reader in a chymical welding of disparate ideas and textual suggestions together. The text refers to a Great Architect behind the sky; if anything, then the sky becomes an object that carries the implication of a metanarrative inside it.

The collapse of a grand metanarrative allows for the construction of new metanarratives, each jostling for control somewhere in the liminal realm between real (observed) and not-real (documented). The real: “the sun has set…and the stars seem very close to falling.” The not-real: “It’s always twilight. The lamps of pain are bright in my garden eyes.”

Let us here take on Andre Bazin, that brilliant, ineffable man, let us take on Andre Bazin on the verisimilitude of the not-real. “The representation on screen of a bull being put to death…is in principle as moving as the spectacle of the real instant it reproduces. In a certain sense, it is even more moving because it magnifies the quality of the original moment through the contrast of its repetition.” There is no bull put to death in Isoline’s book, but there is an ineffable sky and something else ineffable behind it that places a certain logical order upon the sky. It is primarily a book without any incident that could possibly be magnified by the spectacle of repetition through movement, and yet as the text goes on a few things emerge: this has something to do with death and reproduction, something to do with the ordering systems inherent in (and a result of) the wider universe around us, this has something to do with masks and images that reproduce the real, and something to do with an onward trajectory toward what the real is. 

All of which is saying not very much at all, but offers some idea of the book’s conceptual project. 

What I propose Isoline accomplishes in Philosophy of the Sky is something of a new realism. Not a mimetic realism, nor a subjective realism, but a metonymic realism, where “the real” stands in for the real, where “I” stands in for “I” stands in for “eye” stands in for I which in turn stands in for I and eye. The metonymy of Philosophy of the Sky is such that “the real” and the real become the same thing, there is no longer any such thing as a sign-signifier-referent distinction. All disintegrates in favour of the new. A movement away from the subjectivity-focal literary-industrial complex, and a movement toward a new object-focal literary-theoretical realism.

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