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In Concert

By Melissa Holbrook Pierson

I am watching an arty art film about an art band—their name is an adjective denoting relationship to a country, which is definitely arty, but in actuality they’re nowhere near as self-conscious as the people who make films about them, apparently, as if what they’ve made of themselves through no one else’s agency could enter the lens outside in and transform the person looking at them into an equivalent rarity, a patently failed hope—and it’s tiring, my mind trying to find some thread of narrative to grasp, first with index finger so the others may follow until finally I’ve got enough purchase to h-a-u-l myself effortfully onto anything resembling chronology or arc or, frankly, audible dialog, but the filmmaker keeps jerking the view back to his artiness (plus the sound sucks, like it was recorded in a subway station bathroom, which is maybe a tad ironic for a movie about people who make music even if it is possibly meant as a postmodernist wave at resisting the viewer’s puerile desire for “sense,” you know, like a commentary on words’ inability to hold intrinsic meaning, but I wouldn’t really know as my Derrida days are far behind me), when suddenly YouTube, or possibly Apple TV—I never know the precise locus of these problems, speaking of deconstruction—crashes, so I am left with a dark screen on which is suddenly projected memory: the night this band performed in the courtyard of a contemporary art museum, the cool evening pierced by green lights shooting from the stage, the whole thing unmediated by anyone else’s janky vision, and then I’m flooded with yearning to be anywhere this kind of revelation can occur, which is mainly when we are together in some huge soup of humanity, individuals subsumed by multitudes.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson is the author of five books, all from W. W. Norton, and has had what might be generously considered a lot of other writing in a multitude of places.


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