May 2014



Animal Shelter, Issue Three, Fall 2013 edited by Hedi El Kholti

Focused on exotic yet somewhat forgotten mental or physical spaces, the third issue of Animal Shelter mixes archival documents in a rather piercing attempt to trace down the potential causes for our so-called present malaise. It's an issue that seems to unravel at a relatively slow pace featuring diverse pieces of fiction, poetry, drawings, photos and paintings, philosophy and interviews, all tied together by an acute sense of intimacy. It's that particular kind of intimacy that can easily be triggered in any reader who is exposed to materials covering the nudity of the human being, be it the corporeal one or the one that painfully displays one's bare thoughts, behaviors or genuine perceptions on important matters -- a symbolical skinning of the human being that involves the merciless casting of the conventional coats, illustrated in this excerpt from Tony Duvert's "The Skinner":

When a woman gave birth to her thirteenth child, it was customary that a great feast be held to celebrate the happy occasion. For this, another of her children would be sacrificed, serving as the banquet's main course. However, it was necessary that the roast not yet be seven years old; if more than one kid qualified, the plumpest would be chosen; if none did, a neighbor's child filled the role.

Pointing in the direction of Jean Eustache, a French filmmaker mostly known for his highly regarded post-Nouvelle Vague features including The Mother and The Whore, two pieces from this issue of Animal Shelter, namely a conversation with Eustache and a personal recollection, try to map out some pretty invisible routes for a filmmaking process that was largely assumed to be autobiographical. And in the case of this independent and unfamiliar cinema-maker, distinctions come across as even harder to grasp blurred as they are by Eustache's endeavors to explore and push even further the boundaries between reality and film, between sheer fiction and scrupulous documentary:

I don't at all believe that films can solve our (or my) problems, actually they make the problems last a little bit longer! Making movies is like someone who's dying of hunger and who has a little to eat from time to time. All it does is help him exist a little longer, it keeps his condition going a bit longer. [...] I don't like films which make the spectator participate in the action -- for example, when there is a situation in the film where the audience laughs at the cost of the character -- because the audience knows more things about the situation in the film than the character does. [...] What makes a film "commercial" is when the audience "ends the film" -- that gives them a big satisfaction.

Dalia Rosetti's piece, "Tattooed Forever," is about experiencing a jail tattoo and the story that comes with it, a story that literally sticks to one's skin, written with an ink that will only fade away without really disappearing for good. It's the kind of memory that will stay with you regardless and even in spite of skin's aging process, mingled with the twisted intimacy you've felt with the tattoo artist. And when the tattoo's price is a secret sexual favor also coupled with a tattoo service in return, well, that sounds like the perfect spine for a story that has to be told, again and again: "Tattoo artists didn't think much of my tattoo. They told me that the lines weren't very precise and that bothered me a bit because 'Tattoo Artist' didn't have sophisticated tools and what she drew on my chest in just ten minutes was something special. And also from wherever you look at it the tattoo seems to be in the right place. I see it the right way and so does everyone else."

Redefining the very notion of responsible tourism in Africa and darting at the loopholes of the superficial guidelines on becoming the perfectly responsible tourist in any country you visit, Grace Ndiritu dismisses the superficial recommendations on learning basic words in the local language just to make pointless conversations with the people there, but never giving money to local beggars and also on never leaving plastic items behind you. She argues about the predominant tendencies to promote and even exoticize a particular image of Africa thus conveying an extremely subjective perspective on this continent, a perspective that is tailored also by photographers who seem to be more interested in photographing just the things they want to capture on film and ignore the rest of the context and its nuances, nuances that otherwise can easily be edited or deleted in a simple photomontage: "Needing to watch 'traditional' tribal dancing means that one might actually miss the real authentic moment of a ten year old boy playing with his tin car wearing an old pair of Ray Bans."

Also featuring pieces on Pierre Guyotat, Pier Paolo Passolini, and Otto Muehl, Animal Shelter sticks to its fleeting structure that seems to work as a delicate trademark, touching issues such as class inequalities, mainstream marriage-equality discourse, slavery, sexuality as a modern performance reenacted on a daily basis, the totalitarian potential of the modern couple formula, communal dreams that may turn out to be not so ideal in the end, and the endless possibilities generated by imposed obscurity. Pretty much the ideal art, sex, and literature combination to have on your bed table but not if you are already an insomniac as it can easily "revitalize" your sleep deprivation by providing it with the perfect excuse to stay awake. And the following excerpt can easily work as a delicious bittersweet teaser:

The idea of depriving yourself of what one loves, of what one can take pleasure from, in order to make something even stronger, to make use of this contained jouissance in order to make something yet more powerful has, alas, almost disappeared. The idea, also, that one is this, and that, and that, is also impossible to assimilate today. Making people believe that if they think one thing they cannot think another is a form of violence.

Animal Shelter, Issue Three, Fall 2013 edited by Hedi El Kholti
ISBN: 978-1584351320
196 pages