viernes, 23 de enero de 2009

The Spirit of Place, por Peter Lynch

Un texto de Peter Lynch (en inglés...) sobre sus obsesiones arqueológico-cinematográficas. Publicado originalmente en "Montage", la revista del Director’s Guild of Canada. La foto es de "A Whale of a Tale".

To really understand the essence of Toronto, one has to know that this city is built on a series of gnarled wooded ravines, sprawling rivers, creeks and underground streams. The Tiber River inspired Pasolini and the Hudson River inspired Scorsese. Most great cities were built on rivers: Cairo on the Nile, Paris on the Seine and London on the Thames. The river that I, as a filmmaker, have found as a constant source of inspiration is the muddy brown Don that snakes through Toronto, carved out millions of years ago in the Pleistocene epoch by giant glaciers. 

The Indian name for the Don River is Nechena Qua Kekonk. It was first recorded on the white man's maps in 1688 by Father Pierre Raffeix, a Jesuit priest. At the time, the mouth of the Don was heavily populated by the Mississauga Indians. Back then, the Don was a dense hardwood forest and the river was teeming with trout and salmon. In the '60s, when I was growing up in an apartment complex on the edge of the Don called Thorncliffe Park, there were mostly suckers and the odd carp. It was so polluted that when Queen Elizabeth II was here on a visit, the city had the river specially perfumed to hide its putrid smell. Looking back on it now, it's hard to believe that I used to swim in it as a boy. 

When I was four years old I found an arrowhead in the area – well, actually I found out later it was an archaic point, specifically a Brewerton eared notched point, Onoadaja Chert, 2980-1723 years BC. It was probably left by hunters travelling up the Don. The discovery of this artifact was a defining moment in my life. It set my consciousness in motion. It not only connected me to a larger historical continuum but more importantly to my own sense of history as an artist. It became a beacon, helping me to create my own mythology. I could imagine mastodons crashing through my valley wilderness.

The creative spiritual location I place myself in comes from the memories of my childhood, carried by the Don River. It's where I made my first film, "Arrowhead". The spirit of the Don Valley remains the emotional source of my impulses as an artist.

I was told by an archaeologist that an artifact only has true archaeological significance if you know where you found it. I have introduced the artifact, now it's time to talk about the archetype. It's not on a map.

 This is the land of Lilliput and Huckleberry Finn. There are no maps. The days were spent drifting down the Don on rafts we built out of fallen logs. It is the world we see in Kubrick's brilliant transition in "2001: A Space Odyssey" when the ape hits the ground in front of the monolith, then throws the bone into the air and it cuts to a space ship. 

In my film "Arrowhead", I tried to cover the pop culture of the sixties and prehistory in thirty minutes. I remember running through the wild kingdom of the Don, listening to my transistor radio with Credence Clearwater Revival's “Run Through the Jungle” playing full blast. I acted out all the civilizing and primitive rituals that mirror history there. My friends and I would bury treasure, build dams, dig tunnels, and steal wood and building materials from the high-rise projects shooting up all around us. We used to make our own sculptures out of rocks or horse bones dug up from the old farms that used to dot the valley, creating our own spiral jetties. We were Jacques Cousteau and Darwin on the Beagle, catching frogs, turtles, and salamanders for our own collections and personal study. We were the Beatles, screaming our lungs out, listening to the echoes off the forest trees. The valley was a place where you could test boundaries, escape from the rigid confines of high-rise living. It was man vs. nature. This sense of creative delinquency informs all my films whether chasing grizzlies in the Rockies or reindeer in the Arctic. This sense of delirium and play is something I look for in all my projects. I'm interested in going farther, beyond official cultural boundaries, mapping change through vision and imagination. In "Cyberman" I felt at home with my cyborg's alternative universe which he shows to us by shooting back at surveillance cameras, trying to tame the monster with a piece of itself. My stories explore the line between fact and fiction – the real and imagined – and question how landscape is catalogued. 

In "Project Grizzly", we go to the Rockies with Troy to meet a real grizzly bear but we discover that the more interesting beast is the grizzly of his imagination. I believe my impulse to make Troy's world visible – to use the spirit of land to parallel the state of his mind – goes back to my days of climbing trees to get away from the 'Sheriff of Nottingham'. 

I am presently working on a dramatic film called "The Floating World" and a great deal of it takes place in the Don Valley. It's a story where an urbane architect ends up living in the valley, building a structure much the way Robinson Crusoe did. Artists like Gauguin practiced the art of the antisocial. He attempted to return to a savage state in order to escape the straitjacket of a conformist society. Ray Bud acted out the same way in "Arrowhead"; so did Troy in "Project Grizzly", Andrew Bahr in "The Herd" and cyborg Steve Mann in "Cyberman". 

Today the swamp where I used to chase frogs is just a ditch but I remember the days when it was the ocean and the Don River was the Nile. The last time the skies of the Valley were reported full of carrier pigeon was 1876. It was around the same time that the salmon disappeared from the river. The Don Valley tells a story of existence and extinction as I try to connect place and memory. In 1961, a four-year-old found an arrowhead and imagined a time when mastodons walked the earth. In 2001, there are a few salmon attempting to spawn in the river, trying to find a new story.