Blogger, Professor, Artist, Critic, Fan–237–Fan, Critic, Artist, Professor, Redrum
September 29, 2013
No way out, I’m afraid. Blog my thoughts about, Room 237, the obsessive, fun, cringe-inducing (at least for cineastes like me), self-reflexive film about films and their critics (fans? bloggers?) and thereby I’m caught in the very same maze too (and caught there with you, dear reader, writer, blogger, critic, professor?)
So much synchronicity you might say (as would all of the intrepid interviewees in Room 237) given that I was just this very morning talking to my daughter (while I was streaming the film … hmmm), who’s so fired up by her High School English class and English teacher. Although they’re stuck on sonnets, it’s no matter the form, she explains, if your teacher opens you up to formalism. “Did you learn that in college, too, Mommy?” Learn it in college! I teach it to this day: that the formal choices and structures of the artist are there to be read, and interpreted, and thought about and discussed, and even written about by an artist’s devoted, lively readers! “Sure it’s fun to read for plot,” I said to her, “but when your thought processes also get to work through, chew on, revel in the clever devices and lush symbols that hold that story itself, the pleasures multiply.” She agreed. What’s cool about my job, I then explained, is that I get paid to do that: read myself, live myself, be myself, in relation to great works by amazing artists that speak to me (that I speak to). Then I read what others say about that great artist. And even better yet, “I go to a classroom and speak about all this with smart kids, just a little older than you.” (You are getting the symbolism? mother/daughter … almost like twins, or palimsests … like in The Shining, or Room 237 where we actually get to watch what happens when you layer The Shining forward and backward upon itself as a visual reckoning of its conjectured formal mirrorings, repeatings, forward-and-backwarding motifs).
My dear friends, P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes are Executive Producers of Room 237 (Rodney Ascher), and also play their own twinned parts in this tight, intense project that opens creepy, wonderful doors that should allow not just for ruminations on Kubrick—his intentions, his genius, his symbols—but for all of us (writing about movies on the Internet) to reflect upon our own creepy, wonderful critical projects about others’ art, thereby begging the same scary kinds of mirroring questions grappled with in and through Room 237, questions about when something good becomes its evil reverse: artist/critic, fan/art work, mother/house, obsessive-compulsive/close-reader, father/horror, conspiracy theorist/professor, lover/killer. 237‘s team, who themselves lovingly find and know every film reference (and more!) to perfectly illustrate their obsessed subjects’ visions of Kubrick are only different, I suppose, because, well, they made their own successful movie about and from it.
At the DML Open Learning Conference yesterday (synchronicity? conspiracy? fun-house mirror? you tell me!), I was talking with a gaggle of Internet scholars about how to transform the seas of fan culture online (be it remixing, shipping, fanfic) into that very same doorway—the gateway drug to blogging, art-making, criticism, professordum, and yes, sometimes redrum. Is there a difference in kind between my musings about a film or filmmaker (here, or in a book, or a classroom) and that of my daughter and her friends about Homestuck or Supernatural? Or is this only marked by degrees, pedigree, audience, form, format or training? And what are the conditions that reign some of us back: keeping us from devolving into conspiracy theorists or stalkers, our obsession producing an inward maze where at the end all we see are our own creepy visions?
One of the film’s interviewees marks how Kubrick always gives some of his characters the skills to backtrack out of the ever-tightening loop; how he marks special doors that allow for escape out of his tightly-made forms (and the very “formalism” that draws us all into that shared reader/writer, child/maze project that is so deeply compelling). I, too, think that ultimately our forms (that we look at or speak through) are of less importance than are these exits (and to theorize, make, and practice exiting is perhaps even harder than to write the paths deep into the maze). The exit project maps the ways out to spaces for community, builds pathways to conversation and growing understanding, and takes time for these interactions (in class, online, via art) leading to the making of new forms of creativity that allow for other steps forward (while always looking back, to history, to art work, to each other), so as to together understand that the original form must be linked to and left by ourselves as sametime critics and producers of a culture that can sustain us.