Thursday, 28 August 2008

'Saudade' - Leaving the Past and Present

'We all experience within us what the Portuguese call Saudade, which translates as an inexplicable longing, an unnamed and enigmatic yearning of the soul and it is this feeling that lives in the realms of the imagination and inspiration and is the breeding ground for the sad song, for the Love Song. The Love Song is the light of God, deep down, blasting up through our wounds'.

The Secret Life of the Love Song - The Flesh Made Word
Two Lectures by Nick Cave

King Mob 91 Brick Lane, London, E1 601. 1999. Key Production, London

'Saudade has no English translation; its translation is dependent on context. It originates from the Latin word, solitatem (lonelinesss, solitude) but developed a different meaning ... Few other languages in the world have a word with such meaning, making saudade a distinct mark of Portuguese culture. It has been said that this, more than anything else, represents what it is to be Portuguese.'

In his book In Portugal of 1912, A.F.G Bell writes:

“ The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.”

'Saudade is different from nostalgia (the English word, that is). In nostalgia, one has a mixed happy and sad feeling, a memory of happiness but a sadness for its impossible return and sole existence in the past. Saudade is like nostalgia but with the hope that what is being longed for might return, even if that return is unlikely or so distant in the future to be almost of no consequence to the present. One might make a strong analogy with nostalgia as a feeling one has for a loved one who has died and saudade as a feeling one has for a loved one who has disappeared or is simply currently absent. Nostalgia is located in the past and is somewhat conformist while saudade is very present, anguishing, anxious and extends into the future.

What sets saudade apart is that it can be directed to anything that is personal and moving.'

The Good Son, a 1990 album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was heavily informed by Cave's mental state at the time, which he has described as saudade. He told journalist Chris Bohn that "when I explained to someone that what I wanted to write about was the memory of things that I thought were lost for me, I was told that the Portuguese word for this feeling was "saudade". It's not nostalgia but something sadder."

One of the best descriptions of the word saudade was made by Chico Buarque de Hollanda in his song "Pedaço de mim," when he says. "saudade é arrumar o quarto do filho que já morreu." which roughly translates to; "saudade is to tidy the bedroom of a son who has already died."

Saudade is a term ideal, in a sense, to use in my efforts to convey the ineffable nature of the sentiment I am endeavouring to introduce into the phenomenon of 'Leaving' engagements and meetings with people. Saudade is impartial. It is tailored to the parting of lovers, family, friends and strangers - strangers who, once met may no longer be foreign or 'other'. Two weeks ago, I wrote on my Gargoyle notecard dispenser at my Station build in Second Life, the words, 'The Duende for me, speaks of 'Le petit mort' - the little death which resides in many a parting. The demise of connection - the fear of recognition and intimacy failing to outlast time and distance'.

Saudade like the Duende, is also redolent with the fear of loss and that same demise of connection which lies in the act of leaving.

The images in this post reflect that indistinctness of recall which contributes to a sense of longing descending like a mist, not only after a parting, as absence as a reality grows in strength, but also as a presage of impending loss - the inevitability and resignation to the event of parting itself. I will be moving these image-screens around the Station and exploring a range of configurations designed to conceal/reveal figures in this limbo state and its associated feelings - manifesting impending absence and loss of presence. I will also film Rollo and others dancing/moving through these screens as a vehicle to investigate these expressions possibly creating an alignment with 'leaving' as the moving figures fall in and out of clarity.


catkins_in_nz said...

Hi Mike - thought you would like to know that I have blogged about your 'build' on and also that CiderJack commented on it and suggested you might find this video interesting if you havent seen it! Check it out!

nomads.hat said...

Hi catkins, Great to hear from you. Thanks for the heads up and for the great reference on your own blog!

Yes, I have looked into Flashmobs and some really interesting work is being done with large numbers of people in a variety of contexts. This one is NY Central Station is very successful, I think. This kind of work is really at the other end of the seasaw I am occupying in terms of being very overt, visually arresting and dynamic in vision and execution. The point though is not dissimilar: bringing to our attention, an incongruous event or action which is compelling and enigmatic in the middle of what may have been a busy, but predictable urban day. The commitment and coordination of the crowds is impressive! Thanks!