A cinema, either purpose built or improvised, doesn’t necessarily seem like the most conducive space for conversation. But, I like to consider the spaces that buffer the moving images in their discursive potential. The shared experience of watching transcends all the other things an audience does not have in common, and the many different backgrounds represented within any one group can furnish as many divergent readings of whatever is projected. The social aspect holds within it the potential for productive dialogue.
As The Permanent Longing for Elsewhere approaches, I am mulling over different possible architectures of the space and the event because I want to encourage the audience to stay on after the screening and contemplate the many questions the films raise without answer. There are the simple gestures of contextualizing the program through writing and welcoming introduction. There are concluding remarks and the invitation to pose questions to me as the curator. This quote of Noam Chomsky’s keeps coming to mind: “The responsibility of a writer as a moral agent is to try to bring the truth about matters of human significance to an audience that can do something about them.” Dialogue brings the ideas of the films into correspondence with the viewers’ experiences, so another maneuver is to pose questions to the audience. There are many things that I haven’t figured out, and collaborative analysis will surely offer new ways of understanding the questions the program poses. I wonder if it would be more fruitful to share my questions for the audience before the screening (verbally, or perhaps as part of the program notes), or to pose them afterward?
However, the diverse and unpredictable backgrounds of any audience means it is easy to get caught up in debate about the basic tenets of an idea. Often, there is no conclusive argument to be made and the decision to see things one way or another is simply a matter of taste. How can conversations progress beyond these fundamental disagreements to contemplating the effects of such belief systems? Could laying out a set of propositions to be taken for granted work to reign in conversation, or would this be stifling and dictatorial?