“Field Report”: Harmony Korine at Swiss Institute

The show was of collaborative paintings between Rita Ackerman and Harmony Korine, base on his most recent film Trash Humpers. The movie is about a gang of misfits that roam around Nashville humping trash.

The story doesn’t really go further than that, but like many of HK’s movies, the story just seems to be the backdrop to a much more interesting and exciting experimentation of creation and style. The camera is always felt as a ludic instrument, as toy that is being used without the instruction manual, same with the format. Cinema is felt as a playground in which that play can be experienced with the power that can do it justice. Even if we see destruction, monstrosity, and decay, it is lived as something beautiful, as something that society has cast away but that has not been able to deprive of its pride. To me its one big ode to the question of “how one might one live”, that has been recurrent in our class. But that is just my romantic intake on it. Harmony calls Trash Humpers a slapstick comedy in the fashion of the three stooges. I went to the lecture with him and the artist Dan Brown where they discussed just that.

There were a lot of gags and the typical buffoonizations in respond to all the hype and attention that the space implied, but they were still very interested in discussing  comedic greats like Jerry Lewis and Billy Wilder. The distinction with stuff like that and Trash Humpers was more than obvious, making evident that the statement of “comedy” in his work seemed more of a promotional shtick than anything. Harmony would reply that comedy is like “getting off”, that we are accustomed by society of only of standardized ways of being stimulated, but not one person gets excited in the same way as another, just like not everybody finds funny the same things. From this idea I asked him weather his intention was to “put stuff out there” that would please a different type of sensibility, just like there are million types of porn, there should be million types of comedy, from the most banal to the most obscure. Immediately he answered that it could not be reduced to that, that his process was more of feeling, he would have an intuition of what could be interesting and as the shooting process went along he would follow certain levels of inclinations towards something that would make his discard some initial ideas and embrace new ones. This reminded me of the discussions we had in class of how contemporary artist never wanted to answer the question of “what does it mean”, because for them the work seems to live independent to their design. No doubt it is product of their creation but not from a prefixed architecture. It is an experiment with meaning that only surfaces when the project is complete, and even then it seems to have a dynamic life that changes with each spectator, with each view. That is what I’ve always loved about HK movies, It never is an experience that lies within those two hours, it lingers on in your head. I never seem to have resolution with it. It creates an impact with me, that lives with me, that won’t let me have control over it, that doesn’t let me be finished with it. I imagine that feeling of reception is just a reflection of the emotional process of creation.

Another remarkable point of the lecture was how it ended. For the last question, this swiss girl got up and started saying, in a very broken English, how she had always loved his movies and how mesmerized she had always been by all of them, but how when watching this last one she kept thinking how she had “lost him”, how frustrated she was desperately trying to make sense of why he would make such a grotesque film like this… but that right at then end when she saw the scene in were the lady rocking the stolen baby in the streets, how at that moment “he caught her again” and how at that instant she got everything, and how that for her had been such a beautiful moment… everybody was quiet… and Harmony replied… “What can I say love? I´m Just trying to make MAGIC!”. That summed it up perfectly for me.

-Alexander


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