Monday, February 03, 2014

Jarman Academe

My boyfriend is currently obsessed with Derek Jarman. He's devoured the diaries, he's dug out his old DVDs, and he's been very excited by a series of events to celebtrate Jarman's 72nd birthday. Things kicked off with a documentary in an old Anatomy Museum and a talk in a tulip-strewn chapel. All very Jarman. All it was missing was Sean Bean being given a slow sponge bath by Tilda Swinton with bad hair.

Caught up in the excitement, he booked us onto a one-day celebration of Jarmania. We were expecting a Saturday screenings and gossip. Actually, it turned out to be a serious academic conference. A really serious academic conference. Once we got over our initial shock, we actually had a good time. One scholar explained how he'd recently found a first edition of Marlowe's Edward II by accident, another that Jarman cast Adam Ant in a film after seeing him wandering down the King's Road with "FUCK" carved into his back and bleeding through his t-shirt. All good fun. And then...

Back at university, I studied English Literature. It was going through a period where everyone involved felt guilty about spending their days reading books and so invented a lot of words to make it sound like science. Ironically, at exactly the same time, science was learning to use words to make itself sound like good fun. But English Literature lectures always had earnest people in earnest glasses in the front row, ready to pounce like Puritans on anything that looked suspiciously like enjoyment. "But what about Derrida?" demanded one hotly. The lecturer rolled her eyes wearily. "What about him?" she sighed, guaranteeing I went to all of her lectures ever.

Anyway, if you ever wondered what happened to those earnest pebble-glasses-wearers with their long words and forbidding demeanours - well, they've grown up and secured tenure and one of them had flown all the way from Sydney to be rude about Derek Jarman with vocab. I think the substance of her lecture was that, feeling guilty for making The Angelic Conversation without any women in, Jarman had hastily hired Judi Dench to intone some sonnets over the spongebaths. But here's how she expressed it:
  • prolepsis
  • analepsis
  • catachrestic
  • alterity
  • binary calculus
  • wholesale diacrhronic change
  • teleological
  • contrapuntal overlay
  • chiasmic logic 
  • tropological
  • patrolineal obligation
  • heterotopuan oxymoronic  miscegenated cross-coupling
My boyfriend and I spent the hour noting these down and speculating what she named her cat. He suggested "Binary Ganymede IV". The lecture pressed on. Academics around us stabbed away at their ipads, reordering their iTunes playlists, which is I guess the modern equivalent of playing solitaire. At the end of the lecture, there was a pause for questions. There were no questions, the academic equivalent of the Cut Absolute.

At lunchtime we went round the beautiful Jarman exhibition at Kings College. We noticed Dr Long Words trailing moodily behind us and hid behind a projection of a nude man spinnins slowly. On the way back in we got talking to a slightly gossipy old don. Who then won the afternoon with a gossipy, joyful talk about Jarman's The Tempest, and, in a demolishing aside, said of The Angelic Conversation, "Of course, he originally asked John Gielgud to do the voiceover, but he let him down at the last minute."


Jonny Morris said...

For the Derek Jarman completist in your life:

Skip said...

Oh I can't watch this. I remember at the time thinking this was so sad. And worried that Jarman was dying in front of the cameras surrounded by dancing gay reindeer. Which, I guess, is not a bad way to go.