Jorgen Leth The Perfect Human. Giorgio Agamben ‘Notes on Gesture’

This is my alteration to aspects of Jorgen Leth's short film 'The Perfect Human'. it is not like the original film but instead uses digital video cutting and splicing to place elements of it into a context I find interesting, as perhaps techniques I will use for a later part of a final installation piece.

Jørgen Leth is a Danish poet and film director who is probably most well known for his short film 'The Perfect Human' made in 1967. I was looking at a range of mediums and developing ideas that I might be able to integrate into a final piece. I wanted to include some aspect of video in the finished piece but I wasn't quite sure how that might eventually evolve.

Giorgio Agamben is an Italian philosopher whose work Homer Sacer was one I fond interesting in relation to ideas of the body. That work is not meant to draw any parallels at all with Leth's piece in this particular post. I am more concerned with some of Agamben's writings on film and how that fed into the way I presented parts of my video. Agamben's essay 'Notes on Gesture' discusses a lost language of the body that linguistic language has displaced. The body wishes, through gesture, to communicate to other bodies beyond it but is rendered invisible through the process of 'linguistic exchange'. My purpose in the cuts and loop editing performed through Leth's film deliberately emphasise the gesture and the language of the body. I have split the screen in two to further illustrate a disruptive approach, taking back the body as pure signifier without need for language to ascribe meaning.

I am interested in the nature of video as something that fractures the surface of time so that it doesn't play in a linear fashion. I find it a medium I enjoy exploring as an addition to sculptural and or installation pieces. I chose the perfect human to experiment with as it has a strong reputation and association with the human figure. The film focuses upon the mundane movement of a male and female within a bare white space. The narrator requests we merely observe the humans in their actions such as lying down or walking.

I felt this a useful addition to the conversations I was having in my pieces about the self and it was evidencing a range of influences across a variety of mediums. I was drawn to the minimalist nature of the work and the tightly focussed subject matter which seemed to reflect my own focus upon the self. I am trying throughout this process to develop a competent visual language and therefore by experimenting with a variety of media I feel I can maybe incorporate aspects of media I think work for the argument I am developing.

The white room and the neutrality of the filming style force us to focus upon what otherwise would seem mundane. We see the human figure in sharper relief within this context and thus we are more deeply connected to the idea of the human as something to be amazed by. Its motor function, its digestion, its ability to see and hear. Leth then overlays these basic attributes of wonder with cultural symbols of perfection such as beauty, fine clothes, gourmet food and so forth. He questions what is the necessity of these cultural adjuncts to existing perfection and why ultimately they have replaced who we actually are.

All this of course is of important interest to me for my project work, at least in terms of Leth making work that asks similar questions about what constitutes the self or where it might have got lost. I have chosen to alter the structure of the pieces as like with a previous post about Deleuze and Guattari I am interested in interrupting flows to create new connections. I want to see what emerges by taking human movement and treating it as repetitive, cutting it like a DJ might into fragments of sound to make new patterns. I am interested in evolving this into my final piece but I am currently just experimenting with aspects of video and this film in particular to see what may emerge.



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