In the long-term effort to figure out how to talk about my work as a filmmaker, the idea of control comes up again and again: the fact that classical mainstream cinema is very much about exquisite and overwhelming control over the process, over exactly how every moment looks and sounds in the final product. Walter Benjamin described this as the “perfectibility” of the film medium, but he also compared it to fascism – total domination of the image, and by extension, the audience.
My work is very much about the desire to question and experiment with this control-based relationship – to let go of absolute control, without, at the same time, being satisfied with random chance or chaos. I’m not interested in films made of a random array of images in a random order. Authorship is still important to me, but I want to negotiate it in cooperation with rather than in opposition to the world, including coming to terms with aspects of the world which I don’t control.
In practice, this means both the other people involved – subjects being filmed, collaborators, crew, audience members – and also the non-human forces that act upon the process – cameras, film or digital media, light, weather, traffic, crowds, plants, animals, you name it.
When I try to talk about it, I find myself coming up against a distinct lack of useful vocabulary. It’s control vs… relationship? Domination vs… sharing? It’s actually interesting that there are fewer words, at least that I have discovered, to describe a more fluid and equitable power dynamic for filmmaking. It’s easier to do it than to discuss it.
I was navigating around the dictionaries and thesauri of the internet, searching things like “hierarchy” and “anarchy” when I came across this particular gem, “Endarchy,” which I found pretty much only in this one place, at dictionary.com, except as a scrabble word, which is allowed though no definition is given. There’s also apparently a “Doom III” module that you can download from endarchy.com if you’re interested, though I don’t know how it relates, except as a possible play on the idea of an “End of Anarchy” or something like that.
If hierarchy is rule or control that comes from above (the heavens, to be exact) and anarchy is absence of rule or order, we don’t have a lot of other -archies to work with. But then, surprisingly, there’s Endarchy – “endo” meaning “within.”
Which is really pretty amazing. All I know about it comes from the brief definition quoted above and my own speculation, but I love the botanical connotation, of something that grows by adding layers. The oldest part is at the center, but the growing and changing part – leading in a way – is the sensitive outer edge.
The tree is perhaps overused as a metaphor for life. But. Given all of the questions of our times, about ecology, sustainability, the organic, the organism, systems theory, games, holistic healing… I think that the idea of Endarchy is extremely intriguing as a way to think about control and power in systems both microscopic and macroscopic. Neither rigid control nor total chaos. And ultimately generational, literally – power flowing through time, from an inner core to an outer edge.
There’s something similar in the idea of an Avant-Garde, a Nouvelle Vague (New Wave), or a Cutting Edge, but none of those, I think, capture the fragility and vulnerability of that outer layer, whether it is the new project, the new idea, the Youth of Today.
And, I find it especially appealing in the realm of film, where the film itself spools onto a core once it has been exposed, spiraling outwards, the newest fragile frames on the very topmost layer, fresh and full of potential like spring buds.