by Anna Senno
Paris, January 2017
A performance project
Every day for seven days, Anna Senno walks between her home and the laboratory to develop one roll of photographs taken that day.
24 frames – she singles out 1-5, which become the basis for her storytelling. Fiction intertwined with reality: a fixed framework with no pre-established content. One roll and one story per day, for seven days, in pictures and words.
Camera: Canon FT QL – 1966-1972, 50mm 1:1.8
Film: Ilford B&W, 400 HP5
Laboratory: Processus, Paris
7 DAYS © Anna Senno. All images and text © 2017, Anna Senno. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or used without prior written permission from the copyright holders.
According to Greek Mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.
I want to keep telling you about all of them, what happened after and the consequences of their actions. But the story has to come to its end. Somewhere, we need to put a final punctuation mark on all sentences. I see your faces and I can see how you feel this is unfair. If the night was younger I could maybe go on for a little while, but even the owls have gone to bed now. I somehow think it will be good if we stop here, leave some things unanswered and let our imagination wander for a while.
I really feel I cannot go on any further. I also feel uneasy with all this pressure you’re putting on me. Maybe you shouldn’t have asked so many questions – I could have come closer to the end if you hadn’t kept interrupting. My point being, it is not only my fault we end this here. It is unfortunate, we were having a good time, but your frustration is ungrateful. As in the story, we all have our own idea of what it means to feel complete. If you feel unsatisfied, you should look for your own answers, who am I to hand them over to you?
Richard was a man of his own, self-made, as they’d say in the US. He wouldn’t rely on anyone but himself to take him further would he? But even if he would I guess his fate would still have been the same, it is goes for all of them. In the beginning we all think we can go by ourselves. That’s because we believe we are not by ourselves. But when we realise we are, the search begins, jealousy is born, restlessness, and as the nakedness of our souls urge us to cover up in ridiculous forms, and this – it makes it impossible to settle. And so we linger on – alone. Until the day we accept to stand naked, and if anyone at that point is also naked, well, then maybe we find our answers. If not, our form becomes even more ridiculous and so it continues. I’ll tell you a little bit more of what happened and let you hear what Richard said so you can see my point – it’ll bring you a bit further towards the end.
As he came back from the toilet he was trying to catch his breath and calm himself. He wasn’t used to being the centre of everybody’s attention. He had no idea what to say next. But they all seemed to turn to him in order to solve the situation. He tried to make eye contact with Maria, but she was unreachable; with her head down, seemingly counting the bread crumbs on her plate. He folded his napkin into a perfect square and placed it on his right knee. He needed to find something to say before he lifted his head. He knew they were all observing him, he needed to gain some more time, so he gestured in every way. It probably seemed as if knew exactly what he was doing, the slowness of his movements signalling determination and conclusiveness. He made one more attempt to seek Maria but she was now counting the strands of a lock of her hair, which had fallen down from her chignon.
He took the napkin from his knee, placed it on the table and looked up. He suddenly felt strong and confident. He called the waiter and asked for another bottle of Nuits-Saint-Georges. Dinner hadn’t been served yet as they had been waiting for the boat to leave the docks. He spoke to them all and said they needed some more wine in order to resolve this. Some seemed relieved, probably because their glasses were empty as well. Others looked annoyed with his obvious stalling. They all sat in silence waiting for the wine to arrive. Richard was no longer avoiding eye contact but sat up straight. As the waiter came he took up a cigarette and lit it, tried the wine, approved, and had another sip whilst waiting for the waiter to serve the others. He knew his time was up, he didn’t feel fear or nervousness, although he still did not know how to go about the situation.
Even I understand I cannot leave you hanging here, but before we get back to Richard I feel I have to fill you in on Madeline and her whereabouts earlier that afternoon.
The bells were ringing loud. From their echo you could not distinguish how many they were and it seemed as if there was an entire symphony out there playing for them. The rain kept coming down to the ground where the sound of the bells was making beautiful circles in the reflections on the water – it was all so grey but yet so beautiful. Madeline was distraught, her white dress was wet and the hem and the bit above it were, by now, completely black. She couldn’t be bothered. She had hoped for everything, but was left with something that felt like nothing. She glanced over at Chris – and only saw a bore. She realised as they were walking in the rain, that she was to forever regret this day. But the day would soon be over. She only needed to get through dinner, sleep with him one last time (as per protocol) and then live happily ever after. Chris, on the other hand, was feeling sleepy; that often occurred to him when he felt fine. As if he relaxed to such an extent that his whole body told him he could now rest. He couldn’t wait to get to the hotel and lie down. He wasn’t feeling very sexual and was hoping Madeline would have a few too many glasses and dose off as soon as they went to bed. It wouldn’t be the first time. Chris was struggling not to yawn as they crossed the platform in front of the Eiffel Tower – what a miserable day. The rain was not easing up and they were both cold. Madeline had wanted to marry in Paris and Chris had wanted to go to Pisa, but figured since Paris also had a tower, albeit a straight one, it would do as destination. He didn’t mind getting married.
We haven’t learned much about Madeline as of yet -I grant you that- and maybe it has been unfair of me not to speak more of her.
Madeline worked as a muse. What a honourable profession, Chris thought when he first met her. He wasn’t sure he really understood what she did exactly, but was happy to have met someone whose presence could inspire him. He didn’t care too much about love or desire. He probably would not have been able to define these words should someone have asked him. Madeline had never asked him. She had never wondered if he loved her, if he desired her. He’d always feel relaxed around her, almost as if she wasn’t there. But her presence gave him some sort of peace of mind and therefore he wanted her around. It had been difficult to be away from her when she was out on her missions. He treated her well and with the outmost respect. His politeness had at times been unbearable to Madeline, but could also be a welcome contrast to the brutal urgency and stimulation of her time spent with her mission bearers. She had been tired and Chris gave her rest.
Chris and Madeline left the photographer behind them on the platform and continued down by foot towards the Seine. None of them had really thought about having their pictures taken, but Madeline’s grandmother -who was the only person they had invited to attend the ceremony since she lived in Paris- had taken a fall earlier that week. She’d been sad not to attend and said she would frame their wedding picture. They booked a photographer for that sole purpose. The photographer had offered them a ride but they’d preferred to walk. Madeline, because she needed to feel the cold bite her body in order to feel alive, while Chris imagined the walk would wake him up from his relaxed daze. Little did they know about what was to follow as they headed towards Lorna’s dinner.
Let me just take a little detour here, because so did Madeline and Chris. They were not too familiar with Paris, nor with how taking one street that seemed straight could end up in a whole different direction.
Argus wanted to take his life back. But his life did not belong to him anymore, a gift is a gift and you can hardly ask for it back. In hindsight he should have offered a bouquet of flowers -tulips, they were her favourite. Flowers seemed impersonal at the time and so giving himself was his way of showing authenticity. Unwary of the consequences, he had since the time of the gift been faced with challenging adversities and was feeling weak. His body was giving in and to someone who had never been held back by anything, this was an overwhelming turn of events. Argus – as you have gotten to know him by now – was the incarnation of joy, sound and unafraid. Since the gift, the festiveness of his spirit had seized. He used to adore admiring the deep wrinkles on her face. Leather-like skin with centimetre-deep folds would solicit his imagination. The time and effort it must have taken to acquire these. Her face was like a landscape that could shift dramatically, depending on how the light fell and cast mesmerising shadows to her contours. He followed her footsteps but it was hard to keep up. She was a fast mover and would not care for explanations. He had felt challenged and uplifted by the realm of possibilities handed to his feet.
Lorna had reluctantly accepted his gift. She knew it would lead to a dramatic and anticipated end. But a gift is a gift and you cannot repudiate a gift. She would have preferred a bouquet of tulips, January is tulip season, so they would have been easy to get. The weight of the gift was getting unbearable and to see Argus weaken would infuriate her. With the little respect she still had left towards him, she had advised him to attend the dinner that night. Argus felt the end closing in. He approached this idea with combatting feelings of fright and relief.
Lorna had ordered him to attend a dinner that night. The rain was heavy and had been pouring down for several days now. The greyness and the heavy clouds covered him in melancholy and he felt weaker than ever before. He tried to keep a steady pace but his feet stuck to the ground and every time he lifted one foot it seemed cemented to the ground. He had left his umbrella in the metro and gotten off one station too early. Walking down towards the Seine he took shelter for a while underneath the hostile yet majestic columns of the Palais de Tokyo. The site was empty and its fascist allure reminded him of Lorna. He would be late, but his soaked appearance would raise sympathy upon arrival and he would be pardoned. He thought he’d take a shortcut and crossed the site of the Palais and went down the stairs towards the water. The empty fountain was playing host to several large chunks of rock meticulously placed inside. It gave the impression of a graveyard and he felt soothed by the atmosphere of death.
I will very soon get to my point and we shall return to Richard.
The late arrival of Argus had delayed the departure and dinner wouldn’t start for another thirty minutes. One hundred and forty seven people attended the dinner that night. The rain had raised the level of the Seine and so the dinner had nearly been cancelled. Lorna had carefully singled out the people on-board. The number was symbolic. Her taste for detail was an obsessive trait in her character – one that you either adhered to or despised. I would say a good half of her guests did indeed despise her. She wasn’t blind to this fact but felt flattered by the level of engagement people had towards her, for good and for bad. The water worried her, she often felt nervous with natural phenomena as they were played outside of her control.
I am not sure this is important, but Richard had been the first to arrive. He was the only person that Lorna had invited whom she could not tell whether he liked or disliked her. She would make it her quest to unravel his colours that night. Richard was a homosexual, which to Lorna was the most fortunate category of mankind. She was dressed in envy-green velvet that night. As Aristophanes had explained to the people, heterosexuals ascended from the moon but the two other categories -the all female and the all male- ascended from the earth and the sun. Richard surely seemed to ascend from the sun.
Soon after Richard’s arrival, Madeline and Chris arrived. Since I did not tell you much about Madeline before now, you might not have understood the implicit affect her presence had that night. Of course her attire would raise some eyebrows for those ignorant of who she was, and to those who knew, it would raise an interior vortex of despair.
I’ll give you a side-note about Maria and then we shall listen to Richard.
Maria was attributed with an unconventional but irresistible beauty. Her hair was a big nest of dark locks that she’d tame in different ways or cover up with a shawl. She spoke quietly and with grace. People would have to lean in towards her to hear her speak. She would never seek attention, but attention came to her. She would require her lovers to sign an agreement of nondisclosure. By doing so she felt she maintained her freedom and possibilities to go wherever her heart would take her. Her two sisters were known to exist, but none of them had ever appeared in her company. From other women she received great hostility, but not from Lorna. I guess one could say Lorna had taken Maria as her confident and the two shared an admirable complicity. Maria was thus weary of every detail of the evening, staged by Lorna.
Richard’s time was up. But just as he was about to speak, the boat lurched from one side to the other. The electricity went on and off. Then, it came back on. Maria looked at him; Richard leaned in to hear her speak. She told him he needed to provide them with valid answers to each and every one of their own dilemmas. He wasn’t sure he understood neither the scope of the situation nor the immense role he would play in this final hour. Little did they all know that only thirteen of them would survive the coming wreck. He told her it was obvious they were all there as they sought completion of themselves through the other. She answered in an even lower voice, “But I can discard myself only as I gain consciousness of myself”. He had a feeling he understood, but couldn’t be quite sure. He answered back, “But what is keeping you is that you are all faced with the fear of the loss of possibility, and this is the very point to your dilemma”. The boat kept lurching.
I will leave you with Richard’s final word, but before I do, I wanted to say that there is never a good moment to end a story. I have given you as much as I can at this late hour, but there is of course so much more to say and learn about them all. As to what fate had in mind for them -wherever the imagination of each and every one of you will end up- your ending will be right.
Richard stood up and held on to Maria’s shoulder so as not to fall. He would quote Judge Vilhelm in Ultimatium and that would be that. He could do no more but to use his or anyone else’s tongue, it didn’t matter – it would all still be a lie to everyone but himself:
“Do not interrupt the flight of your soul; do not distress what is best in you; do not enfeeble your spirit with half wishes and half thoughts. Ask yourself and keep on asking until you find the answer, for one may have known something many times, acknowledged it; one may have willed something many times, attempted it – and yet, only the deep inner motion, only the heart’s indescribable emotion, only that will convince you that what you have acknowledged belongs to you, that no power can take it from you – for only the truth that builds up is truth for you.“