déjà vu



Dangerous Waters

or Where have all the subtitles gone?


From the beginning, as the images of déjà vu begin to parade across the screen, the viewer is seduced into their foreign but nonetheless eerily familiar flow. These are documentary sequences of places and people but also of our longing for distant lands, colourful events and the 1001 star-pierced tropical nights which no camera can capture.


The scenes are strung together on a crimson thread like the glass trading beads of a bygone era. What happens on the visual level happens too quickly to allow much control, analysis or argument. It is only in retrospect that awareness dawns, that the film, consisting of amateur footage from many sources, is an archive of collective clichés of exotic otherness. Geographical nonsense now dancing to another tune. Souvenirs of place at a time when it is customary to bring home photos instead of silk, Super 8 instead of spices, these nuggets of personal memory are culled from over sixty hours of film and stand witness to a way of seeing, a white model of perceiving the world and its unspoken hierarchies. The visual level is an invitation to indulge in the opulence of the exotic, but the enjoyment is not without its intentionally located visual irritations. These are present explicitly in the form of the waving tourist, the woman who blocks our ‘view’ with her film camera, the man who interrupts an event to photograph his future memory, and implicitly when the women cover themselves from our intruding gaze. Our voyeurism is further unmasked as we watch the figures on their knees shuffling forward on their personal pilgrimages of guilt and supplication.





These sequences may have been shot in all innocence but it is the innocence of unconscious complicity. In the context of déjà vu the apparently naive pleasure of collecting the wonders the world has on offer is assigned another meaning. Thomas Kuhn noted that most normal scientists internalise the knowledge paradigms of their specialist fields to the extent that they become almost invisible whilst retaining their omnipresent determining influence on the way we think. Evidence which does not fit in the paradigm box is either ignored or rejected outright.