The Two-Cents Opera
on The Soundless Sound
of Things Past
the Dinosaurs of Year 4000
of Things Past
Collaborative work with architect Carl Karas, who designed and built three sculptures - character-objects, representing Marcel (narrator), Albertine and Charlus from Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. The sculptures each contained a hidden soundtrack: Marcel, a recorded narrative of selected passages of the work, which I translated myself, trying to get closer to the original text. Albertine, musical accompaniment. Charlus, ambient soundtracks and noise. The installation was shown at Penine Hart Gallery (NYC) in December 1988.
English translation by Elodie Lauten
But sometimes it is at the very moment when we seem to have lost everything that the warning comes which can save us; one has knocked on all the doors leading nowhere, and looked in vain for a hundred years for the only one with possible entry, and one bumps into it accidentally, and it opens. While I was having the gloomy thoughts I just mentioned, I had entered the courtyard of the Guermantes mansion, and in my distraction I had not noticed a car coming towards me; at the chauffeur’s shout I had just enough time to step quickly out of the way, and as I stepped backwards I tripped against the uneven paving stones behind which was a coach house. And at the moment when, recovering my balance, I put my foot on a stone that was a bit less high than the next, all my discouragement disappeared while I felt the same happiness I had at various times in my life at the sight of trees that I thought I recognized in a drive near Balbec, the sight of the steeples of Martinville, the flavor of the madeleine dipped in herbal tea, so many other sensations I have mentioned and that Vinteuil’s last works synthesized for me. The same was as when I tasted the madeleine, all worries about the future, all intellectual doubts vanished. The ones I had had a moment ago about the reality of my literary gift, and even about the reality of literature, were lifted as if by a spell. Without having followed any new line of reasoning, found any decisive point, the difficulties, which were insoluble a moment ago, had lost all their importance. But, this time, I had my mind set not to accept this impression without knowing its causes, like I did the day I taste a piece of madeleine dipped in tea. The happiness I had just felt was in fact the same one I felt when I ate the madeleine, but at the time I had put off the search for its underlying causes. The difference, of a purely material nature, was in the images evoked: a deep azure was intoxicating my eyes, impressions of freshness, of blinding light were turning before me and, in my desire to seize them, without daring to move any more than I had when I was tasting the flavor of the madeleine and trying to retrieve what I reminded me of, I continued to stumble, even though I might be the laughing stock of the crowd of innumerable chauffeurs, like I did before, one foot on the higher stone, the other on the lower. Every time I actually repeated that very step, it was useless to me; but if I managed, forgetting the Guermantes party, to retrieve what I had felt while putting my feet this way, again the blinding and hazy vision slid by me as if saying: "Seize me as I pass by if you have the strength, and try to solve the enigma of happiness I have here for you." And almost immediately, I recognized it, it was Venice, which despite all my efforts to describe it and the so-called snapshots taken by my memory, never told me anything, and the sensation which I had felt at that time on two uneven stones in the Baptistery of St. Mark’s, came back with all the other sensations reunited that day with that particular sensation and that had been waiting in order, in their places, out of which by a sudden chance event they had been imperiously summoned out of the series of forgotten days. In the same way, the taste of the little madeleine had reminded me of Combray. But why did the images of Combray and Venice bring me, at both of those moments, such joy, so full of certainty and sufficient, without any other proof, to make me indifferent to death?