Reasonable Doubt | Chapters
Multiple-screen video installation, 2016
Multi-lingual with English subtitles
3. Impatience as Lifestyle
In the third scene, Kristina is the main character, and impatience the subject of representation. The mood is irritation, about the power of another over the self. She is impatiently waiting for Descartes’ arrival. Meanwhile, she is failing in her personal relationships, in her studies, and in her managing of the state and her estate. Her residence, a beautiful palace, becomes a prison. She cannot tolerate the endless stretching of time; her impatience turns to alternating bouts of sadness and anger. This scene
concerns the perception of time spent in confinement, and the resultant futility of beauty, riches and power. The end is a withholding of certainty in a moment where dream and expectation, fiction and reality converge in music. No event can occur. The scene also reflects an essential feature of cinema - its basis in time – and asks: what is time like when nothing happens?
What Kristina is “really” doing during the long wait for Descartes’ arrival doesn’t matter. The scene presents us with the moods that come with the impatience enacted. The eternally mourning Queen Mother hovers over a daughter with whom she has no contact whatsoever. Two unhappy women, together but alone. Kristina runs, plays with her dog, and explores her palatial home like a tourist seeing it for the first time. She looks into mirrors and questions herself and her physical beauty.
Reading extracts from several books, she feels sheis drowning in the various texts. She stumbles upon a Shakespearean sonnet that seems to summarise her plight: if she doesn’t marry and procreate, everything shehas will die with her. The entrance of Bella cheers her up for a while, but wary of entering into another phase of their friendship, she becomes hostile and the sweetness of the moment is over. She roams around the Palace.
This roaming is the expression of her insecurity about who she is and what she can do with her life. Coming upon a small sculpture of the famous French philosopher, she covers it with gauze, as if unwilling to show him - if and when he arrives - that she cares. Going through her house is a way of saying that she owns it all, while also expressing her estrangement from the worldly goods that after Descartes’ death will no longer interest her.
But then she has a dream of potential beauty. Here, an artwork by Jane Harris, Potential Beauty (2004), visualises her dream. It turns out beauty doesn’t leave her entirely indifferent. Her apparent disinterest is as defensive as Descartes’ excessive anger. On some unconscious level she would like to be more beautiful than she considers herself to be, or so it seems. But the sculpture in front of her on the mantelpiece, alternating her view with her own mirror image, is a bust of Medusa - stylised, yes; but still…
A somewhat mysteriously talking valet tries to reassure her; to calm her impatience. His primary function is to make her speak out her disquiet, to express her arrogance while also showing the insecurity that generates it. In a fit of fury comparable to Descartes’ screaming about Beeckman’s betrayal, she smashes crockery in the kitchen. But when she orders a servant to clean up the mess, in a fit of economic thinking she tells her not to throw away the pieces.
Finally Descartes’ arrival is announced. Nervously, Kristina dresses in a regal outfit, crown and all. Looking a trifle carnivalesque, she sits down while Lully’s music resounds through an empty hallway, then filled with dreamy-looking women playing it. This music coincides in the exhibition with Descartes walking on the beach and with the first meeting with Spinoza. Together, these three endings compress decades into a full, ambivalent moment, stretched out to last as long as the visitor wishes to stay.