Reasonable Doubt | Chapters
Multiple-screen video installation, 2016
Multi-lingual with English subtitles
When you want to shake hands with someone and embarrassingly move your hand in the direction opposite to where the other’s hand is going: that would be the underlying image. The mood is thus one of awkwardness. In this scene the attempt is to show how these two great minds of the seventeenth century did not manage to truly meet. Both had based their interest on something different from what they got. He had hoped for the magnificent recognition of his greatness by royalty; she for a servile admirer, a great man at her beck and call. The scene is best described by the word “painful”.
Exhausted and cold, Descartes finally arrives. The welcoming music we heard at the end of scene 3 continues as the traveller enters the palace. It is a moment of social awkwardness. He has dressed up for the occasion. He dons white gloves, and quickly runs his hand through his hair when passing a mirror. Yes, the great man is intimidated by the imminent encounter with a real Queen. One senses his apprehension.
Upon entering her room, his nervousness is matched by hers. The two alternate but do not meet in the same frame. He begins to express an excessive but disingenuous gratitude, and then shows off his philosophical personality somewhat pompously. Matching him in his attempt to impress, she shows off her mastery of the French language, criticising its structural properties. His reaction is clumsy.
When she tells him to meet the following morning, and every day thereafter, at 5 am, he stays behind in shock while the Queen rushes to welcome her cousin who visits to attend an imminent concert. With a casual hand gesture, Kristina, who does not bother to introduce her guest to her cousin, sends him to an adjacent waiting room. There, the exhausted Philosopher has a vision of the world, rotating with its many problems. This is a fragment of the shadow play Transgressions by Nalini Malani (2009).
After the concert, the two go their separate ways. In the draughty palace Descartes falls ill, while Kristina makes plans for a ballet to celebrate the Peace of Westphalia. She is angry when the valet tells her about René’s illness. His death during her planning is yet another imaging of temporal discrepancy and the impossibility of chronology. A sense of social schizophrenia emerges, amplified sonically by the endings of the different scenes.