STRANGE APPARITIONS DVD Booklet
a set of queerly strange films...
Below you will find a selection of texts from the STRANGE APPARITIONS DVD Booklet which can be downloaded from this site to accompany the contents of the DVD also viewable at the Nightshades Films DVD Project Page.
These films are a set of ‘strange apparitions’ united primarily by their adoption of the truly unusual language ‘Disfodish’. They deliberately shift the frames of reference and desire connecting images, sounds, words acts and gestures to obfuscate clear definition. They are truly queer music-theatre films that can be both frighteningly amusing and distantly sensual. Functioning to question the sign systems that are traditionally seen as secure, they are presented on an axis which reveals them as unsettlingly vague or lacking in sense; physical acts, sounds, desires and urges are distanced from the subjects performing them by deliberately estranging them within frames; from language lessons to erotica & from silent films to pornography. Such frames, however, are merely tools used to assist the major alienating metaphor around which this set of films is based: language and the illusion of truth it creates (an illusion that queerness tends to question or destroy). When the languages you use to piece together some sense of meaning are rendered ambiguous, just as the narrative forms that tend to follow an order are disobeyed, inverted and abused, no one would blame you for feeling a bit queer…
? VELIT DIŠFODETÌT ‘DIŠPRIKFOT’, DIRUVETÌT*
*what does ‘Disfodish’ actually mean?
Most of these films are based on or structured around the language which recognizes as its native spelling Dišprikfot. In English, the term Disfodish is most often used to refer to this unique communication system, although it is sometimes abbreviated to simply Fodish. Like every language, Disfodish is made unique by a number of characteristics it shares with no other languages. Some of the most striking include the way sentences begin with a mood marker that sets the tone for the coming phrase; ZÄTIT, for example, announces a declarative statement; it says literally ‘it is so (that)…’. ?VELIT in comparison, announces an interrogative sentence and can be translated literally as ‘it is questioned (that)…’. For example, ?VELIT DOMAGETÙT literally translates as ‘it is questioned (if) you are doing it’, although what is actually being asked is ‘are you doing it?’. In addition, this unusual language has the habit of bracketing away both the subject and the object of any given sentence; the pronoun when it is used as the subject of any given sentence, like in many Romance pro-drop languages, is rendered unnecessary because it is implied by the conjugation of the verb. The object of the sentence, by contrast, is far more likely to be either hidden in a dative construction or implied by its adoption of a reflexive verbal structure. For example, one tends to never ‘do’ anything; it is done (by someone); one never desires anything, it (literally) desires itself (to someone). While speaking Disfodish, one could get the impression that we exist in an estranged world where one spends most of one’s time trying to remove oneself or the objects one acts upon from one’s utterances entirely!
So, who speaks this complex set of rules, habits, phonetic sounds and meanings, that are entirely logical and consequent, but that also recognize quandaries and illogicisms like any other language? Nobody does. Although it has a grammar and a set of words which have their epistemological roots deeply embedded in the culture of the people who speak it, this culture is revealed to be entirely imaginary. Votland, where most of the films are set, does not appear on any map and as real as the language may seem if examined linguistically, it is entirely fictive. Disfodish, then,becomes one of the primary metaphors around which the very notion of ‘queerness’ is defined in this set of rather unusual films.
! RUVIT DIŠFODIT ‘NAXTŠKIMIS’ ENTFODASOT. *
*the meaning of ‘nightshades’ is significant.
NAXKIMIS VILMIT is the Disfodish title of a film company.
The accented ‘S’ [Š], resulting usually from the elision of Z and another voiced consonant, is pronounced ‘sh’. The first word is taken from the compound noun NAXTŠKIMIT which is formed from two word stems, NAXT- and ZGIM- respectively; such stems can form nouns verbs and adjectives. ZGIMET, for example, is the infinitive form of a verb which translates as 'to shift/slide uneasily' or 'to be neither true nor false'. NAXTAS is an adjective which translates as 'nocturnal' or 'queer'. NAXTŠKIMIT can therefore translate as a 'queer presence' or a 'strange apparition'; one that refuses clear definition or that evades clear comprehension.
zgimet (intransitive verb)
 to shift, to scim, to slide uneasily
 to be unsure or insecure, to feel uneasy
 to have no definite signification
 strangely vague
naxtškimit (compound noun)
 an unsettling apparition
 a blurred or shifting frame
 a queer presence
STRANGE APPARITIONS is a set of films united by their use of language as a metaphor and the control it has over defining who we are. In each film a different set of words, connotations, gestures and definitions form a basis for questioning the way we use language to perpetuate reality and provide our lives with meaning. They shift, however, on a different axis to normal narratives; rather than using a language to provide the background to a story, the language itself becomes the means to question the frames we are complicit in constructing as we attempt to make sense of our world and communicate with others. In a number of the films, the characters within them become helpless victims of the discourse over which they ultimately lose control. Try as they might to form meaning from the tools they are provided with, they shift uneasily within its constrictions and are ultimately consumed.
These films are indeed strangely queer; they are based on meaning and use the frames of narrative but deliberately bend the rules by allowing other forces, particularly musical structure, to define their development. Frames that are recognizable and comprehensible in a normal context are revealed to be empty vessels of signification. Language lessons transform gradually into silent films; silent films into erotica; piano performance into dance. Camp is often used to hide disturbing truths about reality and the role 'queer' people are forced to play in a society which creates structures of meaning which struggles to include them in it. Each of the films, even those that seem amusing, are tinged with the presence of pain, insanity and death. At the same time, just like camp performance, these music-theatre films are aware of the extreme irony of their intention: they are aware of the incredible pretence necessary to accept that a story can be told by creating and deconstructing a language. But the films are ultimately about pretence; and if they manage, in spite of the self-imposed restrictions, to communicate something about the danger of trying to force oneself into a frame that doesn’t appear to fit, they've been successful in reaching their goal: using the whole notion that artificial structures like language are just that, artificial, and that the confrontation between normality and queerness becomes the uneasy, shifting planes of signification around which this set of 'strange apparitions' are structured.