Posted in Of Writingly

Of Blood and Passion


A while back, I was watching an interview of Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal. He spoke very passionately, without irony, which is refreshing in modern conversation. He repeatedly stressed on finding the “blood” in your art i.e., passion. Authenticity. Not the ordinary amount of passion you and I feel while we go about the things we want to do. But, something that means more. Something deep and overwhelming, if not even more.

Now, you’d think this is right up my street. But, you’d be wrong. Being an essayist suits me, because I can flit from musing to musing without committing to any one idea. Some ideas endure, like the time I was going on and on about the relationship between love and fear. But, if you’ve been reading Of Opinions for a while, you’d be used to having a new idea introduced, and then forgotten about a couple of days later. I’ve been writing this blog for nearly two years now (which is a commitment I did not see coming; I’m proud and bemused), and sometimes, when I come across an old essay or two, I can’t even recognise them as my own. I didn’t know this before, but my thoughts seem to be as ephemeral as the attention span of the stereotypical social media user. I haven’t gone after the blood of my art yet.

Now, I’m not commitment-phobic about other things in life (except diet and exercise), but we’re only talking about art here. Whatever art, whatever writing, I hope to produce before it’s time to go. And it’s not just enough to produce it, bust any old rhyme, write any old musing. It has to mean more, doesn’t it? It has to mean everything, doesn’t it?

I am only speculating, but part of Bernal’s conviction might be the result of his background. I, myself, come from an earthy, passionate culture. People commonly read and write poetry. It is still acceptable to woo your beloved with poetry. Elocutionist is still a real job, i.e. reciting poetry you haven’t even written. Of course, there is poetry everywhere, in all cultures, for as long as they’ve existed. But, you’d have to breathe the air, experience the sights, sounds, rhythms and emotions to know why it is different here.

Except, I am not a poetic creature myself. I have no English blood in my genealogy, but I don’t know why I conform to the stereotype – I am embarrassed by emotion. I don’t know if that is a repression of emotion – emotionally constipated – as some people quite colourfully call it. It can’t be, for I feel them profoundly in the comfort of my privacy. I just can’t do it, passionately or to the blood-like extreme, in public. In any context. Even if it makes my art anaemic.

But, I want to. I really want to find the blood of the thing. I really want to be unquestionably authentic. We’ve established I’m aerial in my ways, but being aerial has its advantages too. You get ideas, lots of them, and try to work them out. You try to know everything, albeit in bits and pieces, and then make a collage out of them, to tell something new. There have been many aerial artists (Oscar Wilde, for example) who were more than comfortable to occupy the view from above. Finding the blood would be to take one thing, one idea, and be consumed by it. Now, unless you can actually find such an idea, without deliberation, you have to make do with what you have.

Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) making things in ‘The Science of Sleep’

Bernal played the lead in one of my favourite films, The Science of Sleep. The Air Vs. Blood idea can also be applied to it. Stephane is a highly creative, imaginative young man, who frequently blurs reality with his inner world, often not knowing which is which. He flits from idea to idea, collecting or making beautiful objects, writing a song one moment, presenting a TV show the next. But, then he meets Stephanie (yes, Stephane, Stephanie), and begins to find the blood of the life thing, with the help of some of the aerial objects they both have in common. But, things begin to mean more, and complications arise. In a world where too many love stories exist with blood spilling all over the place, or cynicism disguising itself as aeriality, it was refreshing to find a story celebrating two people coming together through aeriality. That is not the only reason I love it, but it is a strong one.

Ben Whishaw as John Keats in the film ‘Bright Star’

Keats said:

A Poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence; because he has no Identity – he is continually in for – and filling some other Body – The Sun, the Moon, the Sea and Men and Women who are creatures of impulse are poetical and have about them an unchangeable attribute – the poet has none; no identity – he is certainly the most unpoetical of all God’s Creatures.

I feel this maybe a way of reconciling the two, of not being aware of yourself as an artist (I discuss this in Of Being Artistic) with an agenda. But, occupying yourself to the extent of  complete lack of self-awareness in some idea, for however long that maybe. Because, the only joy, the only reason why anybody would want to be making art, is doing it. The Work is The Thing, not how you make it, or what it means. But, just that you make it at all.


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

12 thoughts on “Of Blood and Passion

    1. Aw, really? You still won’t find me reciting poetry in any random place, though. Unless I’m allowed to giggle! I hope you and your family are well, Tamara.

  1. Great post as usual. When people see a camera in my hands, or see some of my shots on either my blog, or on the FB page for my blog (where I sometimes feature shots that for one reason or another don’t really fit in with my writing) they assume I’m a full time photographer. Flattering, but I only have two cameras-one film, one digital. I can’t afford all the gadgetry I want to trick out my camera bag. I don’t have a ‘photos for sale’ website. I don’t even watermark my photos to safeguard against them being copied. That does not mean that I don’t work hard at the shots I take sometimes, but is it my ‘blood’? Somehow I don’t think so. My preference for how I show my photography is unfiltered. I don’t do photoshop, or put things through a filter. Maybe subtle color changes, and a crop here and there, but for the most part, what you see is what I took. The paid photographers out there on the other hand right now, seem to live in that world- a camera on the tripod, and the laptop pulled out at the ready to tweak photos on site. I won’t ever do that which is perhaps why it is not my blood. It is something I enjoy, and the writing is something I enjoy, and listening to music is something I enjoy. Piecing all three elements together has been my blood in the 2 and a half years I have been writing. Even if the blog changes, I think these elements are what will drive me on. It has been a huge part of my existence and I don’t want it to change. Not sure that completely fulfills the requirements of Bernal’s quote, but its good enough for me right now!

    1. You know, I assumed you were a professional photographer too! You should be, because your work is good. By what you describe, I think you’re looking at it externally. By what people assume a pro photographer, or just ‘a’ photographer to be. But surely, finding the blood in it must be your own perspective (no pun intended), should it not? If the work is meaningful to you, is that not ‘authentic’ enough? I don’t know anything about photography, but in a world where we’re inundated with images and photoshop tricks are obvious to the non-photographer, I prefer an untouched image. I’m using layman’s terms here, but the real ‘art’ to me is the content, angles, lenses etc,. It’s so hard for me to find images for my blog posts, because most are just so enhanced and fake-looking, I’d rather go without them. I always look for something pure, however modest, because something flashy just won’t go.

      I think what Bernal meant in “finding the blood” is a little more complicated in his context. He makes many light, airy, entertaining things. But, he’s also very socially conscious, not making propagandist, or terribly realistic films, but trying to represent contemporary life in his part of the world as truthfully as possible. I think he means ‘truth’ in finding the blood.

      1. Thank you! Its nice to come across others that feel the same way I do about the nature of photography these days. The trickery sometimes works, and I have seen some photo exhibitions in museums that truly benefited from them. Technically, the early days of film development employed trickery as well (like sepia), so its always been an element to photography I suppose. You make a good distinction here though about authenticity, and perspective. I much more prefer finding an interesting angle, or working with reflection and shadows. And you are right-I like it because it is mine. I’m sure I also simplified Bernal’s quote somewhat. I have not seen the film you mention in your post but it sounds particularly intriguing, and illustrates your point. I’ll have to try to find that movie because I like how you put that about him-socially conscious without being too heavy handed. Admirable way to be creative!

      2. The Science of Sleep isn’t socially conscious though. Surreal, endearing, funny, just wonderful. The Spanish language films he does mostly deal with serious subject matter. I’ve read he makes documentaries as well about people in South America.

      3. I saw him in that biography of Che Guevara and was very impressed. I know I have seen in some other things too but nothing is coming to mind at the moment. I just like the premise of The Science Of Sleep the way you describe it!

      4. It is even better than any description! It’s by Michel Gondry, who also made ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. He’s one of my favourite filmmakers. Yes, The Motorcycle Diaries was very good. You should definitely watch all the films he’s done with Inarritu, especially Babel, if you haven’t already.

  2. Motorcycle Diaries…yes I seem to be forgetting names of things lately! I did not realize they were done by the same director. Funny thing is, I seem to be watching less and less movies these days and I really must get back to the more interesting and thought provoking ones. I so often get disappointed one way or another these days, but admittedly, I’m probably picking the wrong ones!

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