Image: Ya Magu Govorit’, Berhijrah Series, Koboi Project, by Niranjan Rajah. The preparatory image for a photographic after original stills from Andrei Tarkovsky’s Zerkalo.
Hugo: … it’s a lovely piece … heartfelt and so moving – and we will certainly forgive you your enthusiasm-driven sweeping statement. If I were to make a criticism it is that you don’t actually make the case for the statement, since all the things you declare as the things you love about Tarkovsky don’t in themselves add up to “most important artist of the 20 century in any medium”. That’s not to say I don’t accept your opinion, but you don’t allow me the chance to agree with you …
Niranjan: Oh I see what you mean. In a way, that is the idea … I did not want to try to prove the unprovable … it is hyperbole after all … but partly, I did not develop the arguments that I promised, or alluded to, due to haste and brevity … time and space … or lack there of!
Hugo: Yes but you state you’re going to ‘justify’ it …
Niranjan: Ah yes … I see that is indeed an overstatement … I will go back and remove that claim … I will change the post to say that I will ‘contextualize’ it. But now that you have asked me … I will try to make my justification and I will make another post (below in this post) of it!
The main criteria or justification for my belief is that film is the medium of the 20th Century. The other mediums – painting, sculpture, literature, theatre and the like are old and therefore had necessarily become decadent by the end of the 19th Century (by decadent I mean fully matured and ripened, redolent in idiom with well defined syntax and grammars). Film was new-born at the dawn of the 20th Century and youthful at mid-century, and just beginning to mature in the 1960s. Any artist not practicing his art in the film medium misses, in my estimation, and by default, the right to be considered the greatest artist of this time and, according to Ingmar Bergman, himself a contender for the title, Andrei Tarkovsky is the ‘greatest’ artist in the film medium!
The second criteria stems from my belief about the nature of art. Art is – the search for universal truths or ‘truth’, and it is in terms of the deployment of the mechanics and aesthetics of cinema in the service of this inquiry, Andrei Tarkovsky couches his project. I suggest that in this quest, he has no betters in the film medium and only few peers in any medium of any time.
The third criteria stems from my belief about the purpose of art … While art is a search for the aforementioned ‘truth’, artists must pursue this search in a manner that provides succor for the human condition … In this regard, I believe Andrei’s films play an exemplary role. Indeed this is what is most important about the films of this great artist. Important enough, I suggest, to make him the greatest!
(slightly edited version of a post made in AUGUST 2, 2017)