Roll On Roll On
Phenomena

Essay For Kornkrit Jianpinidnan

A month before traveling, I think about where I will be, what will be happening, and what the people around me will be doing. I concentrate on that for a while, rolling it around in my head, all the while knowing that my present self will think back to the past self who is lying in bed thinking about the future self. Eventually, when the imagined turns into the real I say to myself: “one month ago I was thinking about this exact place. Flying.” As often as the ritual is, I still forget to leave a message that can be picked up in the future. In an interview on hope Massumi shows us that the present is uncertain, one does not know at the moment if one should succeed or fail. As such uncertainty can be empowering:

The way all the elements interrelate is so complex that it isn’t necessarily comprehensible in one go. There’s always a sort of vagueness surrounding the situation, an uncertainty about where you might be able to go, and what you might be able to do once you exit that particular context. This uncertainty can actually be empowering – once you realize that it gives you a margin of manoeuvrability and you focus on that, rather than on projecting success or failure. It provides you with the feeling that there is always an opening to experiment, to try and see. [1]

It is the maneuverability of this passage that brings me to think of Kornkrit and photography. His photography, in particular, is in constant movement as he travels through different spaces. I have in mind Ballad of A Thin Man (2016), a series of loose photographs held inside a clamshell box. The photos can be taken out and viewed as a single image or left in the box as one of many. The title comes from a Bob Dylan song, which I have been listening to a lot since Kornkrit sent me the box. When thinking of the maneuverability that is made possible in the present moment of photography, I think of Kornkrit, his travels, his worries, and Dylan’s line keeps coming back to me: ‘But something is happening, and you don't know what it is’.[2]

The etymology of maneuver derives from manuoperare, which means 'work, to work with one's hands; to carry out, prepare'.[3] To work with one's hands bring Kornkrit and the viewer together. His, while handling his camera taking a photograph, come together with the hand of the viewer as they turn over each page. Both hold in their hands the complexity of one frame linking to the past and future. As Massumi says the elements that make up one moment are so complex that they cannot be comprehensible until later. The interrelated elements making up the present is the body in motion, which requires the mobility of other forms to move from place to place. The human body in an airplane requires the movement of airway system, free Wi-Fi, and the wind to remain connected outside of the seat where the body reclines. These forms of mobility are intertwined, and the space created by them are hard to pull apart, just like trying to peel apart the elements of the present. And still, the body is active at rest; the blood circulates, the electrical impulses in the brain and eyes and the thumb track downward on the Facebook page of a friend. The mind is moving backward in time, thinking about the childhood that these friends shared, while the eyes follow the friend’s live video stream. And still, the multiplicity of mobility ‘[…] need to be examined in their fluid interdependence and not in their separation spheres (such as driving, traveling virtually, writing letters, flying and walking.[4] Releasing oneself from the chaos of one moment to focus on a single frame, on a single image, could this be the empowerment that Massumi speaks?

To think about photography as unconfigurable moments is to return to that present moment. Is it to reflect only to understand the image at the time of selection and editing of the photo? I wonder if this is, for a photographer, like standing outside of oneself, looking back in, the complexity of time slowed down and still ever moving. The box, like the act of taking a photograph, loosely holds a moment, a series of moments that are in motion. It seems easy to forget that before, now, and after are not linear, Kornkrit shows us that as the loose pages of Ballad of A Thin Man (2016) over time fall out of chronological order, one moment comes before another in the box, the future enters into the past, through present hands of the viewer and 'something is happening, and you don't know what it is.'[5]

[1] Mary Zournazi & Brian Massumi, ‘Navigating movements – with Brian Massumi’ in Hope: new philosophies for change (Annandale: Pluto Press Australia, 2002), 211-212
[2] Bob Dylan, ‘Ballad of A Thin Man’ in Highway 61 Revisited. (Warner Bros. Inc, 1965; Special Rider Music, 1993). Accessed on December 8, 2016: https://bobdylan.com/songs/ballad-thin-man/
[3] Douglas Harper, ‘maneuver’ in Online Etymology Online (2001-2017). Accessed on December 23, 2017: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=maneuver&allowed_in_frame=0
[4] Mimi Sheller & John Urry, ‘The New Mobilities Paradigm’ in Environment and Planning A, 2006, vol. 38: 207-226. Accessed on 13 November 2014: https://edisciplinas.usp.br/pluginfile.php/122109/mod_resource/content/1/The%20new%20mobilities%20paradigm%20Sheller%20-%20Urry.pdf
[5] Bob Dylan, ‘Ballad of A Thin Man’ in Highway 61 Revisited. (Warner Bros. Inc, 1965; Special Rider Music, 1993). Accessed on December 8, 2016: https://bobdylan.com/songs/ballad-thin-man/