TO THE FRIEND WHO DID NOT SAVE MY LIFE. HOMMAGE TO CH
CH (1973-2009) is a queer artist, poet and script writer from Russia, who lived with HIV/AIDS. He died under unknown circumstances, while we together were making a film about him.
The video and film installation are based on the documentary and staged film and video material from the unfinished film and the personal story about CH and the failed attempt to make this film.
This is a film about a film
This is a film that does not exist
This is a film that can never be completed
A film that is impossible
TO THE FRIEND WHO DID NOT SAVE MY LIFE
This film is a dedication to CH.
CH (1973-2009) is a Russian poet, playwright and artist.
His main artistic masterpiece was his own life of a cursed poet, mendicant dandy and a modern holy fool. Stunning, fascinating for everyone who ever came in touch with him–a provocation, an embodiment of poetry and romantic ideal amid the misery of everyday life, an ultimate artist.
As we met, he had had HIV–‘Hervé Guibert’ in his blood’, as he lovingly called it–for 9 years. As his witness and his lover, I rushed to make a film that would save his image, and save him. I did not save him.
This film is a failed attempt.
CH died under unknown circumstances before we could complete it.
The film material contains the last year of his life–and, as it turned out, its last hours. His testimonies are scattered in this footage and are yet to be reassembled.
His life was, for many reasons, a tragedy. –It was a triumph.
You always denied you were born in Russia. But I doubt it all could happen anywhere else. The sense of permanent crisis in the air, everyday brutality, misery, shabbiness, roaring time flying off the handle–an radical romanticism behind the ugly facade.
In the Russia of the ‘90s and early 2000s CH was a superfluous, unnecessary, doomed person. A liminal figure, for his society he was as if dead long ago. Yet his being justifies ours and it gives meaning to the brutal carnival he and we lived in.
The first time I met you, you were shining through the misery of the life around us. You said:
“Hervé Guibert is in my blood”.
It sounded fatal. I said–I will accompany you.
„A l‘ami qui ne m‘a pas sauve la vie“, an autofiction novel by Hervé Guibert.
CH believed to have contracted HIV from this book through his love and imagination
The film was based on a real episode of CHs life that matched the story of Hervé Guibert’s novel.
We are the flesh of our masks.
“A young and fatally sick artist loses everything due to dramatic circumstances and has to do hard physical labor. When he already almost loses all hope of self-realization, an invisible friend–a successful director–promises him to stage his theatre play. For this plan he leaves everything behind in order to prepare for the performance in the face of his fatal illness. But soon he realizes that the promised production will never happen. …And yet he performs his role–but in a different way as he expected. “
I went through all the roles but the characters were over
All you can see are only images.
You try to save one’s life but in the end there are only images.
Bu your image sleeps through my fingers. It consists of fragments of our euphoria, agony and grace. It consist of broken pieces and pixels that are no longer you
Nothing can fill this gap–
the abyss between you and this film
I could easier tell about the past, present and future horrors of life–it is way harder to describe your sheer beauty. It is nearly impossible to speak about things that are just fatally beautiful, without falling into false sentimentality and kitsch
No matter which language–no words can describe the beauty of yours. Heartbreaking, breathtaking beauty of a loved one you will never see again.
Hundred times I tried to tell your tragic story and paint your beautiful image and I am doomed to fail. Every time the voice drowns in water, thrown onto the floor, onto the bottom of self, onto the sharp edges of your own limits. The story of this film is not only about the failed attempt to make it but about the pure impossibility to hold and to save what is most beautiful and precious
It is a theatre of suffering–a place of chastity and shamelessness, the last place where we can meet each other again.
Every illness has its own dramaturgy.
HIV directed CHs life. Living with HIV and being an artist is like an extremely extended liminal phase of a rite of passage–an existential and physical state of already not being here, but not yet being there, hanging in-between life and death.
AIDS is surrounded by a special cultural mythology, a community experience that became a stamp of artistic martyrdom.
We were bitterly poor and every now and then homeless. Nothing like deceitful comfort. But you could always turn ugly holes we were thrown in by life into a temple.
Then there was the message–
no more YOU.
Scream, agony, delirium, faint, coma. When I wake up–your image on the screen sent by someone, no signature, no explanation, just an apparition.
A new horrible world outside the window where there is no more you.
The last kiss
The authorities did not want to let me see you. You body torn on a steel table. Your wounds are aching in my own body. This is where our dreams lead us. You body is cold and frozen like chicken in a f freezer but your lips are still soft, gentle and warm
The illusion of authenticity falls apart, what is there, is iconography, images.
Mourning and pain of loss unconsciously take the culturally conditioned forms we aquire through visual memory. As if they were inscribed in the body and would appear in grief. They reflect the iconography of mourning from art and film history.
You speak the language of revelations. No paper, no film can hold them, but we saw it. Your sorrowful destiny, your greatness and your triumph. Your art is not in the number of published books, made films and exhibitions–it is in your fearlessness, sacrifice, radical romanticism, your search of modern sanctity in the life of an artist, in the love that was revealed to you. Always more than an artist but yourself a modern saint, a holy fool with a testament written with tears, blood and lipstick.
Once you said–this film will hasten my end. Did it?
It did not save you, that is for sure. I did not save you.
You made your spirit known to us.
Your beauty is blinding, it hurts. I am burnt by your radiance and I hope I am incurably infected by you.
This film is a celebration
This film is our last meeting place that does not restore what is lost.
The last place where our paths cross, in a poor virtual film empire, one more time before each goes its way.
This is a film that will never be over
You are a FILM
You are its fabric, its flesh
The film that never comes to an end–The film that never comes to an end
My curse, my blessing, I kiss your image and your name–