Tondal's Vision (2018)

For the first time since I finished Potamkin last year, I re-entered the darkroom to make a new film, again a long film, an adaptation of the twelfth-century religious text Visio Tnugdali, the protagonist's name translated variously as Tnugdalus, Tundale and Tondal. The premise of Tondal's Vision is recognizable as the template for Dante's Divine Comedy - the protagonist is given a tour of the afterlife - however here rather than the poet Virgil as a guide, Tondal has an archetypal angel, and Tondal is himself an archetype, a knight and noble who lives a sinful life and whose excesses instigate his journey by knocking him to the edge of death. The tour he is given is  a familiar lesson - ironic punishments await those who sin, one of medieval divinity's most perfect clichés.

I don't like didacticism in art but here are a couple of lessons that feature in this work: poetry is poison and even your angels will get you lost.

I don't like didacticism in art but here are a couple of lessons that feature in this work: poetry is poison and even your angels will get you lost.

I first encountered Tondal's Vision in Eileen Gardner's Visions of Heaven and Hell Before Dante, where I understood it simply as a fable. In the years since it took up root in me - I had read it before reading Dante - and so with each new understanding of Dante I arrived at, for instance, in reading La Vita Nuova, learning the roots of his self-consciousness and his implication of himself in literary history, I found it easier to understand Tondal as a raw source to be synthesized into a profound and personal truth. For this work I wanted to return to that primitive state of the fable, sifting through the cloak and rubble of synthesis, to vision-before-Dante. It is both fable and immram, a charting of otherworldly lands.

Last year, when Potamkin was just starting to pick up momentum after its screening in A Coruña, it was invited to screen at MUTA, a festival of found footage filmmaking in Peru. The organizers of MUTA gave the film a tremendous amount of support, and it led to this wonderful article that Ivonne Sheen wrote for Desistfilm. They had invited me to come for their second edition this year, but while timing did not work out, I decided to use the invitation as an occasion to make Tondal's Vision, which will premiere there in my place.

To start, I rephotographed Giuseppe de Liguoro's 1911 adaptation of Dante's Inferno. As the Inferno has an immediate structural similarity to Visio Tnugdali, it could serve as the image source. Once processed, I had roughly 2000' of 16mm film for chemical experimentation. I spent four days in August 2018 applying mordancage chemistry to the film. It is presently in the process of being digitized before further manipulation is done to it. The goal of this process is to create a largely abstract adaptation of Tondal's Vision, in colour, applied through tint, tone, paint and digital tools, that will draw from the colour palette of Simon Marmion's illuminations for the fifteenth-century manuscript, Les Visions du chevalier Tondal.

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