Margaret Tait. 1952. A Portrait of Ga. Ancona: Orkney and Edinburgh. Sound. Colour. 4 mins 27 sec

Jean-Luc Nancy. 2001. L’évidence du film. Brussels: Yves Gevaert

Tait cuts from a red scarf to a thicket of swaying red and pink stocks, conjuring chromatic correspondence, as if rhyming Ga’s garments and garden, silk and cellulose, the latter being the material of growing plants, as well as a constituent of celluloid film, and what Nancy describes as film’s ‘budding and opening of a look’ founded on careful tending.[1] Tending to her flowers, Ga’s hands are filmed busily moving in the present (maintenant, French for ‘now’), and with care (maintain: manu tenere ‘hold in the hand’). They pick heather, unwrap a sticky boiled sweet, and conduct a song. Tait’s handheld camera complements her emphasis on hands and touch, and feels like the stethoscope she used during her time as a medical doctor. It palpates for rhythmic vivacity, and mobilises our position as viewers, encouraging what Nancy calls ‘an ethos, a disposition, and a conduct in regard to the world.’[2]

In a brief scene in which Ga sits on her house’s threshold with a book in her lap, we read the heading ‘A Theory,’ and might be lead to think about the film’s ‘theory’ as a whole, with its deictics of here and now, of holding a look, of touching a presence –

                                                         ‘I’m out here now […] Look!’[3]

                                                                                                                      – With Tait’s camera, we are ‘taken by the hand and led away on a journey […] that amounts to making the gaze move, stirring it up, or even shaking it up, in order to make it carry further, closer, more accurately.’[4] In looking this way, with sensitive eyes, Tait encourages us to revise any representative visual tendency, and regard anew, with awakened and mobilised feeling.

[1] Nancy, J-L. (C. Irizarry and V. A. Conley trans.) 2001. L’évidence du film. Brussels: Yves Gevaert p.22
[2] Nancy 2001:16
[3] Tait, M. 1960. ‘A Poem for a Morning,’ in: Subjects and Sequences. Edinburgh: M. C. Tait
[4] Nancy 2001:24