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we are like fireflies
The Poetics of Fragility is a transmedia, bilingual exploration of the texture, vitality and aesthetics of fragility.

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The Poetics of Fragility is a kaleidoscopic exploration of the texture, vitality and aesthetics of fragility. It interweaves stories of bodily frailty with optical vignettes of nature’s delicacy to reclaim fragility as intrinsic to existence, not something to be bemoaned or overcome. In this bilingual transmedia project we explore the specific possibilities offered by film, artist book and website in marking out the scope of our inquiry, experimenting with the distinctive potential of each. The Poetics of Fragility does not replicate a single work in several formats. Even as film, book and website draw from the same core material and each can stand alone, it is when they are conceived as a matrix that the project emerges in its multidimensionality.

editions in english & español

Reimagines the script and project as a tactile experience in print duration within a broader canvas of process notes, critical essays and artistic responses. Drawing broadly on gestalt design principles it works with typography, digital collages and stills from the film to create an interactive visual, conceptual and sensory print experience.
Aaniya Asrani, visual storyteller & graphic artist.
If you want to buy the artist book contact us:

english y español

A community platform hosting trailer, film, script, process notes, supporting materials and curated creative responses to the project - visual, sonic and textual. The site explores the potential of web technology to further extend the poetics and preoccupations of the project.
For instance it represents the script as a yantra, a remapping that frees its linearity in film and artist book and opens multiple pathways to entering and experiencing it.
Diego Oneto
click here to watch
HD | 63 minutes | english with subtitles in español

The film is conceived as a “videocontemplation,”   a form that Nicolás Grandi and Lata Mani have been developing, to explore the audiovisual medium as a sensuous tool for social inquiry with a philosophical impulse. The formally plural, visually arresting, film unfolds through stories that build on and amplify each other. Moments of emotional intensity alternate with speculative calm, narration with performance, poetry and critical inquiry into prevailing understandings of fragility.

Conceived and scripted by Lata Mani The Poetics of Fragility features internationally renowned scholar-activist Angela Davis, the acclaimed playwright and critic Cherrie Moraga,  Nora Cortiñas, the inspiring founding member of Madres de Plaza de Mayo Línea Fundadora, actor-dancer  Greg Manalo, feminist performance artists Thao P. Nguyen   and   Martha Rynberg, theater scholar  Jisha Menon, healer Christopher Miles, creative writer  Xochitl M. Perales, actor and yoga instructor María Laura Cáccamo and the young trombone talent Jasim Perales. It was shot on location in the San Francisco Bay Area in September 2015 with two segments filmed in Buenos Aires in January 2016.
"The Poetics of Fragility is a subtle and tender message of our condition as humans... an embrace of poetic contemplation on the nature of suffering. Wonderful work!"
Lourdes Portillo, Academy Award winning filmmaker.
Nicolás Grandi
He´s a Buenos Aires based filmmaker, interdisciplinary artist and educator. He has been teaching film theory and practice in universities, schools and community workshops in Argentina and India and has cofounded several collectives working at the intersection of film, poetry, music and sculpture. He currently runs transdisciplinary art labs. His films which include La Pasión Según Ander (2005) and Simón Decouvre (2000) have been screened widely at film festivals around the world.
Lata Mani
She´s a feminist historian, cultural critic, contemplative writer and filmmaker. She has published books and articles on a broad range of issues, from feminism and colonialism, to illness, spiritual philosophy and contemporary politics.  She is the author of The Integral Nature of Things
Critical Reflections on the Present (Routledge, 2013), Interleaves
Ruminations on Illness and Spiritual Life (Yoda, 2011), Sacred Secular
Contemplative Cultural Critique, (Routledge, 2009) and Contentious Traditions
The Debate on Sati in Colonial India (University of California Press, 1989).

Previous film collaborations between Nicolás Grandi and Lata Mani
Here-Now (2012); Nocturne I and Nocturne II (2013); De Sidere 7 (2014); The Earth on its Axis, We in our Skin
The Tantra of Embodiment
(2014). More here
Angela Davis
Cherrie Moraga
playwright and critic
Nora Cortiñas
founding member of Madres de Plaza de Mayo Línea Fundadora
Jisha Menon
scholar & actor
Christopher Miles
Negar Tayyar
advisor to the UN and philanthropy on community wellbeing
Xochitl M. Perales
creative writer
Jasim Perales
Greg Manalo
actor & dancer
Thao P. Nguyen
feminist solo performer
Martha Rynberg
feminist solo performer
& teacher
María Laura Cáccamo
actor & yoga instructor
Herman Gray
scholar & cultural critic
Sindhu Thirumalaisamy
artist & filmmaker
Script | Process
All finished work distills a process even as process is itself work distilled. Form as the film says is “transitory coherence.”  The film, the book, the web; each offers its own mode of mapping. Here we draw on the potential of web design to offer another way of journeying through script and as well our process in crafting the film, in arriving at its form.
a strong woman
brain injury
midnight satsang
3 questions
graceful abandon
solidity a fiction
poetry in motion
the soldier’s work
definition of fragility
the autonomous self
a pas de deux
the body as archivist
no strength without fragility
ned as a yan-
tra. The Sanskrit
term derives from "yan"
to hold or support and "tra"
from trana meaning “liberation
from bondage.” Within Hinduism
a yantra is a geometric representation
of a journey: in deistic terms towards awa-
reness of the divine and put non-deistically of
cosmic truth. Its value to a remapping of the  
script of The Poetics of Fragility is in how it brings
together the sense of holding and of freeing. The script is
reordered to offer multiple points of entry and freed from
its linearity in film and artist book.
A strong woman is sometimes strongly fed up
(apologies to Marge Piercy)
A strong woman is sometimes strongly fed up
A strong woman is at times strongly rageful
A strong woman is on occasion deeply sorrowful
Beloved Shakti, teach me in this unbearable now about the cosmic dance of creation/destruction
We are so much more aware of destruction, so asleep to creation
Teach us in this now what we need to know
For strong women are strongly prepared to grow.
Definition of fragility
Fragility, n.
1. Liable to break or be broken; perishable; of tender frame or constitution
2. Moral weakness (Obs.)
We are like fireflies
here for a fraction of time
Yet who can resist the firefly as it glows in the dark of the night?
Midnight satsang
It is midnight. I have been awake, unable to sleep. My brain feels as though it is being kneaded by some invisible force. My eyes are so sensitive to light that I have been under ice most of the day. My ribs are aching and the muscles between them feel as if they are twisted. My legs are throbbing with pain and I am very fatigued.

I am hesitant to share my mood with Ruth, who has stayed up with me countless times while I have expressed seething, volcanic frustration. Once, I even threw everything down from her bookshelf. What can I say about frustration that I have not said before? Nothing. Certainly it is true, as Emmanuel says, that the clock strikes one every twelve hours, the sea wets the same beaches day after day and the sun rises and sets every single day. Still, as he says, it is never the same sunset, never the same pattern left by the wave on the sand, never the same one o’clock, even. And in that sense it is never the same frustration.

Why am I doing an audio journal in the middle of the night? Because so many things that one can do to empty frustration are not available to me. I cannot walk up and down vigorously. There is no chance of getting in the car and driving through the city streets peering at mannequins in shop windows looking ghostly in the midnight light, staring at the marquees, wondering who has gone to see which film, and why. I cannot bury myself in a book. It has been three years since I have been able to read. The very sight of a page full of words makes my head swim.

I cannot, in short, do anything to shift the mood. So here I am within the same four walls feeling imprisoned in my body. Forget the yogini on her mountaintop. This day after day after day of endless, infinitely variable yet deadeningly repetitive suffering in the body, calling for the most honed mindfulness, surely ranks among the most challenging of austerities.

The truth of the matter is that suffering in and of itself is boring. Suffering gets old. Oh, yes, it can teach you many lessons. It can open you to the infinite joy available in the smallest split second of relief. It can make you grateful to smell the flowers. However, beyond a point, suffering is pointless, even if it must still be endured. Personally, I am ready to write off suffering though I fully realize the absurdity of this proposition! But then, it is forty minutes after midnight and three years since all of this began.
Frailty 3 questions
How did frailty, an inescapable pre-condition of existence,
become something to be abhorred or overcome, at best tolerated?

Is the idea of frailty as moral weakness really obsolete?

Why then shame of illness, ageing, dependence?
I remember the exact moment when the truth of impermanence dawned on me - not as a concept but as a fact. It was as if the very foundation of my sense of reality had suddenly heaved and turned to rubble. Disorientation, rage and betrayal coursed through my body. If everything was impermanent how could I trust the future? How was I supposed to live?
Graceful abandon
a dry bamboo leaf
whirls to the ground
with graceful abandon

a spider’s web
endures storms
combining strength and delicacy

we incapacitate ourselves
by resisting nature
cleaving to one way of being
Attachment is habit
afraid to let go
desperate to leave
I am sitting beside Christopher’s bed. Outside it is cold and the few leaves that still remain on the trees are being blown by gusty winds coming off the San Francisco Bay. The temperature is bracing and cooler than is usual for October. Christopher is lying still, looking intently at me from the corner of his eye. His breathing is irregular even though he says it is not as bad as it can sometimes be. Yeast lies like confetti on his eyebrows. Curled upon his short and tubby frame are the tubes that connect him to the respirator. He looks like an especially fetching Lord Ganesh.

I am perched on my stool, leaning forward, chin resting on cupped palms. Behind me the nurses’ station is deserted. The occasional voice is heard over the loudspeaker paging a doctor or nurse. If we did not pay attention to the words we might believe we were in an airport, so similar is the pace and intonation of the delivery. My mantra is repeating itself inwardly rather like Christopher’s breath which rises and falls without his conscious effort. Sometimes the impulse to speak arises like a sudden breeze but dissipates just as quickly for I am aware that I am here to be, to simply be. Occasionally a question unhesitatingly formulates itself. Christopher’s answers are usually short – a word, at the very most a phrase.

Christopher says that his week has been uneventful. Still it absorbs him greatly. The world has shrunk into the vastness of his experience, into the radical simplicity imposed upon him by the extremity of his situation. There is little room for anything else. Illness has freed him from the obligation to be someone in particular. It has required him to embrace non-narrativity; to set aside the delusion of a plot line that confers specific meaning and significance to every breath, to everything he thinks, says and does.
Solidity a fiction
Solidity is a fiction, separation a mirage
Everything is in continual interdependent flux

Existence is relational
shaped by processes known and unknown, seen and unseen

Form is transitory coherence
a momentary emanation in the grand sweep of time

making each thing all the more precious

Poetry in motion
Poetry in motion you called it
When your body began to move to rhythms unfamiliar
Teetering, swaying, bending into gravity
Traveling diagonally when you willed it to go straight ahead
Ataxia, MS, Parkinson’s…call it what you will
Simply intelligence embracing change
reinventing itself

The soldier’s work
This morning I feel like a weary soldier waking to the swirling mist of another day dawning. The body is quite wrung out from all that has happened in the days before and the rough night just gone by.

The body is my battlefield. It is not that different parts of it are war with each other. It as though a war is rampaging through my body and tending it is the soldier’s work. Not fighting back. Not trying to kill the opponent. Rather, trying to discern how to live with the chaotic energies that have been ripping and hammering it into aching tenderness.

Make of your enemy a friend, say all the wisdom teachers. This has been the work of this soldier; not seeing these energies as a cruel, conquering regiment but learning to make the body an open channel so that all that must travel through it can do so with as little obstruction as is humanly possible. Breath by conscious breath, I strive to make safe passage for itinerant energies, clearing each chakra of accumulated debris so nothing stagnates and immobilizes me even further. Crown, pregma, third eye, throat, heart, solar plexus, belly, yoni, kundalini, knees and feet. On days like this it feels to me like the hardest work of all.

Beloved Oneness, I thank you for carrying me through to this morning. Drained by the intense pain of last night, I am open and full of wonder. I pray that the journey continues until there is only space, only emptiness, only light, only love. Your love, the One love.
crow’s feet
quicksand skin
slackening gait
slowing pace

the body narrating
a different vitality
in ageing’s cursive script
Brain injury
In the quietude left by the injury I could relish only one thought at a time. “The cat is on the fence.”  This would take several minutes to formulate itself, like a bubble slowly forming at the very bottom of a mud bath and unhurriedly making its way through a thick, liquid medium. The mind felt rather like that mud bath. Sometimes a thought dissolved even before it reached the surface. At other times it might make it to the top but not find language. And occasionally, words would mysteriously arrive and align themselves into a sentence that could be spoken and understood. Those were magical moments.

One image I often had when trying to think without success was of the trees on Sproul Plaza at the U.C. Berkeley campus. These trees have been pruned so as to inhibit growth. The branches look like fists whose fingers have been clenched shut, knotted into an involuted gesture. My mind felt like those treesem
striving to express itself but continually hitting up against a wall and streaming back in confusion. At such times thinking felt like a once familiar activity now beyond grasp; like an amputated limb of which all that is left is memory.
The autonomous self
the autonomous self
bounded, unyielding
would be unique in nature, something apart
no wonder this notion is tied to a conception
of humans superior, exceptional even

the facts truth be told are really quite other
nodes in a web might be a better descriptor
for we are connected, traversed and embedded
in bacteria, DNA, energy flows
in myriad intimacies largely unknown
A pas de deux
The things that preoccupy us, the stories by which we live
retreat when faced with unvarnished fragility
As if an elemental truth has asserted itself
and we must concede its priority

But this is merely misperception’s sleight of hand

For in birth, death, growth, evolution
in every one of life’s processes
fragility and strength are in a pas de deux
intricate, intimate, inextricable
The body as archivist
Every experience leaves its feather touch upon the deepest layer of our being. It is as though we had walked in a garden and absent-mindedly brushed against a lavender bush. We could quite easily not notice but the bodily memory endures as a fragrance.

The body is a tender archivist. It holds our memories and feelings in the hope that heart and mind will engage in the exquisite task of retrieval, cataloguing, analysis and recycling. An act of faith not always rewarded. For we are just as apt to let things accumulate, to allow the unexamined to mutate cells, clog arteries or thicken into tumors. At which point the body is forced to sound the alarm and is blamed - at least to begin with - for the resulting breakdown of normal life.
No strength without fragility
No strength without fragility
No inconsequential gesture
No life pointless
No death final
Can we imagine living in relation to this truth?
Four process notations share our creative-conceptual journey. Our representation builds from the square, which is considered a neutral shape and thus forms the foundation and the pedestal of a yantra. Two were written in preparation for filming (Notation II, IV) and two during post-production (I, III).
Notation I
To make the fragment whole
Lata Mani

Healing, from Anglo Saxon hal, to make whole that which has been rent apart

Poetics from poesis, the Greek word for “making”

Aesthetics from Greek aesthesis, pertaining to things perceptible by the senses

The Poetics of
the making whole of sense perception


from Latin frangere, to break

Also from frangere

fragment (remnant, portion, incomplete part)
fraction (a proportion of a whole number)
fracture (crack, break)

fractious (quarrelsome)

It might seem that portion, part, incompleteness, brokenness and ill-temperedness are indelibly linked.

However, frangere is also the root for “fractal.”  This brings into view a different, more expansive, dimension.
a geometric figure or natural phenomenon in which a repeated pattern may be observed at each scale of magnification. Such repetitions may be identical or to varying degrees self-similar. The term was coined by mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot to redress the shortcomings of classical geometry in describing the complexity of a whole range of natural phenomena, among them snowflakes, trees, plants, river networks and cardiovascular systems. Fractal patterns have since been observed in - and inspired the making of - art, image, sound, music.

Fractals affirm the insights of an unconditioned contemplation of fragility. For viewed dispassionately fragility reveals itself not as brokenness or as a residual form of life shaped by what remains after the “better”  part has been used, removed, or destroyed. To the contrary.

Fragility is a form of complexity
existing in relation to whole-ness
its own and as well of the interpretive totality
its characteristics manifest

The Poetics of Fragility
a narrative composed of fragments to make whole or render complex the perception of fragility.

Interpretation is an exercise in composition and framing. It involves noticing some things from a near-infinite range of possibilities and striving to understand the relationships between them. One can neither “see everything”  nor make sense of all of the interrelationships between what one beholds. Interpretation is by its nature an evolving, always partial process of building from fragments and developing principles for moving between and among them.

The form of the film- a non-narrative narrative that interleaves poem, sutra, vignette and teaching - is integral to its conception as a videocontemplation. To contemplate is to observe closely, to understand through analysis and reflection. Observation, analysis, reflection
forms of magnification that oscillate between proximity and distance, focusing in and then widening the frame.

Expansion, contraction
inhalation, exhalation. A “natural”  rhythm but also one crucial to inquiry as sensuous dispassion
a fullness of presence that can activate a curiosity and hold habitual perception in check. This implies and requires a certain pacing; playing with time in script, composition, editing. S-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g time and e l o n g a t i n g attention to allow for the possibility of seeing anew, moving through cognitive and physical discomfort toward terra (as yet) incognita.

Fragments of different densities organically manifest an alternating dynamic of proximity and distance. The vignette, the poem, the sutra and the teaching are distinct modes of address that position the viewer differently in relation to the human and natural worlds. The structure permits experimenting with a plurality of visual treatments or forms. Moments of emotional intensity can alternate with speculative calm, prose-poems with critical inquiry, dramatic narration with visual poetry. The movement between genres and affective registers permits one to consider the personal as social, the abstract as concrete and the biographical as collective. An exploration of the idea of fragility told in part through fragments of individuals’ stories. The film refigures intimacy as relaxed attentiveness and observation as a practice of receptivity. The Poetics of Fragility, an aesthetics of contemplation.

Notation II
An Idea Has Taken Hold of Me
Nicolás Grandi & Lata Mani

August 17, 2015

Dear Nicolas, The idea for a film on fragility as teacher, fragility as teaching, has taken hold of me ever since I watched Joaquim Pinto’s tour de force, What Now Remind Me. In it HIV’s effect on Joaquim emerges solely as negative constraint. The illness with which he has lived for twenty years is navigated with love and tenderness. But it holds no compass for rethinking the idea of illness.

My journey with illness was different. I could not have survived my ordeal without thoroughly embracing my fragility, allowing my “weakness”  in the societal terms to become a source of strength in diagnosing its misperceptions. And since in my case the physical devastation was also the site of a spiritual opening, fragility before Divine Spirit became something to embrace alongside fragility in the face of catastrophic illness.

And in this there was a kind of trajectory. In the beginning, it was mind’s bewilderment, grief, rage; body’s plainsong; heart’s mediation as broker-interpreter. Over time with deeper and deeper non-resistance to fragility, it was equally the song of mind, the cry of the body and the courage of heart. The two processes grew out of each other. Mind-heart-body holding hands in astonished courage at what submission to fragility made possible. “The power of your love and the power of my submission,”  as a Sufi song puts it. Physical and cognitive dissolution very gradually made way for a slow motion re-making and re-membering.

I am imagining a praisesong to fragility which attends equally to its challenges, its moods, textures and its aesthetics. It would interweave poems and fragments of prose with commentary into a videocontemplation that would move between the human and the natural worlds. For fragility is a fact of nature; a fact in nature. Though absurdly construed by humans as failure, fragility is a precondition of existence within the continually evolving dynamic of interdependent-impermanence. Attaching some material I have put together to give you a feel. Skype?

August 22, 2015

Lata, Good to talk the other day! I´m still digesting Skype summary, notes and the script you sent, letting them settle. 

I like the idea of walkers as punctuating the stories and the philosophical bits. But for that there are some technical things to consider. Shooting walks requires some gear. Not discarding it but just something to think about carefully.

  And I like the idea of working with the autobiographical and transforming it; making that voice transit through other bodies. One idea I had some time back ago was to have a single character be voiced by different people. Everyone talking as if they were the same character but all of them really different from each other. Diversity and unity. All as one. With that oneness being diverse and complex. I would think about poets, storytellers as we did for De Sidere, but a different process, this time scripted. That´s why I thought of Cherrie, of Angela.

  Being in SF I would also consider having shots near City Lights, a wink to all the beat poets since you mentioned Howl. These are some ideas bouncing in my head now.... 

August 24, 2015

Nic, Let us definitely develop the idea of multiple voices. It disperses the ‘I’ of the fragments. It would also free the words from their source in my experience, allowing others to make it their own through voice, body, gesture and interpretation. By pluralizing and collectivizing the words we organically build into the form and structure of the film two of its key ideas
the social nature of experiences that are more commonly experienced as personal; the autonomous subject as an untenable construct.

I have revised the script and rearranged the pieces slightly. I have also included a note on its structure and logic. It may well change once we have filmed but my hunch is we may well stay with much of this proposed flow.

I have divided the script into 4 acts that organize the material into concentric circles of complexity and layering. The acts are a heuristic device plotting the film’s arc. They are not intended to compartmentalize segments.

We can now begin to think about whom to offer which fragment to read/narrate and whether to treat each of the four forms – poem, vignettes, sutra, teaching - in a particular manner. Our approach to the vignettes can be painterly as in Here-Now. And perhaps we can build the hospital segment from sound; storytelling as field recording. It would be powerful to have one of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo read the piece on impermanence. Do you have a way to contact any of them? One image that keeps coming to mind is the window. When one is ill or frail, one is often looking out onto the world through house or car window. Windows often frame the gap between self and world.

August 27, 2015

Lata! Very helpful this structuring... I´ll take some time to work with it. I wouldn´t try to establish any formal principle yet as I´m feeling in some cases things will spill over; elements of composition can meander from one place to another. The philosophical thread will also use poetry, right? There are differences between each of our four categories (poem, vignette etc.) but also similarities. And in text they function differently than when transformed into images. I will start working on this but things will come together when we are in the Bay Area. It will be easier there to think which place and person is best for which segment. Still we can broadly sketch out ideas now and decide when we storyboard the script. I propose we ask Nora Cortiñas among the Mothers.

Sep 3, 2015

Nic, In Hong Kong airport feeling bleary and about to board for SF. Delighted to report Angela and Cherrie have agreed! How are you?

Sep 3, 2015

Wow!!!! Yes! I knew it wasn't a mad idea! Happy to leave this country for some time. See you soon.
Notation III
Ontology and Technique
Portraying Ideas, Sound as Montage.
Nicolás Grandi

Once after a screening of De Sidere 7 a young man approached me to say that he had loved the use of the camera as a tool for philosophy, a tool to think with. I recall a conversation I had with Lata sometime after in which we expanded that notion further. It was then that I realized what I had always meant when I used the term camera. I had been referring to its technical aspect in an ontological way. The camera was not just a device by which one captured images from the world. Cinematography (from the Greek kiné and graphós) means writing movement, and camera (from the Greek kamára) the chamber where objects could be kept. Technique (tekné) in the Greek sense is a mode of knowledge in which the production of artefacts involves placing oneself in the world.

The camera, my camera, is not my eye. It enables myriad ways to express experiences and interpretations of the world; not simply by looking at it but rather more complexly by composing with and in it. This understanding demands a sustained focus of the lens on gestures, on beauty, on time; on the beauty of gestures in time. A dried flower resisting the Pacific Ocean´s winds, a hunched old lady walking slowly across the frame, a shift in focus in the tele lenses that suggests the city lights being reimagined as fireflies. This chamber where objects are placed and put in relation to other things, this camera, can be used as a kaleidoscope that explores constantly changing patterns or sequences of elements. The camera as a kaleidoscope allows the beauty of things to unfold. And beauty in times like ours is a question that matters.

Some years back I began to explore portraiture within the moving image, an inquiry which led me to examine how across the ages the masters in the arts had been representing faces, bodies and humans. Then one day Lata proposed making a portrait of an idea. Her provocation pushed forward the impulse to treat my camera as a kaleidoscope by which an idea could be examined. The challenge
the idea should explode in its visuality, getting hold of objects, subjects, beings, gestures and time. All of them would slowly reveal different facets and combinations of it in a wide range of possibilities and potentialities. The possible and the potential, two primordial qualities of a poetic image. If allowed to, the latter can become an agent that frees the audiovisual image from its strong relationship with historical referents. The image is then allowed to retain a mystery, an undefined referential horizon that provides a density of layers and invites one to contemplate, experience and inquire.

If we think of all the performances in the videocontemplation we get hold of the gestures that different bodies offer and we hear their voices narrating a story that is not their own. We could consider what happens with Nora Cortiñas, Angela Davis and Cherrie Moraga, three strong public figures. They are not speaking their own words as one would usually expect. Instead their embodied experiences meet Lata´s texts producing what I would like to call a collision of referents (it is possible for this to happen in this poetic realm and it has the potential to offer facets of inquiry that would otherwise be veiled). This is a kind of cinematic gesture that helps a reclamation
the return of the mystery of the audiovisual image and its rescue from its subjugation in the current imperialism of the information paradigm.

Sound as Montage. The timeline is where the final writing of time is crafted. To solve the dilemma of how to find a cohesive structure given such different forms and experimentations we decided to start with the sound, calling back the principle that everything starts from sound, from its vibration, with meaning eventually emerging. How does this idea sound? How does this ambience feel? How can I move from this stimmung or bhāva to the next one? What is being said? Sound proposes a time, more direct, or less anchored to the movements that the optical images propose. But then, the latter is able to punctuate and remain with moments that sound´s ephemeral nature does not allow. The principle was similar to the one we used while shooting. First we would record the voices of the performers and then all of us would think together about how to incarnate the text. In the edit, the time that those voices proposed while being recorded was re-examined, pauses in the delivery altered, bringing ambiences and sound spatiality. Other sound threads were woven that would expand or bring a whole new narrative dimension as in the case of the hospital in Jisha’s segment. And then the music
with just a couple of notes of a cello or a trombone one could give the perfect punctuation and feel to a sequence or a transition, even enhance a phrase.

Finally the question of the feel. Why does it feel good? When does it feel good? What do we mean when we assess our work in those terms? In The Videopoetry Collective, Bangalore, we discovered the beauty of Artavazd Peleshyan and his spherical conception of montage as a means of seeing where we are, not where we are going to. He allows an overall gradual vision to develop where certain central elements will never meet each other, but will run parallel, existing together, constantly, independently, building the whole. When something feels good or proper in the timeline it might have to do with this. When the audiovisual elements are working together to make us see where we are, then there is a feeling (good or bad) of presence. There is no deceit in that, only an experience of something truthful happening to us in that moment.
Notation IV
The Film in Four Acts
Lata Mani

Act I
Introduces key ideas; inseparability of strength and fragility contrasted with cultural assumptions as evidenced in dictionary definition followed by sutra on impermanence that speaks simultaneously of nature and humans/ vignette extends the intertwining of strength/fragility/impermanence in context of an embodied “I.”  first movement ends with the first teaching in the form of three questions that relate to the above.

Strong Woman
Midnight Satsang
Frailty 3 Questions

Sutra 1
Vignette 1
Teaching 1

Act II
Impermanence: realization of impermanence by the “I,”   then as evidenced in nature /Sutra on Attachment. Christopher vignette builds on bodily impermanence and the relation between narrativity and wellness/ends with second teaching on solidity as fiction and mirage.

Graceful Abandon
Solidity a fiction

Vignette 2
Poem 2
Sutra 2
Vignette 3
Teaching 2

Vignettes and poems re the changing and challenged body; ending with teaching on the myth of autonomous self and the myriad intimacies of interdependent relationality.

Poetry in motion
The Soldiers Work
Brain Injury
The Autonomous Self

Poem 3
Vignette 4
Poem 4
Vignette 5
Teaching 3

Act IV
Final act so we start with a teaching that builds on previous one and then add texture through two poems and a vignette which bring together the strands of the film. End with a sutra which poses the question of whether we can live by the implications of such an understanding.

Frailty/Strength Pas de Deux
Pulmonary Sub Acute
Body as Archivist
Grief Do not Tarry Poem 6 [not used]
Are we ready to live in

Teaching 4
Poem 5 [not used]
Vignette 6
Poem 6 [not used]
relation to this truth Sutra 3

"This film's textures, silences and angles get us closer to the experience of pain than any prose or textbook. It will resonate with anyone who's danced with chronic pain, but more than pain, chronic is the key word here... time.... The Poetics of Fragility points you squarely to the scourge, the salve, and finally the ruse of time and jazz is the perfect response."
Dr. B.J.Miller, hospice and palliative care specialist, University of California, San Francisco
Sonic | Textual | Visual | Dialogical
Synergy, from Greek syn, together and ergon, work: invitations to artists and writers to creatively engage with and extend the boundaries of our project; excerpts from post-screening conversations
Every Flower Has
Sindhu Thirumalaisamy

Stereo sound and animation, 6 minutes
Sindhu Thirumalaisamy con Lakshmi Subramaniam

No curatorial direction.

Every flower has is a sonic portrait of a moment spent peeling banana flowers. As I chat with my grandmother, Lakshmi, the flowers unfold what, in the film The Poetics of Fragility, is observed as “ a myriad intimacies, largely unknown”.

Sindhu Thirumalaisamy is an artist and filmmaker thinking through listening cultures to the way spatial narratives can be produced. She makes films, essays, sound compositions, walks, workshops and performances, often with others. She approaches listening as both an inward experience shaped by the politics of gender, technology, aesthetics and time; and as an outward gesture interested in the expansive and often unwieldy systems and environments within which lives are lived. She is currently an MFA student in the Department of Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego. For more here
What is between those two things
Juan Pablo Baño

Estéreo, 4
50 minutes

No curatorial direction

Whispered secrets between a mountain and a puddle
Burning discussions between a lake and a stone

Juan Pablo Baño lives in Buenos Aires, He is a filmmaker, sound designer and teaches Audiovisual Arts. He was part of multidisciplinary performances such as "Cuerpos Editados" (2009) and worked in a number of feature films and TV shows. He was the sound designer in the film "A Sonic Constelation" (2015). He is currently part of Laboratorio Audiovisual Comunitario. More here
Sensorial ecology
Purnima Mankekar
Professor, Gender Studies, Asian American Studies & Film, Television & Digital Media, University of California, Los Angeles.

“A spider’s web endures storms combining strength and delicacy”
The Poetics of Fragility;

Ruminating on the relationship between our bodies, frailty, strength, and our capacity to live with dignity, resilience, and wisdom, The Poetics of Fragility by Nicolás Grandi and Lata Mani is a remarkable videoessay. The film begins with Angela Davis wryly commenting on how a strong woman is “sometimes strongly fed up.”  Rage, sorrow, resolve interweave, as fragility and strength ebb and flow to diverse rhythms. The film narrates the experiences of a range of heterogeneous individuals who have had to reconstitute themselves in the face of illness, physical and spiritual suffering, and ageing. It nudges us to query the very nature of human capacity and its relationship with bodily agency by diverging from “typical” conceptions of strength. One of the many spectacular triumphs of The Poetics of Fragility lies in its poignant and forceful blurring of the binary between fragility and strength.

The film’s visual grammar mirrors the temporalities of suffering, fragility, and resilience. Lovingly caressing the bodies of seniors performing tai chi in a city square, dwelling on the sensuous pleasures of holding a dry (and fragile) branch of leaves in one’s hand, feeling the wobbly path of an insect across one’s palm, hearing the ebb and flow of the waves of the ocean – the sensorial ecology of every frame recalls the intimate and inextricable entanglement of fragility and strength. The Poetics of Fragility asks
given that fragility is an inescapable condition of life, why is it deemed a moral weakness, something that must be “overcome”  or, “at best, tolerated?”  Why are we so afraid to embrace fragility? Why do we regard it as diminished capacity and a weakening of spiritual, social, and personal agency rather than a source of strength? And, yet, the film does not romanticize fragility or suffering. Suffering drains us physically and emotionally, and pain is at best a drastic reorientation of bodily capacity. As Cherrie Moraga states in the film, “Beyond a point, suffering is pointless, even if it must be endured.” Suggesting that suffering is a harsh teacher, she adds
“Personally, I am ready to write off suffering, even though even though I realize the absurdity of this proposition.”  The joy of relief from suffering, and the lessons that pain teaches us, are all reminders that the body has a life of its own and a will of its own.

The Poetics of Fragility also makes us rethink the relationship between impermanence and hope. The grief of one of the Mothers of the Disappeared shatters her sense of the permanent; her suffering and pain underscore that, for so many, impermanence is not an abstract concept but a fact of life. She narrates how, in the face of devastating grief, the foundation of her life “heaved and turned to rubble.”  How is one to trust in the future if everything is impermanent? How does one cobble together a life in the face of such devastation? And, yet, our bodies are porous to our environments and to other lives and other forms of being. The relationship between suffering and fragility is neither straightforward nor linear. The film reminds me that some of the great souls of our lifetimes, for instance, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa engaged suffering, they plumbed its depths, its viscerality and ugliness as well as its purity, with tremendous intimacy. To put it simply, Gandhi and Mother Theresa took suffering seriously, not something to be denied or disavowed but a source of steely resolve; suffering, for them, provided a conduit to strength.

Rather than militate against the fragilities that they bring in their wake, how do we embrace ageing, suffering, and grief, and reconstitute ourselves through an acceptance of these states of being? How do we live with the “war”  within our bodies, the chaotic energies that course through us? The body, the film asserts, is a “tender archivist;”  it narrates a different vitality with a mind of its own, its own rhythms, its own will, and its own intelligence.

Fragility´s Writing Devices
Jorge La Ferla
Chair, Audiovisual Design, University of Buenos Aires, and Professor at University of Cinema.

The audiovisual arts and literature have been altering the writing technologies and conditions of classical production, setting aside the compulsively digitalized mechanical, electrical, analogic, ‘objectual’ visual arts . Even though printed books and theatre screens simulating the cinematographic effect are still to be found, it is software-derived numeric information that occupies the central place in the consumption of audiovisual and written texts. Ray Bradbury´s parable Farhenheit 451 has proliferated in even more perverse ways; instead of being burnt and left to endure in human memory, texts are processed and transmitted through trade marked software by big corporations many of them concentrated in northern California. The new artificial paradises of the spectacle have left Hollywood´s spiritual centre, the “Mecca of Cinema,”  in order to move to the Northern part of the state. The ludic Route 1 has been abandoned for the information freeway that leads to Silicon Valley.

Across the Twentieth Century avant-garde art and design, experimental cinema, video art, performance and video dance have been proposing conjunctions of word/image/sound that are independent of the art market´s spectacle, the system´s mass media and feature films. The Poetics of Fragility inherits all these representational strands. The moving image and artist book project combines text, spoken word and performances shot in the San Francisco area. The light, the sea, the horizon, the backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge no longer produce suspense or vertigo, but provide the scene where a series of actors move, recite, gesticulate, (self) narrate, resist. The characters are marginal to the mainstream of a city increasingly dominated by real estate speculation and the displacement of its historical inhabitants who once roamed around City Lights bookstore, the Mission´s murals, the bars on Castro Street, or meditated on the ocean´s horizon.

The Poetics of Fragility presents a series of urban actors in whose discourse word, face, mind and spirit are integrated as a form of internal knowledge, who discover therein a fragile equilibrium with a hostile exterior. It elaborates a personal narrative distant from consumption, intolerance and the superficiality of personal relationships. In these addresses the body is the frontier between consciousness and the universe. The film draws out a thread from the documentary to propose the visual essay as a poetic form. The detail shots, the frozen moment, the deconstruction of words and movement, the haptic image, the typography on frame are the filigree of a narrative of resilience and commitment. The movement of ideas and consciousness structure the flow of the stories, the struggles of individuals, the performances of Angela, Cherrie, Thao, Martha, Greg, Jisha, Laura, Christopher and Nora.

Nora Cortiñas, mother of Plaza de Mayo, from Buenos Aires, is doubly present as herself looking towards camera and as the bearer of the image of her disappeared son. This is part of a cycle that begins with Angela Davis, another historical-biographical reference to the struggle for justice and values. A melting pot of races, beliefs and certitudes that configure themselves as a writing of the audiovisual machine and an editorial project both aiming for a poetic discourse that reformulates the concept of fragility as strength. The Poetics of Fragility proposes a mise en scène of Siddhartha G.´s axiom, "Though thousand times a thousand in battle one may conquer, yet should one conquer just oneself, one is the greatest conqueror."
Sea Triptych
Josefina Carón

Oil painting on paper

Artistic response to sutra in The Poetics of Fragility


No strength without fragility
No inconsequential gesture
No life pointless
No death final
Can we imagine living in relation to this truth?

While watching the film I thought of my painting Sea. It´s done on paper, it has three parts. Besides the constant apparition of the sea throughout the film, I find that both share the idea of building through fragments. Among other things, this fragmentation holds a certain fragility of the image. In the painting a wild and inexplicable wave makes its way from the left. In logical terms it should come from the front. There is something of that wave that reminds me of the women in the film.

Josefina Carón studied fine arts at Escuela Municipal Manuel Belgrano and with Eduardo Faradje. In 2011 she received a YPF scholarship to the Artist´s program at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella. Her work is in private collections in Argentina and Spain and in the Museum of Contemporary Art of Salta. She has worked as a teacher, curator and coordinator of collective art projects. For more here & here
The Secrecy of Attachment
Rohini Sen

Italian Ink and Carandache on Mitsumata Washi

Artistic response to sutra in The Poetics of Fragility


Attachment is habit
Afraid to let go
Desperate to leave

Fragility, whether emotional or physical, is deeply linked to the process of growth and development. The fragile part of us is what envelops the new and the path to discovery. What spoke to me very closely in the film was the idea that fragility once accepted, could be a source of strength. My drawing The Secrecy of Attachment as a response to the film and the sutra above explores the curious ways in which attachment can be all-consuming. We often get attached to certain thoughts than then manifest themselves as feelings that we are afraid to let go off but yet we wish to see what is on the other side of our fears. My drawing is an artistic interpretation of an umbilical cord. The umbilical cord is the metaphor I have used to wonder aloud about how motherhood might change my life, my body and my relationships as woman. The notion of motherhood comes with so many feelings tied to it – some are to do with fear of the future, a longing for a kind of love that is as yet not known to me, a state of fragility where I might find myself imprisoned in my body and accepting the changes that another life might make to my body. I am certain that some of these thoughts are shared by women around the world but in the privacy of their own minds. The process of making this drawing was like entering a space of willingness to share a secret, to take it out of a personal space and put it on a piece of paper. Because fragility must be shared – that is when you realize you are not alone and that is when fragility transforms in to strength.

Rohini Sen is an artist and arts educator. She studied Visual Arts at the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat and went on pursue a M.A. in Arts Education at the Rhode Island School of Design, USA. Rohini’s artistic practice is often inspired by Indian folk tradition, in particular Madhubani painting which she studied with the artist Sasikala Devi. Her sculptural installations and works on paper have been exhibited in India, Japan, Belgium and the USA. More here & here
Midnight Coves
Svabhu Kohli
Digital Illustration - Mixed Media 


Artistic response to sutra in The Poetics of Fragility


We are like fireflies
here for a fraction of time
Yet who can resist the firefly
as it glows in the dark of the night?

I spend most of my time exploring, observing and learning from the natural world. I feel a certain curiosity and elevation in environments and terrains in which I am surrounded by life in all its forms. It is the realization of these moments that translates into my art.

I have a special love of fireflies. Every year during the monsoon in our village we witness their beautiful mating illuminating the jungles and paddy fields. We see them pulsing all around us. Looking at this sight, you almost feel it illuminating a part of you. I find myself taking long walks in the night, feeling a part of me fly away with this magic.

Svabhu Kohli is a Delhi based visual artist. He graduated from the Srishti School of Art and Design, Bangalore. His intricately crafted and textured digital works celebrate the splendor of the natural world. For more here & here
A Strong Woman
Aaniya Asrani
Water Colour, paper cut diorama. 8.5 x 11 inches


No curatorial direction.

The opening sequence of Angela Davis reciting the words "A Strong Woman" really resonated with me as a young woman living in the context of present day India. In being perceived as a sexual object as one walks home from the bus stop, a strong woman is sometimes strongly fed up. In wanting to take action when your body is intruded upon, a strong woman is at times strongly rageful. In hearing the stories of the women around me living in injustice with no hope of esolution, a strong woman is on occasion deeply sorrowful. What inspired me most to create this diorama were the lines "for strong women are strongly prepared to grow." As with this struggle of existing as the secondary, there is immense strength that can be drawn from the possibility of facilitating growth. Knowing that even though we may be confined in our bodies in this society, that our frustration and urge to strengthen our resolve can never be contained.

Aaniya Asrani in a artist, visual storyteller and designer who explores the micro narrative in order to spread awareness and healing. More here
The poetics of fragility
Mitwa Abhay Vandana

No curatorial direction.

I watched the film couple of times. It transported me to an unknown space. To understand more about the film process I went through Lata and Nicolas' mail exchanges. My ideation process started from there. I wanted to create a poster that captured the experience of the unknown space the film made me explore. After working on 2-3 different drafts, I decided to start afresh to create a sensorial experience. The idea in this poster is to explore calmness, fragility, interdependence, impermanence.

Mitwa Abhay Vandana is a visual communicator who has worked with well-known production houses and design studios. He is currently based in Mumbai & Pune, India. He works in three mediums
film, photography and graphic design. He loves to collaborate in creating experimental, interdisciplinary work. He shoots a lot on 35mm film. More here,here and here
Towards an Aesthetics of Videocontemplation
Erica Cho in conversation with Nicolás Grand & Lata Mani

Transcript of a post-screening conversation on 'The Poetics of Fragility', University of California, San Diego, 17 October 2016.

“This Collective We”: On Bodily & Social Fragility
Angela Davis, Cherrie Moraga, Lata Mani & Nicolás Grandi with Ashara Ekundayo

Post-screening conversation at the premiere of The Poetics of Fragility, Impact Hub Oakland, October 2, 2016. The transcript has been edited for conciseness.

With fragility often comes a Sensibility
Post screening conversation at Goldsmiths, London

Extracts from a post-screening conversation on The Poetics of Fragility moderated by Yasmin Gunaratnam, Goldsmiths, May 25, 2017. The transcript has been edited for conciseness.

THE POETICS OF FRAGILITY - Nicolás Grandi & Lata Mani - ||