Click image above to view “Memory Window” by Ben Mabry; music by Whisper Kitten, filmed by Zach Mabry, edited by Shrine Club Ladies, words by T. S. Eliot and Shrine Club Ladies.

Window Upon The Waste Land

Subtly, Ben Mabry’s “Memory Window” pans back and forth from a timidly caged viewpoint, merging imagery of blossoming fields of yellow and industrialized waterscapes. A parading knight appears frequently adding another somewhat lighthearted level of superimposed imagery. This is a clear reference to the Arthurian table’s search for The Holy Grail as juxtaposed with words by T. S. Eliot, in reference to the legend.

Regarded as perhaps the most important poem of modern times, it proves timely to revisit T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Although its illusions are harsh, Eliot’s words, as with Mabry’s sound and visuals, provide inspirational rhythm and beautiful reflection.

“Let me go straight to the heart of the matter, fling my poor little hand on the table, and say what I think The Waste Land is about…” Shifting between voices, cultures and intellectual statures or societal viewpoints including an apex of literary geniuses* as well as otherwise layman verbiage, Eliot speaks to us as a chorus. Initially published in 1922, voices within The Waste Land speak to us of death, despair and disillusionment including self-denial while also supplying meditational reflection. “…It is about the fertilizing waters that arrived too late. It is a poem of horror. The earth is barren, the sea salt, the fertilizing thunderstorm broke too late. And the horror is so intense that the poet has an inhibition and is unable to state it openly.” **

Not only is The Waste Land a sobering reflection on post-WWI life, but it simultaneously provides a mystical pearl in response to human response itself, i.e. aligning benefit in time with need. This concept is metaphorically reflected in the visual absence of April flowers (human expectation) accentuated visually atop an overabundance of commoditized water (production of resources) by the end of Ben Mabry’s 3-minute video; another Holy Grail yet unfound.

T.S. Eliot reads “The Waste Land,” click image to listen.

*References include: Homer, Sophocles, Petronius, Virgil, Ovid, Saint Augustine of Hippo, Dante Alighieri, William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, Gérard de Nerval, Thomas Kyd, Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Middleton, John Webster, Joseph Conrad, John Milton, Andrew Marvell, Charles Baudelaire, Richard Wagner, Oliver Goldsmith, Hermann Hesse, Aldous Huxley, Paul Verlaine, Walt Whitman, Bram Stoker, the Bible, the Hindu Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the Buddha’s Fire Sermon, Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, Jessie Weston’s From Ritual to Romance (particularly its study of the Wasteland motif in Celtic mythology) the Fisher King, the Tarot Deck, the Chapel Perilous, and the Grail Quest.

**1936 review by E. M. Forster, a respected novelist and essayist of the time.

Thank you to everyone who continues to submit videos. Keep ’em coming! Videos exposing your painting process, instruction of how to achieve specific techniques, reading poetry you have composed, or animation shorts are great examples of how you are able to reach out and share art with our community.

Aaron Sheppard, PVAC Curator