On the one hand, with this first pair of shorts,
Don’s, we have this dark, bleak look at humanity,
the doomed human journey so to speak, and the feeling
doesn’t build gradually but rather slaps us
like a sudden burst of Truth.
Yeah, something has slapped us.
We have definitely seen something.

Whereas with Jan’s shorts there’s this wonderful
sense of levity we get. Her shorts
somehow make fun of ‘the writer’,
right? If one is present – and even if not.
These shorts hint at the possibility we’re all pretenders,
like maybe we know we’re frauds but can’t admit it,
which is funny but also sad and a little scary
I think, if we’re being honest with ourselves.

Don’s shorts aren’t so completely bleak.
They’re actually pretty funny if you think about it.
Funny in a physical way,
a Charlie Chaplin way, the way
a grown man walks onto a stage,
stops, sees something and cries out
in a wordless terror. It makes
me think of Beckett or something,
and maybe Monty Python,
and you can really see it all unfolding,
like watching a play almost.
I guess that’s what I mean by physical.

Jan’s shorts are definitely more existential crisis
like Don’s – the way Don’s started out, anyway.
The more I think about it, yes, Jan’s shorts
are funny at first but get dark fast.
Don’s seemed dark because of
the doomed human journey, etc.,
but they’re funny because of their timing
and because of the size of the back pockets.
It’s like it all takes place in a very quiet museum.
The wordless terror is something we can appreciate.
Don’s shorts actually make us feel united.

Jan’s shorts get dark because of the word ‘pretenders’.
It’s this word that stabs at us.
We get the sense of someone in the act
of violently breaking their pen, which is comedic
and therefore misleading. Looking at Jan’s shorts
we imagine the pen broken dramatically,
maybe over the knee, like it’s a big stick or a branch
even – a big branch with the leaves still on.
And because the role of ‘the writer’ has been
called into question we both laugh and shudder.
It is so obviously more unsettling than,
say, some quiet visit to a museum. But we tolerate it
because we are supposed to be ‘readers’.
We are supposed to have a stomach for it.

 

Photograph © Penina Finger

David Gates and Bernard Cooper In Conversation
The Indian Uprising