image © 2006 Aline Giordano
text © 2011 Aline Giordano
Mark Linkous died on 6th March 2010. He shot himself in the heart. He knew Vic Chesnutt. When I look at Mark Linkous’ photograph I see the ‘primitive theatre’ to which Barthes (1980: 32) alludes and the ‘tableau vivant, a figuration of the motionless and made-up face beneath which we see the dead’. I interviewed Mark in 2006 and wrote at the time in the fanzine: ‘I can still clearly remember how Mark walked with his limp, how he slowly lit up his cigarettes and how gentle his voice sounded. He had clearly been through some very difficult moments in his life. I could hear and see the fragility of a man who was genuinely trying to clean up his act and recover from a bad depression’. Yes, I can still remember all of that, to this day. Mark told me at the end of the interview: “There’s a surplus of ugliness in the world. If I’m here for any purpose, if I could in some way be a little bit of that percentage of the antithesis of all the ugliness, that’s all I can do”. He certainly was for me part of the antithesis of all the ugliness… and the pain that goes with the ugliness. I used to listen to Sparklehorse’s song ‘Cow’ and remember the soothing gentle melodies of the song that accompanied me at difficult moments in my life. I would listen to the song over and over with Linkous whispering in my ear: “Pretty girl, milkin’ a cow, oh yeah”… and for the duration of the song I felt more at peace with myself. When I heard that Vic Chesnutt and Mark Linkous had committed suicide I felt it was a bit of my ability to cope with the rest of my journey that had also died. The reason I write about these personal memories is to illustrate the powerful symbiosis between photographs, music and the self that Keightley and Pickering (2006: 156) have observed:
‘Photography and phonography convey a complicated mix of continuity and discontinuity. They are scattered fragments from the past, discrete quotations isolated from the broader narrative but with the power to act as memory or to activate the process of remembering in a deeply moving way’.
Barthes, R., 1980. Camera Lucida. Translated by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1981. London: Vintage, 2000.
Keightley, E. and Pickering, M., 2006. For the record: Popular music and photography as technologies of memory. European Journal of Cultural Studies. 9(2) 149-165.