Donigan Cumming

Locke's Way

2003 - Colour, Stereo: 21:00 min.

One of the central questions of philosophy has always been: what can be known? Locke's Way provides a vivid illustration of this perennial philosophical dilemma. In this short video, Donigan Cumming is preoccupied with the story of his older brother, who seems to have been braindamaged and spent much of his life in institutions. Cumming sifts through old family photos and medical documents, commenting on what they do - or do not - reveal. With some desperation, he asks: was Julien (nickname: "Jerry") really abnormal? If so, what was the cause? And how did this affect the rest of the family?

Cumming speaks from behind his hand-held video camera, which picks up all the movements of his body and his laboured breathing. His reaction to the enigma of Jerry is as physical as it is psychological. At times he literally runs away from the problem by leaving the basement where the photos are stored and dashing up the stairs. But each time he forces himself to go back down and tackle the material. Upstairs his reactions are rational and adult; back in the basement he descends into the emotional world of his childhood. Cumming has said that his main references for this work are the English philosopher John Locke and the French novelist Marcel Proust. Locke argued for an empirical approach to knowledge, while Proust relied on remembered experience. Locke's Way pits these two approaches against each other, but the outcome - like the question of Jerry's life - remains unresolved.

Marcy Goldberg, Visions du reel, 2003

Locke's Way Character
Donigan: Donigan Cumming, a fifty-one-year-old man with a camcorder