Film director and Mark Cousins is at the Edinburgh International Book Festival to discuss his latest book The Story of Looking. The massive 426 page book features illustrations, photographs and text that all express the importance of the eye and how we read an image.
Mark is in conversation with director of the Fruitmarket Gallery Fiona Bradley. She is the perfect host as art and the image (both still and moving) play a major role in The Story of Looking. Mark is an articulate and passionate speaker. Every sentence that he speaks is instantly quotable and filled with insight and thought. With his new book Mark states that “I wanted to capture the vitality of looking.” To the writer images are not something just to gloss over. They are meant to be indulged in and embraced with both the eye and the mind. Whilst Mark Cousins and Fiona Bradley are in conversation we view images projected on to a screen behind the speakers. These include stills from cinema – Fellini’s 81/2, Laura Dern in Jurassic Park and a dance sequence in a Busby Berkeley film. We also see paintings from Paul Cezanne, Rene Magritte, and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Fiona Bradley mentions that in the book Mark describes the background of the painting and not the famous smile. Mark notes that the background of the Mona Lisa never comes into focus, allowing the viewer to be drawn to the protagonist of the image and transfix our gaze.
The current Tacita Dean exhibition at the Fruitmarket Gallery also gets a mention. In this exhibition Dean has presented a 50 minute film called Event for a Stage. Here Mark describes the art of distraction that is employed during this movie and how the artist has used an actor to draw the viewer into the film. To conclude Mark Cousins mentions that he realises that looking is something that should be considered from a young age. “We have a visual life that develops inside us”. When speaking of his own personal experiences the writer notes “I look at the world through the eyes of the people I knew when I was growing up.” Mark Cousin’s latest film The Eyes of Orson Welles is currently in cinemas and The Story Of Looking is out now on Canongate Books.