I dreamed of Princess Diana’s death. August 30, 1997. (My mother and father were trying to pull me away from my lover—it was a life and death struggle). I awoke screaming and crying. Shaken, I fell down the stairs and twisted my ankle. I thought to go swimming, wash away a bad night.
When I got to the beach my friend called. He said: ‘The princess is dead.’ Legends, fairytales— took several minutes to register what he meant.
Lars Laumann’s video, ‘Morrissey Fortelling the Death of Diana’, audaciously expands on the inexplicable mysterious subject of premonition. The video consists of two separate components that Laumann attempts to link together: archival film footage and a theoretical thesis. His spoken lecture reveals certain presentiments in Morrissey’s album The Queen is Dead that point to Princess Diana’s death ten years later. Some of the omens he expounds make quirky sense, while many are quite far-fetched. But Laumann’s blithe fusion of audio, image and content is carelessly constructed, weakening the entire piece. As in a web search, digitised film clips interchange throughout. Whereas his spoken delivery is deadpan serious, much of the film stock is slapstick, appropriated from old comedies such as Carry on Cleo. This juxtaposition is meant to make his video comedic; yet, it is not funny. In a sample from ‘The L-shaped Room’, an older woman merrily leads a sing-a-long, ‘…take me back to dear old Blighty’, then has a madcap cab ride with two silly young nuns. The voiceover explains, ‘Diana’s body had to be taken back to dear old Blighty for burial… Having been pursued by the paparazzi like a hunted animal… The car in which she was travelling crashed into the arches and the princess was fatally injured.’ The glib overtone is completely out of context with the solemn subject matter. Additionally, the frantic speed of the footage is out of synch with the methodical pace of the dialogue—this schism makes it difficult to hear and simultaneously watch the piece.
In the end, the images are very distracting. Despite preposterous suppositions (such as vegans receiving forewarnings of Princess Diana’s death from extraterrestrial aliens), Laumann’s didactic treatise is the more thoughtfully conceived segment—the fanzine-style reproduction of the dialogue being the most successfully succinct part of the artwork.
However there is a moment on screen that is deeply moving – a section that is poetic perfect. If the entire video had been constructed with such synchronicity, marrying sound and picture with intention, it would have been truly effective.
The scene is in black and white and describes a man and woman driving through a city. The driving is abstracted into motion—shadows and light pass across the pair, anxiously they draw closer. She lays her head on his shoulder. Moving car’s lights. Close up of the woman’s disturbed face: ‘Take me out tonight Where there’s music and there’s people And they’re young and alive Driving in your car I never never want to go home Because I haven’t got one anymore And if a double-decker bus Crashes into us To die by your side Is such a heavenly way to die And if a ten-ton truck Kills the both of us To die by your side Well, the pleasure—the privilege is mine Take me out tonight Take me anywhere I don’t care And in the darkened underpass I thought Oh God, my chance has come at last But then a strange fear gripped me and I just couldn’t ask.’
The timing between the reading and the rhythm of the picture is immaculate; the meaning of Morrissey’s ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’ is intensified, elucidated by these images. It is reminiscent of one’s own experiences in love.
‘I had a really bad dream.’
Aviva Stone died on Friday, 29 December, 2007. She was my best friend, spiritual mentor and surrogate mother. Aviva was large—huge physique, immense charisma, big heart. She was the most renowned artist model in New York City. Apparently she had become ill over Christmas. When friends could not get in touch with her they notified her landlord. He found her half conscious, but rather than calling an ambulance which he feared might alert authorities to his illegal loft rentals, he tried to drag her out into the street. She had a fatal heart attack whilst being pulled into the elevator.
Although I spoke with her nearly every day and often dreamed about her, I did not foresee her terrible death. I rethink this while I am watching/listening to ‘Morrissey Foretelling the Death of Diana’. I wonder why, ‘Some girls are bigger than others Some girls are bigger than others Some girls’ mothers are bigger than other girls’ mothers.’
Ellen Cantor is an artist living in London