So this came in by catmail. Going through the archives, I found a 2010 “Year of the Tiger” image, a 2009 image posing as a 3009 time travel postcard after the flood ["Souvenir de Conenhague," the city underwater with Guillaume in a time travel capsule doing a fly-by], and a 2006 “Year of the Underdog [Snoopy 1951]” image. It seems we have a tradition on our hands, though gaps are to be expected. We wish all the cats under the stars a good new year, whether you’re leaking or leak-proofing. And that includes Al Stewart…
[audio:http://www.chrismarker.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/09-Year-Of-The-Cat.mp3|titles=Al Stewart, Year Of The Cat]
December 30, 2010 2 Comments
This portent of breaking news came to our catmail account, a sole image bearing the title “GEE NObs.”
Les contenus exacts, des révélations sans doutes scandaleuses, sont actuellement pas disponisbles… Guillaume lui-même, tiré ici à ce qu’il paraît par les paparazzi, n’en dit rien.
December 4, 2010 2 Comments
The blog Found Objects notes the current availability of a clip from Chris Marker’s The Owl’s Legacy:
An extract from Chris Marker’s TV series on the culture of ancient Greece, The Owl’s Legacy, featuring contributions from Iannis Xenakis, George Steiner, Cornelius Castoriadis and Elia Kazan. Recently unearthed from obscurity as part of the Otolith Group’s room at Tate Britain for the Turner Prize. As the Otolith Group write in their accompanying artist book, this is exactly the sort of TV programme that simply wouldn’t stand a chance of being made today.
“It all began on a summer night in 1987. The idea for a television series based on Greek culture had just crystalized and we were facing a spectre which haunts the realm of the cultural documentary and that Chekhov defined for eternity: to say things that clever people already know and that morons will never know.”
The original title of the television series is L’Héritage de la chouette. Here are some production details reproduced from the Pacific Film Archive, which seems, along with the Otiolith Group, to be one of the few institutions to possess a copy:
‘Written by Chris Marker. Photographed by Emiko Omori, Peter Chapell, et al. Edited by Khadicha Bariha, Nedjma Scialom. With Iannis Xenakis, George Steiner, Elia Kazan, Theo Angelopoulos, Cornelius Castoriadis. (In English, and French, Georgian, Greek with English subtitles, Color, 3/4″ Video, projected, Cassettes courtesy Chris Marker with permission of Film International Television Production and La Sept).”
One of the great reflections in 20th century philosophy on Plato’s cave and its myriad implications is Hans Blumenberg’s Höhlenausgänge [Exits from the Cave], which opens with an epigraph quoting a journal entry of Kafka’s: “Mein Leben ist das Zögern vor der Geburt.” [My life is the hesitation before birth]. Blumenberg, known for his work on metaphorology and myth but really an astounding polymath of many interests whose posthumous work continues to amaze (as it continues to go largely untranslated), produces in this work perhaps the most rigorous expedition into the many ramifications of the idea of the cave as it flows in and out of Plato’s Republic.
Blumenberg discusses in one chapter the “Escapes from Visibility,” a notion that resonanates for me with the transposition in Sans Soleil of Japanese television images into the dreams of sleeping commuters – creating a kind of cinema of the invisible within an object- and visibility-oriented documentary tradition. Of course the Zone of the same film, already making its presence known in the earlier Le fond de l’air est rouge, serves to de-realize the visible. But a documentary cinema of the invisible seems another thing entirely.
Der Mensch ist das sichtbare Wesen in einem emphatischen Sinne. Er ist betroffen von seiner Sichtbarkeit durch die Auffälligkeit des aufrechten Ganges und durch die Wehrlosigkeit seiner unspezifischen-organischen Ausstattung. Das macht ihn anfällig für die Lokung der Rückkehr in die Höhle. Sie ist die einzige Erfüllung seines tief in dieser Gattungslage verwurzelten Wunsches nach Unsichtbarkeit. [Blumenberg, Höhlenausgänge, 15]
[Man is the visible being in a most emphatic sense. He is struck by his visibility through the very appearance of his upright stance and the defenselessness of his unspecific organic configuration. That makes him susceptible for the seduction of the return to the cave. The cave is the singular fulfillment of his wish, buried deep in his genetic situation, for invisibility.]
Of interest in this regard – and to be explored further in future we hope – is the latest masterpiece of another great thinker who’s work suffers from under-translation: Raymond Bellour’s Le Corps du cinéma: hypnoses, émotions, animalités, in which he treats the notion of hypnosis in relation to spectatorship – a concept close to Plato’s parable. Bellour’s book is full of references to Marker, exploring most fundamentally the plethora of animality in Marker’s work.
Indeed, though Bellour does not go there, we might see the latest phase of Marker’s fun, willing usurpation by Guillaume, including but not limited to Second Life, as a kind of devenir-animal as discussed in Deleuze and Guattari’s Mille Plateaux [Chapter 10. 1730 - Devenir-intense, devenir-animal, devenir-imperceptible...]. For it seems that in becoming-animal there is somehow an additional process in motion, that of becoming-imperceptible. Could this be what Blumenberg had in mind in his evocation of the desire to return to the cave? To become, in an era of surveillance and omnipresent visibility, still present but in another guise? To mutate into something that can’t be recorded, or, if recorded, leaves traces that are on the side of disinformation rather than that of the archive, the state, the systematic digital privacy-stripping machine?
Long controlled and entertained by the caves of cinema and television, enmeshed now seemingly irrevocably within the digital screen, how do we forgo outright exit from the cave and find its internal exits, as it were? And how, as we are finding – or better, creating – these backdoors and Escher landscapes of paradoxical architecture within the greater media enclosure, do we prevent ourselves from becoming hypnotized – imprisoned within a state of control and occlusion without access to the demiurge projecting the film – and/or completely invisible, i.e. self-erased, excluded from the process of our own productions and projections?
Humor and transmutation (a concept familiar to neo-Platonists, as transmigration was familiar to Plato) rather than solipsism or hypnotic stasis seem more viable and life-affirming tactical options in response to the new sets of caves we have come to inhabit. It is along these lines (lignes de fuite?) that we perceive the ever-elusive Marker stepping lightly. Once again, he is no doubt one step ahead.
November 22, 2010 6 Comments
Location: Jisr El Wati – Off Corniche an Nahr. Building 13, Street 97, Zone 66 Adlieh. Beirut, Lebanon.
Dates: November 25.10 – January 29.11
Opening reception: Wednesday November 24, from 6 pm to 9 pm
About the exhibition
“Beirut Art Center is pleased to present a solo exhibition dedicated to the influential French artist and filmmaker Chris Marker. Marker is best known for his cinematic essays that explore the notions of truth, history, and memory, and that push the boundaries of the documentary.
The show at Beirut Art Center will present Staring Back (2007), Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men (2005) and Immemory (1997).
Staring Back is a collection of over 200 black and white prints selected from Marker’s personal archive of faces encountered by the artist throughout the course of his travels. Pivotal political events such as the riots of May 1968 and protests in Japan and Tibet loom large, alongside famous figures such as Akira Kurosawa and countless unforgettable and unknown others, in this hauntingly captivating portrait of humanity in the 20th century.
Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men is a multi-screen installation inspired by T.S. Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men (1925), a woeful elegy on the devastation wrought by World War I onto Europe. Marker combines his reflections on Eliot’s writing with images of atrocities, ruins, and victims in this morose commentary on the cyclical nature of violence throughout history and its lurking shadow in times of peace.
The CD-ROM Immemory is a poetic “voyage” into Marker’s inner world through text and photography. The work departs from fragments of the artist’s autobiography to touch on the social and political in its investigation of the relationship between time, memory and the world.
On the occasion of the exhibition, London based artists The Otolith Group will also present their work Inner Time of Television (2007), a collaboration with Chris Marker. The publication and thirteen-screen installation features a thirteen-part television program created by Marker on the cultural heritage of ancient Greece entitled L’Héritage de la chouette (The Owl’s Legacy, 1989). The Otolith Group’s oeuvre explores connections between the past, present and future, and is influenced by Marker in its investigation of memory through the image and its sharp criticism of contemporary politics.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of talks by curators and theorists as well as screenings of films by Chris Marker at Beirut Art Center and Metropolis.
The exhibition and accompanying screenings are supported by the Mission culturelle française au Liban.”
In parallel with the exhibition, the Beirut Art Center, in collaboration with Metropolis Cinema and the Mission culturelle française au Liban, will be screening a series of Chris Marker films December 1st through 18th, 2010. These include Sans Soleil; Loin du Vietnam; La Jetée; Les Statues Meurent Aussi; L’Ambassade; Le Fond de l’air est rouge; and Level 5.
November 15, 2010 No Comments
As a visual addendum to the recent Beaubourg + Second Life screening of La Jetée, organized by Les Films du Jeudi, we present some images Laurence Braunberger sent along, for which we are grateful. The cinema and the screening room for the event (and we hope of course that it is the beginning of a series) were constructed by Max Moswitzer aka MosMax Hax and the bar La Jetée (based on the famous Tokyo watering hole as seen, among other places, in Wenders’ Tokyo Ga) by Frederick Thompson aka Balthasar Truffaut.
Les Films du Jeudi informs us that on the front of the virtual cinema you could find this notice:
La Jetée (1962) is a 28-minute black and white science fiction film by Chris Marker. Constructed almost entirely from still photos, it tells the story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel. The film won the Prix Jean Vigo in 1963 for best short film.
Synopsis: In a Paris devastated in the aftermath of WWIII, the few surviving humans begin researching time travel, hoping to send someone back to the pre-war world in search of food, supplies and perhaps a solution to their dire situation. One man is haunted by a vague childhood memory that is to prove fateful.
Chris Marker aka Sergei Murasaki is a French Filmmaker, part-time photographer, computer geek, traveler, cat lover.
In virtual worlds, he deliberately enters the “Ouvroir” prepared for him by MosMax Hax aka Max Moswitzer and plays with his own work, in the company of his longtime guide, Guillaume-en-Egypte, a cat and a furry entity in Second Life. When asked for a photograph of himself, Chris provides one of his Guillaume-en-Egypte.
Childhood Amnesia (L’amnésie Infantile) (2009) is a 15 minute mixed media short born in SL. The film has been described as a cinematographic love letter to La Jetée of Chris Marker and as a response and answer to his cult film.
Synopsis: A gas is released making mankind immortal, but also sterile. Despite the infinite opportunities made possible, mankind quickly becomes disillusioned. To prevent widespread depression, a machine is invented to enable people to travel through memory…
Indira Solovieva aka Vivre Mai was born in India to a family of Russian/Polish artists. She currently lives in France. Until now, Indira’s primary media have been writing and musical composition. Childhood Amnesia is her first short film.
La Jetée bar is the famous Tokyo hang out for filmmakers around the world. Francis Ford Coppola, Wim Wenders (who immortalized the bar in his docu-pic, Tokyo-Ga), Martin Scorsese, Jim Jarmusch, Quentin Tarentino and of course Chris Marker himself each have their personal bottles, painted with a cat. This bar was specially recreated in SL by Frederick Thompson aka Balthasar Truffaut, a French media artist.
November 10, 2010 2 Comments
Though we missed the party, we did want to let you know about a unique event organized by Les Films du Jeudi, who on the 5th of November held a screening of Chris Marker’s La Jétee simultaneously at the Centre Pompidou and within Second Life.
Marker’s film, whose fame has grown by leaps and bounds worldwide since its 1962 release (one need only search for the title on Twitter to see the many tweets in myriad languages that reference the always-fresh frisson of discovery) and whose impact on viewers and place in film history has only deepened through time, was paired in the dual event with Indira Solovieva’s Childhood Amnesia (L’amnésie infantile) (2009-15mins).
As Marker’s Second Life installation Ouvroir, a virtual gallery of things past, cinematic homage and aleatory encounter, had already realized the dream of architecting a viewing space / screening room online, it is fitting that the distributor of some of his most sought after short films would layer this homage within a Zone of the space he embraced, within the gesture of a ‘farewell to cinema,’ as a destination for those traveling without moving.
We received a nice note, invitation and press release from Les Films du Jeudi, stating:
Even if only for an evening, I wanted to put together Chris Marker’s film-myth La Jetée (1962 -28 mins) with Indira Solovieva’s Childhood Amnesia (L’amnésie infantile) (2009-15mins) at Beaubourg and also on Second Life so that everyone, wherever they may be, may see or rediscover this movie.
Come and join us to find out why…
- Laurence Braunberger
Braunberger is, among other things, the Producer of Marker’s Chats perchés and, according to IMDB, the Manager of Les Films de la Pléiade, Producer and Manager of Les Films du Jeudi and Manager of Les Films du Panthéon.
Solovieva’s film receives the following synopsis in the accompanying press release for this event:
A gas is released making mankind immortal, but also sterile. Despite the infinite opportunities made possible, mankind quickly becomes disillusioned. To prevent widespread depression, a machine is invented to enable people to travel through memory…
The Chris Marker catalog at Les Films du Jeudi includes the following gems, some available as extras on existing DVDs, other still awaiting what one might wish could be a comprehensive DVD collection of the Marker’s wonderful, wide-ranging shorts:
- Berliner Ballade de Chris MARKER (1990) – 29 mns
- Casque Bleu de Chris MARKER (1995) – 26 mns
- Chat écoutant la musique de Chris MARKER (1990) – 2 mns
- Chats Perchés de Chris Marker (2003) – 59 mns
- Détour, Ceaucescu de Chris MARKER (1990) – 8 mns
- E-clip-se de Chris MARKER (1999) – 8 mns
- From Chris to Christo de Chris MARKER (1985) – 24 mns
- L’Ambassade de Chris MARKER (1973) – 20 mns
- Le 20 heures dans les camps de Chris MARKER (1993) – 28 mns
- Matta ’85 de Chris MARKER (1985) – 14 mns
- Sixième face du Pentagone (La) de François REICHENBACH & Chris MARKER (1967) – 27 mns
- Slon Tango de Chris MARKER (1990) – 4 mns
- Théorie des ensembles de Chris MARKER (1990) – 11 mns
- Trois vidéos Haïkus de Chris MARKER (1994) – 3 mns
You can view the Jeudi catalog here: www.filmsdujeudi.com.
You can view the invitation (again, late, we apologize) here, in pdf format.
I remember fondly a summer of research on Chris Marker in 1991, where I spent the month of July exploring the resources of the Cinématèque in Les Halles with its mezmerizing robotic retrieval system and personal viewing/research stations (at one of which Marker was himself working). I also remember the cassettes that could be checked out in much more manual fashion at the Centre Pompidou—most vivid is my one and to date only viewing at Beaubourg of Si j’avais quatre dromedaires—as well as encountering Marker himself at the Les Halles “Forum des Images” (which did much to ‘quicken the heart’)—a story for another time…
November 6, 2010 5 Comments
A day late and a dollar short. But SLON is an elephant and has a long memory. Sorry we missed this. Sorry you missed this. If you didn’t miss it, let us know what you thought. Reprinted from: lafilmforum.org
Tonight’s films will include:
A Bientot J’espere (Be Seeing You) (1968, 43 min)
A Film by Mario Marret and Chris Marker
In the spring of 1967, workers at the massive Rhodiaceta textile mill in Besançon, France, walked off the job. It was no ordinary strike. The month-long work stoppage was about more than just wages, it addressed the workers’ rights to a decent life. Political and cultural concerns were effectively merged.
From 1967 to 1976 Chris Marker was a member of SLON (the “Company for the Launching of New Works”). One of several groups that emerged in those years, in which filmmakers, militants, and others came together to focus in a cooperative and parallel basis on the problems of movie production, SLON was based on the idea that cinema should not be thought of solely in terms of industry and commerce.
So it was only natural that Chris Marker, along with other technicians and members of SLON, would visit Besançon to document the strike, and the lives and attitudes of the workers.
Management went on to sack 92 militants at the end of the year and resorted to lockouts, so that the majority of workers eventually went back to their jobs with few concrete gains. But the strikers had developed a sense of the potential power of labor — and had helped lay the groundwork for May of 1968, when France would be rocked by revolutionary protests. The film’s most important moments are composed of conversations with workers and their wives in their homes. They believe the working class is increasingly at the mercy and disposition of the system, a system that gives them no power, a system that would like them to remain powerless. And so it was that their local demands grew to questions about the larger political system.
First released in 1968, Marker’s piercing film is an extraordinary document of a pivotal moment in European labor history. This is the first time the film has been subtitled in English.
August 2, 2010 4 Comments
We would like to invite all visitors—Marker admirers worldwide—to wish Chris Marker a Happy Birthday / Bon Anniversaire. Tomorrow, on July 29th, 2010, he will turn 89. It is indescribable what he has accomplished and continues to accomplish, but we can hope to convey a feeling, a set of feelings: celebration, admiration, and heartfelt wishes for health & many more moments of happiness (hold the black leader).
We also wish to acknowledge a celebratory discount to mark this occasion on the part of the always gracious Wexner Center Store:
In honor of Chris Marker’s 89th birthday, the Wexner Center Store is discounting all items in the Chris Marker Store 20%.
Sale starts at 12am CEST (Central European Summer Time) and ends 11:59pm EST (Eastern Standard Time) July 29, 2010.
Because of the time difference between Paris and Columbus the sale will last 30 hours.
The Chris Marker Store page is located at: store.wexnercenterstore.com/chrismarkerstore1.html.
Cheers! Please leave comments below expressing your thoughts, feelings, regards, reflections on this remarkable polymath, bricoleur, cinéaste, photographer, human being.
July 28, 2010 11 Comments
[Guest post by John Fitzgerald. Thanks John! - ed.]
Walking over to Peter Blum Gallery in Chelsea to see the new Chris Marker exhibition, I happened to pass by a section of the newly completed High Line, a pedestrian greenspace retrofitted onto an old elevated train track on the West Side. I stopped to look at a curious feature of the renovation: a glass panel cut into the side of the wall overlooking Tenth Avenue. Behind the glass was tiered seating where people sat and watched the traffic beneath them and the pedestrians walking by. The whole image reminded me of a movie theater—tiered seating all facing a rectangular screen—except instead of a screen, there was glass, and instead of a film, there was The Street. Turning onto 29th Street to go to the gallery, I couldn’t think of a better prelude to Marker’s exhibition about watching people on the trains in Paris.
“Chris Marker: ‘Quelle heure est-elle?’” is a meditation on spectacle. Comprised of pieces selected from the early and latter periods of his career as an artist, filmmaker, and photographer, all are united by Marker’s fierce attention to the world around him, be they images of war or faces in the Métro, pictures in magazines or movie posters of imaginary films. The images that make up the exhibition’s title consist of a series of thirty-six black and white photographs of people riding the Métro in Paris between 2004 – 2008. In order to capture his subjects “truer to their inner selves,” he explains, he used a digital wristwatch camera—thereby coming a long way from the 16mm silent film camera that he boldly employed in the crowded trains of Tokyo for Sans Soleil in 1983. “Here I caught them innocent like animals, in the beauty of the jungle,” he notes.1 And while the people he captures—predominantly women—are certainly less aware of his gaze than in much of his previous work, some of the images, while very beautiful, still seem to fall short of being entirely natural. Perhaps the innocence that Marker has sought in images throughout his career is not necessarily more attainable merely with a new technology. As he acknowledges, in this age of the cellphone camera, we are more cognizant of being watched than ever before, and the subway, with its absence of anything interesting in the windows except mirror-like reflections, only heightens this sense. But Marker, for me, is a writer more than he is anything else, and while these photographs are ponderous to look at, I miss the breathless, evocative commentary that accompanies such images in his films. Commentary, in this instance, may be unnecessary though. Why articulate in prose something already so perfectly expressed by Ezra Pound in his poem, “In a Station of the Metro”: “The apparition of these faces in the crowd / Petals on a wet black bough”? This was to be Marker’s epigraph in his previous exhibition, “Staring Back,” in 2007. He dropped it at the time, but was struck by how a reviewer, seeing the photographs, began his review by quoting this poem. “So it was true, after all,” Marker writes, “there existed such a thing as poetry, whose ways are by nature different from the ways of the world, that makes one see what was kept hidden, and hear what was kept silent.”
The exhibition is also comprised of a series of other outstanding works including Coréennes (1957), photographs of North Koreans going about their largely agricultural daily lives, pictures of what essentially, to this day, remains a hidden society. Though at the time—and even today—they were inhabitants of one of the most isolated countries on the planet, Marker’s images of North Koreans have almost the same nonchalant intimacy of his femmes du Métro on the opposite wall. They are images seemingly suspended in time, and—except for the occasional intrusion of some pre-modern technological advancement like a bicycle—would have been as familiar to a traveler two centuries earlier as they were to Marker during the height of the Cold War. Considering how rare it is to be able to glimpse inside of North Korean society, the mere existence of these images merit their exhibition; that they are meditative on an artistic level as well is only to Marker’s credit. Invited by the country’s communist government in the wake of the Korean War, Marker enjoyed an almost unheard of amount of freedom in documenting the conditions beyond the thirty-eighth parallel. Where, in Sans Soleil, Marker trained his camera lens on a hyperactively open and “connected” Japanese society on the precipice of major economic expansion and found penetrating mysteries and rituals behind the veneer of everyday mundanity, in Coréennes he peers into a fanatically closed world and reveals how truly accessible it seems. We see the women of the countryside, pensive, the schoolgirls holding aloft their fans and preparing for a dance. There are no images of tanks or infinite crowds furiously saluting the Great Leader. Even before the sixties Marker was already post-political. His focus is the people, the daily life. Of the war he only wrote: “When a country is split in two by an artificial border and irreconcilable propaganda is exercised on each side, it’s naïve to ask where the war comes from: the border is the war.”2
The Hollow Men (2005), also on view, is a multi-screen installation depicting images of twentieth-century conflict—beginning with the First World War—against textual interstices of lines variously inspired by, or taken from, T.S. Eliot’s poem of the same name. Here, too, we are spectators, and as in his other works the focus so often is on faces. One passage begins, “’I’LL BE SEEING YOU’ / WAS OUR SONG / LESS THAN 80 SEASONS LATER / FOR EVERY WAR HAS A SONG.”
I’ll be seeing you. The irony, of course, is that a man who has spent so much of his life pointing his camera lens at others should himself remain shrouded in obscurity. The gallery’s artist biography merely indicates that Marker was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France in 1921 and that he “lives and works in Paris.” Though he was a member of the most luminary generation of French auteurs in the history of cinema, he is still sufficiently unknown for a popular New York magazine to confidently claim him as an “avant-garde American filmmaker.”3 Presumably, without this veil of mystery, he would never be able to get as close to his subjects as he does. And while he may not be American, his preoccupation with looking at The Street—in Paris, in Pyongyang, in Tokyo—is literally, in something as small as that viewing area on the High Line, gaining ground in this country. Somehow, I imagine Chris Marker wouldn’t mind spending an afternoon perched up there over Tenth Avenue looking at all the people passing below.
June 14, 2010 1 Comment
David Thomson, author of the classic A Biographical Dictionary of Film as well as books on Hitchcock, Welles and Brando, recently published a thoughtful reflection on Chris Marker’s photograph series taken in the Paris metro. The piece is called “Chris Marker’s Underground” and is can be viewed at The New Republic’s “Slideshow” blog.
Marker’s territory for chasing images may have changed in the 21st century as his global explorations became less frequent, but his backyard as found in his viewfinder remains a world unto itself, as this series of photos (7 are reproduced with his permission in Thomson’s article) and of course the movie Chats perchés [The Case of the Grinning Cat] reveal.
In contemplating the nomad who does not travel outside the city, I’m reminded of a passage from Deleuze and Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus:
There are not only strange voyages in the city but voyages in place: we are not thinking of drug users, whose experience is too ambiguous, but of true nomads. We can say of the nomads, following Toynbee’s suggestion: they do not move. They are nomads by dint of not moving, not migrating, of holding a smooth space that they refuse to leave, that they leave only in order to conquer and die. Voyage in place: that is the name of all intensities, even if they also develop in extension. To think is to voyage… 
Or, as the master of ambient Pete Namlook puts it more succinctly, “traveling without moving.” [Air II CD].
In narrowing the circle of travel in earthspace, Marker has only become more of a nomad. The truncation of the world to one’s own city finds its looking glass counter-world not only in the underground and the elegant graffiti mysteries of M. Chat, but also and no less profoundly in Marker’s migration to Second Life, a world without end, a fractal archipelago that allows the voyager-in-place to meet others without moving, to pass through without moving, to visit spaces by jumping coordinates, to remain a fixed point in an expanding universe of travel and aleatory encounter.
The metro also takes us back to the hypnotic dream sequences of Sans Soleil in the Japanese commuter trains. It is here that we may have first slipped into the Zone, where Marker filmed the drifted-off bodies being taken, consciousness slipping into unconsciousness, from point of departure to point of arrival. The interim is filled with imagination, projected images from Japanese television of their potential dreams. Why the Zone? Because the Zone is the machine of derealization, the slippage mechanism that takes one imperceptibly from document to dream, and serves in a manner so subtle to be subliminal to silently replace the limited audio-visual faculties of film with an unbounded imagination.
The Zone makes of the tourist a nomad memory device, but all the memories flip immediately into machine memory, and from there into phantasm. These phantasm-traces form the fundamental building blocks of a kind of network, a relay system of the imagination that stiches the borders of documentary and fiction and then removes the stitches. It is a mobile architecture of memory, a digital descendant of the ancient art of memory evoked by Marker in Immemory, but no longer glued to the commonplaces of the rhetorical tradition.
Montaigne writes of friendship: “En l’amitié de quoi je parle, elles nos âmes se mêlent et confondent l’une en l’autre, d’un mélange si universel qu’elles effacent et ne retrouvent plus la couture qui les a jointes.” We live today in this space of erased stitching that is that of friendship, the still life as nomad, and the Zone.
Thomson’s speculations on place and name, his wry Markerian references such as Ulan Bator (a place-name that has messed with film biographers such as himself), and his own dreamlike projection-reflections carry on the work of the imagination that surfaces in the dream commuters of Marker’s foray into the Zone. But it must be said as well that the photographs he displays and discusses are also and primarily just what they are, without addition: light and camera in-between action, and always the implied presence of the photographer, himself unphotographed.
Portraits that are always also self-portraits with the stiches removed. People lifted out of the flow of the quotidian into the lens. Everlasting beings caught in the moment, nameless but respected. As Marker long ago wrote: On traque, on vise, on tire et — clac! au lieu d’un mort, on fait un éternel. He may be saying, all these years later, that instead of war one makes a friend.
May 28, 2010 No Comments