Chris Marker Dialector Reloaded by André Lozano – English Translation

Many thanks to Dorna Khazeni for translating André Lozano’s interesting tale of bringing Chris Marker’s Dialector to the annual Appel II Convention @ KansasFest last summer.
The original article in French appears in another post here, Dialector Reloaded, or We Aren’t In Kansas City Anymore.

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André Lozano headed to Kansas City (USA) July 22-27 for the annual Apple II Convention, KansasFest, and to present “Dialector,” the original, previously unpublished program by Chris Marker, reactivated through his efforts, with the collaboration of artist Agnes de Cayeux, and the founder of Poptronics, Annick Rivoire. Back in France, he recounts the event, the ambiance, and ponders the retro-computing phenomenon.

How I reloaded Chris Marker’s Dialector at KansasFest

So, I took off with my 5 1/2″ “Dialector” diskette in my bag, headed to Kansas City, USA, to “reload” the program that Chris Marker had written in his spare time in the 1980s. This was going to take place not just anywhere, but in a singular technological and sociological environment: at KansasFest, the rendez-vous of Apple II enthusiasts.

What Annick Rivoire, Agnes de Cayeux and myself mean by “reload” is the reactivation, using period computer equipment, of the “Dialector” program written 30 years ago by the documentary filmmaker and multimedia artist. As “Dialector” is a program intended to make it possible to hold a conversation with the machine, we were inviting volunteers to activate it, we would then conserve the subsequent emotions and dialogue.

Arrival in Kansas City

Seventeen flight hours after my take-off from Luxembourg, via Munich and Philadephia, I landed in Kansas City, “the City of Fountains.” and found I had moved back thirty years on the computer science timeline.

Immediately upon my arrival at the University of Rockhurst, barely after I’d passed the threshold of the main entrance, I stumbled upon a mountain of cumbersome computer equipment. It’s a sort of tradition here: every year generous donors part with their collections. It’s a free-for-all cum yardsale for the cognoscente. This year Eric is parting with his equipment with a note of sorrow as he’s not sure, in view of his very advanced age, that he will be returning to KansasFest. Everyone helps themselves to the equipment and the sentimental patrimony according to their needs, and shares according to their means. In this trove, I came away only with a working joystick, the rest of it was either too voluminous, or was incompatible with European electronic standards.

I experienced a strange feeling at being here, 7500 kilometers from where I live, in this improbable place, a deserted Jesuit university, lost in a city in the middle of the United States, among 70 to 80 “attendees,” (participants), all of them fervent first generation Apple computer users. I wondered, “What is obsolescence exactly? Should one resign oneself to ever-changing equipment? What if the resilience of innovation were actually possible? Right here maybe, with Dean, Vince, Andrew and Quin? Young and old, initiated or debutants, a counter-innovation was set into motion.

“Apple II forever”

Let us resists the sirens of novelty, bye bye Ipod, Iphone and MacBook! Here it was “Apple II forever,” and everyone could marvel at an MOS 6502 processor. There reigns a sort of febrility among the participants that I imagine must resemble what animated those who conceived of computers toward the end of the 1970s, before the San Francisco West Coast Computer Fair. It’s easy to identify with the two Steves assembling the Apple I in Jobs’ father’s garage: that “garage” spirit reigns here. A digital environment that’s more bermuda shorts and t-shirts than business suits. The most incredible part of it is that the adventure carries on each year, growing even (some are happy to note there’s a greater number of participants in 2014) and it along with it, a trove of new computers, new equipment, and the craziest developments for a platform, namely the Apple II, production for which ceased… over 20 years ago. Respect!

They come almost every year from the four corners of the United Stated, from Nebraska, from New York, from California, by plane, by car, by truck even (more practical for transporting equipment). The first edition took place in 1989. At the time, Apple shifted its focus to the Macintosh, abandoning the pioneers Basic, l’Assembleur and the small companies that produced all sorts of peripheral electronics. A turning point for micro-informatique: the artisans were swept away by the industry, and Apple, Microsoft and company were the new IBM.

8bit fidelity

I am still surprised at this fidelity in Apple’s first generation. So, I put the question to those around me. When I asked George Elmore why he was passionate about these old machines, he confided this: “Nothing can replace a first love, you remain faithful to it your whole life, that’s just how it is.” Dave Schmenk, who develops the integration of Raspberry Pi in Apple, begrudges today’s machines their coldness. They are too “antiseptic” for his taste, whence his attachment to these old machines that are “warmer.” It’s often a matter of finding the “gameplayer” of their youth. And actually a lot of KFest is about playing. Better yet, new games are created for the Apple II, like the RPG “Lawless Legends,” presented as a world exclusive at Kansas City.

Still… how can one account for the attraction? The title of the book by Steven Weyhrich about the history of Apple, Sophistication and Simplicity, is perhaps a good shortcut for understanding what this generation of computers represents. As Apple’s first ad proclaimed, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” At once simple and sophisticated with its 64 kilobytes of memory, this micro-computer was open to all modifications and all development, an ingenious system that generated a true ecosystem around itself with large and small enterprises daily developing software, games, peripherals, hardware, etc. for it.

Climate and Air-conditioning

You’d have to be mad to look for 35 degree © weather with a relative humidity of 80%, the average in July in Kansas City, but in the United States, no worries! Cars, buses, shops, everything or almost everything is air-conditioned, cool and pleasant nights await us in the dormitories at Rockhurst. Except that KansasFest is a sort of marathon and sleeping is out of the question: at all hours of day and night, in rooms, their doors ajar, interminable discussions, improvised workshops and other demos are underway. Certain rooms are veritable digital gloryholes, my neighbor across the way is surfing the net with his Apple II GS, the one next door is composing music on a IIc, and a little further away, I don’t know but there’s people chatting till there are no more hours left in the night.

Four in the morning, prey to the inevitable jet-lag, I went downstairs to stroll through the “lobby,” thinking I’d get something from a vending machine, and came across ten or so Apple lovers in animated conversation. Geeks never sleep at KansasFest. Just as well, me neither, I’m no longer sleepy, the next day I’m giving my “Dialector” presentation.

“Dialector”, Chris Marker and Retrogeeks

KansasFest is the dream place and event for reloading “Dialector.” Putting aside the temporal jump of 30 years that puts us back exactly at the moment the program was written by Chris Marker, the Anglophone environment is perfect for a program that speaks English. Besides, this is the only place, with all these Applesoft Basic and Apple II specialists, where you can not only play with “Dialector,” but also analyze all its algorythmic subtleties. Together with Annick and Agnes, we have done everything to re-situate “Dialector” within its historic and technological context, so as to better seize its impact and pertinence. Here at KansasFest, it is the ultimate test. If tomorrow, the program meets with success, then Chris Marker will merit, more than ever, our profound admiration as a digital pioneer.

At the end of my introduction, it was Sarah who volunteered to talk to “Dialector,” on an Apple IIc original—and a Qwerty keyboard this once. Naturally, the dialogue was more animated than it usually is since so many of the puns are directly related to the wit of early days Apple Users. A great burst of laughter erupts when “Computer,” (the interlocutor’s name in “Dialector”) says “NEVER TRUST ANYONE OVER 256K” or “DO YOU PUT A ‘K’ ON YOUR SHIRT?”—geek humor impenetrable to non-initiates.

Throughout the presentation, the audience reacted perfectly, with their questions and their suggestions, to the artistic quality of “Dialector,” and to the sense of humor that is so specific to Chris Marker. Mission accomplished when the “Dialector” session ended in the public’s applause.

Apple Forever

Here we are Apple fans, but we don’t necessarily like Macintosh. Margot Comstock, at the end of her inaugural talk, confides in us that she stopped her magazine “Softalk” once the Macintosh arrived. Apple, under Steve Jobs’ impulsion, toward the end of the 1980s, turned toward ready-to-use machines, that required only the slightest understanding of computer science, rendering the community of users and their clubs, their magazines and their knowledge base completely obsolete.

When it came out, I was a big fan of the Mac’s graphic interface. However, when you think about it, that interface was at once the best and the worst thing that could have happened to computer technology. By making the computer as easy to use as a children’s toy, Apple made its users even more ignorant and dependent. Thirty years ago, 5% of us owned a computer but almost 95% of owners were technically capable of programming or modifying their machines. Today, we are going to suppose 95% of us own a computer and that we are no more than 5% who are technically capable of programming code or of transforming a machine.

Live video conferences from Kansas Fest

When I arrived here, I met Olivier, a Frenchman originally who had become American, who was also experiencing his first KFest. He had offered to do a daily write-up for the French Facebook page set up by fans of first generation Apple. He interceded on my behalf throughout my KansasFest sojourn. I was the only participant to have come from another continent.

It’s all about holding your own… We organized, broadcast and recorded four Google HangOuts meetings that we put on a dedicated YouTube channel, with the aim of allowing Americans and French to meet and converse. Each day after lunch in Kansas City and around 8 p.m. French time (technical conditions permitting), we had leisurely and good-natured exchanges of ideas with Annick, Agnes, Dean, Ken, Olivier, Stephane, and our friend Antoine Vignau, at their stations. A great occasion for soldering new transatlantic ties.

Bouquets of sessions

Each day, KFest sessions follow one another according to a well-established calendar. The offerings are highly diversified between the conferences, demos, workshops… There are “classic” talks like Margot Comstock’s about the adventure of the publication “Softalk,” a leading light of early 1980s computer publications, or Jason Scott from Archive.org’s presentation about the issue of archiving. Then there was my own on “Dialector.”

Numerous demos also took place: Peter Neubauer revisited the emulator GSPort’s latest developments, Ivan Drucker presented A2Cloud and A2Server (A2Cloud allows an Apple II to connect to the internet via a Raspberry Pi), Charles Mangin did a 3D printing demo for us to replace certain plastic parts, David Schmenk managed to fuse an Apple II to a Raspberry Pi…

There was no shortage of workshops either: Sarah Walkowiak traded the soldering iron for a needle and thread to make a cross stitch Apple out of thread; Vince Briel, already known for recreating the Apple I or Altair, reproduced the mythic Ohio Scientific Superboard II (OSI 600) with soldering irons and electronic components; the Hogans, father and son (11 years old), invited us to make rockets propelled by compressed air, piloted by the Apple II Joystick port.

A singular presentation by Quinn Dunki, a blond Canadian woman, who told us the story of how, over the course of four years, following in the footsteps of Steve Wozniak, she created her own computer, “Veronica.” Built from scratch, around the MOS 6502 processor. As a dare, with no end in mind other than mastering the hardware and software, propelled by playfulness and a wish to go beyond her own comfort zone, since she is not a computer scientist.

Meaning one does not get bored at Kansas Fest. Not to mention the games. For the five days of this gathering, we often had a chance to play, be it at “Structris” competitions—a sort of inverted “Tetris,”—or at “Lawless Legends,” just created this year, or, at more singular forms like “Jungle Adventure,” at its origin an interactive text game transposed as a collective society game by Ken Gagne, who himself incarnates the computer to which to give instructions (“human interface”).

The future of Apple II

During his presentation, Ken Gagne, the editor of Juiced.GS, surprised us by his presentation that made use of graphics that conveyed the growth in the numbers of his subscribers over the last five years. After a logical drop in the magazine’s distribution, linked to the obsolescence of the machines, it found a veritable resurrection which can be attributed to the emergence of retro-computing.

Ever since the computers created 30 years ago entered museums, they have become of historic interest to a whole new generation that is passionate about preserving its computer science patrimony. Ken tells us he is surprised by the ever greater amount of information there is to publish around Apples: each day brings its lot of new equipment and software.

Enthusiasm

In the course of my stay at Kansas Fest, I often heard the term “Apple enthusiast,” or “computer enthusiast.” I really like this expression because it turns its back on “nostalgia,” and immunizes us against the “melancholy” that accompanies the disappearance of machines that have fascinated us. In this enthusiasm resides a joy and a trust in the future, as if the past were still capable of surprising us and teaching us new wisdoms.

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A few retrogeek links

The last word where news concerning first generation Apple is concerned can be found here:
http://a2central.com

Building a computer from the ground up, by Quinn alias Blondie Hack.
http://quinndunki.com/blondihacks/

Converting one’s venerable Apple II into a sort of vintage Arduino.
http://www.ivanhogan.com/kfest

The “Softalk” project set up by some fans that aims to digitize all the issues of the publication.
http://www.softalkapple.com

One of the first and famous sites for the conservation of digital memory and its best text files:
http://textfiles.com

The French site dedicated to the world of Apple is here.
http://www.brutaldeluxe.fr

This is the site where you can find the replies of the famous Apple I and the Altair:
http:.brielcomputers.com

“Structris,” the inverted “Tetris” game for Apple II:
https://bitbucket.ort/martin.have/structris/downloads

“Sophistication and Simplicity: The Life and Times of the Apple II Computer,” the indispensable book by Steven Weyhrick on the history of Apple.

Juiced.GS,” the trimestrial news publication about first generation Apple.

The Apple II France Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/a2france/

André Lozano

Duncan Campbell – Essay Film Homage to Marker & Resnais Wins 2014 Turner Prize

From the New York Times, 1 December 2014:

Inspired by Chris Marker and Alain Resnais’s 1953 film, “Statues Also Die,” which was shown alongside “It for Others,” Mr. Campbell mixed images of African artifacts, consumer items and a dance work by the British choreographer Michael Clark in which the performers trace words and equations from Marx’s “Das Kapital” with their bodies. Mr. Campbell’s film, like “Statues Also Die,” tackles cultural imperialism: the appropriation of African artifacts by Western institutions. But the film, about an hour long, also suggests, in a section on an uprising during the Irish Troubles in the early 1970s, that the ownership and manipulation of images are not confined to the art world.Roslyn Sulcas, Innovative Filmmaker Wins Turner Prize for Art, nytimes.com

From The Guardian, 1 December 2014:

Turner prize 2014: Duncan Campbell wins Britain’s prestigious art award

Irish favourite takes prize for ‘essay film’ It for Others, which uses dance, the IRA and Marxism to explore the value of art

The judges called Duncan Campbell’s work ‘an ambitious and complex film which rewards repeated viewing’.

A 54-minute “essay film” that refers to IRA martyrdom, Marxist theory and anthropomorphic ketchup dispensers as it explores the value of art won its maker Duncan Campbell the 2014 Turner prize.

It was by no means a surprise. Campbell, aged 42 and probably the best known of the four artists shortlisted, had been the bookmakers’ favourite all along to take a prize created 30 years ago to “promote discussion of new developments in contemporary British art”.

His film, It for Others, was first seen at the Scottish pavilion of the Venice Biennale in the summer of 2013.

The Turner prize judges called it “an ambitious and complex film which rewards repeated viewing”. They also “admired his exceptional dedication to making a work which speaks about the construction of value and meaning in ways that are topical and compelling”.

The film was inspired by a 1953 work by Alain Resnais and Chris Marker called Statues Also Die, which explored and lamented the colonial commercialisation of African art.Mark Brown, Turner prize 2014: Duncan Campbell wins Britain’s prestigious art award, theguardian.com

CNN, seemingly unfamiliar with Chris Marker, contributes this take and goes on to discuss a controversy surrounding the reception; as Marker and Resnais’ film was banned upon release, the controversial nature of Campbell’s work is fitting.

His film, It For Others, which was described by the panel as “an ambitious and complex film which rewards repeated viewing”, is a response to a “film essay” from 1953 about African art and colonialism.

This archive footage is interspersed with new material, including a dance routine based on the equations in Karl Marx’s seminal work, “Das Kapital,” created by the choreographer Michael Clark.

All of this is overlaid with a voiceover that imitates the style of a lecture.

[…]

Digby Warde-Aldam, the art critic for the UK’s Spectator magazine, said: “Surely no arbiter in their right mind could have let such hectoring, cultural studies-sanctioned guff slip through the net?”

“If you’re serious about the rubbish on show this year, you are insulting every artist working in Britain today,” he said.

Jake Wallis Simons, Turner Prize 2014 won by Irish film artist Duncan Campbell, cnn.com

About Duncan Campbell

Campbell, who lives in Scotland, is a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art. He is the fourth alumni of the school to have won the prize in the last 10 years. For more on Campbell and the GSoA, see scotlandnow.dailyrecord.co.uk.

Filming Das Kapital

Karl Marx’ seminal work has been back in the spotlight of late, due of course to the success of French scholar Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century [orig. Le capital au XXIe siècle, Paris, Seuil, 2013). Campbell’s work is not the first attempt to draw Marx’ masterwork into filmic expression. Eisenstein worked on a version of the book as film in 1927-1928, after the completion of October and while working on The General Line (1929).

Eighty years later, Alexander Kluge – the wunderkind polymath pupil of T.W. Adorno, a political philosopher, filmmaker, television producer and prolific short story writer – produced a monumental 9 1/2 hour film entitled Nachrichten aus der ideologischen Antike – Marx/Eisenstein/Das Kapital (News from Ideological Antiquity: Marx/Eisenstein/Capital. For more on Kluge’s production, see Julia Vassilieva, “Capital and Co.: Kluge/Eisenstein/Marx”, Screening the Past.

Chris Marker Coréennes – English Text

Is there no one
to keep the
moon from
disappearing,
to tie the morning
sun beneath
the horizon?
Then I would live
one more day.
(Story of Sim Chon)

Due to the out of print status of the English translation of Chris Marker’s Coréennes, I have scanned my copy to make this text available to English readers. The photographs from the original French and, subsequently, Korean editions were recently on display at Peter Blum’s Gallery in New York. For those who had the chance to visit the exhibition, this text will prove illuminating. It is also now a piece of rare Marker memorabilia. This edition includes Marker’s 1997 postscript from “Port-Kosinki.”

You may download the pdf here: Chris Marker, Corénnenes, English Text

Our next step will be to provide the OCR scanned text (thanks to ABBY Fine Reader technology) in html format as a page on this site, so stay tuned!

Translation: Brian Holmes
Produced by: Wexner Center Store, 2009
Manager: Matt Reber

Note 11.15.14: PDF updated with cover and table of contents.

Coreennes English

The first Korean girl descended from the heavens. A friendly rose, flat and rather far from the archetype (Indigenae candidi sunt, el procerae staturae, says Mercator’s Atlas), she alone among her sisters betrayed the far-off Tunguskan origins that the anthropologists ascribe to her ancestor, the demi-god Tangun (2332 B.C.). No doubt it was this blend of traits that led the Korean employment counselors to glimpse her vocation, the same as the Druggist’s in Giraudoux’s Intermezzo: the gift for transitions. The Far East lines are guarded by young women: Olga in Omsk, a shepherdess of Tupolcv- Macha in Chita, leading the twin-engines out to pasture in the violet dawn of Mongolia. The last relay, the Air-Eastess, skewered us through China: congregations of incredulous camels startled by the shadow of the Ilyushin, squares of Tartar silk drying alongside the yurts, the petrified thunder of the Great Wall to which a train, silent for our ears, laid siege with its white cry. Kalmuki murus contra Tártaros. Another wall of pink and white dust, brick and mercury: on the Taedong river, before the bridge rebuilt by the Chinese volunteers, a fisherman let his net slip between his fingers, grain by grain, like a rosary. Soft morning, city. Tolerant even toward its clichés, Korea greeted us… with morning calm.Chris Marker, Coréennes

Chris Marker Exhibition Opens in Oslo

Chris Marker TBD

Kunstnernes Hus Chris Marker Exhibition

Chris Marker: A Grin Without a Cat

31 October 2014 – 11 January 2015

Opening Friday, 31 October 2014, 7pm.

Opening speech by Christine Van Assche, Curator at Large at Centre Pompidou, Paris, and Artistic Director, Mats Stjernstedt

Guided tour in the exhibition on Saturday, 1 November, 2 pm, by Christine Van Assche and Mats Stjernstedt

Kunstnernes Hus presents the first Scandinavian retrospective of visionary French filmmaker, photographer, writer and multimedia artist Chris Marker (1921 – 2012). His films lace realism with science fiction and lyricism with politics. Changing his name, declining to be photographed or interviewed, Marker is both enigma and legend. His influence extends across art, experimental film and mainstream cinema.

Marker is widely acknowledged as the finest exponent of the essay film and is known as the director of over 60 films, including Sans soleil (Sunless, 1983) and A Grin Without a Cat (Le Fond de l’air est rouge, 1977). His most celebrated work La Jetée (The Pier, 1962) imagines a Paris devastated by nuclear catastrophe and is composed almost entirely of black-and-white still photographs, which informed the narrative of Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys (1995).

Marker was an inveterate traveler – his camera was his eye. His astonishing range of images can encompass a temple in Tokyo devoted to cats, to frozen flowers in a Siberian science station. Marker pictures our cultural rituals, ancient and modern – visiting a shrine, playing videogames, protesting on the streets. He splices his images with found footage, including fragments of movies, cartoons, ads, and news reels. Musical scores are interwoven with the noises of everyday life; haunting commentaries are narrated as if from the future, meditating on history and memory.

Darkness also underlines Marker’s portrayal of planetary cultures – memories of war ravaged France, the brutalities of colonialism, the failures of revolution.

A Grin Without a Cat is co-curated by Christine Van Assche, Curator at Large, Centre Pompidou, Paris, writer and film critic Chris Darke, and Magnus af Petersens, Curator at Large, Whitechapel Gallery/Curator, Moderna Museet. The exhibition tours to Lund Konsthall in 2015.

The exhibition is organized by Whitechapel Gallery.
Kunstnernes Hus

Kunsternes Hus

Kunstnernes Hus er en av Norges vakreste bygninger og et av de tidligste eksempel på norsk funksjonalisme. Huset har en spennende historie som et sentralt visningssted for norsk og internasjonal samtidskunst. Foruten faste utstillinger og en flott matservering med utsikt over Slottsparken kan vi tilby ulike arrangement både på dag- og kveldstid.

The Kunsternes Hus (Artists’ House) is one of Norway’s most beautiful buildings, and one of the earliest example of Norwegian functionalism. The House has an interesting history as a central viewing place for Norwegian and international contemporary art. In addition to permanent exhibitions and great on-site dining facilities with views of the Palace Gardens, we can offer various events both on the day and evening time.

Coréennes by John Fitzgerald – Chris Marker Photo Exhibition at Peter Blum Gallery

Korean Ballerina, Chris Marker, Peter Blum Gallery

John Fitzgerald is a periodic contributor to chrismarker.org, and we would like to extend our gratitude to him for crafting this piece for us. Previously he has written In a Train of the Métro, Passengers and A Grin Without a Cat, Lincoln Center.

A question that arose toward the end of my recent visit to Peter Blum Gallery in New York to view the Chris Marker “Koreans” exhibition is illustrative of the veil of mystery that hangs over so much of his life and work. Having studied the photos of individual North Koreans hanging on the gallery walls – photos that I had long believed had been incorporated into a film that he had done on the subject – I then came upon a book resting against the wall with all of the same photographs and with an accompanying text written in Korean. Beside this book was a smaller paperback, including an English translation of the text, but without the photographs. So were these pictures in the gallery photographs that had been incorporated into a film? Or were the photographs themselves the main body of work, of which the book was merely a compendium piece? Or was the book that I was holding in fact the principle artistic expression – the words and images playing off of each other, each giving added meaning to the other?

The gallery attendant helpfully added clarity, noting that the photographs originally appeared in the book Coréennes and that what was on display in the gallery were reproductions. What was not in the exhibition, then, was the accompanying commentary that Marker had included in the original book. (An added note of confusion came when I pointed out that the text was written in Korean – a language I was not aware that Marker had been conversant in – and we agreed that the actual text must originally have been in French before being translated into Korean.) She also noted that the photographs on view in the gallery were digital photographs. Marker had digitized, and in some cases altered, the original 35mm photos that appeared in the book.

Between the photographs being set apart from the original text that accompanied them, the digital alteration of the original images, and even the added confusion about what language the text had originally appeared in, the various levels of removal was reminiscent of the first time that I had been introduced to Marker’s work at a screening of Sans Soleil: a French film, dubbed in English, and largely about the Japanese, in which an unnamed woman seems to read letters she has received from an unnamed man across great gaps of distance and time. In everything that Marker touches, there are layers.

In an exhibition of photographs we are only treated to one of those layers. I would compare it to watching Sans Soleil with the sound turned off: the images of sleeping Japanese on the ferry from Hokkaido would not be half so arresting without Marker’s voiceover meditation – “Waiting, immobility, snatches of sleep. Curiously, all of that makes me think of a past or future war: night trains, air raids, fallout shelters – small fragments of war enshrined in everyday life. He liked the fragility of those moments suspended in time. Those memories whose only function had been to leave behind nothing but memories.”

One striking photograph in the exhibition shows a woman dressed in a modern gender-neutral shirt and pants walking down the street and effortlessly carrying a large basket perfectly balanced on her head. Marker captures her as she walks directly under an awning featuring a placard painted with a woman wearing a traditional Western-style white dress. Your eye notes the dualism of the figures in the photograph and you recall Marker’s affinity for contrasts. But divorced from the accompanying text, we miss out entirely on Marker’s poetic meditation of a street in North Korea as a kind of self-contained universe:

head carrying coréenne

A great deal of Korea strolls by on Koreans’ heads. Like those salon magicians hired round the turn of the century – barely introduced beneath a false name before they would begin juggling with the furniture to entertain the guests – the Koreans like to set objects dancing. Baskets, earthenware jars, bundles of wood, basins, all escape the earth’s gravity to become satellites of these calm planets, obeying exacting orbits. For the Korean street has its cycles, its waves, its rails. In this double décor, where hastened ruins and buildings still aborning strike a second’s balance of incompletion, the soldier who (foresightedly) buys a civilian’s sun hat, the worker leaving the construction site, the bureaucrat with his briefcase, the woman in traditional dress and the woman in modern dress, the porter carrying a brand new allegory to the museum of the Revolution with a woman in black following step by step to decipher it – all have their route and precise place, like constellations.

smiling Korean Chris Marker Peter Blum Gallery

In a short notice about the exhibition recently published in The Wall Street Journal, the reviewer’s principle observation comes in the last sentence: “All in all, it looks normal.” The “it” that the reviewer is referring to is North Korea, and, confronted with images of people dancing, practicing ballet, walking to the market, or posing for a photograph, it does seem rather unremarkable. Given the West’s perception of North Korea as an isolated rogue state most commonly associated with newsreels of long columns of soldiers marching in machine-like precision while parading ballistic missiles down the avenue, there is unquestionably inherent value in an exhibition of photographs that shows them in their everyday life, images far removed from the militaristic propaganda with which we are all so familiar. Such images are nearer to the Petit Planète series of travel books to which Marker contributed and that went against the genre’s propensity to Orientalize far-off places. Standing in the gallery, we are not witness to the wretched shackles of communism or the visible consequences of a morally-depraved regime depriving its owns citizens of food. The little ballerina in Untitled #27 more closely calls to mind the world of Edgar Degas than Kim Il-sung.

Which begs the question – if ever so briefly – as to what extent these photographs themselves have elements of propaganda. The photos were taken during a period in which Marker was collaborating on some of his most overtly political films, including Cuba si! and Far from Vietnam, the latter of which was reviewed by Renata Adler in The New York Times as a “rambling partisan newsreel collage.” A filmmaker putting his name to projects featuring interviews with Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh might well be expected to paint a flattering – and perhaps skewed – picture of life in that other workers’ paradise north of the 38th parallel. But we must consider that North Korea in 1957 was not revealed as the human catastrophe that it was later to become under the ensuing decades of rule by the Kims, and we can excuse Marker for seeking out the basic humanity in a communist country that he had hoped – as he noted in a 1997 coda to the Coréennes text – would manifest a break with “the Soviet model” of Marxism. “Those children of Confucius, Lao-Tzu, Bolivar, or Marti had no reason to kneel before dogma elaborated by bureaucrats born from a Leninist host-mother inseminated by Kafka,” he wrote. “The answer is: they did.”

They did, indeed. And perhaps that is the other element that is missing from this exhibition, an exhibition that might have shown pictures of the promise of communism alongside pictures of the consequences of communism, such as borrowed newsreel images of starved bodies or the tens of thousands of political prisoners in forced labor camps. Marker included a powerful postscript to his Coréennes text for inclusion on the Immemory CD-ROM in 1997, a postscript that was shown against a background of newspaper clips of the North Korean famine. “The balance sheet to which most of the texts and images on this disc bear witness is totally disastrous, and I feel neither the right nor the inclination to ignore that,” he wrote. But no equivalent photographic postscript was evident in the exhibition at Peter Blum. As I left the gallery, one of the most striking images I noticed was of a handsome Korean man in Western clothes grinning widely, and I could not help but think of Marker’s Lewis Carroll-esque expression for the illusory hopes of socialist revolutions that never materialized – “a grin without a cat.”

A short 2009 note by Marker that accompanies the exhibition to some extent fills in the gap left by the photographs, observing how “time froze on that country . . . while the megalomaniac leadership of both Kims had proven a disaster.” It also includes a contemporaneous snippet of a communiqué from the country’s state-run news agency touting a much-publicized missile launch, noting that the government’s recent actions had the full support of “the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.” Marker observes: “Yes, you read correctly. ‘Soviet Union.’ In 2009.”

Satellite Image of Dark North Korea

The difficulty is that these photographs are likewise frozen in time and the overwhelming “normalcy” of the images seems so dissonant with what we actually know about life in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. I noted earlier Marker’s description of the “satellites” in a North Korean street, but one of the most compelling recent visuals to emerge of this impenetrable country is the image of North Korean streets seen from the satellites – an entire population literally living in the dark. Photographed intermittently from orbiting satellites over the years, the recurring image is that of the democratic south shimmering in light while the communist north is shrouded in darkness. With his penchant both for technology and juxtaposition, it might have been a fitting image to accompany his postscript to Coréennes, a poignant aria of disillusionment penned toward the close of the 1990s and concluding with a bleak commentary on a century that, “despite all it shams, had so little real existence – which may after all have been nothing but an immense, interminable fade-over.”

John Fitzgerald

Installation Views Courtesy of Peter Blum Gallery, New York
Works Courtesy of the Chris Marker Estate and Peter Blum Gallery, New York

§

Coreennes English

Editor’s Addendum

Coréennes doit s’entendre ici au sens de Gnossiennes ou Provinciales c’est’-à-dire “pièces d’inspiration coréenne”. On y trouvera, outre les dames de Corée (qui à elles seules vaudraient plus d’un long-métrage), des tortues qui rient, des géants qui pleurent, un légume qui rend immortel, trois petites filles changées en astres, un ours médecin, un chien qui mange la lune, un tambour qui fait danser des tigres, plusieurs chouettes, et sur ce décor immortel un pays anéanti hier par la guerre, qui repousse “à la vitesse d’une plante au cinéma” entre Marx et les fées. Vous apprendrez encore que les Coréens ont inventé l’imprimerie avant Gutenberg, le cuirassé avant Potemkine et la Grand Garabagne avant Michaux, dans ce “court-métrage” où l’on souhaite voir apparaître un genre distinct de l’album et du reportage, qu’on appellerait faute de mieux ciné-essai comme il y a des ciné-romans — à une seule réserve près, mais d’importance: les personnages ne s’y expriment pas encore par de jolis phylactères en forme de nuage, comme dans les comics. Mais il faut savoir attendre…Chris Marker, cover of orig. French version of Coréennes, curiously elided in English text version

Coréennes should be understood in the sense of Gnossiennes [Satie] or Provinciales [Pascal], that is to say ‘pieces of korean [fem. – Ed.] inspiration.’ Besides the women of Korea – who themselves would be worth more than one full-length film – one will find tortoises that laugh, giants who cry, a vegetable for immortality, three little girls turned into stars, a doctor bear, a dog who eats the moon, a drum that makes tigers dance, multiple cats, and on this immortal decore a country annihilated yesterday by war, one that regrows ‘with the speed of a plant in the cinema’ between Marx and the fairies. You will learn as well that the Koreans invented the printing press before Gutenberg, the armorplate/breastplate before Potemkine and the Grand Garabagne before Michaux.* In this ‘short film’ one hopes to see revealed a distinct genre of the album or journalism, one will call for lack of a better term ‘essay film’ – like there are novel films [ciné-romans, a sly reference to La Jetée -Ed.] – with one small but important reservation: the people do not express themselves by the amusing bubbles in the form of clouds, as in the comics. But just you wait…Chris Marker, Coréennes

* Henri Michaux’ work Voyage en Grand Garabagne was written in 1936 and later became part of the volume Ailleurs, published in 1948. As one critic puts it, “Voyage en Grande Garabagne présente des peuples inventés avec des moeurs et des coutumes fantastiques. […] la grande sobriété de l’écriture contraste avec l’imagination et l’invention débridées de l’auteur. – overblog. We can’t help but be reminded of Borges and Foucault’s great opening to Les mots et les choses

It By Others by Duncan Campbell Responds to Marker & Resnais’ Statues Also Die

Dublin-born artist Duncan Campbell has been nominated for his contribution to Scotland’s 2013 Venice Biennale pavilion. The feature work is a film entitled “It for Others” which responds to Chris Marker and Alan Resnais’ 1953 film essay about historical African art and colonialism, “Statues Also Die.”Who Will Win Tate’s Turner Prize in 2014?

For more on Duncan Campbell, including a gallery and video interviews, see Generation Arts Scotland. Another piece of interest comes from the Guardian, Artist of the week 163: Duncan Campbell.

Dialector Reloaded, or We Aren’t In Kansas City Anymore

Dialector on Monitor at KansasFest

This just in, or rather just in to my brain running one month behind, on the Dialector front – Chris Marker’s human-computer conversation program – from poptronics.fr. We’ll get the whole article translated asap. Vivent les rétrogeeks! Who knew that Marker’s resurrected early digital interactive creation DIALECTOR starred in a geekfest in Kansas City over the Summer?

14’08’14
andré lozano
poptronics.fr

Comment j’ai reloadé Dialector de Chris Marker au KansasFest

Donc voilà, je suis parti avec ma disquette 5 pouces 1/4 de « Dialector » dans le sac à destination de Kansas City, Etats-Unis, pour « reloader » le programme que Chris Marker a écrit au mitan des années 1980. Et ce dans un environnement technologique et sociologique unique en son genre, le KansasFest, le rendez-vous des « enthousiastes » de l’Apple II.

Ce que Annick Rivoire, Agnès de Cayeux et moi-même désignons par « reload » est une réactivation, sur du matériel informatique d’époque, du programme « Dialector » écrit par le cinéaste documentariste et artiste multimédia il y a 30 ans. Comme « Dialector » est un programme de conversation avec la machine, nous invitons des volontaires à l’activer puis nous en conservons l’émotion et le dialogue.

Arrivée à Kansas City

Après avoir décollé du Luxembourg en passant par Munich et Philadelphie, j’atterris à Kansas City, « la ville des fontaines ». Dix-sept heures de vol plus tard, je me retrouve trente ans plus tôt sur la ligne du temps informatique.

Dès mon arrivée à l’université de Rockhurst, à peine l’entrée principale franchie, je trébuche sur une montagne d’encombrants informatiques. C’est une sorte de tradition : chaque année de généreux donateurs se séparent de leur collection. C’est une sorte de vide-grenier entre connaisseurs. Cette année Eric se sépare de son matériel avec une note de tristesse parce qu’il n’est pas certain, vu son âge très avancé, de revenir à KansasFest. Chacun se sert selon ses besoins et partage selon ses moyens son patrimoine matériel et sentimental. Je ne rapporterai de cette manne qu’une joystick fonctionnelle, tout le reste étant ou trop volumineux ou incompatible avec les normes électriques européennes.

J’éprouve un étrange sentiment en me retrouvant ici, à 7500 km de chez moi, dans ce lieu improbable, une université jésuite déserte, perdue dans une ville au centre des Etats-Unis, parmi 70 à 80 « attendees » (participants), fervents utilisateurs d’ordinateurs Apple première génération. Je m’interroge : c’est quoi au juste l’obsolescence ? doit-on se résigner à changer de matériel constamment ? et si la résilience à l’innovation était possible ? ici-même, avec Dean, Vince, Andrew et Quin ? Jeunes et vieux, initiés ou débutants, une contre-innovation s’ébauche.

« Apple II for ever »

Résistons aux sirènes de la nouveauté, bye bye Ipod, Iphone et MacBook ! ici c’est « Apple II for ever ! » et tous de s’émerveiller devant un processeur MOS 6502. Il règne une sorte de fébrilité parmi les participants que j’imagine semblable à celle qui animait les concepteurs d’ordinateurs de la fin des années 1970, avant la West Coast Computer Fair de San Francisco. On s’identifie facilement aux deux Steve assemblant leur Apple I dans le garage du père de Jobs : l’esprit « Garage » règne. Une atmosphère informatique davantage bermuda et tee-shirt que costard cravate. Le plus incroyable, c’est que l’aventure continue chaque année, voire se développe (certains se réjouissaient de voir plus de participants en 2014), et apporte son lot de nouveaux logiciels, de nouveaux matériels, de développements les plus fous pour une plate-forme, l’Apple II, dont la production a cessé… il y a plus de 20 ans. Respect !

Ils viennent presque chaque année des quatre coins des États-Unis, du Nebraska, de New York, de Californie, en avion, en voiture, même en camion (plus pratique pour transporter le matériel). La première manifestation s’est déroulée en 1989. A l’époque, Apple se focalise sur le Macintosh en abandonnant les pionniers, le Basic, l’Assembleur et les petites compagnies fabriquant toutes sortes de périphériques électroniques. Un tournant pour la micro informatique : les artisans balayés par l’industrie, et les Apple, Microsoft and co. en nouveaux IBM.

[…]

« Dialector », Chris Marker et les rétrogeeks

KansasFest est le lieu et l’événement rêvé pour reloader « Dialector ». Hormis le saut temporel de 30 ans qui nous situe exactement au moment où le programme a été écrit par Chris Marker, l’environnement anglophone est parfait pour un programme qui parle anglais. Par ailleurs, il n’y a qu’ici, avec tous ces spécialistes en Applesoft Basic et en Apple II, que l’on peut non seulement jouer avec « Dialector » mais encore en analyser toutes les subtilités algorithmiques. Avec Annick et Agnès, nous avons tout fait pour replacer « Dialector » dans son contexte historique et technologique, pour mieux en saisir la force et la pertinence. Ici à KansasFest, c’est le test ultime. Si demain, le programme rencontre le succès, alors Chris Marker méritera, plus que jamais, notre profonde admiration en tant que pionnier de l’art numérique.

À la fin de mon introduction, c’est Sarah qui s’est proposée pour converser avec « Dialector », sur un Apple IIc original –et clavier Qwerty pour une fois. Naturellement, le dialogue s’est animé plus qu’à son habitude, puisque de nombreux jeux de mots ont un rapport direct avec l’esprit des Apple Users de la première heure. Grand éclat de rire lorsque « Computer » (le nom de votre interlocuteur dans « Dialector ») a dit « NEVER TRUST ANYONE OVER 256K » ou « DO YOU PUT A ’K’ ON YOUR SHIRT ? » –de l’humour geek impénétrable pour les non initiés.

Durant toute la présentation, l’audience a parfaitement réagi, par ses questions et ses suggestions, à la qualité artistique de « Dialector » et au sens de l’humour propre à Chris Marker… Mission accomplie quand la « session » « Dialector » s’acheva sous les applaudissements du public.
[…]

Read the rest / lire la suite

Further Reading

Amitié

chris marker photograph aka sandor krasna

Sandor Krasna, Flikr
Amitié | Friendship with the animal kingdom, arguably the source, along with music, of emotional connection in all of Chris Marker’s creations.

For Marker, ‘things that quicken the heart’ always include revered animals, along with music. These are sources of the emotional connection in Chris Marker’s creations, a connection which parallels at a deeper level the intellectual activity of resolving word and image. Emotional emblematics works on the subliminal level so that our minds are expanded while the heart is opened; this emotional symphonics is often only consciously realized later, in the wake of viewing — in the absorption phase. The question has lingered for decades: why do we feel the way we do after watching a Chris Marker film? An image such as this that I call here “Amitié” or “Friendship” specifically with animals may be a clue, an essai… to uncover discover reveal appeal to the emotional power, very unsung, in his films, and alive too, quite alive in his photography as well. With great friendship comes the possibility of great loss. We felt that … we sure did …

Peter Blum Presents Chris Marker ‘Koreans’

Chris Marker Koreans at Peter Blum Gallery

PETER BLUM GALLERY
Blumarts Inc. 20 West 57th Street | www.peterblumgallery.com | New York, NY 10019
art@peterblumgallery.com | Tel 212 244 6055

For Immediate Release:

Chris Marker : Koreans

September 4 — October 18, 2014

Peter Blum is pleased to announce the exhibition Chris Marker: Koreans, which opens on September 4th at 20 West 57th Street, New York.

Chris Marker was one of the last journalists who had the unique opportunity to travel and explore North Korea freely in 1957. The result of these travels was a group of 51 photographs entitled Koreans. This series reflects an uncensored record of daily life in North Korea four years after the end of the devastating war and shortly before the border was closed off.

The essay herewith attached was written by Marker in 2009 conveying his thoughts and observations of this trip to North Korea.

Peter Blum Gallery Koreans Chris Marker

Chris Marker (1921-2012) is one of the most influential and important filmmakers to emerge in the post-war era. Marker appeared on the Paris cultural landscape as a writer and editor and also became identified for his uniquely expressive non-fiction films. Marker garnered international recognition in 1962 with the science-fiction short film La Jetée. In the seventies, Marker created documentaries both on the history of the left (Le Fond de l’air est rouge, 1977) and travel and memory (Sans Soleil, 1982). Marker also produced acclaimed media installations including Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men, shown at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2005 and presented by Peter Blum at Art Basel Unlimited in 2006, and Silent Movie, 1995. Selected solo exhibitions include: the Whitechapel Gallery, London (retrospective); MIT List Visual Arts Center and Carpenter Visual Arts Center, Cambridge (retrospective); The Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (retrospective); Atelier Hermès, Seoul; Les Rencontres d’Arles de la Photographie, Arles; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York; The Jeu de Paume, Paris; The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin; and Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona.

For additional information and photographic material please contact David Blum or Andrea Serbonich at art@peterblumgallery.com.

Chris Marker @ Peter Blum Gallery NYC, Koreans

In 1957, I had the opportunity to join a group of French journalists “invited” to visit North Korea. I would only realize later what a unique opportunity that was. The four years following the war (a conflict soberly described by General Bradley as the “wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy”) had been dedicated mostly to rebuilding a bomb-stricken country, and the formidable propaganda machine that would soon be identified with the sheer mention of North Korea wasn’t yet running at full throttle. We were subjected to a sizable dose of propaganda, but between two obligatory sessions of Socialist kowtowing, our hosts allowed us an amount of free walking unequalled since. Many years later, I could contemplate on television the predicament of a Belgian delegation whose members supplicated their guide to see, at least once, a marketplace -and after having visited the museum in honor of comrade Kim Jong-il, the library with the complete works of comrade Kim Jong-il, the factory that followed the directives of comrade Kim Jong-il, they were finally taken to an empty space outside the city, where a marketplace would be established according to the plans of comrade Kim Jong-il. Watching the image of hopelessness on the faces of the poor wretches made me appreciate even more the liberty I had enjoyed to hang around Pyongyang with my camera and to look everywhere, including marketplaces. Amusingly, the result of those strolls was equally rejected on both sides of the 38th parallel. To the North, a book which never mentioned once the name of Kim Il-sung simply didn’t exist. To the South, the raw fact that it had been allowed to be done in North Korea made it a tool of communist propaganda. That’s how, I was told, it was exhibited in Seoul’s counter-revolutionary museum, and its author introduced as a “Marxist dog”. I didn’t mind. Since Snoopy, the word “dog” has ceased to be an insult in my cats-ruled world. Then Time froze on that country whose culture had fascinated me, as well as the mesmerizing beauty of its women, while the megalomaniac leadership of both Kims had proven a disaster. Many examples of that freeze would appear in the news, the most recent so incredible that it escaped many commentators. When the DPRK (that’s its official name) launched the famous rocket that worried the whole world, the KOREAN NEWS agency published the following communiqué : “The Secretariat of the C.C., the Communist Party of the Soviet Union fully supports the steadfast stand of the Workers’ Party of Korea led by General Secretary Kim Jong Il”. Yes, you read correctly : “Soviet Union”. In 2009. Perhaps nobody ever dared to update comrade Kim Jong-il.
Chris Marker, 2009

Wall, Peter Blum Gallery, New York, Chris Marker Koreans

Installation Views Courtesy of Peter Blum Gallery, New York
Works Courtesy of the Chris Marker Estate and Peter Blum Gallery, New York