Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

4001 is the new 2012, or vice versa


Pacal II Tomb LidI found a poetic evocation of Chris Marker and his trans-temporal take on earth history, memory and compassion in Sans Soleil on a blog today called simply politics. The entry starts out by making an auspicious connection between the Zapatistas of Chiapas, who “call their gatherings to build international solidarity ‘Intergalactic,'” and the spirit of Marker’s films. It goes on to point out that Marker is known to film buffs much more widely than revolutionaries, noting that voice-over narration has at times been associated with a maligned “Voice of God,” but that ain’t necessarily so, and Marker has provided the template for a true alternative. I’m in tune with this blog man; Marker is not Euripides; his commentaries come at the image track not as a deus ex machina to explain all and wrap all up, but to infuse questions, associations, parables and compassion to the mix, always leaving space (and time) for the viewer to travel back and forth and make new connections.

He riffs on, quoting a famous section of Sans Soleil:

That’s just it, he can’t understand. He hasn’t come from another planet he comes from our future, four thousand and one: the time when the human brain has reached the era of full employment. Everything works to perfection, all that we allow to slumber, including memory. Logical consequence: total recall is memory anesthetized. After so many stories of men who had lost their memory, here is the story of one who has lost forgetting, and who—through some peculiarity of his nature—instead of drawing pride from the fact and scorning mankind of the past and its shadows, turned to it first with curiosity and then with compassion. In the world he comes from, to call forth a vision, to be moved by a portrait, to tremble at the sound of music, can only be signs of a long and painful pre-history. He wants to understand. He feels these infirmities of time like an injustice, and he reacts to that injustice like Ché Guevara, like the youth of the sixties, with indignation. He is a Third Worlder of time. The idea that unhappiness had existed in his planet’s past is as unbearable to him as to them the existence of poverty in their present.
“Marker, again,” June 16, 2008,

How close the phrase “long and painful pre-history” is to the current hullabaloo around 2012, earth rebirth and the shift to the Mayan calendar (Carl Johan Calleman, Daniel Pinchbeck, José Argüelles, Barbara Hand-Clow et alii). With these writers, prophets and mystics we again encounter the themes of time travel, co-existing time patterns, non-linear time and the role of suffering, personal and historical, as experience redeemed through cataclysmic change. Marker has never been explicit about our future, but he provided, well before the new century and its eschatologist-prophets of Earth Apotheosis, a diverse set of audio-visual documents about history and memory, and a few poetic clues about where the Earth Experiment might be heading.

Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

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