Matches for: “immemory” …

Immemory by Chris Marker

Immemory Cheval

Liner notes from original English edition of Immemory, 1997.

In our moments of megalomaniacal reverie, we tend to see our memory as a kind of history book: we have won and lost battles, discovered empires and abandoned them. At the very least we are the characters of an epic novel (“Quel roman que ma vie!” said Napoleon). A more modest and perhaps more fruitful approach might be to consider the fragments of memory in terms of geography.1 In every life we would find continents, islands, deserts, swamps, overpopulated territories and terrae incognitae. We could draw the map of such a memory and extract images from it with greater ease (and truthfulness) than from tales and legends. That the subject of this memory should be a photographer and a filmmaker does not mean that his memory is essentially more interesting than that of the next man (or the next woman), but only that he has left traces with which one can work, contours to draw up his maps.

Imagine hundreds of photographs which for the most part have never been shown (William Klein says that, at the speed of 1/50th of a second per shot, the complete work of the most famous photographer lasts less than three minutes). Imagine “cuts” that a film leaves behind like comets’ tails. From every country visited I’ve brought back postcards, newspaper clippings, catalogues, sometimes posters torn off the walls. My idea was to immerse myself in this maelstrom of images to establish its Geography.

My working hunch was that any memory, once it’s fairly long, is more structured than it seems. That after a certain quantity, photos apparently taken by chance, postcards chosen according to a passing mood, begin to trace an itinerary, to map the imaginary country that stretches out before us. By going through it systematically I was sure to discover that the apparent disorder of my imagery concealed a chart, as in the tales of pirates. And the object of this disc would be to present the “guided tour” of a memory, while at the same time offering the visitor a chance for haphazard navigation. So, Welcome to “Memory, Land of Contrasts” – or rather, as I’ve chosen to call it, Immemory.

“But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more insubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the endless edifice of recollection.”

Swann’s Way

To each his madeleine. For Proust it was Aunt Léonie’s, the one that the Védie pastry shop in Illiers still claims to make from the original recipe. (But what then of the other pastry shop, on the other side of the street, which also claims to be the true guardian of “Aunt Léonie’s madeleines”? Memory’s path already branches.) For me, it’s a Hitchcock character. The heroine of Vertigo. And I realize that it may be forcing the note to see a scriptwriter’s intention in this choice of name, at the outset of a story which is essentially that of a man in search of things past, but so what? Coincidences are the pen names of grace for those who wouldn’t recognize it otherwise.

At the time of Remembrance of Things Past, photography was still in its infancy, and people often asked, like in Kipling’s piece, “Is it Art”2 – art itself having for Proust and his generation a much higher function than the humble duty of sentinel: it was to be a link with the other world, that of the little patch of yellow wall. But today, could it paradoxically be the vulgarization, the democratization of the image that allows it to attain the less ambitious status of a memory-bearing sensation, a visible variety of smell and taste? We feel more emotion (in any case, a different emotion) before an amateur photograph linked to our own life history than before the work of a Great Photographer, because his domain partakes of art, and the intent of the souvenir-object remains at the lower level of personal history. Jean Cocteau paraphrased all that quite humorously when he evoked Cosima Wagner more moved in her old age by Offenbach’s Belle Héléne than by her husband’s Ring. “Siegfried, the Rheinegold, these are what protect a man, what keep him from dying. But Offenback was fashion, youth, the memory of Triebschen, the moments of joy, Nietzsche writing to Rée: we’ll go to Paris and watch them dance the cancan… Mme Wagner could have heard the Götterdämmerung without a quiver. She cried at the March of Kings.” (Carte Blanche). I claim for the image the humility and powers of a madeleine.3

About Immemory‘s structure, all I can do is show a few explorer’s tools, my compass, my telescopes, my jug of drinking water. As compasses go, I went looking quite far back in history to take my bearings. Curiously, there is nothing in the recent past that really offers us models of what computer navigation on the theme of memory could be. Everything is dominated by the arrogance of classical narrative and the positivism of biology. “The Art of Memory” on the other hand, is a very ancient discipline, one which – ironically – fell into oblivion as the gap between physiology and psychology widened. Certain ancient authors had a more functional vision of the meanders of the mind: Filipo Gesualdo, in his Plutosofia (1592), proposes an image of Memory in terms of arborescence which is pure computerese. But the best description of the contents of a CD-Rom is the writing of Robert Hooke (the man who intuitively grasped the laws of gravitation before Newton, 1635-1702):

“I will now construct a mechanical model and a sensible representation of Memory. I will suppose that there is a certain place or point in the Brain of Man where the Soul has its principle seat. As to the precise location of this point, I will say nothing presently and today will postulate only one thing, which is that such a place exists where all the impressions made by the senses are conveyed and lodged for contemplation, and more, that the impressions are but Movements of particles and of Bodies.”4

In other words, when I proposed to transfer the regions of Memory into geographical rather than historical zones, I unwittingly linked up to a conception familiar to certain seventeenth-century minds, and totally foreign to the twentieth-century.

From this conception derives the structure of the disc, divided into “zones.” The example cited above, that of the madeleine becomes Madeleine, will allow for a sketch of their topography. The Madeleine “point” (as Hooke would say) is found at the intersection of the Proust and Hitchcock zones. Each of them in its turn intersects with other zones which are so many islands or continents, of which my memory contains the descriptions, and my archives, the illustrations. Of course, this work in no way constitutes an autobiography, and I’ve permitted myself to drift in all directions. Nonetheless, if you’re going to work on memory, you might as well use the one you’ve always got on you.

But my fondest wish is that there might be enough familiar codes here (the travel picture, the family album, the totem animal) that the reader-visitor could imperceptibly come to replace my images with his, my memories with his, and that my Immemory should serve as a springboard for his own pilgrimage in Time Regained.5

1. Henri Langlois, the legendary founder of the French Cinematheque, used to recall that as a child he did not understand time. When he read that “Joan of Arc laid siege to Paris” he thought it was another Paris, and that there must therefore be Joan of Arc’s Paris, his father’s Paris, and so forth, on an unlimited globe.

2. “When the flash of a new-born sun fell first on Eden’s green and gold, / Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mould. / And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart, / Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves : It’s pretty, but is it Art?'” (“The Conundrum of the Workshops”)

3. This paragraph was already written when the dazzling book by Brassaï, Marcel Proust sous l’emprise de la photographie, was released by Gallimard. Here the answer is given by Proust himself: “Seeing these plates, one can respond that photography is indeed an art” (Essais et articles). And Brassaï writes: “When he is struck by a sound or a flavor having the mysterious power to revive a sensation or an emotion he is irresistibly drawn to liken this phenomenon to the appearance of the latent image in a bath of developing fluid.” But one really should read the entire book, where Remembrance of Things Past is compared to “a gigantic photograph.”

4. I owe this quote, among other things, to the marvelous little book by Jacques Roubaud, L’Invention du fils de Leoprepes.

5. The German linquist Harald Weinrich introduces a subtle idea, that of the “war between memory and reason" in which, he says, Enlightenment philosophy consecrated the triumph of the second. “Emile must know nothing by heart.”

Wexner Offers Immemory

Immemory CD-ROM by Chris MarkerWexner Center for the Arts has added the re-release of Immemory: A CD-Rom by Chris Marker, published by Exact Change, to their online store.

For more information, you can visit their Chris Marker Store.

In Immemory, Chris Marker has used the format of the CD-Rom to create a multi-layered, multimedia memoir. The reader investigates “zones” of travel, war, cinema, and poetry, navigating through photographs, film clips, music, and text, as if physically exploring Marker’s memory itself. The result is a veritable 21st-century Remembrance of Things Past, an exploration of the state of memory in our digital era. With it, Marker has both invented a literary form and perfected it.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: For Macintosh computers only, running OS X version 10.4.11 or later, including 10.5 “Leopard.” Price: $19.95 | Member price: $17.95

Immemory Re-released by Exact Change


Exact Change* has re-released Chris Marker’s CD-ROM Immemory for OS X. This is great news, as the earlier versions (both the French original and the port by Exact Change to English) were unplayable on “modern” Macs and thereby stuck in kind a technological cul-de-sac, languishing. (The background to this lies, at least in part, in the history of Marker’s beloved multimedia authoring tool Hyperstudio, but that’s another story). It sounds as well that we are to be treated to some “extras” on this edition (perhaps some of the images that appear in Pictures at an Exhibition?). Thanks to Michel Hardy-Vallée for bringing our attention to this exciting news for Marker fans.

ImmemoryImmemory: A CD-Rom
by Chris Marker
ISBN 1-878972-39-1
For Macintosh computers only, running OS X version 10.4.11 or later, including 10.5 Leopard

“I claim for the image the humility and powers of a madeleine.”

In Immemory, Chris Marker has used the format of the CD-Rom to create a multi-layered, multimedia memoir. The reader investigates “zones” of travel, war, cinema, and poetry, navigating through photographs, film clips, music, and text, as if physically exploring Marker’s memory itself. The result is a veritable 21st-century Remembrance of Things Past, an exploration of the state of memory in our digital era. With it, Marker has both invented a literary form and perfected it.

This 2008 revised edition features additional “X-Plugs,” and has been updated for OSX.

Exact Change

* “The press was founded in 1990 by Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang, known outside publishing as musicians from the bands Damon & Naomi, and Galaxie 500. […] Exact Change authors include Guillaume Apollinaire, Louis Aragon, Antonin Artaud, John Cage, Leonora Carrington, Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dalí, Morton Feldman, Alice James, Alfred Jarry, Franz Kafka, Lautréamont, Gérard de Nerval, Fernando Pessoa, Raymond Roussel, Philippe Soupault, Gertrude Stein, Stefan Themerson, Denton Welch, and Unica Zürn.”

Understanding Immemory with a little help from Raymond Bellour


Title: Immemory
Platform: CD-ROM for MacOS and Windows PC
Production: Coproduction Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne / Les films de l’Astrophore
Edition: Direction des Editions du Centre Pompidou
Date: © 1998
Recommended Price: 295 FF (44,97)
Publisher’s Notes (from website): “Chris Marker organise les fragments marquants de son oeuvre et de sa vie sous forme de “zones” interactives concernant le cinéma, la guerre, les voyages. Il ‘cartographie le pays imaginaire qui s’étend au-dedans de lui.'”

Additional notes: Immemory a été composé avec Hyperstudio […] Traitement d’image: Fractal Design Painter / Adobe Photoshop / Studio 32 / Morph / Kai’s Power Tools.

Selected notes from the CD-ROM booklet by Chris Marker:

“Dans nos moments de rêverie mégalomaniaque, nous avons tendance à voir notre mémoire comme une espèce de livre d’Histoire: nous avons gagné et perdu des batailles, trouvé et perdu des empires. A tout le moins nous sommes les personnages d’un roman classique (‘Quel roman que ma vie!”). Une approche plus modeste et peut-être plus fructueuse serati de considérer les fragments d’une mémoire en terms de géographie. Dans toute vie nous trouverions des continents, des îles, des déserts, des marais, des territoires surpeuplés et des terrae incognitae. De cette mémoire nous pourrions dessiner la carte, extraire des images avec plus de facilité (et de vérité) que des contes et légendes. Que le sujet de cette mémoire se trouve être un photographe et un cinéaste ne veut pas dire que sa mémoire est en soi plus intéressante que celle du monsieur qui passe (et encore moins de la dame), mais simplement qu’il a laissé, lui, des traces sur lesquelles on peut travailler, et des contours pour dresser ses cartes.”

[In our moments of megalomaniacal daydreaming, we tend to view our memory as a kind of History Book: we have won and lost battles, found and lost whole empires. At the very least we are characters from a classic novel (‘My life is such a novel!’). A more modest and perhaps more fruitful approach would be to consider the fragments of memory in terms of geography. In every life, we would find continents, islands, deserts, swamps, overpopulated territories and terrae incognitae. From this memory we can draw the map, extract images with more ease (and truth) than do stories and legends. That the subject of this memory is found to be a photographer or a filmmaker does not imply that his memory is more interesting than that of any passing gentleman (or moreover, than that of the lady), but simply that he has left traces with which one can work, and contours to help draw up the map.]

Immemory“Mon hypothèse de travail était que toute mémoire un peu longue est plus structurée qu’il ne semble. Que des photos prises apparemment par hasard, des cartes postales choisies selon l’humeur du moment, à partir d’une certaine quantité commencent à dessiner un itinéraire, à cartographier le pays imaginaire qui s’étend au dedans de nous.”

[My working thesis was that every somewhat extensive memory is more structured than it seems — that photos taken apparently at random, postcards chosen following momentary whims, begin given a certain accumulation to sketch an itinerary, to map the imaginary land that stretches out inside of us.]

“L’Art de la Mémoire’ est […] une très ancienne discipline, tombée (c’est un comble) dans l’oubli à mesure que le divorce entre physiologie et psychologie se consommait. Certains auteurs anciens avaient des méandres de l’esprit une vision plus fonctioinnelle, et c’est Filippo Gesualdo, dans sa Plutosofia (1592) qui propose une image de la mémoire en termes d’«arborescence» parfaitement logicielle, si j’ose cet adjectif.”

[‘The art of memory’ is a very ancient discipline, fallen (that takes the cake!) into oblivion as the divorce between physiology and psychology came to pass. Certain antique authors had a more functional vision of the twists and turns of the mind, and it is Filippo Gesualdo, in his Plutosofia (1592) who proposes an image of memory in terms of ‘branching’ that is perfectly “softwary”, [softwarian?] if I dare use this adjective.]


aller retourLaurent Roth and Raymond Bellour, Qu’est-ce qu’une madeleine? A propos du CD-ROM Immemory de Chris Marker (Paris: Yves Gevaert Editeur / Centre Georges Pompidou), 1997
Languages: French and English

Avant-propos de Christine van Assche / Forward by Christine van Assche
Laurent Roth, “D’un Yakoute affligé de strabisme” / “A Yakut Afflicted with Strabismus”
Raymond Bellour, “Le livre, aller; retour” / “The Book, Back and Forth”
Filmographie / Filmography


“Since the famous article by Andre Bazin on Lettre de Sibérie, Marker’s cinema has primarily been defined as ‘essay film.’* Adopting Vigo’s phrase about A propos de Nice, Bazin spoke of ‘an essay documented by film.’ He stressed the importance of the word essay, ‘understood in the same way as in literature: both an historical and political essay, though written by a poet.’ In this brief article he did not recall all that the essay form owes to the letter; nor did he recall that Marker had borrowed it from Michaux, whose departures from the deceptively clear definition of poetry had left his critics perplexed. Marker’s essays have since taken many forms: they bear witness as much to a strategy of mood as to variations modulated by his subjects (countries, portraits, problems…), his commissions, and his working rhythms (punctual engagements with ‘hot’ material, long-term projects). One could draw a map of all that, to the point where nothing would be visible for the density of the crisscrossing lines. Still one thing is sure: the subjectivity expressed here with such force and such ease does not only stem from the power to say ‘I,’ of which Marker makes immoderate use. It springs from a more general capacity: the viewer is always taken as a third party to what he sees, through what he hears. Marker’s formula is exchange, in the elective modes of conversation and correspondence. But since he does not believe in the communication under which our epoch agonizes, he knows that the only real exchange resides in the address, the way the person who speaks to us situates himself in what he says, with respect to what he shows. It is not only a question of cinema, or of television. It is not limited to the position of the essay which, in Marker’s employ, encourages this overflow of address. It is a question of writing and of enunciation, in the broad and the restricted senses. One feels this constantly as one moves through Immemory. The hero who says ‘I’ without liking to appear (except behind the shelter of his Rolleiflex) appeals first to the fetish animal, Guillaume-en-Egypte, the ‘silent-movie-cat’ who serves as his double and shifter, his delegated guide and witness. In this way the different persons of the verb can circulate even more fluidly through Immemory and through all his texts, as well as the commentaries and voices of his films: I, you, he, she, one, we, they, returning finally to ‘I.’ This fluidity implies knowing how to address oneself in order to move toward others, and knowing how to touch the other of each one who becomes involved. Beyond humanism, it is a gift of alterity, guaranteed perhaps by an ethis of reserve. This is what links Marker to Michaux. The letter, for Michaux, is only the crystalline form of a larger manner of always addressing the reader, of calling upon hiim with all the means of the language.” [109-111]

“The impression that Marker is speaking to us also derives from the extraordinary mass of people to which, one by one, he has given the chance to speak, the right to the image. He has done so by largely dispappearing as an interviewer (even using footage filmed by others), except in those cases where the dialogue meant too much to him, as with Kumiko and her mystery. No longer in Immemory do we hear all the witnesses of Joli Mai, A Grin Without a Cat, L’Héritage de la chouette, The Last Bolchevik, and Level Five. We don’t hear anyone. But we see an immensity of beings who gaze back at us, whose mute photographic presence becomes a form of address. They speak to us through their image, through what the captions and texts say or let us guess. This force of the gaze, captured in film and photography by the man with the camera and offered to the viewer, was raised by Marker to the status of a kind of ethical and aesthetic law in Sans soleil, through the powerful image of the market woman of Praia. He returns to it in the Museum zone of Immemory, where he lends a voice to the owl Molly in the London Zoo, who stares us straight in the eye the way only an animal or Mabuse can: ‘To hold up under my gaze has never been an easy test. I have made it my criterion in painting…. With his Venus of Urbino, Titian offered me that gift.’ The sublime lying woman who gazes at us with her oblique eyes fulfills the inner design of every image, as Marker experiences them and persuades us to experience them: this inner design is an address. It is the point to which he leads us, just as a letter arrives at its destination. For an address is as much a destination as a mode of discourse, it is a physical or moral quality as much as an informational sign (for instance, the digital or literal expression representing a site of memory in a computer).” [112-113]

“The dialogue to which Marker invites us recalls, in many respects, that of Video Letter, of the rare and beautiful video letters that the poet Tanikawa and the filmmaker-poet Terayama sent to each other. But as in Immemory, the dialogue between sender and addressee remains virtual; and one still has very little understanding of what a CD-ROM may be, somewhere between the withdrawing film and the book of images. One thinks of the book conceived by Tanikawa, on the occasion of a retreat from writing. A screen-book in landscape format, nothing but signs, pages of images and words, alternating, mixing, edited together with an astonishing freedom: a staggering encyclopedia of everyday life and of life in general. A spectography of Time. The author entitled it Solo and the book was published by Daguerreo Press. These are his ‘Bedside Notes,’ like the book by Sei Shônigon which haunts Sans soleil and to which Marker returns in Immemory – since it is still a matter of making lists and of choosing “the list of ‘things that make the heart beat.'” [113-114]

“How does Marker come to Immemory? And what is Immemory? The three French adjectives condensed into this English word of Marker’s fabrication suggest something so familiar and ancient that its memory would be lost. Doesn’t it designate the impossible character of a personal memory which would be Memory itself? A Memory in which, as if in God or the Machine, the world’s entire memory would be complete? This would be the memory of the future, of the year 4001, in the paradox Marker tantalized us with by evoking the viewpoint of the “imaginary film” that he made and yet did not make with Sans soleil. Yet he already made this film once, from the viewpoint of fiction, projecting toward the future that science-fiction hero whose image of childhood coincides with the vision of his own death: La Jetée once again, from which everything begins, to which everything returns. But how to touch oneself more directly, so as to coincide, at last if not with the absolute image of one’s personal memory, at least with a form that allows one to better understand it by keeping it alive up to the last instant?” [114-115]

“The all-terrain “I” at which Marker has excelled was long that of the chronicle and the voyage, of sentiment and conviction, of a sharing of ideas and sensations. It was implicated in an active political and cultural memory, with which it maintained a relation of playfulness and complicity: the world’s memory, of which it became the voice and testimony. But Marker had not yet implicated himself in his own memory, to the point where the essay and the fictionalization of life come to fuse within the same material, through the very means of their formalization: writing, photography, cinema, video. That would come twenty years after La Jetée, with Sans soleil: the play of pseudonyms, letters, and imbricated voices (borrowed from Michaux once again, this time from Voyage en Grande Garabagne), the slippages of identity, the anamnesis experienced in Vertigo, and through it, in La Jetée, “its remake in Paris,” which already bore in memory the “impossible memory” once touched upon by Hitchcock. And to convey all that, the passages between images, all kinds of images, elaborated over such a long time, reaching a point of incandescence in Sans soleil.” [115]

“From this point forth two movements are intertwined, punctuated by the incursions-interventions without which Marker would not be the indispensable witness he has always remained. The first of these movements is local and temporary; the second appears ineluctable. A long cultural anamnesis brought Marker back to the origins of Western culture, in Greece, with L’Héritage de la chouette (thirteen times 26’). A way of regaining his breath, his distance, particularly in relation to political presentism. Marker set up as many imaginary owls as there are interlocutors (forty-four to be exact) for this inquiry that serves to justify the phrase ascribed to Michaux: “The Sorbonne should be razed, and Chris Marker put up in its place.”** In a minor mode, as though withdrawing behind his material, Marker conceives a renovated version of the West’s temptations; with this return to the source he probes the difficult future of the democratic subject, the links between “The Space Within,” “The Empire of the Signs,” and “The Way of the World.” A few years earlier, Michel Foucault had also taken the route to Greece, like so many others before, to shed the self, and to find himself.” [115-116]

“After this, Marker can mostly be seen trying out other approaches to cinema. Already in 1978, for the exhibition Paris-Berlin at the Pompidou Center, he designed a video wall evoking the imbrication of the First World War and the Soviet Revolution through a montage of films: Quand le siécle a pris forme. But in the late eighties, with Zapping Zone for the exhibition Passages de l’image (also at the Pompidou Center), Marker took the step which truly led him outside the screen and projection, to the installation and monitors: then for the first time he found the occasion to deliver the image that he had been seeking to conceive for so many years in front of his computer. In its voluntary disorder, its fractured zones, its ways of relating the different registers of historical and personal experience, and its sketch of interactivity, Zapping Zone is something like a first outline of Immemory. It is a space of subjectivity constituted as a network, opposing its logic to that of the institution which inspires it and which it ransacks: “Proposals for an imaginary television.” On the other side of the divide, The Last Bolchevik brought the film letters to Alexander Medvedkin together for real television, in a sort of adieu to the great utopian forms, perhaps forever linked, of cinema and politics. Silent Movie seized the occasion offered by the Centennial of Cinema to carry out a return to the films which watched over our childhood, through an homage to silent film, once again in the form of an installation. Finally, the slow transformation of a film that had been so long in the making, announced since Sans soleil, the film about Okinawa, the last monstrous blank in the memory of the Second World War. For the first time and with stunning success, Marker included an actress, Catherine Belkhodja, already present in Silent Movie – the real body of a real phontom-woman, drawn no less directly from “The Space of Shadows” than from the memory of film noir. He films her before his own computer, in his own room of working life; through her he concentrates on a new dialogue with the machine-memory henceforth destined to include all words and images, and to renew our view of creativity and its exchanges. Thus Level Five is the film which leads toward Immemory, but which Immemory already transforms.” [116-118]

“It is difficult, then, to say when Marker began devoting himself to Immemory. He has clearly working on it since he defined a production plan with the Musée national d’art moderne in 1993, but also since he began attempting the invention of a kind of personal language on his computer, and since he began confiding ever more of his memory to the machine. Perhaps he started Immemory at the moment when he chose to write and to film; at the time when memory, after the war and the camps, became his problem, almost his sole subject. He entered Immemory as soon as he began to remember, to remember that he remembered, and to accumulate – in the increasingly dioportionate treasure of his archives where he keeps ‘everything’ – the traces of his life refracted in so many others’ lives: private lives, whose least vestige then ‘immediately sends you signs,’ as he says of the Land of Israel at the beginning of Description d’un combat. One meets them as soon as one begins shuffling around almost at random, through the treasure of Immemory …” [118-119]

FOOTNOTES (selected):

* “Chris Marker, Lettre de Siberie,” in Le Cinema francais de la Liberation a la Nouvelle Vague (Paris: Cahiers du cinema, 1985), pp. 179-181.

** Anatole Dauman records this phrase in his book Souvenir-écran (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1989), p. 149.

Immemory Review Quotes

“Chris Marker has a brilliant mind and heart and appetite for life, and it’s a privilege to travel with him to whatever he chooses to remember and to evoke. He is one of cinema’s all time greats – the most important reflective or non-narrative filmmaker after Dziga Vertov.”
Susan Sontag

“Immemory is a contribution to the ars memoriae that, once experienced, will prove difficult to forget. Yet because of its multiple paths, its forking, hypertextual options, it cannot of course be experienced once, or in one way. It might be construed as a series of homages and constructed memory sites. At a particular level, or portal, it renders a homage to cinema that wonders simultaneously whether it also prefigures the death of cinema. It traces as well a variable journey through the images, the remnants and the revenants, the stillness and the dust. Immemory, finally, offers a tour of the musée imaginaire we inhabit over time, along with an evocative summation of the profoundly human concerns of Marker’s art. Might it not also be seen as a gently ironic reprise and reimag(in)ing of La Jetée? ”
Michael Palmer

“Admirers of the great photographer-filmmaker Chris Marker will find this haunting, alluring, sardonic and politically charged cybermuseum of geographical memory invaluable for exploring the threads, relations, transitions, juxtapositions of his life (as he cares to reveal it) and work.”
Susan Howe

Quotes culled from Exact Change English edition

State of the Estate: Chris Marker’s Library, The Secret Life of Books


Camille Monier interviewed by Nola N’Diaye


22 DÉCEMBRE 2016

Note: In the near future I will put together an English translation of this fascinating interview on Camille Monier’s work cataloging Chris Marker’s books (and their many inserts as cross-referential clues to people, places, works…) as part of the archival project at the Cinémathèque française. – Ed., 2/27/2017

Dans le cadre de son stage de fin d’études à la Cinémathèque française, Camille Monnier, ancienne étudiante du master « Technologies numériques appliquées à l’histoire » a élaboré un modèle appuyé sur le RDF comme première pierre de la Bibliothèque virtuelle Chris Marker. Elle revient pour Chroniques chartistes sur le projet qu’elle a mené et les difficultés qu’elle a pu rencontrer. Propos recueillis par Nola N’Diaye.

Peux-tu dans un premier temps nous présenter le projet de départ, le contexte dans lequel tu es arrivée ?

En 2012, la Cinémathèque française a acquis les archives du cinéaste et vidéaste Chris Marker, décédé au cours de l’été. Né en 1921, ce dernier a été tour à tour écrivain, éditeur, photographe, cinéaste, vidéaste, développeur d’applications informatiques, créateur d’installations multimédias. Au total 550 cartons de déménagement comprenant des photographies, affiches, disques vinyles, archives papier, éléments audiovisuels, appareils, ouvrages, éléments informatiques, miniatures, VHS et DVD, etc. ont intégré les collections de la Cinémathèque française.

À mon arrivée les équipes de la conservation et du traitement documentaire de la Cinémathèque travaillaient déjà depuis quelques années sur ce fonds. Les membres de la petite équipe Marker trans-services m’ont fait part de leurs observations quand aux problématiques majeures du traitement de ce fonds et m’ont beaucoup aidée à appréhender la matière. J’étais chargée d’étudier spécifiquement la bibliothèque. Au sein du fonds, cette dernière revêt une importance particulière, par son ampleur, par la diversité des sujets qu’elle traite, par les usages que Marker lui avait assignée. L’artiste utilisait ses livres comme système de conservation d’une partie de ses archives (correspondances, photographies, archives de presse, etc.), chaque ouvrage étant « truffé » d’un ou plusieurs documents et chaque document pouvant renvoyer à d’autres documents conservés ailleurs.

La communication physique des éléments signifiant une menace pour l’intégrité de ces derniers, la Cinémathèque a formé le projet de créer une « bibliothèque Marker virtuelle » – c’était là tout l’objet de mon stage, tel qu’il m’avait été exposé par Joël Daire (directeur du patrimoine de la CF & maître de stage) plusieurs mois auparavant. Je disposais pour ce faire d’une grande liberté et autonomie dans la réalisation propre.

Quels étaient les objectifs de ta mission ?

Défricher un projet de bibliothèque virtuelle, faire des propositions, une étude. Au départ cela m’apparaissait vaste, nébuleux, je ne savais pas bien par où commencer. Puis les étapes se sont progressivement éclaircies. Je me suis plongée dans l’univers Marker et dans la partie documentaire du fonds pour en dégager une modélisation. J’avais eu l’intuition que le RDF et son modèle de graphe allait pouvoir me servir à décrire la bibliothèque, mais j’ai beaucoup tâtonné car à vrai dire je n’y connaissais pas grand chose au départ. Une fois le modèle établi j’en ai proposé une visualisation par l’intermédiaire du logiciel libre Omeka. J’ai traité quelques ouvrages, photographiant les inserts, ce qui m’a permis de me rendre compte de la complexité de la tâche de numérisation qu’il resterait à accomplir et le nécessaire échantillonage (car on se retrouve vite noyé par la masse avec Marker)…

Chris Marker studio atelier library

Vue du studio de Chris Marker avant enlèvement.

La bibliothèque de Chris Marker et son fonds d’archives présentent de multiples particularités, pourrais-tu nous les présenter ?

Ce qui est fascinant avec le fonds Marker c’est que quel que soit le carton qu’on ouvre, les éléments nous rappellent d’autres éléments croisés plus tôt. A tel point qu’on pourrait s’y perdre (c’est d’ailleurs ce qui se passe régulièrement). Le rapprochement, c’est le principe qui semble organiser le fonds. Marker a réuni des éléments disparates dans des boîtes à chaussures, des cartons, des pochettes, autour d’un sujet, d’une ressemblance. C’est toute la dynamique qu’on retrouve dans sa bibliothèque, par un simple procédé d’insertion physique, souvent à la page près, deux éléments distincts sont connectés, un sens nouveau né de l’association se dégage. La richesse de la bibliothèque repose sur sa fragilité, si on sépare le document inséré de son ouvrage on perd la valeur produite par le rapprochement. On retrouve ainsi un carton de profiteroles Leader price dans Intermezzo de Jean Giraudoux, un bonbon avec un emballage en tourbillon dans un dossier consacré à Vertigo côtoyant des notes de travail pour Immemory; dans les ouvrages de Pierre Goldman la correspondance échangée entre l’auteur et Chris Marker, le plis annonçant à Marker l’assassinat de l’écrivain, une photographie de son fils etc. On trouve le travail artistique et l’intime, difficilement cloisonnable, et régulièrement des trésors comme un tapuscrit inédit du poète François Vernet rédigé durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, retrouvé noyé parmi des lettres et autres articles de presse découpés.

Intermezzo de Jean Giraudoux with dessert insert

Carton d’emballage publicitaire inséré dans Intermezzo de Jean Giraudoux.

Chris Marker s’est passionné pour l’informatique dès les origines. De ses créations informatiques on peut citer le programme conversationnel Dialector écrit en Basic Apple Soft en 1985, ou encore le CD-ROM Immemory (1997). Une opération de sauvegarde est actuellement lancée sur 553 disquettes 5.25 pouces liées au programme Dialector. Plus largement, les archives numériques représentent 15 Terra-octet de données numériques natives. Ce gigantisme, difficilement traitable manuellement, constitue pour la Cinémathèque une invitation à élaborer des pistes de réflexion, concernant ce fonds mais également ceux à venir. En effet, au vu des pratiques de travail de plus en plus dématérialisées, les archives numériques Marker risquent de ne pas demeurer longtemps un cas isolé, préfigurant ainsi un certain nombre d’enjeux liés au numérique dans le traitement d’archives privées.

La Cinémathèque s’est rapprochée du département audiovisuel de la BnF concernant cette question et par ailleurs Thomas Chauveau, élève archiviste paléographe, a effectué un stage d’un mois (juin 2016) spécifiquement sur les archives numériques Marker.

Pourquoi as-tu choisi d’établir un modèle conceptuel exprimé en RDF ?

Un petit mot sur le RDF (Resource description framework), il s’agit d’un modèle de description construisant des relations entre des entités distinctes sous la forme d’un triplet sujet/prédicat/objet. Le RDF permet de construire un vaste réseau tentaculaire et décentralisé, à la différence par exemple de l’XML-EAD au fonctionnement arborescent. J’ai choisi le RDF pour son adéquation directe entre l’objet à décrire et le modèle proposé pour le représenter. Car le fonds entier (la bibliothèque avec lui) est parcouru d’associations complexes, multicritères, et un plan de classement hiérarchisé et arborescent, même établi sur mesure, parviendrait difficilement à en décrire la richesse. Le modèle en graphe du RDF permet de décrire chaque élément de manière autonome et de construire des liens multiples entre ces différentes entités. On peut alors entrer dans la bibliothèque par le nom d’un auteur, par un livre, par un sujet, une typologie documentaire, une étagère etc. A la différence d’un système arborescent, le RDF permet de déplacer le regard, de rebondir, il autorise chaque utilisateur à emprunter un chemin différent, en fonction de ses intérêts. Quand on regarde le fonds d’un peu plus près on a l’impression d’observer un immense réseau multidirectionnel, cet proximité directe entre l’objet à décrire et son modèle s’est révélée assez fascinante.

Schema de la bibliotheque virtuelle Marker - Schematic RDF for Chris Marker library rhizomatic research

Schéma de la Bibliothèque virtuelle Marker

Quelles sont les difficultés que tu as pu rencontrer ?

J’ai n’ai pas pu obtenir de la part de la DSI de la Cinémathèque l’environnement de travail Linux dont j’avais besoin pour installer Omeka, mon argumentation démontrant l’impossibilité de réaliser la bibliothèque virtuelle avec les outils actuels de la Cinémathèque a été rejetée. C’est en me tournant vers mes encadrants côté école (Gautier Poupeau et Jean-Baptiste Camps) qu’on a pu finalement trouver une solution d’hébergement externe auprès de la TGIR Huma-Num – j’en profite pour remercier vivement l’équipe (Stéphane Pouyllau, Nicolas Larousse et Joël Marchand).

Ce fut une période un peu complexe, d’une durée d’un mois environ, j’ai pu apprendre par la suite que cette expérience n’est en rien un cas isolé. La double compétence que fournit le master fait de nous des êtres hybrides, à la jonction entre les métiers et l’informatique, dont position n’est pas toujours très confortable.

Si ta mission était amenée à se poursuivre, quels seraient tes objectifs pour la suite, ou tes préconisations ?

Le modèle a prouvé son efficacité, si le projet était amené à se poursuivre la rédaction d’un cahier des charges à l’aide du mémoire soutenu sur le sujet en septembre constituerait la suite logique. Cependant entre l’étude de faisabilité et le réel déclenchement du projet, le temps peut s’allonger. C’est aujourd’hui le cas, j’espère que la suite pourra s’enclencher rapidement, afin de pouvoir communiquer une partie de la bibliothèque de Marker au moment de la grande rétrospective prévue sur le cinéaste au printemps 2018.

Aurais-tu un conseil à donner aux promotions suivantes ?

Ne pas hésiter à s’entourer, à provoquer les choses. Ce sont les échanges que j’ai pu avoir avec les professionnels de la Cinémathèque et de l’ENC qui m’ont permis de murir le projet. La position de stagiaire n’est jamais aisée, mais en s’entourant on arrive à prendre quelques centimètres tous les mois, c’est précieux.


Studio: A Remembrance of Chris Marker – Bartos, McCabe, Lerner

Ben Lerner, Chris Marker studio

Marker Studio, 2007 © Adam Bartos

He inferred that persons desiring to train this faculty (of memory) must select places and form mental images of the things they wish to remember and store those images in the places, so that the order of the places will preserve the order of the things, and the images of the things will denote the things themselves, and we shall employ the places and images respectively as a wax writing-tablet and the letters written on it.Cicero, De oratore [on Simionides discovery of the art of memory], quoted Frances Yates, The Art of Memory, 2

We have seen some photos on the net of late taken at Chris Marker’s atelier, showing the wealth of memorabilia, books, and technologies of a life of creation & travel that made up the precious space of his atelier, most of which we assume is now in the hands of the Cinémathèque française. It turns out that the photos are by Adam Bartos, and the Paris Review article where they were first glimpsed is just a hint of what is to come – a full book of his photos of Marker’s studio: Studio: A Remembrance of Chris Marker. The book will be published in 2017, so we have to be patient, but it promises innovative layouts including gatefold images, a text by Colin McCabe and an introduction by Lerner. Here’s the information I’ve been able to gather to date:

OR Book Going Rouge

Studio: A Remembrance of Chris Marker

ISBN 9781682190807

OR Books
Photographs by Adam Bartos. Text by Colin McCabe. Introduction by Ben Lerner.
Hbk, 6.5 x 9.5 in. / 96 pgs / 21 color.
Pub Date: 5/23/2017 | Awaiting stock
U.S. $40.00 CDN $52.50

Chris Marker (1921–2012) was a celebrated French documentary film director, writer and photographer, best known for his films La Jetée, A Grin Without a Cat and Sans Soleil. He was described by fellow filmmaker Alain Resnais as “the prototype of the 21st-century man.” In this highly original book, Adam Bartos’ exquisite photographs of Marker’s studio, a workspace both extraordinarily cluttered and highly organized, appear alongside a moving reminiscence of his friend by the film theorist, Godard biographer and practitioner Colin MacCabe. The novelist and poet Ben Lerner provides a fulsome introduction to the work of Marker, Bartos and MacCabe. The physical structure of the book, incorporating an array of gatefold images, echoes Marker’s own commitment to radical, innovative form. The result is a compelling homage to one of the most important and original talents in modern cinema.

Chris Marker’s Studio – Adam Bartos and Ben Lerner

Chris Marker, whose name was not “Chris Marker,” was a play of masks and avatars, an artist who leapt, like one of his beloved cats, from medium to medium. If, as Walter Benjamin said, a great work either dissolves a genre or invents one, if each great work is a special case, Marker produced a series of special cases. He invented the genre of the essay film; he composed what is widely considered the greatest short film ever made, La Jetée, in 1962; in the late nineties, he issued one of the first major artworks of the digital age, the CD-ROM Immemory. Even Marker’s relation to his own celebrity was an evasive masterpiece: until his death in 2012, at ninety-one, he was everywhere and nowhere, refusing both the haughty fantasy of nonparticipation and the seductions of spectacle. How do you ­memorialize an artist who refused to remain identical to himself? How do you remember one of the great philosopher-artists of memory?

Adam Bartos’s photographs of Marker’s Paris studio offer a powerful answer; they are beautiful portraits from which the subject has gone missing.

Ben Lerner, Chris Marker studio

Marker Studio, 2007 © Adam Bartos

Ben Lerner, Chris Marker studio

Marker Studio, 2007 © Adam Bartos

Marker’s studio is a kind of (light-flooded) darkroom located off a Parisian boulevard and is as full of formerly futuristic keepsakes as a cosmonaut’s yard sale—that is to say, Bartos has been preparing, without knowing it, to shoot Marker’s studio for decades. The studio is both remarkably cluttered and remarkably clean. There is no trash (although there is plenty of kitsch), no dust; the thousands of books, VHS tapes, and CDs, the multiple computers, monitors, keyboards, and other production technologies all seem in their place. A sense of highly personal order prevails; Marker, I feel, would have just the right texts and images and totems at hand, but anyone else would be at a loss regarding how to navigate his systems. And while Marker isn’t at home, from every corner something gazes at us: his cats and owls, Kim Novak in a signed photograph (Vertigo was Marker’s favorite film), the paused image of an actress on a monitor (in these images, Marker will forever almost be right back), masks of various sorts, stuffed animals, et cetera. Marker’s mind seems spatialized here, as though we were looking into his memory palace, an elaborate, idiosyncratic mnemonic become a memorial. But a joyous memorial: joyous first, because Marker’s signature mix of seriousness and playfulness is palpable—we see a thousand grins and winks—and second, because Marker, instead of becoming the fixed ­object of elegy, has again given us the slip, allowing us an intimate glimpse, but of privacy.
Ben Lerner, Paris Review, No. 218 (Fall 2016).

For those interested in the idea of the memory palace, take a look at Jonathan Spence’s The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. The introduction to Marker’s Immemory is also invaluable, as he articulated there his concepts of mnemonics as an architecture of memory, linking it to a long European tradition most famously explored in Frances Yates’ The Art of Memory. Another great resource on medieval practices of the art of memory can be found in Mary Carruthers’ books: Carruthers, Mary. The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990 & Carruthers, Mary. The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400-1200. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Other sources can be found on our page DocuMemory: A Bibliography.

Chris Marker studio door with cat drawing

Marker Studio Front Door, 2008 © Adam Bartos

Art of Memory – From Chris Marker, Immemory

“L’Art de la Mémoire’ est […] une très ancienne discipline, tombée (c’est un comble) dans l’oubli à mesure que le divorce entre physiologie et psychologie se consommait. Certains auteurs anciens avaient des méandres de l’esprit une vision plus fonctioinnelle, et c’est Filippo Gesualdo, dans sa Plutosofia (1592) qui propose une image de la mémoire en termes d’«arborescence» parfaitement logicielle, si j’ose cet adjectif.”

[‘The art of memory’ is a very ancient discipline, fallen (that takes the cake!) into oblivion as the divorce between physiology and psychology came to pass. Certain antique authors had a more functional vision of the twists and turns of the mind, and it is Filippo Gesualdo, in his Plutosofia (1592) who proposes an image of memory in terms of ‘branching’ that is perfectly “softwary”, [softwarian?] if I dare use this adjective.]

Ghost Cat: Postcards + Exhibitions


Card 5 of 15
Roma, 1956

Chris Marker, Image from Staring Back
May 12-August 12, 2007
Exhibition organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts, the Ohio State University

FYI, there are two postcard sets by Chris Marker that I know of. This set is from Wexner and is, I believe, out of print.

The other is Chris Marker, How a grinning cat visits the HISTORY OF ART, 10 Postcards, Peter Blum Editions. This production, to my knowledge, is also no longer available. I’ll see if I can get them into a gallery here soon, as they are replete with classic Markerian wit and digital détournement.

While the cards are not to be found on the Peter Blum site (, it is well worth exploring the whole Chris Marker section, which includes Images, Exhibitions, Books, Press and Biography pages – the last containing a filmography, bibliographies, exhibition lists and more. The Biography section includes an exhaustive listing of Chris Marker exhibitions that I have yet to see appear on traditional filmographies or bibliographies:



“Koreans”, Peter Blum Gallery, New York

“Crow’s Eye View: the Korean Peninsula”, Korean Pavilion, Giardini di Castello, Venice, Italy

“Chris Marker: A Grin Without a Cat”, Whitechapel Gallery, London, England; Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, October 21, 2014 – January 11, 2015; Lunds Konsthall, Lund, February 7 – April 5, 2015

“The Hollow Men,” City Gallery Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand


“Chris Marker: Guillaume-en-Égypte”, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA & the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

“Memory of a Certain Time”, ScotiaBank, Toronto, Canada

“Chris Marker”, Atelier Hermès, Seoul, South Korea

The “Planète Marker”, Centre de Pompidou, Paris


“Chris Marker: Films and Photos”, Moscow Photobiennale, Moscow, Russia


“PASSENGERS”, Peter Blum Gallery Chelsea / Peter Blum Gallery Soho, New York, New York

Les Rencontres d’Arles de la Photographie, Arles, France

“PASSENGERS”, Centre de la Photographie, Geneva, Switzerland

Thinking Hands, Beijing, China


“Quelle heure est-elle?”, Peter Blum Gallery Chelsea, New York, New York

“Second Life” (May 16 a one night event), Harvard Film Archive, Cambridge, Massachusetts

“Chris Marker: Par quatre chemins”, Beirut Art Center, Lebanon


“Abschied vom Kino / Farewell to Movies”, Museum fur Gegenwartkunst, Zurich, Switzerland

“Abschied vom Kino / A Farewell to Movies”, virtual museum, Second Life

Un Choix de Photographies, Galerie de France, Paris, France


“Staring Back,” Peter Blum Gallery, New York, New York

“Staring Back”, Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

“The Case of the Grinning Cat”, Film Forum, New York, New York

“Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men”, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia


“The Hollow Men,” Dazibao Centre de Photographies Actuelles, Montreal, Canada

“The Hollow Men”,Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, Toronto, Canada


“Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York

“Through the Eyes of Chris Marker”, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong, China

“Through the Eyes of Chris Marker”, Macao Cultural Centre, Macao, China


“Rare Videos by Chris Marker,” Anthology Film Archives, New York, New York


“Chris Marker”, The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland


“Silent Movie and Selected Screenings”,Beaconsfield, London, England

“Chris Marker”, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville, Spain

“Chris Marker”, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, Spain


“Immemory One,” Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France


“Silent Movie,” Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota


“Silent Movie”, Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

“Silent Movie”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York

“Silent Movie”, Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, California

Peter Blum Gallery, Chris Marker, Exhibitions – Download PDF

Ricardo Greene, Iván Pinto Publish La Zona Marker


I received an email from Ricardo Greene with news of a new, important book on Chris Marker in Spanish: La Zona Marker The book is published by Ediciones FIDOCS (Culdoc series) in Santiago, Chile. It presents a collection of essays by Ricardo Green, Iván Pinto, Patricio Guzmán (“Lo que debo a Chris Marker”), Trevor Stark, Carolina Anaral de Aguiar, Chris Marker himself (“El ùltimo bolchevique”), Maria Paz Peirano, Maria Luisa Ortega, Gonzalo De Lucas, Eduardo A. Russo, Raymond Bellour (“Marker Forever” in its first Spanish translation), and Wolfgang Bongers. More information is available on the FIDOCS site at According to, Ricardo Greene is a director, sociologist and visual anthropologist, and was the director of the 17th version of FIDOCS, a film festival founded by Patrizio Guzman.

The only other book on Marker in Spanish that I know of is Chris Marker Inmemoria, published by Ambulante Ediciones in 2013, edited by Maria Fortes and Lorena Gómez Mostajo, and published in Mexico. I will present the table of contents for that volume in a separate post. Note: Christophe Chazalon wrote me post-post, pointing to some other Spanish language publications on Marker, as listed on this page of (section “en espanol”). Thanks CH2!*

For those who wish to take a look at La Zona Marker in pdf format, you can access it on at

Contratulations to Ricardo and Iván and happy reading. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

A post on clarifies the tripartite organization of the book:

Además de lanzar una nueva competencia de cortometrajes en su honor y de presentar una muestra de sus películas, este año hemos decidido honrar a Chris Marker con La Zona Marker. Dividido en tres capítulos, cada uno de ellos está dedicado a las distintas “vanguardias” que pueden encontrarse en su vida y obra: la primera, sobre el militante comprometido, cuenta con artículos de Trevor Stark, Carolina Amaral De Aguiar y del propio Chris Marker; el segundo, sobre el explorador que se adentra en culturas desconocidas, presenta trabajos inéditos de María Paz Peirano, Maria Luisa Ortega y Gonzalo De Lucas; el tercero, por último, es sobre sus innovaciones en el lenguaje audiovisual y edita artículos de Raymond Bellour, Eduardo Russo y Wolfgang Bongers. A ellos se suma un trabajo introductorio de los editores y una carta de Patricio Guzmán, además de ilustraciones y fotogramas. Una obra dedicada no sólo a especialistas sino a cualquiera que quiera adentrarse en los bordes difusos de su enorme legado.

Aside from launching a new short film competition in his honor, and screening a retrospective of his work, this year we have decided to play a tribute to Chris Marker with The Marker Zone. It’s divided in three chapters, each one of them dedicated to a different cutting edge point that can be found throughout his life and works: the first about the committed militant, includes articles by Trevor Stark, Carolina Amaral De Aguiar and Chris Marker himself; the second about the explorer that ventures into unknown cultures, with unedited works by María Paz Peirano, Maria Luisa Ortega and Gonzalo De Lucas; the third and last is about his innovation on the audiovisual language and has edited articles by Raymond Bellour, Eduardo Russo and Wolfgang Bongers. Furthermore, an introductory piece by the editors and a letter by Patricio Guzmán, besides illustrations and video frames. A book not just dedicated to the adept, but to anyone who wants to delve into the vague fringes of his huge legacy.

Table of Contents


La Zona Marker: Preludio en tres actos
Ricardo Greene e Iván Pinto

Lo que debo a Chris Marker
Patricio Guzmán


El Grupo Medvedkine y la División Cinemática del Trabajo
Trevor Stark

El ímpetu revolucionario latinoamericano en el discurso cinematográfico de Chris Marker
Carolina Amaral de Aguiar

El último bolchevique
Chris Marker


Viaje, romanticismo y crítica cultural: La mirada antropológica de Chris Marker
María Paz Peirano

El coleccionista y sus geografías
María Luisa Ortega

You are my second chance! Composición política de la imagen en Sans soleil
Gonzalo De Lucas


Del atalaya al observatorio. El cine desde las instalaciones de Chris Marker
Eduardo A. Russo

Marker forever
Raymond Bellour

Cine expandido en la era de memorias erráticas. Apuntes sobre Immemory
Wolfgang Bongers

Selección de caricaturas


Marker Direct: An Interview with Chris Marker

By Film Comment in the May/June 2003 Issue

Originally published in Libération, March 5, 2003: Upcoming, we will add the original to the archive here as well, for easy reference.

“What interests me is history, and politics only interests me to the degree that it is the mark history makes on the present.” The French release ofSans soleil and La Jetée on DVD is an event, as is every furtive apparition in the news by Chris Marker, one of the great cineastes of our time as well as one of the most private.

Marker, 81, has always preferred to allow his filmed images, rather than his image as a filmmaker, to speak for him. Less than a dozen photographs of Marker exist, and his interviews are even more rare. The director agreed to an interview with Libération via an email do-it-yourself kit: four topics, with ten questions each. He did not respond to every question, but these 12 pages, at times “frankly Dostoevskian,” more than satisfied us.

Cinema, photo-novels, CD-roms, video installations—is there any medium you haven’t tried?

Yes, gouache.

Why have you agreed to the release of some of your films on DVD, and how did you make the choice?

Twenty years separate La Jetée from Sans soleil. And another 20 years separate Sans soleil from the present. Under the circumstances, if I were to speak in the name of the person who made these movies it would no longer be an interview but a séance. In fact, I don’t think I either chose or accepted: somebody talked about it, and it got done. That there was a certain relationship between these two films was something I was aware of but didn’t think I needed to explain—until I found a small anonymous note published in a program in Tokyo that said, “Soon the voyage will be at an end. It’s only then that we will know if the juxtaposition of images makes any sense. We will understand that we have prayed with film, as one must on a pilgrimage, each time we have been in the presence of death: in the cat cemetery, standing in front of the dead giraffe, with the kamikazes at the moment of take-off, in front of the guerillas killed in the war for independence. In La Jetée, the foolhardy experiment to look into the future ends in death. By treating the same subject 20 years later, Marker has overcome death by prayer.” When you read that, written by someone you don’t know, who knows nothing of how the films came to be, you feel a certain emotion. “Something” has happened.

When Immemory, your CD-rom, was released in 1999, you said that you had found the ideal medium. What do you think of DVD?

With the CD-rom, it’s not so much the technology that’s important as the architecture, the tree-like branching, the play. We’ll make DVD-roms. The DVD technology is obviously superb, but it isn’t always cinema. Godard nailed it once and for all: at the cinema, you raise your eyes to the screen; in front of the television, you lower them. Then there is the role of the shutter. Out of the two hours you spend in a movie theater, you spend one of them in the dark. It’s this nocturnal portion that stays with us, that fixes our memory of a film in a different way than the same film seen on television or on a monitor. But having said that, let’s be honest. I’ve just watched the ballet from An American in Paris on the screen of my iBook, and I very nearly rediscovered the lightness that we felt in London in 1952, when I was there with [Alain] Resnais and [Ghislain] Cloquet during the filming of Statues Also Die, when we started every day by seeing the 10 a.m. show of An American in Paris at a theater in Leicester Square. I thought I’d lost that lightness forever when I saw it on cassette.

Does the democratization of the means of filmmaking (DV, digital editing, distribution via the Internet) seduce the socially engaged filmmaker that you are?

Here’s a good opportunity to get rid of a label that’s been stuck on me. For many people, “engaged” means “political,” and politics, the art of compromise (which is as it should be—if there is no compromise there is only brute force, of which we’re seeing an example right now) bores me deeply. What interests me is history, and politics interests me only to the degree that it represents the mark history makes on the present. With an obsessive curiosity (if I identify with any of Kipling’s characters, it’s the Elephant Boy of the Just-So Stories, because of his “insatiable curiosity”) I keep asking: How do people manage to live in such a world? And that’s where my mania comes from, to see “how things are going” in this place or that. For a long time, those who were best placed to see “how it’s going” didn’t have access to the tools to give form to their perceptions—and perception without form is tiring. And now, suddenly, these tools exist. It’s true that for people like me it’s a dream come true. I wrote about it, in a small text in the booklet of the DVD.

A necessary caution: the “democratization of tools” entails many financial and technical constraints, and does not save us from the necessity of work. Owning a DV camera does not magically confer talent on someone who doesn’t have any or who is too lazy to ask himself if he has any. You can miniaturize as much as you want, but a film will always require a great deal of work—and a reason to do it. That was the whole story of the Medvedkin groups, the young workers who, in the post-’68 era, tried to make short films about their own lives, and whom we tried to help on the technical level, with the means of the time. How they complained! “We come home from work and you ask us to work some more. . . .” But they stuck with it, and you have to believe that something happened there, because 30 years later we saw them present their films at the Belfort festival, in front of an attentive audience. The means of the time was 16mm silent, which meant three-minute camera rolls, a laboratory, an editing table, some way of adding sound—everything that you have now right inside a little case that fits in your hand. A little lesson in modesty for the spoiled children of today, just like the spoiled children of 1970 got their lesson in modesty by putting themselves under the patronage of Alexander Ivanovitch Medvedkin and his ciné-train. For the benefit of the younger generation, Medvedkin was a Russian filmmaker who, in 1936 and with the means that were proper to his time (35mm film, editing table, and film lab installed in the train), essentially invented television: shoot during the day, print and edit at night, show it the next day to the people you filmed (and who often participated in the editing). I think that it’s this fabled and long forgotten bit of history (Medvedkin isn’t even mentioned in Georges Sadoul’s book, considered in its day the Soviet Cinema bible) that underlies a large part of my work—in the end, perhaps, the only coherent part. To try to give the power of speech to people who don’t have it, and, when it’s possible, to help them find their own means of expression. The workers I filmed in 1967 in Rhodesia, just like the Kosovars I filmed in 2000, had never been heard on television: everyone was speaking on their behalf, but once you no longer saw them on the road, bloody and sobbing, people lost interest in them. To my great surprise, I once found myself explaining the editing ofBattleship Potemkin to a group of aspiring filmmakers in Guinea-Bissau, using an old print on rusty reels; now those filmmakers are having their films selected for competition in Venice (keep an eye out for the next musical by Flora Gomes). I found the Medvedkin syndrome again in a Bosnian refugee camp in 1993—a bunch of kids who had learned all the techniques of television, with newsreaders and captions, by pirating satellite TV and using equipment supplied by an NGO (nongovernmental organization). But they didn’t copy the dominant language—they just used the codes in order to establish credibility and reclaim the news for other refugees. An exemplary experience. They had the tools and they had the necessity. Both are indispensable.

Do you prefer television, movies on a big screen, or surfing the Internet?

I have a completely schizophrenic relationship with television. When I’m feeling lonely, I adore it, particularly since there’s been cable. It’s curious how cable offers an entire catalog of antidotes to the poisons of standard TV. If one network shows a ridiculous TV movie about Napoleon, you can flip over to the History Channel to hear Henri Guillermin’s brilliantly mean commentary on it. If a literary program makes us submit to a parade of currently fashionable female monsters, we can change over to Mezzo to contemplate the luminous face of Hélène Grimaud surrounded by her wolves, and it’s as if the others never existed. Now there are moments when I remember I am not alone, and that’s when I fall apart. The exponential growth of stupidity and vulgarity is something that everyone has noticed, but it’s not just a vague sense of disgust—it’s a concrete quantifiable fact (you can measure it by the volume of the cheers that greet the talk-show hosts, which have grown by an alarming number of decibels in the last five years) and a crime against humanity. Not to mention the permanent aggressions against the French language…And since you are exploiting my Russian penchant for confession, I must say the worst: I am allergic to commercials. In the early Sixties, making commercials was perfectly acceptable; now, it’s something that no one will own up to. I can do nothing about it. This manner of placing the mechanism of the lie in the service of praise has always irritated me, even if I have to admit that this diabolical patron has occasionally given us some of the most beautiful images you can see on the small screen (have you seen the David Lynch commercial with the blue lips?). But cynics always betray themselves, and there is a small consolation in the industry’s own terminology: they stop short of calling themselves “creators,” so they call themselves “creatives.”

And the movies in all this? For the reasons mentioned above, and under the orders of Jean-Luc, I’ve said for a long time that films should be seen first in theaters, and that television and video are only there to refresh your memory. Now that I no longer have any time at all to go to the cinema, I’ve started seeing films by lowering my eyes, with an ever increasing sense of sinfulness (this interview is indeed becoming Dostoevskian). But to tell the truth I no longer watch many films, only those by friends, or curiosities that an American acquaintance tapes for me on TCM. There is too much to see on the news, on the music channels or on the indispensable Animal Channel. And I feed my hunger for fiction with what is by far the most accomplished source: those great American TV series, like The Practiceinspired a video by David Bowie and a film by Terry Gilliam. And there’s also a bar called “La Jetée,” in Japan. How do you feel about this cult? Does Terry Gilliam’s imagination intersect with yours?

Terry’s imagination is rich enough that there’s no need to play with comparisons. Certainly, for me 12 Monkeys is a magnificent film (there are people who think they are flattering me by saying otherwise, that La Jetéeis much better—the world is a strange place). It’s just one of the happy signs, like Bowie’s video, like the bar in Shinjuku (Hello, Tomoyo! To know that for almost 40 years, a group of Japanese are getting slightly drunk beneath my images every night—that’s worth more to me than any number of Oscars!), that have accompanied the strange destiny of this particular film. It was made like a piece of automatic writing. I was filming Le Joli mai, completely immersed in the reality of Paris 1962, and the euphoric discovery of “direct cinema” (you will never make me say “cinema verité”) and on the crew’s day off, I photographed a story I didn’t completely understand. It was in the editing that the pieces of the puzzle came together, and it wasn’t me who designed the puzzle. I’d have a hard time taking credit for it. It just happened, that’s all.

You are a witness of history. Are you still interested in world affairs? What makes you jump to your feet, react, shout?

Right now there are some very obvious reasons to jump, and we know them all so well that I have very little desire to talk more about them. What remains are the small, personal resentments. For me, 2002 will be the year of a failure that will never pass. It begins with a flashback, as in The Barefoot Contessa. Among our circle in the Forties, the one we all considered to be a future great writer was François Vernet. He had already published three books, and the fourth was to be a collection of short stories that he had written during the Occupation, with a vigor and an insolence that obviously left him little hope with the censors. The book wasn’t published until 1945. Meanwhile, François had died in Dachau. I don’t mean to label him as a martyr—that’s not my style. Even if this death puts a kind of symbolic seal on a destiny that was already quite singular, the texts themselves are of such a rare quality that there is no need for reasons other than literary in order to love them and introduce them to others. François Maspero wasn’t wrong when he said in an article that they “transverse time with only an extreme lightness of being as ballast.” Because last year a courageous publisher, Michel Reynaud (Tirésias), fell in love with the book and took the risk of reprinting it. I did everything I could to mobilize people I knew, not in order to make it the event of the season but simply to get it talked about. But no, there were too many books during that season. Except for Maspero, there wasn’t a word in the press. And so—failure.

Was that reaction too personal? By chance, it was paired with a similar event, to which no line of friendship attached me. The same year, Capriccio Records released a new recording by Viktor Ullman. Under his name alone, this time. Previously, he and Gideon Klein had been recorded as “Theresienstadt composers” (for younger readers: Theresienstadt was the model concentration camp designed to be visited by the Red Cross; the Nazis made a film about it called The Führer Gives a City to the Jews.) With the best intentions in the world, [calling them] that was a way of putting them both back in the camp. If Messiaen had died after he composed the “Quartet for the End of Time,” would he be the “prison camp composer”?

This record is astounding: it contains lieder based on texts by Holerlin and Rilke, and one is struck by the vertiginous thought that, at that particular time, no one was glorifying the true German culture more than this Jewish musician who was soon to die at Auschwitz. This time, there wasn’t total silence—just a few flattering lines on the arts pages. Wasn’t it worth a bit more? What makes me mad isn’t that what we call “media coverage” is generally reserved for people I personally find rather mediocre—that’s a matter of opinion and I wish them no ill. It’s that the noise, in the electronic sense, just gets louder and louder and ends up drowning out everything, until it becomes a monopoly just like the way supermarkets force out the corner stores. That the unknown writer and the brilliant musician have the right to the same consideration as the corner store keeper may be too much to ask. And as long as you’ve handed me the microphone, I would add one more name to my list of the little injustices of the year: no one has said enough of the most beautiful book I have read for a long time, short stories again—La Fiancée d’Odessa, by [filmmaker] Edgardo Cozarinsky.

Have your travels made you suspicious of dogmatism?

I think I was already suspicious when I was born. I must have traveled a lot before then!

Pin It on Pinterest

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Receive Chris Marker News newsletter