Category Archives: Estate

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
$40.00

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.
www.artbook.com

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.
www.theparisreview.org

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.]

State of the Estate II: The Glorious Shambles

Chris Marker atelier with Guillaume by Agnès Varda

In the middle, on the balcony, the tree has grown, just a little.Chris Marker

Though the article cited below focuses on the archive of Jacques Demy acquired by the Cinémathèque française, this interview, part two of a series between journalist Louis Guichard and the Cinémathèque’s head Serge Toubiana, takes a fascinating if brief detour into the case of the estate of Chris Marker. If it sounds like there’s a mystery novel in there somewhere, there is.

One of the ideas that appears here in nuce is that of mapping a tree structure of Marker’s work. I am led to imagine a majestic infographic showing the main trunk and the branches into bifurcating gardens of media visualizing the fruits of Marker’s bricolage. Immemory, Dialector, Second Life, YouTube. Collective work, personal work, anonymous work. Writing, photography, programming, book design. The branching of names, aliases, pen names, noms de guerre. Guillaume’s poptronics forays into political commentary. The filmic byproducts of Marker’s home away from home in Second Life, Ouvroir, including The Third Cat and Ouvroir: The Movie. Arborescent branchings of a life/work of intelligence and curiosity, ceaseless but ending nonetheless — though continued in all who were en-raptured by his work, echos, reverberations, new generations of artists — other trees that grew up around the central tree of life/work. And underneath the trees, the rhizomes, like the beach beneath the concrete, driving slogan of May ’68…

Here’s the excerpt that fills in some details to the already reported State of the Estate, back in June. You can follow Serge Toubiana’s blog at blog.cinematheque.fr. More of course as we know more.

L’acquisition d’archives payantes est-elle une option ?

[…]

Il y aussi le cas de Chris Marker, qui n’a pas fait de testament. Au cours des dernières années de sa vie, il était logé chez Costa-Gavras, président de la Cinémathèque, et il avait dit qu’il laisserait une lettre précisant ce qu’il voulait faire de ses archives. Mais on n’a rien trouvé de tel. A sa mort, il y a donc eu un inventaire sommaire et une recherche de descendance qui a identifié six personnes au 5e et 6e degrés… Nous leur avons fait une proposition qui a été retenue et nous avons acquis le fonds pour 40 000 euros. Nous nous sommes trouvés face à une sorte de gigantesque foutoir avec des lots énormes de photos, de négatifs, de disques durs, d’ordinateurs, tout le travail qu’il faisait sur Second Life, des centaines de petits objets, de collages, de journaux… Il gardait tout. Mais qu’en faire ? C’est un travail considérable. Nous avons constitué une équipe en interne chargée de poursuivre l’inventaire et de travailler sur le fonds numérique. De plus, un comité scientifique se réunit régulièrement. Comment montrer l’arborescence de cette œuvre hybride? Chris Marker était un média à lui tout seul. Peut-être faudra-t-il associer des ingénieurs à cette réflexion… Il y aura sans doute un événement Marker à la Cinémathèque en 2017 ou 2018.Serge Toubiana, interviewed by Louis Guichard, “Serge Toubiana : “Le don des archives Demy à la Cinémathèque est un geste de confiance et d’amitié”, www.telerama.fr

Rough English Translation

Is paying for archival acquisitions an option?

[…]

There is also the case of Chris Marker, who did not create a will. In the course of the last years of his life, he was living with Costa-Gavras, President of the Cinémathèque, and he had said that he would leave a letter specifying what he wished to do with his archives. But nothing like this was found. With his death, a summary inventory took place, along with research into his heirs that identified six persons removed by 5 or 6 degrees… We made them a proposition that was agreed upon and we acquired the estate for 40,000 Euros. We found ourselves faced with a sort of gigantic shambles, with enormous stacks of photos, negatives, hard drives, computers, all the work that he conducted in/on Second Life, hundreds of small objects, collages, journals… He kept everything. But what to do with it? It’s a considerable piece of work. We put together a team internally, charged with pursuing the inventory and working on the digital archive. In addition, a scientific committee meets regularly. How to present the tree structure of this hybrid work? Chris Marker was a media [enterprise] unto himself. Perhaps it will be necessary to have engineers consider this reflection… There will be without a doubt a Marker event at the Cinémathèque in 2017 or 2018.

Also, please stay tuned for our upcoming article on the new book ZOO, which collects the animals from the Petite Planète series Marker edited into an exciting new work.

State of the Estate

Cinematheque francaise

What follows is a rough translation of an online announcement from the Cinémathèque française on the state of a three year inventory of the estate of Chris Marker, contained in 550 boxes initially upon receipt. The original article can be found at Fonds Chris Marker : où en est l’inventaire ?. This news is, quite simply, unbelievably exciting. My inner archivist wants to take the next plane to Paris.

§

Estate Chris Marker: Where are we at with the inventory?

In the Spring of 2013, the Cinémathèque française took possession to its archives 550 large moving boxes containing the archives of Chris Marker, deceased during the summer of the preceding year. Under the conduct of a scientific committee of individuals close to the filmmaker and familiar with his work, the inventory of the estate began rapidly. The total duration of the operation was estimated at around three years. So where are we, two years later?

The 550 boxes that make up the estate are divided as follows:

5 boxes of posters; 6 boxes of LP records and musical documents; 15 boxes of photographs; 55 boxes of objects, miniatures…; 66 boxes of audiovisual material (Beta, master…); 98 boxes of archives (press documentation, files & folders); 112 boxes of VHS and DVD edits and personal recordings; 137 boxes of periodicals and books.

At this point in time, the boxes of photographs have been thoroughly inventoried, although not all photographs have been identified. Similarly, the inventory of ‘apparatuses/apparatii’ [appareils] is complete. The library of Chris Marker, rich with some 137 boxes, has been made the object of a deeper study and is approaching completion. An actively used library, as opposed to a collector’s library, it presents a singularity in so far as each work is stuffed with diverse documents: letters, press clipings, etc. Each volume therefore has been the object of a precise description of the elements that it contains. To get an idea of this library, the inventory would be certainly instructive, but evidently insufficient. A virtual library project is therefore being considered.

The inventory continues currently with the objects, posters, audiovisual materials and paper archives. This work should be completed by Fall 2015. The inventory of hard drives, on which Marker worked during the course of the last 20 years of his life, has also begun. These discs contain several million files. To bring to fruition the description of their contents will be a long-term work [‘de longue haleine’, literally ‘of long breath’]. Similarly, initial work on the state of more than a thousand digital diskettes [floppies/zip/flash drives presumably] has begun with the help of a digital conservation specialist [digital archivist]. A work of securing and restoring, an indispensible prior step to taking an inventory, will be conducted in the coming months.

During the course of the Fall, the VHS, DVD, CD and vinyl LPs will be inventoried, permitting thereby, with the horizon of Summer 2016, to have analyzed the sum total of the boxes of the estate and to have arrived at an initial, global view of its coherence and richness. Work on cataloging can then begin, with the objective remaining to place the estate at the disposition of researchers starting in 2018, while presenting it as well in the form of a grand exhibition at the Cinémathèque française. The scientific committee is already working toward this goal.

Joël Daire, with the participation of Valérie Sanroma-Kernke and Marie Bergue