Category Archives: Photographic

Ghost Cat: Postcards + Exhibitions

cm-postcard-cimitiere-chat

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 (peterblumgallery.com), 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:

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2014

“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

2013

“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

2012

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

2011

“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

2009

“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

2008

“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

2007

“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

2006

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

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

2005

“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

2003

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

2002

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

1999

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

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

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

1997

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

1996

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

1995

“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

Chris Marker et la photographie

chris-marker-et-la-photographie

What: Journée d’étude | Day of Study

Title: Chris Marker et la photographie | Chris Marker and Photography

Who: Vincent Jacques, avec la participation de | with the participation of:

  • Philippe Bazin
  • Christa Blümlinger
  • Pierre Gaudin
  • Vincent Jacques
  • François Niney
  • Bamchade Pourvali

When: samedi 28 mai 2016 | Saturday May 28th, 2016 – Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA), Salle Vasari | 2, rue Vivienne – 75002 Paris

Additional information at fabula.org: la recherche en littérature & www.ciph.org.

Chris Marker et la photographie

Organisation scientifique : Vincent Jacques (ENSA Versailles / LéaV)

Samedi 28 mai 2016 à 10h

Salle Vasari, Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA), 2 rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris

S’il s’est fait mondialement reconnaître comme cinéaste grâce à des films comme La Jetée, Le fond de l’air est rouge ou Sans Soleil, le cinéma et la vidéo n’épuisent pas la pratique de l’image de Chris Marker. En effet, une constante de son oeuvre consiste en l’usage de la photographie. Entre 1956 où il publie son premier portfolio Clair de Chine dans la revue Esprit et l’exposition Passengers à New York dans les galeries de Peter Blum en 2011, il aura pratiqué le genre à intervalle régulier et publié cinq recueils de photo, Les Coréennes (1959), La Renfermée. La Corse (1981), Le Dépays (1982), Staring Back (2007) et Passengers (2011). Quatre de ces recueils sont accompagnés d’un texte de l’auteur (La Corse est écrit par Marie Susini) : comme c’est le cas dans toute la production de Marker, quel que soit le médium, la photographie participe d’une démarche plus large que l’exploitation d’une seule modalité d’expression.

Notre journée d’étude se propose donc d’aborder l’oeuvre par le biais de la photographie, c’est-à-dire d’étudier le travail photographique de Marker en lui-même et dans le cadre d’une démarche plus générale. Soulignons d’emblée que ce travail n’a jamais vraiment été entrepris, les textes sur Marker étant quasi exclusivement consacrés à ses films tandis que les histoires de la photographie contemporaine font systématiquement l’impasse sur cette part de l’oeuvre. L’approche du travail photographique de Marker se fera selon trois axes. 1- Analyser comment l’auteur brouille la limite entre les genres (cinéma, essai, installation, jeux vidéo…) dans une recherche constante de nouvelles articulations entre l’image et le texte. 2- Étudier comment se construisent les séries de photographies en vue d’écrire et de réécrire en permanence la mémoire du siècle, à la lisière de l’intime et du collectif. 3- Aborder la question du traitement informatique de l’image photographique : quels sont les enjeux des manipulations opérées grâce aux logiciels de retouche numérique qui deviennent la marque de fabrique des dernières photos de Marker ?www.fabula.org

Programme

•10h-10h15 | Accueil des participants
•10h15-11h | Philippe Bazin (École Nationale Supérieure d’Art de Dijon) : « Les transports de Chris Marker. À propos de Passengers ».
•11h-11h45 | Christa Blümlinger (Université Paris 8, ESTCA) : « L’attraction du Musée. Notes sur Chris Marker ».
11h45-12h : Pause
•12h-12h45 | Pierre Gaudin (École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Versailles) : « La photographie filmée comme document-matière et document-mémoire chez Chris Marker : prise de vue photographique et montage cinématographique ».
12h45-14h45 : Pause déjeuner
•14h45-15h30 | Vincent Jacques (École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Versailles, LEAV) : « Floue, lisse, pliée : métamorphoses de la photo chez Chris Marker ».
•15h30-16h15 | François Niney (La Fémis, IRCAV) : « Un battement de cil, un battement de coeur : photo animée et photogramme arrêté, le “cinémarker” entre reprise et suspens du temps ».
16h15-16h30 : Pause
•16h30-17h15 | Bamchade Pourvali (Université de Paris Est-Marne la Vallée) : « Philosophie de la photographie et mise en page chez Chris Marker ».
17h30 : Fin de la journée

L’An 2000 : Chris Marker Book Design

I betrayed Gutenberg for McLuhan a long time ago.Chris Marker

L'An 2000 design Chris Marker

Thanks to Christophe Chazalon, master archivist over at chrismarker.ch, for Christmas in June; CH2 sent a collection of images – page spreads from a curious volume entitled L’An 2000: une anti-histoire de la fin du monde, published in 1975 by Gallimard.  Like 2084, 4001, 3009, 2058, Bolaño’s 2066 (& La Jetée‘s un-numbered future dates), here we find more time travels from the late 20th c. to alternate epochs to come, an envisioned ‘prospectivist’ Y2K in this case. This book comes to my attention as something completely new, on my radar at least… It is a book where Marker’s roles seem to have been lead photographer and lead book designer. These images are further evidence of Marker as designer – one with a potent combo of wit, dark humor, visual acuity, and the unique application of montage to book design.

Recent and needed devotion of attention to Marker’s editorial and design role at Seuil has come out of late surrounding the Petite Planète travel book series. It is in this vein that we can perceive Marker’s mastery of layout, via which he brings the Trojan horse of his unparalleled visual & political wit. The spreads seen here are witty, yes, but not whimsical; some heavy political narratives live within the image concatenations.

To touch on the opening quote, despite the extreme aptness & quotability of the line, Marker was as intimate with Gutenberg as he was with McLuhan. The vast majority of his ‘estate’ consists of books. And he knew how to make them too. He weaves the two ciphers for media stages/epochs, over and over again, into rare media fabrics and a new temporal praxis for media. The book form of La Jetée is the most shining example, truly a ciné-roman (and one that was dear to his heart – he absolutely loved the book). Then we have the two volume Commentaires, the book Le Dépays, the out-of-print book of Le fonds de l’air est rouge, and Staring Back. Perhaps the magnum opus of Marker’s book design is Corréennes. I can’t think of any other cinéastes with this impressive skill set and printed oeuvre.

Marker’s layout genius is linked to the true métier of film editing, the cuts and splices, the choices and juxtapositions that make of Sans Soleil such an invitation au voyage. Gutenberg in motion, if you will, with Baudelaire sulking in the background. The tradition of emblems and ‘world turned upside down’ in French literature & publishing would be well-worth exploring in this connection, as it links Marker with a deeper anti-authoritarian artistic tradition, a grand example of which can be found in the hilarious Le Monde à l’envers carnivalesque visual genre of early modern Europe (18th/19th centuries, though examples date much further back).

For further reading, check the “Related Posts” links below, as well as Rick Poynor’s excellent article on book design & Marker’s Commentaires. For an overview of the life and works of André-Clément Decouflé, ‘sociologue, historien et prospectiviste’, consult this French Wikipedia article.

Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 09 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 08 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 07 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 06 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 05 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 04 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 03 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 02 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 01 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 10

La prospective, qu’il contribua à largement à faire reconnaître en France par ses ouvrages et ses interventions à la télévision, fut progressivement délaissée parce qu’il estimait s’être complètement trompé sur sa vision de l’an 2000, vingt cinq ans avant l’avènement du troisième millénaire.André-Clément Decouflé, fr.wikipedia.org

Finally, let’s not forget the unforgetable publication – with Marker’s aid – of William Klein’s Life is good & Good for You in New York: Trance Witness Revels (1956). Subject for another post. Again here, we are witness to the revolution of layout and photography, in a much more extreme manner than Marker’s own work, but certainly not unrelated.

L’idée d’« Album Petite Planète » séduira les patrons du Seuil mais n’aboutie qu’à la sortie d’un volume de photographies de William Klein, Life is good and good for you in New York (1956). L’exceptionnelle qualité des images, de la mise en page et de l’impression singularisent ce livre.Chris Marker au Seuil, Hervé Serry

William Klein, New York New York

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

The Panoptic Exodus

“He always said that even the best actor knows that the camera is pointed at him, and that the spontaneity, the innocence, the beauty of expression on a face cannot be truly captured except when the person is not conscious of being photographed.”
Peter Blum on Chris Marker

PanopticonFirst off, there’s the lingering taste of an assumption that borders on what once was called by the dialecticians of enlightenment the ‘jargon of authenticity.’ The mind drifts around the thought eddy that the human photographic subject as actor, by the mere conscious knowledge of being filmed or photographed, loses something ineffable, some bit of truth in self-presentation to the world. Clandestine documentary, on the other hand, offers heroically to capture this lost parcel of authenticity (the long lost Benjaminian aura?), the subject unaware of the means of reproduction that causes, if even minimally, a change in visual self-presentation.

One could surmise that, following Foucault’s ‘panoptism’, the world of the photographic unconscious—that is, the pristine subject—may actually have to a large degree disappeared; there is now, especially in urban zones, always the presumption of the camera—not the camera of the clandestine artist, but the surveillance apparatus: ubiquitous, proliferating, causing adjustments of behavior by its very presence, as did the central tower of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon, whether occupied by an agent of surveillance or unoccupied and merely virtually present as visual threat, implied in the very design that strips one of privacy. The Eye of Mordor, always searching for the Ring, and its bearer.

One might go further and think that the very proliferation of cameras in public spaces gives rise to a kind of disinterest or banality of the quotidian, such that the modification of one’s own comportment in public space undergoes a subtle reversal. The subject, in this scenario, grows so accustomed to the idea of being captured (literally and figuratively), inscribed into the machinic memory system, that it is no longer necessary to internalize the surveillance apparatus, no longer necessary to adjust one’s behavior always already towards auto-surveillance and self-policing.

One can see this small thought of liberation from panoptism play out in the occupy movements, as they escalate a reclaiming of public space to promote a disregard for the old kafka-type spys and the Panopticon in favor of a new modality. This new modality takes the means of reproduction available on cell phones, plugged as they are into the social media machine, and turns it against power, forcing the police into their own situation of panoptism, of the eternal possibility of being recorded, posted to a viral social media machine that propagates a kind of anti-panoptism, without central tower, without Castle, without Eye.

However, with these thoughts we are still in the mode of duality, of power and resistance—but the moment for this paradigm, long pronounced dead, to truly disappear may not yet have come, simply because the still somehow Empowered, fully equipped with their police forces, armies and crumbling economies, while certainly on their way out, have maddeningly not quite gone away. The King may be dethroned but then one has to deal with the military, as in Egypt.

Nonetheless, the Kafka informants, perhaps epitomized best in the DDR Stazi (that is, Stalinist) system of syping and informing on your neighbor, may have jumped ship and come to work for another, masterless enterprise that itself is less capable of or interested in hierarchical control due to its rhizomatic and viral nature—and for those very reasons baffling to the older machines of technology (panoptism) and social paranoia (informants).

For documentary theory, the real has long been suspect and documentarists, including Heisenberg and ‘reverse ethnographers’ (like the unsurpassed Jean Rouch), have long known that the camera trained on a subject changes the subject. Marker himself shows back in Lettre de Sibérie how montage of documentary footage combined with commentary can present a potentially endless series of possible realities, each virtually co-existing, products of choices of mise-en-scène, montage and the vital, flexible relations of voice/text and image. The old Kuleshov effect fed into a fractal generator…

Our thoughts here, laid out in some haste and worthy someday of greater elaboration, are triggered by this video (below) and in particular the quote (above) in which Peter Blum speaks of Marker’s photographs on the occasion of the recent exhibition at Arles. Revisiting Marker’s old metaphor of photography as a hunt: “La photo, c’est la chasse, c’est l’instinct de chasse sans l’envie de tuer. C’est la chasse des anges… On traque, on vise, on tire et — clac! au lieu d’un mort, on fait un éternel.” There is as much a recognition of the primordial violence of photographic inscription here as there is the dream of its transformation into an art of peace.

Video Source: Arte.tv: Arles : les portraits numériques de Chris Marker

Chris Marker Passengers at Peter Blum Gallery

Passengers

The following is a press release we received from the Peter Blum Gallery in New York. If you’re in the Big Apple, enjoy!

Chris Marker
PASSENGERS

April 2 – June 4, 2011

Peter Blum is pleased to announce the exhibition Chris Marker, PASSENGERS. This exhibition, opening on April 2, 2011, will be presented at both Peter Blum Soho (99 Wooster Street) and Peter Blum Chelsea (526 West 29th Street). This will be Chris Marker’s third solo exhibition with the gallery.

The exhibition is comprised of more than two hundred photographs taken by Marker between 2008 and 2010. The series, which is Marker’s first in color, are images of passengers traveling on the Paris Métro.

PASSENGERS captures the many private actions and gestures that take place daily in the public sphere. Mothers cradling their children, couples whispering intimately, women wistfully staring out the window or into the middle distance, engrossed in their own personal thoughts. In several of the shots, we see whole train cars filled with similarly disengaged people. Taken as a complete body of work, this series very clearly illustrates the various ways in which people create invisible walls and boundaries in order to cope with modern urban life. Chris Marker further to the photographs he takes, enhances, changes or colors his images on the computer, giving them often an eerie, almost otherworldly presence.

All of the images will be reproduced in a book published by Peter Blum Edition, which will be released in conjunction with the exhibition. The book will feature over two hundred color images with texts by Chris Marker and Peter Blum.

The exhibition will travel to France where it will be included as part of the internationally renowned Les Rencontres d’Arles Photographie Festival in the Summer of 2011.

You can visit the Peter Blum Gallery’s Chris Marker page at www.peterblumgallery.com/artists/chris-marker.

In a Train of the Métro by John Fitzgerald

[Guest post by John Fitzgerald. Thanks John! – ed.]

Walking over to Peter Blum Gallery in Chelsea to see the new Chris Marker exhibition, I happened to pass by a section of the newly completed High Line, a pedestrian greenspace retrofitted onto an old elevated train track on the West Side. I stopped to look at a curious feature of the renovation: a glass panel cut into the side of the wall overlooking Tenth Avenue. Behind the glass was tiered seating where people sat and watched the traffic beneath them and the pedestrians walking by. The whole image reminded me of a movie theater—tiered seating all facing a rectangular screen—except instead of a screen, there was glass, and instead of a film, there was The Street. Turning onto 29th Street to go to the gallery, I couldn’t think of a better prelude to Marker’s exhibition about watching people on the trains in Paris.

“Chris Marker: ‘Quelle heure est-elle?’” is a meditation on spectacle. Comprised of pieces selected from the early and latter periods of his career as an artist, filmmaker, and photographer, all are united by Marker’s fierce attention to the world around him, be they images of war or faces in the Métro, pictures in magazines or movie posters of imaginary films. The images that make up the exhibition’s title consist of a series of thirty-six black and white photographs of people riding the Métro in Paris between 2004 – 2008. In order to capture his subjects “truer to their inner selves,” he explains, he used a digital wristwatch camera—thereby coming a long way from the 16mm silent film camera that he boldly employed in the crowded trains of Tokyo for Sans Soleil in 1983. “Here I caught them innocent like animals, in the beauty of the jungle,” he notes.1 And while the people he captures—predominantly women—are certainly less aware of his gaze than in much of his previous work, some of the images, while very beautiful, still seem to fall short of being entirely natural. Perhaps the innocence that Marker has sought in images throughout his career is not necessarily more attainable merely with a new technology. As he acknowledges, in this age of the cellphone camera, we are more cognizant of being watched than ever before, and the subway, with its absence of anything interesting in the windows except mirror-like reflections, only heightens this sense. But Marker, for me, is a writer more than he is anything else, and while these photographs are ponderous to look at, I miss the breathless, evocative commentary that accompanies such images in his films. Commentary, in this instance, may be unnecessary though. Why articulate in prose something already so perfectly expressed by Ezra Pound in his poem, “In a Station of the Metro”: “The apparition of these faces in the crowd / Petals on a wet black bough”? This was to be Marker’s epigraph in his previous exhibition, “Staring Back,” in 2007. He dropped it at the time, but was struck by how a reviewer, seeing the photographs, began his review by quoting this poem. “So it was true, after all,” Marker writes, “there existed such a thing as poetry, whose ways are by nature different from the ways of the world, that makes one see what was kept hidden, and hear what was kept silent.”

The exhibition is also comprised of a series of other outstanding works including Coréennes (1957), photographs of North Koreans going about their largely agricultural daily lives, pictures of what essentially, to this day, remains a hidden society. Though at the time—and even today—they were inhabitants of one of the most isolated countries on the planet, Marker’s images of North Koreans have almost the same nonchalant intimacy of his femmes du Métro on the opposite wall. They are images seemingly suspended in time, and—except for the occasional intrusion of some pre-modern technological advancement like a bicycle—would have been as familiar to a traveler two centuries earlier as they were to Marker during the height of the Cold War. Considering how rare it is to be able to glimpse inside of North Korean society, the mere existence of these images merit their exhibition; that they are meditative on an artistic level as well is only to Marker’s credit. Invited by the country’s communist government in the wake of the Korean War, Marker enjoyed an almost unheard of amount of freedom in documenting the conditions beyond the thirty-eighth parallel. Where, in Sans Soleil, Marker trained his camera lens on a hyperactively open and “connected” Japanese society on the precipice of major economic expansion and found penetrating mysteries and rituals behind the veneer of everyday mundanity, in Coréennes he peers into a fanatically closed world and reveals how truly accessible it seems. We see the women of the countryside, pensive, the schoolgirls holding aloft their fans and preparing for a dance. There are no images of tanks or infinite crowds furiously saluting the Great Leader. Even before the sixties Marker was already post-political. His focus is the people, the daily life. Of the war he only wrote: “When a country is split in two by an artificial border and irreconcilable propaganda is exercised on each side, it’s naïve to ask where the war comes from: the border is the war.”2

The Hollow Men (2005), also on view, is a multi-screen installation depicting images of twentieth-century conflict—beginning with the First World War—against textual interstices of lines variously inspired by, or taken from, T.S. Eliot’s poem of the same name. Here, too, we are spectators, and as in his other works the focus so often is on faces. One passage begins, “’I’LL BE SEEING YOU’ / WAS OUR SONG / LESS THAN 80 SEASONS LATER / FOR EVERY WAR HAS A SONG.”

I’ll be seeing you. The irony, of course, is that a man who has spent so much of his life pointing his camera lens at others should himself remain shrouded in obscurity. The gallery’s artist biography merely indicates that Marker was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France in 1921 and that he “lives and works in Paris.” Though he was a member of the most luminary generation of French auteurs in the history of cinema, he is still sufficiently unknown for a popular New York magazine to confidently claim him as an “avant-garde American filmmaker.”3 Presumably, without this veil of mystery, he would never be able to get as close to his subjects as he does. And while he may not be American, his preoccupation with looking at The Street—in Paris, in Pyongyang, in Tokyo—is literally, in something as small as that viewing area on the High Line, gaining ground in this country. Somehow, I imagine Chris Marker wouldn’t mind spending an afternoon perched up there over Tenth Avenue looking at all the people passing below.

1. Chris Marker, “Quelle heure est-elle?” published on the occasion of the exhibition “Chris Marker: “Quelle heure est-elle?” at Peter Blum Gallery, New York, May 16-July 31, 2009.
2. Chris Marker, Coréenes (1957, Editions du Seuil, Paris)
3. “A wonderfully rich retrospective of the avant-garde American filmmaker . . . .” The L Magazine

Traveling Without Moving

MetroDavid Thomson, author of the classic A Biographical Dictionary of Film as well as books on Hitchcock, Welles and Brando, recently published a thoughtful reflection on Chris Marker’s photograph series taken in the Paris metro. The piece is called “Chris Marker’s Underground” and is can be viewed at The New Republic’s “Slideshow” blog.

Marker’s territory for chasing images may have changed in the 21st century as his global explorations became less frequent, but his backyard as found in his viewfinder remains a world unto itself, as this series of photos (7 are reproduced with his permission in Thomson’s article) and of course the movie Chats perchés [The Case of the Grinning Cat] reveal.

In contemplating the nomad who does not travel outside the city, I’m reminded of a passage from Deleuze and Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus:

There are not only strange voyages in the city but voyages in place: we are not thinking of drug users, whose experience is too ambiguous, but of true nomads. We can say of the nomads, following Toynbee’s suggestion: they do not move. They are nomads by dint of not moving, not migrating, of holding a smooth space that they refuse to leave, that they leave only in order to conquer and die. Voyage in place: that is the name of all intensities, even if they also develop in extension. To think is to voyage… [532]

Or, as the master of ambient Pete Namlook puts it more succinctly, “traveling without moving.” [Air II CD].

In narrowing the circle of travel in earthspace, Marker has only become more of a nomad. The truncation of the world to one’s own city finds its looking glass counter-world not only in the underground and the elegant graffiti mysteries of M. Chat, but also and no less profoundly in Marker’s migration to Second Life, a world without end, a fractal archipelago that allows the voyager-in-place to meet others without moving, to pass through without moving, to visit spaces by jumping coordinates, to remain a fixed point in an expanding universe of travel and aleatory encounter.

The metro also takes us back to the hypnotic dream sequences of Sans Soleil in the Japanese commuter trains. It is here that we may have first slipped into the Zone, where Marker filmed the drifted-off bodies being taken, consciousness slipping into unconsciousness, from point of departure to point of arrival. The interim is filled with imagination, projected images from Japanese television of their potential dreams. Why the Zone? Because the Zone is the machine of derealization, the slippage mechanism that takes one imperceptibly from document to dream, and serves in a manner so subtle to be subliminal to silently replace the limited audio-visual faculties of film with an unbounded imagination.

The Zone makes of the tourist a nomad memory device, but all the memories flip immediately into machine memory, and from there into phantasm. These phantasm-traces form the fundamental building blocks of a kind of network, a relay system of the imagination that stiches the borders of documentary and fiction and then removes the stitches. It is a mobile architecture of memory, a digital descendant of the ancient art of memory evoked by Marker in Immemory, but no longer glued to the commonplaces of the rhetorical tradition.

Montaigne writes of friendship: “En l’amitié de quoi je parle, elles nos âmes se mêlent et confondent l’une en l’autre, d’un mélange si universel qu’elles effacent et ne retrouvent plus la couture qui les a jointes.” We live today in this space of erased stitching that is that of friendship, the still life as nomad, and the Zone.

Thomson’s speculations on place and name, his wry Markerian references such as Ulan Bator (a place-name that has messed with film biographers such as himself), and his own dreamlike projection-reflections carry on the work of the imagination that surfaces in the dream commuters of Marker’s foray into the Zone. But it must be said as well that the photographs he displays and discusses are also and primarily just what they are, without addition: light and camera in-between action, and always the implied presence of the photographer, himself unphotographed.

Portraits that are always also self-portraits with the stiches removed. People lifted out of the flow of the quotidian into the lens. Everlasting beings caught in the moment, nameless but respected. As Marker long ago wrote: On traque, on vise, on tire et — clac! au lieu d’un mort, on fait un éternel. He may be saying, all these years later, that instead of war one makes a friend.

Sandor Krasna’s Photostream

Thanks to Tyler Beaman for pointing us to this growing archive of Chris Marker aka Sandor Krasna photography. No stranger to new media, Marker’s pseudonymous forays into social media sites are atypical not only of his generation, but several following ones. An artist of many media, an Eye with many names, a being of “unzeitgemäße Betrachtungen,” out of or beyond time yet always keenly in the present, he retains his inimitable interest in the conjunction of the human visage and the display of resistance to power that can still, at times, leave the screen-world and take to the streets. Check out the Sandor Krasna Flickr photostream at flickr.com.

Lecture-marathon de la Princesse de Clèves par de jeunes chercheurs en grève, devant le Panthéon

Mayday Flâneur

Thanks to Edo M for bringing these semi-precious gems of photographs by Chris Marker – who hit the streets on the occasion of the May 1st “celebration” in Paris – to our attention.

Et Chris Marker, le réalisateur du « Fond de l’air est rouge » et de « Chats perchés », ces deux films chargés d’histoire, de témoigner de cette obstination tranquille, de cette tension qui les tient, ces manifestants de l’an 09. Lui qui n’a cessé, depuis cet après-guerre pourtant salement noirci de luttes extrêmes jusqu’à ce début de millénaire désenchanté, à accompagner les mouvements sociaux, est à l’écoute—si tant est qu’un œil puisse être à l’écoute ! Observant comme nul autre la présence de jeunes, de femmes et de familles, hors des classiques bataillons syndicaux du 1er Mai, eux aussi mobilisés. Et si certains affichent un « Rêve générale », celui-ci, sous l’effet de la politique sarkozyste, vire au cauchemar généralisé…
annick rivoire, poptronics

Edo M also sent us something unbelievably special. Chasseur du maître-chasseur. Knowing the master’s predilection for staying behind the camera, it was a tough call, but here’s the link: www.arpla.fr. Scroll down to the bottom to see the photo and video: Vidéo (un plan de 73 secondes) faite avec un appareil photographique par Jean-Louis Boissier.

Given the immediacy of the gaze throughout Marker’s photographic work, we are reminded of a passage of his in A Farewell to Movies:

Reactions of people photographed or filmed outdoors are rarely hostile, but almost never natural. Either they cringe, be it in a wink, or they hide their camera-consciousness by overreacting. My dream was to be able to catch them as I did animals, in pure naturalezza. A new toy allowed me to try it: the Casio wrist camera. You ostensibly check the time, and the person in front of you is caught. That small apparatus immediately triggered the title I would give to the experiment: What time is she? (I’ve got an unfashionable tendency to prefer women in my lens). Then I carried on with different devices, but I kept the title.

Marker’s referenced photo series, “Qu’elle heure est-elle?” – which obviously loses time in the translation – is currently showing at the Peter Blum Gallery in New York, May 16 2009—July 31 2009.

Source: www.poptronics.fr. Thanks for enabling object embedding!

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