Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

Guillaume’s Adieu & the Disorder of Time


Chris Marker Copenhagen 3009

Prompted out of a kind of suspended time of my own by several emails from Christophe Payet, “journaliste pigiste,”  I found my one-d and zeroed way to the above image on poptronics’  site, and thought about the strange swirling of time, the wounds of time as they might possibly exist in the New Year within the being named Chris Marker. I wandered simultaneously upon a passage in Roberto Bolano’s 2066, which has been keeping me company late at night:

And then he spied a tremor in the sea, as if the water were sweating too, or as if it were about to boil. A barely perceptible simmer that spilled into ripples, building into waves that came to die on the beach. And then Pelletier felt dizzy and a hum of bees came from outside. And when the hum faded, a silence that was even worse fell over the house and everywhere around. And Pelletier shouted Norton’s name and called to her, but no one answered his calls, as if the silence had swallowed up his cries for help. And then Pelletier began to weep and he watched as what was left of a statue emerged from the bottom of the metallic sea. A formless chunk of stone, gigantic, eroded by time and water, though a hand, a wrist, part of a forearm could still be made out with total clarity. And the statue came out of the sea and rose above the beach and it was horrific and at the same time very beautiful.

With the aforementioned emails came news of Guillaume’s farewell to poptronical submissions, and a kind of rumor wave of retreat or retirement rushed through the markerian emotional landscape at the speed of telepathy, dotted by these sundry asynchronous dates: 3009, the arrival of Guillaume at a ballardian drowned world in his sleek skimming time-travel merkabah vehicle; 2010 the faux-hollywood poster graphic of a kind of adieu – certainly seeming more that than an au revoir – clearly containing within it a parody of the hypertrophic apocalyptical thunderings of the as yet unseen movie 2012, combined with one interpretation, a hopeful one, of a  feline mutation to fit the times, like the origin of Batman or some other superhero, as if Guillaume’s wit and emblematic wry underminings of power in the form of collage barrage that have graced poptronics’ site were no longer enough, could no longer hold at bay another round of disappointment.

More wounds of history, more memories and more oblivion. And a rising from the ashes, a phoenix move on the part of the cat, or a vacation in time, considering… “Considering”* is a bit like the famous bon mot by André Gide when asked about the greatest French poet, his answer of course being “Victor Hugo, hélas”.  Best wishes, alas. And more dates: 2084, 2066, 4001 (the era of perfect memory). In a way, Guillaume takes off like Pacal Wotan takes off, in his spaceship-for-one. Marker may take off the way the Mayans took off, in mystery and grace and full of traces. Meanwhile, the disappearances continue: the world empties itself out, migrating in the manner of bees to an as-yet undisclosed location, a new world. There is a kind of cultural colony collapse disorder happening, as a Mandelstamian cry of “No!”  against those who would hold the suicidal oligarchy together with string and glue. 2010, alas. Happy New Year, horrific and beautiful.

For further reading:

Après l’adieu aux films (Farewell to movies, 2008), ce départ de Guillaume-en-Egypte nous condamne-t-il à un silence définitif de Chris Marker ? N’ayant jamais été bien loquace, Chris Marker a su se faire maître dans l’art du « silence éloquent ». Guillaume, son « double bavard », à son tour retiré, voilà l’humanité privée d’un précieux observateur. N’allons toutefois pas trop vite en besogne. Notre élégie précoce n’est que souffrance amoureuse. Si à la chute de Guillaume, rien ne succède, alors il y a bien quelque chose qui pour nous s’éteindra.

* Marker explains his choice of the word “Considering”: “…considering est le point d’ironie qu’on ajoute à un bilan par ailleurs catastrophique (exemple : dans “Asphalt Jungle”, Louis Calhern à Marilyn Monroe qui vient de le balancer aux flics “You did quite well, considering”) …” [poptronics]

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  • Dorna Khazeni was kind enough to translate poptronics’ article and Guillaume’s rumination into English on her Facebook page. We reproduce it here with heartfelt thanks:

    Guillaume-en-Egypte’s farewell

    Poptronoic’s 2010 new year’s wishes are tinted with sadness,
    since this image by Guillaume-en-Egypte that illustrates them will be the last by our cat freelancer.

    Exceptionally, Guillaume wrote to us:

    “With these wishes, stripped of any illusions (for non-Anglophones, ‘considering,’ is the point of irony one
    adds to a summing up that is otherwise catastrophic, e.g. in Asphalt Jungle, Louis Calhern, says to Marilyn Monroe who has just snitched on him to the cops, “You did quite well, considering.”) a cycle ends: that of my collaboration with Poptronics. You have to leave the ball before the ball leaves you, and my final contribution, on the subject of the disaster that was Copenhagen constitutes an honorable lowering of the curtain.

    “I might as well confess, with this summit of impotence and blindness, I’ve used up my store of arrows. Having shared them with the Pop team has been my good fortune, but when one’s heart is no longer in it, there’s no point pretending. My cat’s brain cannot hold at one and the same time the admission of failure based on an inexorable calendar, and the chance for salvation through a “world government” that no utopia will see established in a timely manner, as a result of this same calendar.

    “So, humanity will have to forego my commentary as it
    orchestrates its suicide, and we animals, our survival. To humans who’ll say, “But, you poor animals, are you armed to face the sinking ship of this complex world whose machinery you are not the masters of?” we say simply, “Are you?”

Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

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