Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

Guillaume, Guillaume, Guillaume…


Guillaume, Guillaume, Guillaume (The cat named Guillaume)

Visiting Chris Marker in Second Life
Katie Rose Pipkin

Guillaume — the cat called Guillaume — Second Life —Katie Rose Pipkin
Guillaume iin Second Life — Katie Rose Pipkin

He writes; “I’ve understood the visions. Suddenly you’re in the desert the way you are in the night; whatever is not desert no longer exists. You don’t want to believe the images that crop up.”

He writes; “And when all the celebrations are over it remains only to pick up all the ornaments — all the accessories of the celebration — and by burning them, make a celebration.”

He writes; “Video games are the first stage in a plan for machines to help the human race, the only plan that offers a future for intelligence. For the moment, the inseparable philosophy of our time is contained in the Pac-Man.”

I never really lived in Second Life. As an artist working in digital spaces, this is patently uncool. But it is true; by the time I stumbled onto the massively multiplayer simulation it was already empty, a shrinking economy and user-base spread across a vast and often-private landscape leaving the world desolate at best.

Around this time, I attended a seminar in which a subdued Jon Rafman gave us a tour of the sim, not in his eponymous Kool-Aid man avatar, but rather (if I’m remembering correctly) as an understated goth animal, perhaps some kind of dog. We were shown around a few of Rafman’s old haunts; a sex-club, a unicorn glade; all abandoned. Eventually, we went to a welcome area, where there were 20-odd avatars sitting around and voice chatting. A small, diapered man was running up against the architecture repeatedly—a winged, corseted goddess-figure was talking about their kids. When we said hello (in unison, all of us) the other players were kind and welcoming, if a bit bored. Rafman seemed surprised; he told us that this was rare culturally, that the general sentiment about his art-world tour presence (and perhaps the presence of anyone new) was animosity.

Unsettled, I didn’t visit again for at least another year.

In the meantime, I was watching Sans Soleil, Chris Marker’s 1983 experimental travel documentary. I say watching, not watched, as it turned into a process; after seeing the film several times in a month, I downloaded a text file of the script and read it like a charm, in pieces, whenever I needed to write or to think in elegance. It is still open, autosaved as Unsaved Pages Document 20. I was surprised it should be so important to me; the work is disarmingly sincere, almost saccharine at times.

He writes; “I’m writing you all this from another world, a world of appearances. In a way, the two worlds communicate with each other. Memory is to one what history is to the other: an impossibility.”


Ourvoir, literally translated, means sewing-room or work-room. Marker himself described his work as cobbling, and he as much more a cobbler than a film-maker or an artist. With this frame, it is easy to see all of his work this way; the still-photographs stitched into La Jetée, the silent film dubbed into San Soleil, the Youtube videos of animals that bleed into one another, and animal videos of a more conventional type. Of course, said aloud in the clumsy mouth of an English-speaker, Ourvoir also sounds almost identical to Au Revoir; goodbye, until we meet again.

Katie Rose Pipkin, “Guillaume, Guillaume, Guillaume (The cat named Guillaume): Visiting Chris Marker in Second Life

Go to Medium to read the full text, merely excerpted above…

He writes; “I remember that month of January in Tokyo, or rather I remember the images I filmed of the month of January in Tokyo. They have substituted themselves for my memory. They are my memory. I wonder how people remember things who don’t film, don’t photograph, don’t tape. How has mankind managed to remember? I know: it wrote the Bible. The new Bible will be an eternal magnetic tape of a time that will have to reread itself constantly just to know it existed.”

Piles of art objects in Ouvroir and tiny avatar with Guillaume tshirt
Piles of Art in Ouvroir, Avatar with Guillaume T-shirt

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Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory
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