Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

Chris Marker L´Ouvroir Part 1


The following three videos, taken deep within Marker/Guillaume territorealities of Second Life, were made available on YouTube this month by a user named FITEIROCULTURAL from Argentina. As the initial credits state, we are witness to “a visit with Millagrosa Vella and Gianni Motti’s assistant, for Fiteiro Cultural on SL and Casa Millagrosa, directed by Haveyouseen Lubitsch for Michel Favre.”

To see if we can have some fun here, we call on readers to help identify bits and pieces that make up this memory palace. We’ll start with one: PacMan from Sans Soleil has grown up here to become a little sculpture – the afterlife of pixels in a hirez world. As for the title Ouvroir, it recalls Marker’s penchant for compact neologisms & multivalent titles that gave birth an era or so ago to the title Immemory and a few eras before that to Coréennes.

A Michel Favre Film


  • Territorealities called “Ouvroir” probably by Chris.Marker himself. In french, an “ouvroir” is a place for the works in common. On this virtual island, near the museum, a workshop of sculptures or sundries is offered for the imaginative visitors (sometimes, the limits has been exceeded extravagantly).
    But Ouvroir designed also Oulipo – stands for “Ouvroir de littérature potentielle”, which translates roughly as “workshop of potential literature”. It’s a loose gathering of French-speaking writers and mathematicians, and seeks to create works using constrained writing techniques. Some examples of Oulipian writing: Queneau’s Hundred Thousand Billion Poems. It’s a set of ten sonnets. They are printed on card with each line on a separated strip. As all ten sonnets have not just the same rhyme scheme but the same rhyme sounds, any lines from a sonnet can be combined with any from the nine others, so that there are 100 000 000 000 000 different poems.
    As Chris.Marker’s editing when he gives a particular sense to pictures (which could have others senses somewhere else) ?

  • In an interview published in April 2008, Chris.Marker talk about the strange world of The Invention of Morel (1940), an Adolfo Bioy Casares’ novel (friend of Borges, the famous Argentine writer and blind librarian who was frightened by mirrors!). It’s the world of this masterpiece which he found in Second Life : onirism, feeling of the porosity between reality and virtual… In my opinion, there’re others themes in reference with Marker’s work : the science fiction, the pictures, the time (immortality)…
    This island – created by a brilliant Viennese artist, MosMax Hax in SL – is a little the one of Morel where there’s also a museum.
    The feminine character of the novel is a fleeting appearance inspired by silent film star Louise Brooks (we think about Carlotta Valdes or Madeleine Elster in Vertigo). On another small island of this archipelago, we can see Chris.Marker’s Silent Movie with another appearance, Catherine Belkhodja (who was Laura in Level Five).
    The movie Last Year at Marienbad (1961) was inspired by The Invention of Morel. Movie directed by Alain Resnais… one of both directors of Statues also die (Les Statues meurent aussi).

  • Fascinating and informative comments, thank you! I’m off to find a copy of the Bioy Casares’ novel. I wonder if Resnais ever wrote about his inspiration for Marienbad in any detail? Ouvroir de littérature potentielle reminds me of SLON – Société pour le lancement des oeuvres nouvelles. [An elephant on a train.] Both have a kind of open-ended, future orientation, though the former obviously plays much more with the combinatoire idea, realized in literature to a high (although perhaps not always enjoyable) degree in Cortázar’s Hopscotch. The Myst reference is intesting too – it’s as if the first great virtual space of the computer gaming era has found a new home in SL.

  • In fact, I don’t know if Alain Resnais spoke about The Invention of Morel. I found an article on this subject (I quote some extracts if the link is later desactivated) : “The relationship to Alain Resnais’s ever-cryptic Last Year at Marienbad is more complicated. Whatever its meaning, Marienbad is about a man who desires a woman, and how memory, the past, and the present confound his desire. Bioy Casares’s novella can easily be read as a metaphor for film watching: the man who falls in love with a woman, only to find out that he is watching a real-time, three-dimensional movie of her, and sacrifices his life so that he too can enter the movie, by synchronizing his movements to appear to be interacting with the woman of the film.” And he quotes a Bhob Stewart’s text : “In the mid-Fifties, when Casares’ novel was translated into French, it was read by Robbe-Grillet. We know this since he wrote a favorable review of the book in 1955. In 1961, Resnais and Robbe-Grillet were interviewed by filmmaker Jacques Rivette, who commented on the link between Morel and Marienbad, parallels briefly acknowledged by Robbe-Grillet (who didn’t elaborate). Resnais and Robbe-Grillet had evidently never discussed this, as indicated by Resnais’ comment that he was unfamiliar with the book. An English translation of this interview was readily available to all New York critics in 1961, but none of them picked up on the significance of those few sentences.” For the detectives novices, I quote personally just a sentence at the beginning of the Casares’ book (sorry for the bad translation) : “This island is populated with people who dance, walk or bathe as tourists settled for a long time in Marienbad.”

  • Ah, so Robbe-Grillet smuggled Morel into Marienbad. Sly move, and makes sense. Thank you! Nos chers lecteurs (semblables, frères), please click on the name Marienbad at the top of the previous comment for the full article on

  • Indeed the name OUVROIR is exactly referring to the OULIPO sources mentioned- but was decided in a conversation among Margarete Jahrmann (Ludic Society) with Chris Chris Marker in Second Life in 2008 – when the project was just to be “made” for his grand exhibtion in Zurich Museum for Gestaltung. The association “Ludic Society” used ouvrouir as term in honour to ‘pataphysicians – for all the remote sites – and Second Life was considered as remote site too – and suggested as an ideal name for an island for Chris, referring to “my friend Boris Vian”.

Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

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