Friday, 27 March 2009


ALL IMAGES: Installation view, Peter Coffin, Barbican Curve Gallery. Image copyright Eliot Wyman. Courtesy Barbican Art Gallery.

Peter Coffin, Barbican Curve Gallery, 11 Feb 2009- 10 May 2009.

If the other Sunday was about filming philosophy, then Peter Coffin's installation - at the Barbican Curve gallery - was about filming gardens. At first glance, there was much similarity between these two film-making roles, a productive interconnection between a stuttering, seminar leading Deleuze and a roaming, hand held shot of a bonsai tree.

If you haven't seen it, then the Barbican's Curve gallery is what it says it is: an arcing space encouraging installations flowing somehow from one end to the other, attentive to the drift and to the spaces slow unfolding as you walk along its maybe fifty metres length. It's curious that, remembering previous shows, the Curve seems to stretch and shrink from show to show. Coffin's gardens make the space long. You feel it must be nearing the end, then discover another ten large video screens around the bend.

Because if one wall of the curve is a floor to ceiling black curtain, the other side is sixteen separate video projections with but a small crack between them, ten or so foot high. These document a journey around a Japanese garden - the movement flowing and hand held, varying height and position. It's a portrait of the garden, from individual plants to the buildings surrounding the garden walls. But it's not a linear body-journey. Its impetus comes as much from the regular fades between perspectives, giving each screens unfolding a certain angular, cubist rhythm.

An over-easy, slightly innacurate analogy, certainly, but the scale of Coffin's work suggests a Bill Viola re-make of Marie Menken's Glimpses of the Garden. Coffin's focus on gardens, however, may be connected to certain kinds of spirituality, but it's very different to Viola's. Not just through its pace, but also with its roughness, its blurred qualities, its deliberate disjunctions and lack of any central iconic image. It lacks, too, any serene, metaphysical unfolding for a structure.

All of which are some of the thoughts that came, slowly wandering the curve from screen to screen. I had to make a complete passage along, and was heading back, before I realised there was a continual flow of a single image across all sixteen screens. I still wasn't totally sure of this. The movement, and the fades, made it deliberately uncertain, as did the shifting light across the images, that maybe came from filming at different times of day, trying to approximate shifting weather conditions in a cameras lurching, slightly vertigo inducing swoop. 

All of which ignores a further important element. Dotted through the space are pairs of plinths on which are placed a variety of objects: a shoe, a skull, a pencil in a compass, a piece of bark, a starfish. As this list demonstrates, they are objects with a number of different registers: everyday objects, emblems, symbols, commodities, art objects, with a certain taxonomical moving between them. The objects are paired with plaster cast versions of themselves, which similarly offering a variety of translations, from a literal recreation of the object to a stylised transformation.

Initially, I found these obtrusive, although a friend of mine noted that he focussed on the objects rather than the projected images, anchoring himself amid the peripheral flow of garden-images. Viewed in the gloom from the exit they look like a rather boring display of bronze sculpture and it takes a while for their quirky individuality to emerge, their somewhat joking interplay of art object and commodity. 

How do the objects relate to the garden, and also to a broader epistemological intention of filming gardens?  They have a definite rough, lab-like quality, as if Coffin is making a tool kit for how the philosophy of Zen gardens emerges in his own life, working with the impossibility of that task. Or read the other way: the gardens are both object and plaster cast, a set of translations and transformations of everyday experiences and impulses.

All of which added up to a thought-provoking experience, suggesting the filmed garden - a mediation of a mediation, a layering into technology - could still be a productive site for thinking about, through and with contemporary issues. Garden Pieces, a season of garden- related experimental films - curated by Peter Todd at BFI Southbank in April - will offer a further chance to explore all these ideas. 

Wednesday, 25 March 2009


Doris Lasch/ Ursula Ponn, Le Musee Imaginaire, 2004, project for a record cover. Courtesy the artists. From Lasch/Ponn If you don't create your own history someone else will, Frankfurter Kunstverein, 27 Mar- 31 May 2009. 

Seeing so many films it's hard for The No-Film Film Column to find things to write about. Of course, I could stop seeing films altogether and then I'd have lots to write about. But then I wouldn't be The No Film Film Column. I'd just be a column about whatever else it was I was doing, which wouldn't be interesting at all. 

It's difficult. Anyway, today, this lack of No-Film Film subject matter is not an issue because The No-Film Film column got its hair cut. Yes, it's hard to believe it, but The No-Film Film Column has this endless cycle of wanting to grow its hair long, then getting all fed up of it and having it cut off. It's quite filmic in its way, both commercial film and experimental film. It's what links them. Eisenstein wrote an essay about it. 

Let's not go there. Not yet. The other recurring theme of this column is cafes and I am indeed sat in a cafe , with a cappucino and a white chocolate chip and macadam nut cookie, which is neither here nor there (the general point, not the cookie, which is on a saucer). 

Please, says the cookie using a chance nut-chip alignment for a mouth, one needs to hold to a firm sense of what's relevant and not to the subject at hand. Focus breeds narrative structure breeds coherence upon which The No-Film Film Column brand depends.

So, yes, having my hair cut. What about it? Well let's give in to the inevitable. It's like you have this vast amount of film material, and you don't know what you want to do with it, so you have a slightly awkward conversation where you hold it up and discuss length, then you cut it all up and then you blow dry it, put a little wax all over it, take £35 from its wallet and send it out into the street-cinema.

On the other hand, there could be a way of re-conceiving the process where it's all very relaxed and intuitive and where the faintest hand gesture or syllabic utterance leads to total understanding, leads to a magnificent haircut, leads to blow drying, leads to a little wax all over it, leads to a spring in the step, leads to the taking of £35 from your wallet, leads to the writing of a column like this.

This doesn't have to be haircuts. It doesn't have to be haircuts and film. There's no limit. It could be about global politics, although I think I rather said all I wanted to say about that in the last No-Film Film Column. It could be about macadam nuts, but that might lead to an argument. It doesn't have to be about anything. Just enjoy the feeling of a new haircut. For Christs sake, No-Film Film Column, relax

Perhaps I am writing about haircuts because this column, too, occupies that brief pause where anxiety about fixity disappears, and the mind is still shifting in a void, a limbo looking for another limbo to Google chat with. It's like that period in the 1960s Robert Beavers talked about at Tate Modern last year - after censorship laws had been suspended and before the full onslaught of commercial pornography had taken its place. 

It sounded beautiful, that period, when he talked about it. I'm not sure how one translates the mood he conjured with the historical detail, to actual historical places and times, and people doing things or not doing things or over-doing things, but it was remarkably redolent when he talked about it. It was as if such a period could only exist forty years later as a colour or a flaming aleph or a cloud of midges descending on an outdoor tai chi class somewhere on the West Coast of Scotland. 

Doris Lasch/ Ursula Ponn, Untitled, 2003, b/w photograph, baryt paper on aluminium, 120 x 178cm. Courtesy the artists. 

I think that might be what the No Film Film Column is all  about. It's why it needs its film and why it needs its No-Film. Its about that space where one preoccupation falls away and the mind is still looking for another one. So as a sensation, as much as it can be expressed in language at all, it's a mix of rising and falling, exploding and imploding, speaking and listening, eating and drinking, walking and sitting down, extrapolating at vast length, eating a Turkish stew in Dalston, and taking a vow of silence again in order to break a previous one. 

And also macadam nuts. Which is all well and good and should really be the conclusion, but, suddenly, I'm thinking Emperor's New Clothes. I'm thinking about the odd presence the story has in my mind, more confused than the version in many books. This includes:

a suddenly naked emperor... clothes that are no clothes, whipped off a body by a scepticism about power... a tailor who is also an experimental film maker... another tailor who dresses the King like he's a Super 8 movie, stockpiles polaroid films from German websites, and escapes death with only his love of Stan Brakhage intact... 

This was no Jack Zipes re-telling. It was all getting a bit too film-based for The No-Film Film column. Don't forget Warhol:

I took a photo of the emperors new clothes and the emperor took a photo of my tailor. Then the tailor took a photograph of my new clothes and I took a photo of the emperor dressed up as the tailor. Then the tailor took a photograph of the emperor and I took a photo of the emperor and the emperor said he didn't know how to use a disposable camera but he took a photo of me anyway. 

Then we all realised simultaneously that our vanity and pride was getting in the way of good photos. Then I realised I didn't have a tailor, why would I, duh, and the tailor I didn't have took a photo of the emperor who laughed, dropped his camera, and stamped on it, but not before he had taken a photo of all of us, although why bother I say if that was his intention, really. 

Then the tailor made a run for it, clever sod, and I took a photo of the empty room and the empty room took a photo of my new clothes and the emperor took a photo of himself putting on what were really my new clothes but I wasn't going to say anything I'm no idiot...

Doris Lasch/ Ursula Ponn, Through the back door of a public secrecy, 2004, s/w Polaroid. 120 x 178cm. Edition 15, 2006, Courtesy the artists. 

Oh now I am mental-swimming, said The No-Film Film Column. Yes, that's where the No-Film and the film and the macadam nuts and the cappucino meet the haircut. That's where it all comes together, and not like soup. But it's ideas alright, and they add up, one after another, in multiple directions, god help us, into architecture.

So, naked but for its pride, The No-Film Film Column heads off into the Hoxton night, lightly waxed, mildly delirious in the way only a No-Film Film Column can be, non-knowing, macadam nuts and all, its new, magnificent, hair.

Saturday, 21 March 2009


Kutlug Ataman, fff, 2006-2009, film still, 10-screen video installation, continuous; with sound. Original music by Michael Nyman. Copyright Kutlug Ataman. Courtesy Thomas Dane gallery.

Kutlug Ataman, fff, 10-screen video installation, continuous with sound. Original music by Michael Nyman, 2006-2009. Thomas Dane Gallery 13 Mar- 18 April, 2009.

Home movies are volatile material. Wedded to everyday events of holidays, children playing, shots of landscapes, birthdays, it's a footage sure of itself and its role. But add time - or a transferral beyond the original group of people involved - and it easily becomes a mysterious, highly emotional set of images; its simple, everyday actions turned oddly abstract.

That's even before one figures in the format. Whether shot on Super 8 or early video, Mini-DV or HD, such domestic actions are freighted with the material properties of the medium in which they were recorded. So Super 8 - whose domestic use was long outstripped by its importance for artists - has, to a degree, become memory itself, as if all our past experiences have to pass through its chemical processes, get stuck in its special envelope and sent off for processing.

All of which is a way of starting to think around Kutlug Ataman's fff, currently showing at the Thomas Dane gallery. Ataman has lots of home movie footage - the fff title stands for 'found family footage' - and I'll leave aside, for the moment, the question of whose home movie footage and how he found it. 

A more urgent question is how such movie footage can be responded to in a way commensurate with a contemporary artistic practice; how the emotion, memory and nostalgia of such source material can appear in the gallery with some modicum of relevance or criticality.

Kutlug Ataman, fff, Installation shot, Thomas Dane Gallery, 2009. Copyright Kutlug Ataman, courtesy of Thomas Dane. Photographs by Jonnie Bassett.

A large black wall almost crosses the gallery from side to side, top to bottom. It's placed in front of the window, so forming its own blind, light flaring around its edges. On the wall are ten screens of different sizes, each protruding from the wall wrapped in a thick black frame.

The home movie footage is translated into the gallery in various ways. There are single screen and double screen images; double-circular images, which seem to suggest some incomplete stroboscope, the 3D only coming from the viewer. There are other screens with images that are break up into squares. Sometimes the squares fit incompletely together, so the image is like six or seven playing cards. Other times, the next image forms, a square at a time, or an intervention occurs of another image into one square.

All of which highlights how Ataman is mediating this material, subjecting its filmic transience to his own digital processes. Which, amongst other things, is a way of muting the emotion of the photos, placing individual moments in broader constellations of both form  and content.  Ataman's is a gentle formalism, however. No hard edged critique of its emotional qualities, just a square screen and a round screen and a double screen. And Michael Nyman.

Playing throughout, Nyman's music loop, too, has this affection and doubleness: only a step away from a certain emotional-schmalz but always, critically and crucially, a step away, mainly via the dissonance swirling behind its simple, repeating, stabbed-out motif. Unintentionally, this doubleness is also echoed spatially: there's but a thin wall, literally, between meaningful contemporary art and the expensive tat filling many of the galleries outside on Duke Street St.James.

There are various ways of watching fff. Focus on individual screens and become aware of the actions: a child playing in the snow; rough sea filmed from a ferry; beauty pageant; wedding, and so on through a parade of family activities. I would imagine for many viewers the spectatorial default becomes a vague drifting between screens, away and back, away, back, again, for the duration of their stay.

Kutlug Ataman, fff, 2006-2009, film still, 10-screen video installation, continuous; with sound. Original music by Michael Nyman. Copyright Kutlug Ataman. Courtesy Thomas Dane gallery.

Then there's how one perceives the ten screen wall-totality. This reminded me of Isaac Julien's installation of Derek Jarman's Super 8 films at the Serpentine Gallery in 2007: a model case of how to make lots of individually fantastic films completely uninteresting as a collective. Regarding domestic footage - and Jarman's films were a special case of home movie - the very absorption of such imagery in the life depicted, makes it hard to translate into larger configurations and juxtapositions of itself. 

What the ten screens of fff don't do is add up to an articulate portrait. Nor does it allow the particularities of a period to become evident, like the accumulating of details in an historians argument. Instead, it becomes almost abstract, a set of tones and moods; elemental flickering of green, blues and whites; sea and garden. Representation, certainly, but human activity becomes broad, sculptural essences of playing, dancing, standing and sitting: the artists' equivalent of rarely played Super 8 reels in a box in the attic. 

Read the press release and you find out where Ataman got his footage, and, to a degree, the explanations for some of the images (lots of shots of planes = family in the RAF). The images need the text for this to become clear, and in some ways the installation is more powerful without such information. Left to itself, such imagery more reveals the specific codings of a place, time and medium poised between representation and abstraction, detail and void, in thrall and threat to both Kodak chemistry and the artists own digital manipulations. 

Then, of course, there's the odd sensation that it's also you up there, round screen and split screen self, your own home movie, beauty pageant, the relatives you never knew about because they aren't your relatives, yet...

Friday, 20 March 2009


Marie Menken and Willard Maas at home in their apartment at 62 Montague Street, Brooklyn Heights, 1948. Copyright Frank Polach. 

Any prolonged engagement with Marie Menken's films and paintings prompts a need to come to some understanding of her marriage to Willard Maas. Figuring the complexity and privacy of any relationship into a critical - or even anecdotal - discussion is always difficult.  The starting point for Whitney Chadwick and Isabelle de Courtivron's 1993 study Significant Others: Creativity and Intimate Partnership outlines some of the key issues:

... we asked the following question of the thirteen contributors to this book: if the dominant belief about art and literature is that they are produced by solitary individuals, but the dominant social structures are concerned with familial, matrimonial, and heterosexual arrangements, how do two creative people escape or not the constraints of the framework and construct an alternative story? (7)

Tate Modern's Marie Menken symposium (15-16 Nov 2008) itself struggled with the balance between the abundant supply of gossip and anecdotes about Menken-Maas and how to think through - or even identify in a helpful manner - how their relationship related to their film-making. 

Or, rather, it was also an attempt to articulate how the different, incomplete aspects of what we do know relate to each tother: Maas homosexuality; his relationship with Dwight Ripley; Ripley's role as patron of Menken's films; Menkens ongoing relationships to Ripley's (former-) boyfriends; and the role of the Menken-Maas house as a social nexus, a kind of proto-Factory in Brooklyn.

The Tate Modern discussions focussed around Carolee Schneeman's observation that it was offensive to find Menken "servicing the daisy chain" by serving drinks and cookies to Maas' boyfriends. My research since has involved several discussions that find Schneemann's remarks themselves offensive and insulting, simplifying a complex relationship into an argument that supports a personal agenda.

How to develop a new framework for thinking about this, though, is difficult. Maybe we have to accept a sense of fiction within a relationship . To this end I'm delighted to publish, courtesy of Douglas Crase and Frank Polach, a playlet by Dwight Ripley which offers a dialogue between "Marie" and "Willard."

Written c1951-52, Ripley sent the playlet to Menken and Maas, and it was maintained by them amongst their papers. As Crase suggests, it's fascinating whether such a playlet was known by Edward Albee, whose Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, is often seen to be informed by the Menken-Maas marriage. Considering Menken's performances in Warhol's The Life of Juanita Castro and Chelsea Girls, the prospect of her acting out the following script is a rather mind-boggling one. 

Marie Menken, If Earth in Earth Delight, 1951, oil,sand, glass and thread on masonite, 11.5 x 17.5 inches. Courtesy Douglas Crase and Frank Polach.

Some other connections: I also found it constructive to consider the script as a written equivalent to the performance style of Jack Smith and Mario Montez, highlighting, as Crase has discussed, the role of a certain sense of Englishness within the Menken-Maas milleu. 

Alongside Albee, a further useful connection would be to the intense and hilarious improvised domestic strife of Brigid Berlin and Charles Rydell in Warhol's Fight (1975), one of a number of pilot TV-melodrama's on show recently at the Haward Gallery in Other Voices, Other Rooms.    

GOING TO THE BALL by Dwight Ripley [ca. 1951-52]

Marie (stepping on to the terrace): How is my wig?

Willard (coolly): Your wig is not on fire,

Nor is it drenched in sauce. It is a wig,

Neither minuscule nor over-big,

A snowbound cirrhus perched on a base of wire:

A mild peruke, unfitted to inspire

Passion, distaste, ennui or secret love.

Marie: Then you don't like it?

Willard: But I do, my dove.

It is most suitable, a sweet peruke

That makes you less a duchess than a duke.

Marie: And so it does! Well, how d'you like my dress?

It is an oldie dyed for this one rout.

Eight hours I spent; Adele and artfulness

Were my companions. All you boys were out.

Willard: A Long Day's Dyeing! It becomes you well.

Marie (on a note of doubt): Am I a vision, or do I repel?

Willard: You are, my dove, a vision. But for sloth,

Willie's companion, I would cut as gay

A figure. Let's be off!(A pause.)How's my beret?

Marie: First let me feed the birds, and pour us both

A slug-slug.  Your beret?  Quite a surprise.

The red brings out the color of your eyes.

Willard: I was a-boozing till that milksop Dawn

Shoved me to bed. A-boozing and a-wenching,

Bacchus and bold bacchante-goosing faun

All rolled in one!

Marie: A-sucking and a-frenching

Is what I'd say. But never mind. Take this

And swallow quick lest we Scavullo miss.

Willard: Farewell, sweet Crocus! Aye, the nimble day

Will have released your trills ere we return

With throbbing megrim, once again to learn

That mixing gin and whisky doesn't pay.

Marie: And you, dear Jug-jug, sing until you burst

While we regret our uncontrollèd thirst!

(to Willard) Another swig?

Willard: Why not?

Marie: Oh, it will be

Fantastic! That I'm sure of.

Willard: You create

Fantasticness where'er you go, chérie.

Marie (under her breath): Especially so when I am overweight.

Willard: You're not!  You look divine, a mixture new

Of snow and blood and sapphire luminescence,

A mad mélange of scarlet moons and crescents

Sewn on a sea of Mediterranean blue!

Marie (gratefully): Of all the wives i' the world, a poet's wife

Must count herself most singularly blest,

To hear the squalor of quotidian life

In stanzas rich from dawn to dusk expressed!

Willard: I know it. Lucky girl!(A pause.)

But aren't you too

Scanning your sentences the way I do?

Marie: It's just a habit, dear.  Right now I'm scanning

The sea to catch a glimpse of that S. S.

United States. I'm mad for Captain Manning!

Willard: He's not my type at all, but Dwight –

Marie: Oh yes!

He'd go insane for that one, though I think

The fact the Captain doesn't smoke or drink

Might be a –

Willard: Quite.  An obstacle, let's say,

To games involving complicated play . . .

But anyway the liner left last night.

Marie: It did? Oh dear. I'll scan the sea no more.

Willard: I wish we could persuade Rupert and Dwight

To come to Pavlik's party!  Such a bore,

This sour distrust of revelry!

Marie: Oh, I know.

Sometimes I wonder if their attitude

Isn't more rough on them than merely rude

To others.  Paradox (excuse the mot)

Is but a cage wherein the owner sits,

Fed by a Crocus of enormous girth.

To him the bird is caged, he's at the Ritz,

And every fag should be erased at birth.

Willard: Well, some at any rate... Yet darling Joe-joy,

You must admit, is utter bliss and blow-joy:

A doll.

Marie: I know. Of course he is. But then

Think of the dreadful would-be gentlemen

Like Colby!

Willard: Or the self-important kids

And would-be-teentsy-weentsy ingenues

Who hop around the Village, kangaroos

Hoping to God you'll think they're katydids . . .

Ben is a doll.  (A pause.)  Hark, darling!  I'm not sure,

But isn't that Scavullo at the door?

Marie: It is. (She goes to the door.) Come in, come in, come in, come in!

The playlet ends and we, my dears, begin!


NOTES: Adele is Menken's sister, frequently described as her sidekick. Scavullo is Francesco Scavullo the fashion photographer. Crocus and Jug-jug are most likely caged birds. Captain Manning was the name of the skipper of the S.S. United States in 1951-52. Dwight is Dwight Ripley. Pavlik is painter Pavel Tchelitchev. Joe-joy is Joe LeSueur. Colby is Colby Walworth, director of an annual antiques show held at the Park Avenue Armory. 

Copyright Frank Polach. Reproduced here with the kind permission of Frank Polach and Douglas Crase. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


All images: Silvia Maglioni and Graeme Thomson, Facs of Life (2009, work in progress). 

Facs of Life. Presentation of work in progress by Silvia Maglioni and Graeme Thomson. Gasworks, Sun 15 March 2009

Silvia Maglioni and Graeme Thomson were at Gasworks on Sunday afternoon to present Facs of Life, their work-in-progress, one of whose beginnings was seeing a 17 hour marathon of Deleuze teaching on Italian television

The artists showed us some of the footage they had excitedly videoed. Filmed at University of Paris VIII in Vincennes (1975-6), it was part of a conscious attempt to "film philosophy." 

The camera was passed between participiants, attempting to create a fluidity of point of view that matched the rhizomatic  and lines of flight of its subject. 

The following text is both reconstruction and response, based on memory and my hand written notes during the event. 

NOTE: The atrocious quality of the image made everyone almost unrecognisable. It had foiled attempts to place the footage in official archives, but fits well with contemporary concerns and Deleuze, too, cautioned against restoring it. 

Thomson outlined some of the reasons for their attraction to the film, and their desire not to historicise it but to respond to the aspects that seemed still in need of response and completion.

(1)The films themselves still had the feel of rushes, remaining to a degree formless. 

(2)The attraction to the material was one of desire not knowledge, as in: I want to be there and share this experience.

(3)The rhythm of the lessons themselves appeared as a musical composition of discourse

(4)A sense of (political) urgency, but also a feeling of calm and dilation. There is all the time in the world for the ideas to come out. 

More fragmentarily:

intensive life... not molar but molecular... footage that exists in LIMBO: 

EXAMPLE 1: When Marielle Burkhalter wanted to put them in an archive, the university said the quality was too poor and threw them away. Burkhalter was able to retrieve half of the original tapes from the trash.

EXAMPLE 2: Deleuze himself worked on a five hour edit, but was unable to clean up the image. Was this before he wrote the letter: restoring will destroy more than it will save. So the work ends up stranded 

between a personal and an historical archive

in a zone of uncertainty not official

between immanence and transcendence

between Deleuze's lessons/ a university at war

an archive and it tries to destroy itself

NOTE: A recognition of the authenticity of this situation is also a loss of communicating on the level of content, something which always gives a philosopher vertigo but makes certain kinds of filmmaker laugh helplessly.

Maglioni and Thomson showed some of the original footage, but their work and the Gasworks event was very much about the present, and most of the three hour seminar was a presentation of their work-with and out of this footage. 


An extract from a 25 minute loop re-working images of the members of that Vincennes class. A beautiful film, almost a poetics for how the atrocious original image quality was feeding into contemporary concerns about presence, identity, pedagogy, and communication... 

... in its flow and flood of presences both material and immaterial...

Sometimes, seeing a brief clip and not speaking French, it was unclear if this was a wonderful educational experience or just someone lecturing to a group of silent students. This film seemed to admit of that uncertainty, maybe as the basis of the educational experience itself. 

In the disintegrations of its imagery, it also highlighted education as the presence of physical bodies, but made it impossible to read those bodies through familiar codifications of gesture or posture, leaving

Work with the plastic matter of the archive. Multiple semiotic components. A soundtrack made of processed sounds of tape buzz, chairs squeaking, Deleuze's breath and respiratory problems, dragging between phrases 

between statements, re-filming the footage in HD video, camera's green eye in the screen a quotation of Hitchcock's Rear Window, going through the screen, mirror/window/wall, transversing, Cocteau and Orphee, to see what is behind as though it's ahead of you


Intensive life of images in the future... it just doesn't feel done with...



The film makers decided they wanted to find some of the Vincennes students. These students, revealed in all the uncertainties of the original footage, had become fictional characters to the film-makers. 

The original university had been demolished, and replaced by a woodland that revealed no traces of the previous architectural inhabitants. People who lived in the area, said Thomson, were no longer sure there had been a university...

Establish a relation with each subject, particular to meeting them. Because of the past but only inhabiting the present: A middle-aged man and Maglioni standing awkwardly in a forest amongst trees. A student stood at the side of a busy motorway at dusk, reading aloud.

The same student sat on the crash barriers in an underpass. The busy motorway in  front of him and the layby area behind. The physical landscape looks like a split screen. Then he is in a warehouse space playing the trombone...

As Maglioni and Thomson worked on their film their was unrest over educational reforms of Nicolas Sarkozy. So they filmed a group of current students at Paris 8. To respond to Deleuze lectures and mythical Vincennes. At the time of the videos, too, this was what they were asking. To be 2009 in 1972. To be 1972 in 2009. 

MISREMEMBERED STATEMENT BY A STUDENT: Ideas are in corners and recesses and obscure corners. We want to be part of society. We want to articulate our immersion, not set up some sense of apartness. But there is the idea of obscure corners to be remembered amidst all this talk of education as service and normalization...

and so history is crossed... so what is to be done with... is unusable... d'un film à venir...

less a territory and more a trajectory... with every student an encounter... what was between us... 

finding a situation for the polyvocality of a person... possible extensions of the body.. compressing then and now into a key word...

and all linked... in the manner of the rhizome... in the manner of the rhizome talking... 

the power of an exhausted film form still retains... not between students and workers.. the university itself the factory...

A RESPONSE: Your film seeks to respond to the avoidance of professionalization. "There's nothing worse than specialists" said Deleuze, by which we can understand now "there is nothing worse than Deleuzians." 

So to respond properly to Deleuze's lectures we have to attune ourselves to their qualities of IMPROPER TRANSMISSION, the qualities that do not fulfill Deleuze's edicts, where faithful becomes distance to faithfulness

A RESPONSE: But how do you find a critical position in-through your engagement with all this material? 


SOME ANSWERS: One of the students had become a philosopher and that was the only straight interview we did. It was very sad. We realized what interested us was more: how do you film a becoming of thought

Deleuze prepared fully for the lectures, cultivated a stuttering, not knowing what he'd say at the moment of speaking, the film, too, approximating this...

The critical approach has to emerge in the films textures and in the dissonance between elements, in an IMPERSONAL CINEMA which expresses not our position but releases another body...

... relaunching a Nouvelle Vague art practice

that gesture that way of smoking  

creating a film that already existed 

guy known already from a Bresson film 

individuality transversed by gesturality

WE HAD AN ARGUMENT: How to film the student in the word-wood. The camera static like Straub filming Pavese. But we are not fixed like Straub. We do not have a fixed revolutionary position. So we make the floating version, the drift of our camera... without subjective direction...



Re-filming the archive and remembering the event as an image of the force of thought, not the representation of a speaker. 

Think of Deleuze and the way that force of thought hits the voice. The theatre of his - our - mine - voice - there's been a crime but where is it and what are you insinuating... the storyteller has been seized

Think of it as the end of the Chris Marker's San Soleil where there is an eradication of representation in order to bring up


FACS OF LIFE was part of the events program accompanying A Long Time Between Suns, an exhibition by The Otolith Group (Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun) at Gasworks 15 Feb- 5 Apr 2009. The next event is Collaborative Filmmaking: A Discussion with John Akomfrah, founding member of the black audio Film Collective (1982-1998) on Wed 1 April 2009, 7-8.30.