Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Magic Marker

Chris Marker
A Grin Without A Cat
Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2014

I missed the late Chris Marker's recent exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery (well, I do live 500 miles away), so I got a copy of the catalogue by way of consolation. His major works such as La Jetée (1962) and Sans Soleil (1983) and their influence (Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys) may be familiar, but there are many other films and artworks that are perhaps less well known and equally deserving.

Zapping Zone (Proposals for an Imaginary Television), 1990-94, Collage
This quotation from young Marker's critical essay on French writer Jean Giradoux,  'Giraudoux par lui-même' (1952), stated his frame of reference early in artistic his career:

Since the the beginning of the century, through the conversation-poems of Apollinaire, the newspaper collages of Picasso and Braque and the tracings of Max Ernst, to Calder's mobiles and the tick-tock shocks of McLaren via others that were less foreseen, a plot unfolds (...) which consists of raising the most humble things from the disdain to which they were abandoned by the art of the egotistical, humanist and megalomaniacal periods. (...) Redemption extends to the whole of creation; gold and lead are guests at the same supper (with a preference for lead).

Marker stuck with this ethos and 30 years later created Junkopia (1981), a short film (6 min) meditating on upcycled outsider art constructions on Bay Area waste ground on the outskirts of San Francisco.

The atmospheric soundtrack is also by Marker, under the anagrammatic pseudonym Michael Krasna. I find Junkopia electrifying as with minimal means it conjures all sorts of possible narratives and associations, from casual hippy art project to abandoned outsider theme park to a frozen moment of an ossified future, a projection of another fantastical dimension into our own world of mundane traffic and freeways. Utopia in the edgelands, lost visions in the margins.

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