Jon was angry. Jim was angry. Jim was very angry. Jim was very, very angry. Jim was very, very, very angry. Jim was very, very, very, very angry. Jim was very, very, very, very, very angry. Jim was very, very, very, very, very, very angry.
He looked at his writing.
‘Hmmmm’, he thought. It seems a bit too irate. I should maybe try and be a little more calm, a little more… he tried to think of the word. ‘Sanguine’, he said, aloud.
He tried again.
Jim was calm. Jim was very calm.
It was already lacking bite. He refused to continue. Point blank refused. You don’t want your reader to fall asleep at the wheel. He started thinking deeper. Thinking about who Jim really was. Jim had been at work all week and he had been working really hard at the office. He thought about how he would feel if he had been at work all week, working really hard at the office.
Jim was tired. Jim was very tired. Jim was very, very tired. Jim was very, very, very tired.
It’s a bit too similar to calm, he thought. Looking at the clock, he saw that it was gone midnight. He yawned. He took a sip of coffee and ploughed on, determined to see the piece through. He had done this before and great things had come out of nowhere. Literally blazing passages of furious writing. He could tell he was on the cusp. It would happen any minute. He thought again. Thinking helps, he thought. He thought about Jims soul. Deeper than before. Deeper than work or public identity, he considered the bassline of Jims existence, raw and uninhibited. Jim had always loved nature, loved walking in the trees that were a short distance from his house. He looked back over his work. Perhaps that was why he was calm, he thought. Nature tends to have that effect. Jim also had a vague memory of looking at frogspawn in the pond at the bottom of his garden. Watching it grow and hatch into tadpoles before metamorphosising into frogs. He had never gotten over this. Even into adulthood. It was like a miracle. How would Jim feel about this? About this natural wonder, magical and unexplainable.
Jim was inspired. Jim was very inspired. Jim was very, very, very inspired.
Shit, he thought as he noticed he had written one too many very’s to describe Jim’s emotional state. He got wound up and threw a pen across the room. It hit the wall and fell to the floor. Silence. He thought about starting again and working on how angry Jim was, but he was a persevering kind of guy. He refused to back down in the face of small defeats. Anyway, he had found inspiration, and you can’t throw that sort of thing away just like that. He thought again about the frog. How amazing it was. He had an impulse to see a frog, right there and then. He looked out of the window at the night sky, crisp and alight with stars and moonbeams. Within a minute he was on his feet and pulling on his jacket. He left the piece of paper on the table. There was a bracing chill as he shut the door and he zipped up his jacket. He walked quickly down the road and towards the trees and pond. When he got there he saw that the ground was still damp from the rain earlier in the day. He had only put his trainers on. No matter though, it would be worth it. He continued into the darkness of the trees, following a short path that he remembered taking previously. Yes, he was near the pond now. He could smell it. He took a few steps away from the trail, into the wrangle of branches and long grass. He checked his watch and it was a quarter past two in the morning. Thirty seconds later he was there. His feet were swamped and his trainers potentially ruined. It didn’t matter. The moon was beaming down and he was there at the pond. He let his eyes drift across the sight. Bullrushes, a shopping trolley, decaying leaves scattered across the surface of the water. Crisp packets and car tyres, too. The flat surface of the water looked like oil, thick and impenetrable. He bent down to look in more detail, to observe the goings on beneath the surface. He saw plentiful pondweed and algae amassing at the edges of the water, but no frogs or frogspawn.
On the way home he stood in the middle of the road, pools of water amassing around his feet. It was November he realised before trudging back to his front door. He didn’t remove his shoes before going back into the house.
“If you want to make a documentary you should automatically go to the fiction, and if you want to nourish your fiction you have to come back to reality.” – Jean-Luc Godard.
The current retrospective of Chris Marker’s work at The Whitechappel Gallery, London, is a definitive observation of the enigmatic artist who’s most famous work ‘La Jettee’, has been a cornerstone of Lectures and Arthouse cinema retrospectives for years. Far from being the exhibitions masterpiece, ‘La Jettee’ sits alongside a career’s worth of meditation on memory and its disparate meanings and implementations.
Upon entry into the gallery, we are presented with a screening of ‘Statues Also Die’, a collaboration with the Film Maker Alain Renais mediating on the African experience of colonialism, from discovery, through slavery and commodification, to aspects of integration with the West. Made in 1953, the film was banned for ten years because of the nature of its comments on colonialism. Today it looks like a pair of filmmakers light years ahead of their peers in both the understanding of geopolitical concepts and the boldness of its historical comment. It refuses to be cowed by the commercialisation of black culture and stands firm in its belief that African identity has its own place, distinct from the European and American readings of the continent that tried to make it their own. The magic of African craft and culture, almost lost to the mindlessness of the Western consumer.
‘Zapping Zone’ is Markers take on postmodern media. Screens stacked and in competition with one another in an otherwise darkened room. There are images of The Berlin Wall, newsreaders, Japanese television, and archival footage in a cacophony of visuals that long predates the internet. That said, it does not lose its impact for being presented on television screens, more it reminds us of the physicality of meaning that the online world streams into a pre-assembled, sensationless package.
Upstairs, ‘La Jettee’ forms the centre of the show. A narrative that draws on trauma, memory, and time, and puts them into a story that is a side-step from both pulp fiction and the theories of deconstruction that were emergent in the 1960’s. The story is a cyclical reflection on death, its inevitability and its inescapability. It creates photomontages of still images that are one moment drawn from the characters’ personal memory, the next their technology induced premonition, and splices them with terrifying images of post-apocalyptic Paris. Its effects are still profound and it leaves the viewer on a searing moment of recurrent horror. We leave, ourselves ‘marked by an image’, much like the central character of the film.
In the final room we are presented with pieces that engaged more directly with Marker’s Left Wing political principles. Images from his travels and documentation of war zones and protest are prolific in both his photography and film. ‘A Grin Without a Cat’, the piece that gives the show its title, interjects elements of humour amongst an arbitrary sweep of collected footage into the didactic tones of revolutionary commentary. The image of the grinning cat occurred around Paris in response to the Iraq War and took on the mantle of covert opposition to political hegemonies. Marker skillfully draws its lineage back to the Cheshire cat grin first popularised by Lewis Carroll in 1865 while simultaneously documenting its use in modern day France.
The exhibition is an excellent opportunity to see the full spectrum of Chris Marker’s work and to acquire a full understanding of an enigmatic artist who was not scared to adopt dedicated and complex stances of opposition in the face of media domineering and political upheavals.
The exhibition is free and at The Whitechapel Gallery until 22nd June.
When the automatic door lost its automatic and turned into a door,
The rank outsiders lost their rank and emerged as odds on favourites,
As the lonesome streets cut adrift their lonesome to become a neighbourhood,
The urban fox left the city and turned into a fox.
When the promising career broke its promises and turned into a career,
The devastating blow recovered from devastation and got remembered as a blow,
As the undeniable changes were denied, and left in laboratories,
The revisionist theory revised itself into far flung myth.
When the singing birds lost their voice and silence was the chorus,
The main roads were removed from the mains and left to be roads,
As unpredictable occurrences were monitored and cohered into pattern,
The invaluable got valued and sold off for nothing.
When the special effects failed to be special so all that remained were effects,
The uncontrollable urge anchored itself into nothing more than a wish,
As the sinking feeling lost its feeling and turned into a sink,
The deepest sea was drained until there was nothing more to see.
When the wild frontiers were tamed and reduced to urban skylines,
The hard shoulder softened into something to lean on,
As the free world was split by opinion and left to be free,
Lifes driving wind hit the brakes,
and from then on everything was a breeze.
The time of our lives
waiting for photographs to upload,
just to prove to strangers
that we are having
the time of our lives.