Jacques Perconte
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  31 janvier 2017  
Brenez, Nicole, Nach der Film.
The Consulted Cinema and Some of Its Effects
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I wish to name the films we can see on the internet the ‘consulted cinema,’ so as to discriminate the ‘cinema’ and the various reproductions of films. What are the effects of the ‘culture of consultation,’ referring to the films available on the internet, as opposed to and articulated by the ‘reference prints,’ referring to the culture of seeing films on the cinema screen? Which effects are generated by such a ‘culture of consultation’—effects on Cinephilia as well as on new styles—for the best and for the worst? Which relationships can we observe so far between the ‘consulted cinema’ and the films directly made with digital tools according to contemporary practices of immediate diffusion? I will suggest three new gestures, so that film archives can become a main site not only of preservation, restoration and diffusion, but also of cultural emancipation.

With this contribution, I want to offer you the most optimistic vision of the future of film—not because of my capacities for denial, but thanks to a great range of objective facts. I wish to show that one of our possible futures not only avoids the disappearance of film (as material), but leads to a multiplication of its forms of appearance.

The film industry produces objects, but mainly it produces assumptions. Whenever it forces us to use the latest tools, to adopt new formats and to follow new standards, some filmmakers, videographers and artists are rebelling and practice forms of technical disobedience which becomes an aesthetic movement in itself. The contemporary technical disobedience crosses at least two traditions: the tradition of Lettrism (practicing low tech and, with the ‘infinitesimal film,’ inventing no tech at all) and Michael Snow’s LA RÉGION CENTRALE (1970) — for which we have to invent the term single tech: not only is the work itself a single machine, but it also represents a single use of the machine, which breaks the protocols and postulates a discipline all by itself.

Today, the opposers are refusing technological guidelines in manifold ways: by inventing their own tools, by reviving old instruments, by diverting circuits and instructions. Throughout the history of cinema, artists have not only created their own fleet, but also their own logic and their own technical temporality. Melancholic, a-synchronous or simply in advance of all others, they allow us to locate and criticize the industrial requirement. Speaking about analogue film, let us face some positive facts:

Just looking at these three developments, what remains is not only a great quality of analogue movies, but also the potential for fascinating new developments. This energy of persistence co-exists with the exponential multiplication of degraded reproductions of films. I will now evoke three cases of fertile confrontations between gorgeous analogue film and its sometimes fascinating degraded versions.

1) The benefits of consultation versions;
2) The invention of film as a model: new modes of film visibility;
3) The case of a luxurious version: and more tasks for the film archives.


2. The Invention of Film as an Aesthetic Model. New Modes of Film Visibility

Thanks to many artists and historians, we know how film, from a simple, raw material, has become the subject of visual investigations, an icon of cinema, a problematic protagonist of the transfer from theatres to galleries and museums, a hero of representation. We must consider that film—thanks to Constructivism, Surrealism, Lettrism, Structuralism—has been one of the most celebrated materials in the history, comparable to marble in the history of architecture. For many digital artists, the textures and light offered by film remain a visual ideal.

But there are also unexpected and discrete new artistic uses of film—of the film as model. I would now like to evoke two cases from the artists Marylène Negro and Jacques Perconte.

In 2010, Marylène Negro agreed to contribute a film for an exhibition entitled ‘Anonymous.’ Her creation, entitled ‘X+,’ explores the visual and acoustic forms of presence thanks to which the photochemical traces of countless anonymous figures can persist, insist or dissolve—traces of those countless figures whose existence forms the tissue of humanity, and whose mingled gestures, noticed or unnoticed, make up the supposed ‘collective’ substratum of collective history.

On her timeline, Marylène Negro superimposed ten activist films from a body of work that has been, in most cases, relegated to the margins of the official history of images; films which were sometimes themselves collective or anonymized. Among these films are, to name some of the famous ones: THE BUS (d: Haskell Wexler, 1963) which shows participants on their way to the Civil Rights March on Washington, or LOSING JUST THE SAME (d: Saul Landau, 1966), which portrays the daily life of a black teenager from West Oakland on his way to prison, IN THE YEAR OF THE PIG (d: Emile de Antonio, 1968), a fresco of the Vietnam war, and WINTER SOLDIER (d: Winterfilm Collective, 1972), consisting of lectures by Vietnam War veterans whose testimony on the atrocities drove them into illegality, WATTSTAX (d: Mel Stuart, 1973), presenting us a concert to commemorate the Watts riots of 1965, or UNDERGROUND (d: Emile de Antonio / Mary Lampson / Haskell Wexler, 1976) about the politics of the Weathermen who went into radical activism and clandestinity.

From this body of work, Marylène Negro has invented a new form of editing that probes depth as well as scope, verticality as well as horizontality. She superimposed the ten films in their whole linearity, and then sculpted their relations of opacity and transparency, so as to bring forth one or several visual and sound images from her volume of layers. Here, the traditional projection of a film is reinterpreted into a digital, horizontal linearity; but it remains a ruling structure, like the scrolling in the projector. While watching this, one has to consider that each silhouette and human presence is for Marylène Negro a visual event, a visual subject sufficient in itself.

X+, R: Marylène Negro, F 2010, source: Marylène Negro

The interweaving of these subjects by superimposition becomes a concrete analysis not of a concrete situation, but of complex movements of history. A form of history that occurs through latencies, resonances, deflagrations, involutions, short circuits, lags and synchronies. In this sense, Marylène Negro’s film imagines and thinks collective history in the fullness of its complexities, providing each silhouette its status as a historical agent.

Whereas Marylène Negro takes film as a model of linearity, Jacques Perconte takes it as a model of instability. And indeed, analogue film is unstable for at least three reasons: 1) inside the frame, where the density of the print can vary; 2) from frame to frame, where each frame questions the stability of the prior frame; and 3) when projected, in the movement of traction. Jacques Perconte takes this as his starting point and tries to infuse the instability of the photochemical reel into the stability of the digital world. Let us consider one of the most obviously artistic Lumière films, shot by Félix Mesguisch in 1900: PANORAMA ON THE BEAULIEU-MONACO RAILWAY, that is a true experiment on the textures and optical properties of black and white film in relation to Jacques Perconte’s AFTER THE FIRE made in 2010.

Nice: panorama sur la ligne de Beaulieu à Monaco, III, R: Auguste & Louis Lumière, F 1900, source: Youtube

Après le feu (After the fire), R: Jacques Perconte, F 2010, source: Jacques Perconte

Jacques Perconte invented an algorithm able to ‘glitch’ the colours from the dust and the rays that we can briefly see at the beginning of the film on the train window. It is a way to monumentalize the most volatile accidents, referring to the ‘imponderable’ by which Henri Langlois summarized the genius of the Lumière Brothers capturing the Zeitgeist.

Thanks to this invention, the digital can develop a new sensitivity to coincidence, randomness, accidents, all the phenomena capable of contradicting its own order. Perconte’s work is a permanent homage to the instability of the photochemical print as it can be infused into the digital technologies. When did the history of the positive effects of mechanical reproduction begin, considering reproduction as a creation and as a blessing for elaborating new ideals—especially when the reproduction is a transference and degradation of properties?


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