Jacques Perconte
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  14 janvier 2020  
Lacurie, Occitane; Sauvage, Barnabé, Necsus.
Cinema and a ‘time-varying universe’: An interview with curator Antonio Somaini
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On 12 January 2020 the exhibition Time Machine: Cinematic Temporalities opened in the Palazzo del Governatore in Parma. Commissioned by the city’s Department of Culture led by the film studies scholar Michele Guerra and conceived as part of the cultural program for Parma 2020 Italian Capital of Culture, this exhibition offers a transmedial and media-archaeological answer to the general theme of the cultural program: ‘La cultura batte il tempo’ (‘culture beats time’). Unfortunately, the troubled times we are experiencing this year forced the Palazzo to close its door on 8 March. However, thanks to the remediations to social distancing that the internet provides, Antonio Somaini – the main curator of the exhibition and a film and media studies professor at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3 – could grant us this interview about Time Machine and its substantial catalogue.


Lacurie & Sauvage:  The first aisle of the Palazzo immediately establishes the Epsteinian thought of cinema – from the Tempestaire of the twentieth century to the twenty-first century one by Jacques Perconte – as the Ariadne’s thread of the fluid conception of time from which the rest of the exhibition is derived. To what extent have Epstein’s writings and films guided the composition of the exhibition? Or, on the contrary, was it as the works were collected around the idea of the ‘time machine’ that the Epsteinian echoes that existed between them emerged?

Somaini: After the initial, central room the exhibition is then organised in four sections. The first, ‘Flows’, tackles the ways in which cinema and other media based on moving images have used different techniques of time manipulation in order to capture and visualise the flow of time as it manifests itself in the flow of the natural elements (wind, clouds, waves, rain, flowing water, changing atmospheres, etc.). The second section, titled ‘Instants’, tackles the different techniques of time manipulation that have been employed in order to isolate different instants or different fragments of time, in order to then re-arrange them in different ways. The third section, ‘Re-montage’, deals with the vast world of found footage practices, in which techniques of time manipulation operate onto pre-existing film materials, with their own specific temporalities. The fourth and last section, ‘Oscillations’, presents different techniques such as time reversals, loops, multiple views of the same instant, as well as a series of works that deal with the relationship between, on the one hand, the specific temporality of the medium of celluloid film, with its photo-sensitive materiality, and, on the other, the longue durée of the geological processes of sedimentation and cristallisation.

The films and the writings of Jean Epstein have been a major reference point throughout the elaboration of the exhibition project, and more specifically in relation to the section titled ‘Flows’. Epstein’s understanding of cinema, in L’Intelligence d’une machine (1946), as a ‘machine à penser le temps’ has been one of the guiding ideas of the entire project, and films such as Le Tempestaire (1947) – as you notice – showed us clearly how cinematic techniques of time manipulation have often been conceived as techniques capable of intervening onto the very material fabric of the natural world. Jacques Perconte’s own Tempestaire (2020), one of the two works specifically produced for our exhibition, has provided a wonderful way of prolonguing Epstein’s insights, through the new temporalities of generative videos: videos whose duration is potentially endless, since they keep on being reworked by a specifically conceived software. Were the exhibition to stay open for the next 200 years, Perconte’s video would still be showing new images that never repeat themselves. 

Fig. 4: Le Tempestaire, Jacques Perconte, 2020.



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