Jacques Perconte
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  1 septembre 2023  
Salvadó-Romero, Alan & Carolina Martínez-López., Comparative Cinema vol X1.
Imaginaries of Collapsology in Experimental Film
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 Salvadó-Romero, Alan & Carolina Martínez-López. 2023. “Imaginaries of Collapsology in Experimental Film.” Comparative Cinema, Vol. XI, No. 20, pp. 113-137. DOI: 10.31009/cc.2023.v11.i20.07

One of the manifestations of collapsology in contemporary visual culture can be found in the apocalyptic visions of mainstream media, based on spectacle of nature. However, it is also possible to find alternative visions that reveal the complexity of the relationships that human beings establish with the planet, perspectives that could help reverse the effects of collapsology, as defined by Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens. The aim of this article is to analyze a number of experimental films that effectively represent environmentalist discourses and forms, thereby offering alternatives to the catastrophist imaginaries characteristic of certain mainstream productions and omnipresent in the media. Beyond the filming of nature, these films adopt a phenomenological and kinesthetic perspective in order to explore different possibilities of cinematographic language and technology.

[...] From the minerality of the planet to the texture of the digitalJacques Perconte’s premise in Avant l’effondrement du Mont Blanc (2020) makes his environmentalist stance clear. With the rising temperatures on the planet accelerating the melting of the glaciers, the artist (indirectly) poses the question: Will we be the last to have the chance to see the peaks of Mont Blanc? To answer it, Perconte begins his film with a daguerreotype of the mountain taken in 1854 by John Ruskin and Frederick Crawley: Aiguilles, Chamonix. The texture of the picture, with its stains and imperfections, evokes André Bazin’s ontology of the photographic image (1975, 23–31), the idea that what we see represented is the trace of a moment, the record of a (geological) time emulsified in the image. An abrupt cut then takes us suddenly from the photographic texture of that image to endless rows of meteorological data on Mont Blanc: weather, latitude, height, and so on. In the era of big data, it is worth noting that our understanding of environmental issues is often mediatized by the kind of data presented on the screen here with a vertical logic, literally showing us a “mountain of data” that scrolls quickly upwards before our eyes to the sound of the blustering winds on the mountain peak (Fig. 6). In short, we see two languages, analog and digital, representing a single motif of nature: the mountain. But rather than establishing a distance between one and the other, Perconte creates a kind of visual correspondence between them. He turns the environmental issue into a representational issue, establishing a relationship between the geological evolution of Mont Blanc and the evolution of the images that have represented it. The rise of the digital is thus highly significant for the representation of collapsology.Having presented this initial dialogue between geological time and digital texture, Perconte goes on to present some cartographic views showing Mont Blanc and its surroundings on a map of the territory whose printed imagery seems to take on a life of its own. The aerial view of the map serves as a counterpoint to the soundtrack (cow bells tinkling) that seems to offer a more horizontal, almost “ground level” view. Following this cartographic view, we are taken fully into the question of the minerality of the mountain and the materiality of the image with a dialogue between opposites, playing with tensions mainly on the basis of the apparently inorganic nature of the digital and the organicity of nature, which takes shape through the deconstruction of the image. Thus, for example, the spectacular sequence of an avalanche that concludes the film evokes a decomposition, creating different levels of abstraction that at times, as contradictory as it may seem, makes the snow appear as if it were an oil painting of a sky (Fig. 7). For Vincent Deville (2022), in this film Perconte creates a geology of images that posits a dialogue between the geological history and the history of the images themselves, by means of a parallel between the pixel and the mineral elements of the mountain. Similarly, a parallel is also established between the compression of the images and the snow tumbling down the mountain, which is presented almost alchemically as a living being thanks to an organic use of digital technology, as we can see in the sequence where a vertical pan up to the peak of Mont Blanc gradually breaks down into pixels that translate the minerality of the million-year-old rocks. And at the same time, the soundtrack evokes the roar of the sea or of the tumbling snow, in a natural movement which, like a Leviathan, shakes the very foundations of the Earth. Perconte depicts the tectonic shifts that gave the mountain its shape, rising up like a wave of stone. Perconte’s attitude towards the environment being filmed is also informed by two aspects mentioned before: decentering and kinesthesia. In the case of Avant l’effondrement du Mont Blanc, to be able to reveal the different space-time in which nature exists, the filmmaker, as he explains in an interview with Della Noce (2022), connects with the mountain on an inner journey to stillness. Indeed, the dialectic of mobility and immobility (or “quietude” and “inquietude”), which is key for representing an eternal state of becoming that fuses past, present, and future, is perfectly represented in the sequence where the shot of the snowy peaks of Mont Blanc unexpectedly enters an airplane. Quietude is represented by the “humble” and contemplative mood of the artist, who allows the plane itself to choose the framing: “My attitude is not to look through the lens; I look only at the beginning, Mont-Blanc is in the image, then the plane does the rest, I hold the camera” (2022, 227). This “quietude” stands in opposition to the economic “in-quietude” of these kinds of “tourist” mountains that tumble down (2022, 227), revealing another of the tensions Perconte plays with in his work. [...]

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