TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT Summer 2006

CHRIS MARKER: THE REVENGE OF THE EYE

Chris Marker, Paris, April 2006, 2006, black-and-white digital image. From the series “The Revenge of the Eye,” 2006.

FOR SIX DECADES Chris Marker has borne witness to the great social upheavals of his day, memorializing through film the legacies of the Russian Revolution and the Great War, World War II, the end of colonialism, Vietnam, and May ’68. No wonder, then, that he would take a longer view than many of the mass protests that roiled cities around France this past spring, when the conservative government of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin pushed through a spectacularly ill-advised First Employment Contract (CPE) designed to encourage firms to hire young workers by permitting employers to fire them without cause during an extended probationary period. After weeks of disruptive demonstrations and strikes, the CPE was definitively withdrawn in April, an apparent victory for the coalition of student protesters and labor unions. “Villepin,” Marker quipped, “managed to do something nobody in the Left had been able to do—[get] the unions to cooperate with each other.”

Chris Marker, Paris, May Day 2006, 2006, black-and-white digital image. From the series “The Revenge of the Eye,” 2006.

As he had so many times before, Marker took to the streets to record events as they unfolded. The portfolio of images presented in these pages is distilled from those weeks of civil unrest. “The Revenge of the Eye,” seen here for the first time in print, draws on the same black-and-white palette applied to his media installations Silent Movie, 1994–95, and OWLS AT NOON Prelude: The Hollow Men, 2005. But those were summary, elegiac reckonings, his past and the century’s, rendered in the colorless hues of archival memory. In this new series, he re-presents the present as, effectively, already past. The images are not “bona fide photographs,” as he puts it, but frame captures from his video footage, studied in slow-motion playback to stem the otherwise “inordinate flow of video and television.” Working in this “superliminal” mode, Marker searches for the “one frame lost in the stream of almost identical frames . . . the real photogram, something nobody has perceived—not even the guy who shot it (me, in most cases).” The subsequent digital manipulation he has imposed, and the startlingly flattened depth of some of the compositions, results in images unlike any others he has ever exhibited; it’s as though the faces of 2006 had become the faces of 1936 and 1236, the persistence of the Popular Front no less than the medieval among us.

In Marker’s work, the face as irreducible mystery has been a gravitational force, from the country-keyed cover girls of the Petite Planète travel books onward into his films—the fathomless Koumiko; the haunting woman standing on the jetty at Orly; the African woman in the Bissau marketplace whose glance back “lasted a twenty-fourth of a second, the length of a film frame”; and the “shattered faces” staring out from Denise Bellon’s postwar acts of witness.

But from Le joli mai (1963), into Le fond de l’air est rouge (A Grin Without a Cat, 1977), and up to his current film, Chats Perchés (The Case of the Grinning Cat, 2004; a deceptively casual snapshot, post–September 11, 2001, into 2004, of Parisians drawn into the streets for political gatherings), Marker has also with fidelity immersed himself in the riverrun of human interaction, even if only to conclude, as he observes in Le joli mai and here confirms, that “if we dissect this many-faced crowd, we find that it is made up of the sum of solitudes.”

Bill Horrigan

“Chris Marker: The Revenge of the Eye” will be on view at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, January 27–April 15, 2007.

Chris Marker, Paris, April 2006, 2006, black-and-white digital image. From the series “The Revenge of the Eye,” 2006.

Chris Marker, Paris, April 2006, 2006, black-and-white digital image. From the series “The Revenge of the Eye,” 2006.

Chris Marker, Paris, April 2006, 2006, black-and-white digital image. From the series “The Revenge of the Eye,” 2006.

Chris Marker, Paris, May Day 2006, 2006, black-and-white digital image. From the series “The Revenge of the Eye,” 2006.