PRINT January 2013

Tom McCarthy

Chris Marker, Slon Tango, 1993, video, color, sound, 4 minutes 15 seconds.


THAT STRANGE ELEPHANT. I must have first seen the short in 1999, at the Beaconsfield gallery retrospective that introduced me, like so many other Londoners, to Marker’s work. The four-minute video from 1993 was running on a loop inside a small, decrepit classroom (the building was a former Ragged School), and the accompanying vinyl wall text seemingly contained a typo. Slon Tango? Slow, surely. Then I remembered that slon means “elephant” in various Slavic languages. And bang on cue, this big Slovenian elephant came lumbering his way across the screen.

There were no cuts, no edits, and none of the essayistic monologuing Marker had raised to an art form: just some music by Stravinsky—tango music, oozing the type of melancholic longing that pervades Marker’s oeuvre. And, as though pervaded by it too, the elephant, almost surreally, as he plods his way round his

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