by Jean-Michel Bouhours published in yann beauvais 40 anos de cinemativismo edited by Edson Barrus for B3, Recife 2014
While the present time urges us to seek always for the bigger – big spaces, big museums for monumental works, the spirit of contradiction urged me to find satisfaction in the small. Small is beautiful, to borrow a famous expression. Spatial constraints produces a form of asceticism that suits me. Finally, the induced monumental facilitate to not choose nor to prioritize. We talk about catalogue raisonné but is it reasonable to be exhaustive?. So live the small, the tiny, the piccolito, the pequeñito. The Duchamp box as a suitcase, as many gestures of Duchamp, has been a visionary and programmatic proposal.
Choices must be made for the suitcase, where for the traveller it was reduced to a bare minimum. This principle of chemical reduction of a sauce to the bottom or to « a reduction to glace, » is also the basis of the culinary arts, to bring up the flavors.
Exhibiting, yann beauvais 40 years of activity, who has worked hard, both in his own creation and toward those he supported as a programmer, curator, critic and historian, in 80 square meters surface, requires obviously, drastic choices. All the work of yann beauvais is clearly not presented here. Far from it. Yann Beauvais A to Z remaining; we will simply go from y to b penultimate marks across the Roman alphabet taken down.
While my choice focussed on three films, selected from a filmography that has dozens, they seemed to me, able to synthesize three constants in his work : the formal language implemented from R (1976), the activism he has shown with society borderline movements, experimental cinema and the cause of gay and lesbians community and finally his relationship to the World not through the implementation of its representation – what Debord pointed as a society of the spectacle, but through its misuse; smash or ruin media in their blindness or fascination functions.
Begin with an R1 (a tune). I never asked yann, what meant this abbreviative consonant. R, a tune of what anyway? of music from the silence of the projection room. The rhythms of the image alone will produce an inner music that is likely to be heard within the intimacy of each spectator. An aria by Johann Sebastian Bach in which the violin seems to throw you off in your own body. Surfing Light Cone’s site I found this text about the film, of which with a surprise, I discovered to be the author : “The image of R is in black and white, it shows a garden which we sense as a glorious forgotten past, but which is today delivered to the mere presence of weeds. The image vibrates, describing a geographical space, of which the final sequence will deliver a truncated continuous version. In doing so, the film responds to a visual rhythmical construction, developed on the basis of a score that determines the presence or absence of the image (black), the order of succession and its pace. yann beauvais has developed its own visual style by performing a two voices invention of Bach. He uses the image as a sampling range that is, the visual panorama becomes a keyboard with keys (shots) that the musical score will control. The gap (interval) between the notes in the score of Bach (in theory it is the number of degrees between the scores that determine intervals) defines the difference between the frames; for example, a third (musical interval of 3 degrees) correspond to a succession of images shifted by a visual angle of 15 degrees and up. From this central part inspired by the invention, yann beauvais created before and after free variations, such as authorized by baroque music that inspired it. R is made with a syncopated rhythm and picture space decomposed and surreal, giving rise to « memory », an affective place that no fluid and “clean” panoramic would allowed. Vibration, excessive flicker gives to the picture an hypnagogic aspect reinforced by a white cone of light on one edge of the frame due to a lack of seal on a Bolex camera, and which happily reminds us the film image as light, and the specific properties of light scattering within film.”
Deke Dusinberre stated that the location, very important in this film, is surrounded by mystery, was that of an eighteenth century house, in front of which was played works of Bach in the century of the Enlightment. The past seems everywhere: in this black and white picture which is a bit wash-out, in the weeds, in this house of which we sense the more prestigious past than the present which seemed no longer performing2. The film is based on the metonymy of the cut that is twofold. The light cutting caused by the black images in the flow of the sequence, and then the beam induces by the white cone that breaks the rectangle of the cinematic image, deconstructs its integrity. Cinema is about the cut; it is what is necessary to make the image reproduce a movement so perfectly illusionist. It is linked to the history of cinema, its technical invention with the Maltese cross, which would allow to intersect the flow of the continuous advancement of the film strip to the invention of the editing that would enable to create a discontinuous cinematic space-time with some plasticity. Cinema is by excellence the art of the cutting. Buñuel and Dali launched their cinematographic work with a close up of an eye cut with a scalpel done by Buñuel himself in Un Chien Andalou (1929). Their film was to burst the retinal order. But despite the flood of so-called strong images, violent, it retains its ability to scare. The eye ( the seeing organ) can handle all possible massacre, with all the atrocities that humans are capable of achieving, but perhaps less the spectacle of its own slaughter3. As Georges Bataille says : the relationship with the eye is immediately located between attraction and horror, at the core of an acute and contradictory reactions4. The cut is constituent to the construction of the image according to the perspectival model in which the picture is « made » in the plane that intersects the pyramid of the light beam whose top center is the eye.
This visual pyramid became a light cone with Anthony MacCall Line Describing A Cone (1973) shown at the last EXPRMNTL Festival in Knokke Le Zoute in 1975, was a shock to a generation of filmmakers of which myself and yann were part of. The approach McCall was part of, was an extraordinary movement of expanded cinema in England in the mid-70s, in which were explored multiple screens devices, expanded projections, shadows-plays. The cone will become a rallying symbol for filmmakers who will rally under the banner of Light Cone, the distribution structure Yann create in 1982 with Miles McKane in Paris and with a remarkably destiny, since 30 years later it lasts, and grows while adapting to economic and technological development within the evolution of moving image. This cone, an historical accident of the chamber of the camera not properly sealed beckons in R. act as the cutting of the chisel in full view, while this cut usually occurs between two frames so that the projected image on the screen may not be aware of. This cutting of the scissors on the postcards used in Sans Titre 84, where the triumphal arch is cut into slices and reconstituted as a scanner does, will led yann b to the metaphor of the differentiated split image, arranged in the manner of shutters of a fan in New York Long Distance (1994) and in Des rives (1998). In double or triple projection, RR (1976-85), is the vertical slot, along which each image appears symmetrically curl or fold in the manner of a transparent panel, on its lateral Carmontelle windings5. For the « unframed » R -I used intentionaly this word, twisting it but it is one that yann used about his work: the unframed- cinema is a space of the gap and the discontinuous flow of luminous matter, seems to have miraculously disappeared in favor of a fictional reconstruction akin perfectly aesthetic panoramic. Yann return to the image lines at each of its facilities. What are these lines of images: a wire, almost invisible to the naked eye, but the contradictory dialectic or dynamic of the images makes a tangible and tenuous line. It is nothing less than a boundary where conflict of images are materialized. These have a high capacity for spatial simulation turning into the edges of prisms, sometimes giving the feeling of a leaked images along an axis is in contrast to an increase of the image in front of the screen plane. In the case of RR or Quatr’un (1993) the fact that YB uses the same image as root, inverted and therefore proposed as its reverted reflection (mirror effect) counteracts the impact of the boundary line image in favor of an harmony of the two voices echoing the ones that one can find in Bach’s music. For Quatr’un, the figure of the cross is dominant, dividing the projection space into four rectangles. The emphasis on horizontal favors the horizon and therefore simulate a continuity, whereas the vertical remains as the most abstract rhythms, as hight voltage line of images. The installation was the subject of a musical collaboration by Köner. The R (aria) conceived by the musician is a musical drone coupled with a sort of unidentifiable buzz: it could be that of printing presses whose rattling rolls were muffled when you think you’ve spotted a mechanical dimension of sound or the distant sound of a waterfall when it seems an absolute fluidity.
The irruption of AIDS in the 80s and the hecatomb it caused in the gay community, has given voice to yb. His involvement will be with words and voice. Tu sempre,(2001) radicalizes this point of denominational language, using fighting speeches invading the exhibition space with diffracted sentences on every wall of the room where the piece is shown. The sound design of Köner begins with a kind of crowd noise that could be the rumor of a stadium or the inferno rumor of Dante :
« There, as far as we could hear,
There was no shouting,
but nothing but sighs,
Which shudder eternal air.
It felt sorrow without torment
Faced by a large crowd
In men, children, women of all ages »
Dante’s Divine Comedy, Hell
From this sound would emerged, at the third of the film, the voice of yb.
Luchando made in 2011 is a film of a rare complexity. It is located on the filmic lineage of films begun with Spetsai (1989) where the filmmaker seeks a dialectical relationship, the equivalent of counterpoint in music, between travelogs made in moments of intense emotion facing the sublime in nature, or cityscape or a situation and a discursive counterpart. This dialectic summon the two brain areas: the vestigial brain solicited by the sense of sight in a register of sublimation and cortex, and cognitive brain that leads a serious reflection, if not dramatic and therefore unexalting. In the case of Spetsai, the text of Guy Debord Comments on the society of the spectacle serves as prevarication idyllic images filmed on an island in the Aegean Sea. Happiness is only apparent; the ecological dangers posed by the nuclear industry is indeed invisible, therefore absent from the picture; provided there is a continuing threat to the inter titles recall as « warnings ». The text intersects the flow of images; its reading stops at regular intervals the visual mode ; reading is a section within a mode of visual enjoyment.
Luchando was also made as a result of a trip to Cuba in 2009, it is sometimes difficult to detect the personal images in the middle of archival images. But in any case, it is here a travel film. Perhaps it is its antithesis as it addressed very lucidly question about the real motivations of the trip? What was behind this initiative, asked the artist? Is the motivations linked to a revolutionary romanticism on the part of a Westerner whose generation was steeped in Marxist and revolutionary theories, and who dreamed of changing the world in the light of the Third World liberation movements being Guevarist or Castrist. A romanticism that blunted with the issue of human rights and the plight of political prisoners and capitalism – Lenin said : capitalists are able to sell us the ropes that would be used to hung them – Recycling into « derivatives items. » Was it curiosity? or was he too, yb, a sex tourist? So many questions asked bluntly or without any taboos. The condition of homosexuality in Cuba is the subject of the film, without the possibility to say that it is the center. The political history, the past, the glamour of Cuban music, everything seems to be linked indiscriminately : the issue of the persecution of homosexuals is telescoped with an interview with Fidel Castro, as if it were vain to focus on the subject, because as the filmmaker recognizes the reality is far more complex than the potential tourist, even informed may think he knows. In all lucidity, the author warns that this trip is part of a « widespread double bind experience ». The fantasy of the revolutionary ideal telescope with sexual fantasy. Yb shows that the situation is more complex. In an interview with the revolutionary leader, the fantasy is no longer electrified by Fidel, trying to show that the personal development of each individual is possible in the context of the Revolution. But the old Fidel marred by the exercise of unchecked power has only this enticement of the hero who opposed American imperialism at the turn of the sixties. The archive footage of the period of the Bay of Pigs and the missile crisis remind us that blessed time when there was still a « good class struggle » between good and evil cause, a struggle between the strong and the weak . In this context, the magic of his rhetoric was at the top of its effeiciency.
The cut is always at work with images flashing in double exposures with other images: the discontinuous flow is a phenomenon of electrification of the « sequence strain. » Because in this film the dominant figure of style is the multiple exposure. This has been used very often with the cinema and appear in dream sequences in Luis Buñuel, Germaine Dulac, René Clair and Jean Epstein. In Luchando, the overlaping is there to remind us about the impossible uniqueness of reality. It appears as a contemporary disruption of landmarks aggravated or symbolized by the disorder of the senses. The flow of the images show perfectly contradictory thoughts. Voice over from a propaganda film is torn to pieces by contemporary testimony about a police state controlling all citizens, including tourists who see the country as how the authorities want to make it seen. The used of the sound and visual multiple exposure has several functions. While it is the metonymy of a real Handling: events for Castro where the persecuted should applaud their persecutors, tourism in which we present a showcase of the country or the ruined landscape of Havana, described by a Cuba as a mere set intended to remind the state of war in the country against the imperialist invader. Overprinting is also the paradigm of interference with an accumulation of perfectly contradictory speeches. The image layers underlying the image area alone is a deceptive appearance, not easy to read. Sedimentary principle ambition ruin the image of a real unity and gives a representation of the double bind from which this film is designed as testimony.
D’un couvre feu (about a curfew) (2006). The historian yb cinema has contributed to the recognition of the film genre named found footage. This genre established itself took off after the Second World War, with the likes of Bruce Conner, Raphael Montãnez Ortiz in the United States or Maurice Lemaitre and Guy Debord in France. This cinema practices of editing shots or sequences borrowed and recycled from others, regained new interest in the late 80s with Martin Arnold, Christian Marclay, Craig Baldwin, Keith Sanborn or Bill Morrison. In 2001, with yann beauvais, we organized a film series at the Centre Pompidou with a publication, Monter sampler, l’échantillonage generalisé which replaced within an historical perspective the very contemporary issues of the sample, the recycling of images and sounds and questions what these practices addressed to the aesthetic, ethical and legal fields (copyright versus copyleft). D’un couvre feu was made a few years later and falls within this field of found footage, as all images are borrowed from the commercial media: television and probably sounds from the radio. Those events broke out in one of the poorest suburbs of Paris, Clichy-sous-Bois in the fall of 2006. The death of a teenager chased by the police in these neighborhoods, ablaze all so called difficult areas of the suburd. The integration model of the French society inherited the principles of the French Revolution, shows through these events its flaws if not bankruptcy, that neither the powers that be or the society as a whole (intelligentsia confused) do not wanted to see. These events are not the first, but instead they take on an unprecedented scale in practice and in their media resonance. France appears to the world as a country on the verge of social explosion; it was described as such by the American media.
Yb has not made one more film about these events. He scored in the media what he saw and heard, analyzes and repackages them. The language of found footage leads naturally to a specific form of assemblage, where the principles of unity (spatial, temporal or content) are ruined. The author of found footage committed somehow the viewer to leave completely fooled by the manipulation that allows editing. This manipulation of creating continuous, meaning, logic for combining of heterogeneous elements, and the Surrealists experimented with « exquisite corpse » from the 30’s, was spotted like the operation of the unconscious. But this analysis is no longer operational today when we are quite capable of looking at The Clock (2013) by Christian Marclay, like any other fiction film. What was the hidden representation of the human being with the Surrealists, was transmuted into a work of performance of an area. Is that sense the cut, which is no longer in the service of a narrative is itself a fiction. Hyphenation between plans borrowed from the tradition of « montage of attractions » Eisenstein defined by where the cinema rather search the clash of various sequences edited end to end than their fluidity and continuity narrative.1 While the television report the same event would have « organized » the contradictory words of the protagonists in a comment that is at worst a policy reviewing what to think, at best a neutral zone or mediating conflicting positions zone, yb placed end to end the speech, without « cutting shots », letting them compete “hand to hand » despite the fact they are from urban warfare or political power. By telescoping, it performs a de- hierarchy. The simultaneity of words (a nod to the likely simultaneity pictorial6) report with rare evidence of dropping out, not to say, of the futility of political power after multiple « urban policy » equally -there were even several miniters departments for this! – is incapable of analysis and, for one answer, opposed the republican order and military rhetoric: the state of emergency and curfew. The form of found footage, the cut editing, the abrupt are a suitable rhetoric to undermine military rhetoric. The rap largely present in this film, plays a key role as a cultural expression. The rebels, mostly from immigrant families, feeling deprived of everything, reaffirm whenever they « are not animals. » This fight has social causes, political, economic, urban, but the feeling of denial to be part of the human community dominates all other causes. Rap music generally perceived as a violent music, even aggressive catalyst lowest instincts, demonstrates the contrary, the humanity of those who break the phone booths and burned cars. With a certain perversity, yb « assassinates » blows looping of the same sequence, a President whose age is suddenly obvious, separate from the country youth he leads, and who does not understand anything. Yb actually a pitiful slam the war rhetoric and terribly poor semantically. This poverty of political discourse contrasts with the wealth of texts Som de Preto by Amilcka Chocolate and I am young suburban by Dizis.
Around these three films, the box in case YB-ian contains sounds, documents, journals, scores that will account for a rich itinerary, where to do it (his work) is completely embedded in to other activities, historian, critic, programmer, curator or simple activist. This box bag may in itself be a Pandora’s box giving access to everything.
translated by Keith Sanborn and yann beauvais
1The letter R in French can be unsderstood as a tune or as something which look like… note by the translator
2 Cf yann beauvais « Manifestement » in Liu Yung Hao Yann Beauvais le cinéma décadré, Centre Pompidou/Afaa, 1999, p 85
3 See the film of Andrej Zdravic : Phenix (1975)
4 Cf Georges Bataille in revue Documents n°4, Paris, septembre 1929,
5Louis de Carmontelle was a french painter who made rolled-up, transparent drawings which could be 12 foot long ; they were supposed to it was meant to be unrolled in front of viewers, section by section, through a backlit viewing box note by the translator.
6This category of painting was created by Robert Delaunay