in Undercut n°16, London 1986
A screen, an image. The image on the screen is not the film frame. A distinct distance separates them. Our screen, our image is thus contained. But the container tends to disappear in favour of the contained. This effacement is magnified at the centre of the screen, where events and action are distributed, divided. To such an extent that a flicker film reveals the pulsating mechanism which unevenly distributes light across the surface of the screen, dividing in four zones. In the centre is a dead zone, neutral, which seems to allow for the eruption of luminous events. This flow of luminous energy between the four quarter eclipses, by its very rotation, the edges of the image. The edges disappear in favour of this intense flow. The frame becomes a dead zone of representation. This zone shines dumbly, unquestioning – and yet it keeps its cutting edge.
Two screens revitalise at least two edges : those that meet.
Two screens direct, brutally, a dialectic of presence.
Simultaneously presence delayed, replayed, redoubled, homogenous, heterogeneous. Two screens can contradict each other in various multiple ways, suggesting new signifying chains as well as raising aesthetic problems that others have been able to grasp by using musical models as a paradigm. The look flows, weaving patterns across the surface of representation, choosing elements and lines of force which sometimes fold back into the totality of the image-composition. A temporal potential realised through spatial means. Reinforcing displacement by the condensation of two images (or more) into a totally new one.
A similar paradigm is used in R and in it’s twin screen RR. The central part of the film is based on a transcription of a Bach invention for two voices.
The two screens underscore this paradigm in so far as one is always the simultaneous reflection of the visual development of the other, regardless of the position of the reels (left or right) – the technique of inversion of a theme so often used in music.
The use of the mirror deliberately side-steps the question of the reality of the representation. It no longer has any importance now that we’re in the domain of the reflected image, of imitation. It’s impossible to determine which is a reflection of which. The two images reflect one another in a constant back-and-forth, mimicking to a certain extent the development of the (fake) pans which comprises the film ( shots taken every 5° along a 180° arc). The pans metaphorically evoke, if only superficially, the keyboard. The progression wasn’t, isn’t, the same : in one, range changes pitch ; in the other , space is revealed and extended. They have nothing in common, their development isn’t the same – one lead to growth, augmentation ; the other , a spatial glissando. Sans Titre 84, employs photos of the highly symbolic Arc of Triumph which are then cut into vertical, horizontal and diagonal strips. The individual photos carry little interest, they represent just a brief moment in a series which moves in two different directions. The serial aspect of the photos invokes time, shaping time which subverts the still photo. Every one of these photos -grouped into four different series (one series which circles the arc, shot from24 positions according to a 24-pointed star inscribed on the ground, plus three series approaching the arc from three different avenues) – is a common shot, with standard lighting and composition, thus enhancing the object photographed. The blending of these views (2 by 2) produces new objects which mark distinct moments in the circling of the arc. Architectonics is thus invoked, convoked by the differential reconstruction of the initial object. The arc transforms itself by coupling with itself (unity generates multiplicity). The instantly recognisable identity of the object is thus short-circuited, creating tension in the gaze which seeks to re-establish that lost identity. For the object gets lost in its twice doubled image and (dismembered) must reconstruct itself. The image paradoxically and simultaneously gives of itself in order to withhold. The Arc of Triumph’s power is such that, even though heavily re-worked by the strips, it tends to efface this re-working. Hence the necessity of twinning the screens. Offering a twin, if not an identical one, which will attack the (politically, symbolically, touristically) « much-longed-for » object.
Movement, movements are simulated. Realm of imitation, imitation of cinema (that of the partisan of cinema as reflection of reality as well as that of their antagonists, those valiant knights who do battle with that horrible beast). The film presents false movements – the work of fiction. The temporally constructed is neither that of narrativity not that of a simple circling of the arc, because it’s doubled – in phase or not – creating and underscoring the mechanical concordance of the projection situation. Isolate to manipulate, or, how to disguise the way things work.
Itself an imitation (simulation), the reconstruction is agenced through retouched photos, and smooth continuity is disrupted in favour of a numbing of sense(s). And the objects go round. Faced with these doubled objects and twinned screens, the gaze nevertheless privileges, choosing one circuit, selecting one circling rather than another. It’s incapable of dealing with simultaneous contraries.
So the gaze follows one way, which nevertheless begins to tilt when the object encounters itself. Without, for that matter, really identifying itself for what it is. Each time that the « treasured object » draws nearer to its lost form, the other object reappears and sabotages homogeneity with its heterohomogeneity.
yann beauvais, translated by Deke Dusinberre.
Undercut n°16 spring/summer 1986