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New Queer Cinema in relation to experimental film and video-art fighting AIDS. (Eng)

Originaly published in Portugues as O New Queer Cinema em relação ao cinema experimental e a videoarte no combate à aids, in New Queer Cinema, Cinema Sexualidade e Política, organização Lucas Murari e Mateus Nagime, Caixa Cultural 2015


New Queer Cinema in relation to experimental film and video-art fighting AIDS.

When AIDS appears in the early 80’s, filmmakers took a while to respond to such an event which was rapidly turning into a health crisis as much as a social and political crisis. The spreading of the decease has not only change the way we act and think about our sexual behavior but also its representation and its contradictory display. As Roger Hallas wrote in his study of Aids and Queer Moving Image : “The homosexual bodies were put on display as a traumatizing threat to the general public, while traumatized queer lives were discounted1”.

Facing this “plague” many filmmakers and video makers such as Gregg Bordowitz, Jean Carlomutso, Richard Fung or Tom Kalin working within activism, often on a collective basis (such as: Diva TV, GMHC, Gran Fury Collective), redefined ways of thinking and practicing documentary and or experimental work. The way they dealt with such matter was through a diversity of content and context and at the same time clashing practices of experimental filmmakers and video artist in order to shape ways to handle, face and respond to such an epidemic. You had to create new forms, new paths in which the documentary, the educational, the militant the experimental could intermingle.

When Ruby Rich create the term New Queer Cinema2 in the early 90’s, AIDS had already modified deeply the way filmmakers were dealing with representation of sexuality, identities and gender. But somehow the term of queer applied to film was praised by a group of film and video dealing with the construction and representation of gay and lesbian subject within a conference and film and video series, which took place in New York in 19893.

In September 1992, I was part of a conference on New Queer Cinema4 at the Ica in London in which Ruby Rich summed up her ideas about the expansion of this “genre” giving a special emphasis on lesbian video makers while I was given an international perspective from the history of experimental cinema.

The experimental film scene, video art and activism from the 80’s involving questions regarding AIDS, race and gender was transformed through an affirmation and re examination of the narrative, which had been itself challenged by the Feminist, the Punk movement, the No Wave Cinema and the Cinema of Transgression. Some of the filmmakers which are keys figures within the New Queer Cinema were using simultaneously different type of film practices. For example Derek Jarman, or Isaac Julien in England, John Greyson and Richard Fung in Canada, were dealing with features, experimental super 8 mm work, music video, documentary. The boundaries between media were bend and crossed over. A kind of integration -should we speak or disintegration-, a kind of blending between support and forms was taking place from which music video had been an earlier example but echoes the spreading of the illness for which separation of race and gender or classes did not exist.

The AIDS crisis was provoking different answers which will change according to visibility, access to informations and education. One should not forget that AIDS was not an issue outside the gay community; it was simply not an issue. Ronald Reagan spoke for the first time of AIDS during its second mandate. Within the media, AIDS was not visible; therefore one of the first things to do was to make it appears on screens, making it visible, and not only in the form of living dead figures. Show that you not only died of AIDS but lived with AIDS; for this purpose action had to be made. One could not avoid to realize, see and feel that the representation of AIDS within the media, press and television was very partial, to not say sectarian. As Stuart Hall said : “How could we say that the question of AIDS is not also a question of who gets represented and who does not? AIDS is the site at which the advance of sexual politics is being rolled back »5.

The question of representation of AIDS became an essential ground to occupy and fight for, to counteract the production the media coverage in order to provide alternative to these images rendering visible and accessible informations being about illness, people with HIV and people living with AIDS, as much as dealing with rights, prevention, sexuality and pornography. It was essential to deconstruct the production of discourses through words and images and this very often would take place within an experimental film and video practices or within films which have been labelled as New Queer Cinema from which The Ads Epidemic6 (1987) and Zero Patience7 (1993) are key markers. In the mid 80’s experimental cinema was going through a reformulation of its aims facing questions towards its formalism in regard to narrative, minority. The influential role of music video reshaped the landscape of filmic experience by combining support and techniques. It became obvious that video was gaining strength while creating new forms of collaboration, intervention, and distribution offering alternative ways to intervene within different levels of society. The works done were bearing all types of filmmaking and attitudes in a manner which was breaking the habit of seeing as much as way of thinking in making film. It seems that the works done crossing and collaging different attitudes within one work a creating a kind of mosaic of styles as much as one could experience with postmodernism. The autobiographical, the personal could become an essay, an activist work would claimed how to fight the consequence of the discrimination imposed by the hetero-normativity (Bright Eyes8 by Stuart Marshall is exemplary in this aspect of deconstruction).


This “perversion (contamination)” of experiences was already at works (dealing separately or not) through an examination of races such for example Sankofa in Britain with the work of Isaac Julien (Territories 1984, Looking For Langston 1989), Richard Fung in Canada with Orientations 1986, Fighting Chance 1990), gender (Sheila McLaughin with She Must Be Seeing Things 1987) or working within music video (Derek Jarman, Tom Kalin).

To find Isaac Julien and Derek Jarman at the forefront of such a transformation within experimental film reflects the importance of the question of identities and the way it nourished and transformed film practices. It seems that both Jarman and Julien dealt with the articulation of the personal toward the public, but in the case of Isaac Julien the elaboration of a black consciousness had to be done through an investigation about the representation of the black experience in England and through a re-vision of the Harlem Renaissance. These early works paved the road of the new queer cinema from the fact that they refused to portray and stigmatized gays as the usual business and promote other visions of gays where the queer identity is shown as a transgressive experience. Inverting the stigmatization and the abjection of gays, fighting against the blame of an epidemic which they were hold as responsible for, New Queer Cinema produced other characters other stories, tacking its challenging view from the history of experimental film9. On the level of the experimental cinema AIDS will challenge filmmakers on different levels in which the question of how to deal with the illness, how to represent oneself sick, dying… In DHPG Mon Amour (1989) the filmmaker Carl Michael George is dealing in super 8 with the daily life of two men (David Conover and Joe Walsh) experiencing with the drug DHPG documenting the effect of it, with the hope that it could help other survivors. The super 8 film differs from Silverlake Life (1993) which address mostly itself to a mainstream audience, but both films are dealing with similar question about the drugs one has to take to fight AIDS, and their comment about the drug, science and politics. This is shown through a gay relationship. The diary dimension of these films is shared by many filmmakers but the years they were made fathom the experience itself. At that time, treatment were experimental and death was the fatal outcome. An Individual Desires Solution (1986) by Larry Brose make us listen to the conversation of Larry’s lover before he died in Sussex. Shot in Super 8 the film break all convention to impose a discomfort while viewing . Having this in mind, filmmakers were turning into other means in order to generate and create a landscape of friction in which the political and social dimension will be present and vindicate. It is in that sense that we can understand some of the works of David Wojnarowicz, Rosa Von Prauheim, Mike Hoolboom, Jim Hubbard, Matthias Muller. In Richard Fung tapes and in Sea in the Blood (2000) , the personal dimension is articulated with colonialism, racism and sexuality, in a manner that intermingled his own story with poetical and political statement through multiple type of representation which goes from documentary to diary, essay….

One should recognize that the New Queer Cinema has always been relate to the traditional cinema in a sense that Hollywood has always produced a certain type of image of gays and lesbians despite the fact that it was very often pejorative. If the avant-garde had cut itself from the public, through an intense deny of pleasure, understood as visual pleasure then the task of the new queer cinema was to reintroduce the notion of pleasure and work to establish new code and archetype will escape from Hollywood clichés. Theatricality and pictoriality were re-introduced within the narrative and were already at work in Derek Jarman Sebastiane (1976) and Sally Potter Thriller (1979). This emphasis on theatricality was borrowed and ate same time perverting the notion of camp largely employed by the american underground filmmakers. The use of tableau and of vignette could be encounter within the works of Jack Smith and Andy Warhol… In this sense a subversion of forms is at work within the short films of John Greyson : The Ads Epidemic (1987) or Isaac Julien : This is not an AIDS Advertisment (1987). These films mix genre and aesthetics, colliding high and low culture, the chic and the trash; these works are breaking the dominant form of representation with fragmentation and excess tauntingly the production of authority. Both films were using music video language to fight the fear and stigmatization of gays and their sexualities.

These short films are dealing with questions of desire, pleasure as does Gran Fury in Kissing Doesn’t Kill (1990). The activism in these works is different than the one encounter with Fear of Disclosure (1990), in which David Wojnarowicz and Phil Zwickler questioned the sexual apartheid of the HIV-positive and the HIV-status unknown gay men. In this tape a text is delivered by Wojnarowicz in which the fear of rejection confront the fear of contamination. The activist dimension of the work is induced by the contradictory juxtaposition of the emotional uttering of David and the two golden go-go boys dancing. The association of these elements induce a strong tension between what seems to be public informations and its personal deliverance. The oscillation between these two domains is often at works within experimental film and video art dealing with AIDS. Here come in mind the works of Matthias Mueller, Mike Hoolboom, Gregg Bordowicz, Marlon Riggs, Derek Jarman, Richard Fung and mine.

The artists made films about AIDS for reasons which embrace militancy as such as Barbara Hammer’s Snow Job The media Hysteria of Aids (1986) which deals with the hysteria of the media during the Reagan years. In that film focussing on the media treatment of AIDS, the filmmakers recycled printed headings, looping titles, speeches mostly reactionary, intolerant, racist…. The inclusion of this discriminating text reverse the disgust, the hatred into a powerful tool in order to fight back. In the AIDS trilogy Jerry Tartaglia will examine several issues related “to the medicalization of morality, the policing of desire, and the management of the disease through cultural assimilation into the mainstream10. This strategy of appropriation and redistribution with a slight transformation is encountered mostly in minority liberation movement and has been revitalized by the AIDS activism in the West, being with Act-up or other collective11. The tension arising within the incorporation of militancy within the personal is inseparable of the attitude that filmmaker and video maker are engaged with at the time establishing a front line against a society of denials. Echoes of this insertion are found within many features films of the New Queer Cinema, such has the films of Derek Jarman, John Greyson, and to some extend with Gregg Araki and Todd Haynes. in which the moment of activism become an element of perturbation, a fragment of fight (out of control) within the narrative. With experimental films this is packed all together shaping a form of essay film. Mike Hoolboom Franck’s Cock (1993) would define a way to articulate the personal on the soundtrack12 while the screen would be divided in four different image that we scan over.

Franks_Cock_Screenshot1In that film –which echoes Aus der ferne The memo Book of Matthias Müller, because of the richness of the texture of the image and the use of found footage, the density of the editing but mostly because it is somehow a story about the other one, the one who is living– the recourse of the subjective point of view in opposition with the image play with a potential type of synchronicity between the two elements transforming the experience of listening into a kind of sharing; we are not only looking at but being part of at the moment of junction.

Aus der ferneWith Letters From Home (1996), the issue is different because we heard the voices of people with AIDS. Among them, the filmmaker’s one saying : “Members of my family who get all their information from reading the newspapers and watching television know two things about me – that I’m going to die and that the government is doing everything in its power to save me. They’re wrong on both counts.13” The film is based on a speech delivered by Vito Russo in 1988, and on text written by Mike. The film is a collection of remembrances and found footage organized in a such way that fragment of the images counterpoint the text at this time when the cocktaïl of drugs gave more time, gave us a life after a programmed death. Using different sources of material, such as film faded, decayed, tinted, rephotographed, recycled, Letters from Home is a collection of audio visual memories, establishing a space for us to think about what it is living at a time of AIDS.

This film shares with Matthias Mueller Aus der Ferne this idea about vulnerability of personal body as much as the fragility of a film, but Aus der Ferne is concerned about mourning and recovering while the films of Mike Hoolboom opened a political dimension through testimonies and articulation of a polyphonic discourse. It is interesting to note that Mike Hoolboom voice is used as the voice over of Pensão Globo (1997) and also in Tu, sempre (2001)14. In both case the fictional and autobiographical dimension written and delivered by Hoolboom add a layer at what is said and showed within these two projects giving a twist within the personal. In Still Life15 (1997) such as in John Lindell tapes the activism is dominant, the personal will appear through the voice over of David Wojnarowicz, Derek Jarman and mine, each one speaking about our relation to AIDS, through a lover being at the hospital, the effect of a medication or the modification of our sexual acts.

If the new queer cinema showed fascination for the entertainment industry (Swoon being a remake of The Rope), it was according to most filmmakers due to the fact that the avant-garde cut itself from the narrative of pleasure and from the pleasure of narrative. Some experimental filmmakers were always incorporating elements from the entertainment industry or dealing with such issue (Kenneth Anger, Andy Warhol, Jack Smith…), but here, it is not a question of quotation or parody (as in the films of the Kuchar brothers) or its remake (as made by Ken Jacobs in some of it’s works…), but of appropriation via found footage from which you could tell new cruising stories between two stars of the silver screen: Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo in Cecilia Barriga’s with Meeting of Two Queens (1991) . meeting of two queens

Incorporating images from the industry being cinematographic or televisual is part of the daily routine of filmmakers. The use of sequences from films or newsreels, being famous shots or not, is a recognition of the importance of the moving images in the construction of one individual as a social being. Using the representation of stars and give them a touch of pink, is a way to produce our own stories from the data base of the cinema history which as music, is one of the major source of production of oneself. In that sense the use of found footage, the incorporation of external images and sound and its redistribution within film and video signed to a certain extend the refusal of imposed meaning, by subverting it. In this sense the used of the sequence in which Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly dance together in Aus der Ferne, followed with different titles The End affirmed the mixing in one’s mind of public image and private memory. This dance is articulated not only with the text The end but also with image of the deceased lover shots in Super8. The question of the representation of gay sexual act would become once again an issue at the time of AIDS, at a time when bigotry, moralism and a conservatism backlash were dominating the media. It became obvious that within the field of experimental film and video art as much as with educational tapes sexual acts were to be shown; Richard Fung made this explicit with Steam Clean (1990) or Jean Carlomusto dealing with lesbian sexuality in Current Flow (1989).

In the 90’s it became very important to show sexual acts to counteract not only the moralism16 but to save life.

It seems that it is still relevant today to make works with an emphasis on homosexuality in regard to the constant increasing of the new contamination within the gay community. In that sense the work done by the filmmakers and video makes need to be continued.

yann beauvais Recife march 2015

1Roger Hallas : Reframing Bodies Aids, Bearing Witness, and the Queer Moving Image, Duke University Press, Durham, 2009

2Ruby Rich : first version : A Queer Sensation, in Village Voice March 24, 1992, second version in Sight and Sound such as The New Queer Cinema, 1992, reprint in The New Queer Cinema The Director’s Cut, Duke University Press Durham, 2013

3How Do I look ? Queer Film and Video, Ed by Bad Object-Choices, Bay Press, Seattle 1991

4The Conference took place on September 19 and 20, 1992 between Ruby Rich, Simon Whatney and yann beauvais, a seies of film and video were screened at this ocasion and presented by Tom Kalin, Christine Vachon… the first part of the talk can be listen at from which you have acess to the other parts of the conference.

5Stuart Hall : Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacies, in Cultural Studies, Lawrence Grossberg, Gary Nelson, Treicher (ed) New York Routledge, 1982 p 285 and

6Its subtitled This is not a Death in Venice :  Music video remake of Death in Venice, exposing the new epidemic « Acquired Dread of Sex » text description from Urinal and Other Stories, John Greyson Art Metrople + The Power Plant, Toronto, p 298 1993

7Feature musical exploring the contruction of AIDS scapegoats like Patient Zero, the Air Canada flight attendant accused of bringing AIDS to North America, idem page 296

8Bright Eyes 1984, 78 ‘. This tape produces for the new Channel 4 questionned the media and its production and manipulation of fear in relation to AIDS.

9On this matter one can look at Now you see it by Richard Dyer Routledge London 1990, and The Celluloid Closet Vito Russo, revised edition Harper & Row Publishers, New York 1987

10The AIDS Trilogy consist of A.I.D.S.C.R.E.A.M (1988) Ecce Homo (1989) and Final Solutions (1990) Jerry Tartaglia!about/c10fk

11On this matter one could look at AIDS TV, Identity, Community and Aletrnative Video, Alexandra Juhasz, Duke University Press, Durham 1995, Representations of HIV and AIDS Visibility blue/s by Gabrielle Griffin, Manchester University Press, Manchester 2000.

12The script of the film is found at the sound of the film is encounter at

13Extract from Letters From Home script :

14In Tu, sempre by yann beauvais dealing with AIDS, a two projections video installation, used the testimonies and voices of Mike Hoolboom, Didier Lestrade and yann beauvais, and a reading of Mark Morrisroe by Miles McKane, as part of the sound track created by Thomas Köner.

16 which was increasing its power by censoring different exhibition such as the one of Robert Mapplethorpe, David Wojnarowicz, to name a few, or by declaring that showing gay images was promoting homosexuality in the United States or in England…

Tu, sempre # (english)

Installation Tu, sempre 
# 1, 2001, La criée, Rennes
# 2, 2002, EOF, Paris
# 3, 2003, Galerie de l’Ecole des Beaux Arts de Tours
# 4, 2003, Galerie Faux Mouvement, Metz
# 5, 2003, Espace multimédia Gantner, Bourogne
# 6, 2004, La Compagnie, Marseille
# 7, 2004, After Foucault, Vacarme, Les Voûtes, Paris
# 8, 2008, Centre d’Art La Panera, Lleda
# 9, 2009, CRAC Languedoc Rousillon, Sète
#10, 2010, Conversations Intimes, Musée départemental de l’Oise, Beauvais

Co-realisation: Thomas Koener, production La Criée, centre d’art contemporain Rennes, Université Rennes 2, Le Crea, as part of Mettre en scène, Théatre National de Bretagne

many of these racists

As an installation, Tu, Sempre is dealing with different Aids representation. Work about the history of these representations as much as about the way today these representations are often avoided. As if Aids doesn’t exist, did not ever exist. A rotative screen of which one side is a mirror, received and diffracted within the gallery space images and texts about aids representation. Texts in French, English, Italian run from the screen to the walls, in a constant movement. The body presence is emphasize not only by our inclusion within the apparatus but also as the skin of different people. Two beam in the shape of an x are projected onto the rotative screen, inducing fragmentation, collisions onto the screen as much as on the walls.
A collection of photographs from lovers, friends, and anonymous, some dead, others still living, sick or not are placed on three walls. On the floor a map of world aids epidemic is projected.
The ambient sound convey screams from demonstration as a text is delivered. Four voices can be listen at on separate CD.

“This text which is not one: Tu, sempre by Yann Beauvais”

by Keith Sanborn

I Cinema as text: text as cinema

I will repeat once again: there exists prosaic and poetic cinema and this is the fundamental division of the genres: they are distinguished one from the other not by means of rhythm, or rather not by means of rhythm alone, but by the predominance of technical-formal elements (in poetic cinema) over semantic ones, in that formal elements replace semantic ones, in resolving a composition. “Plotless” cinema is “poetical” cinema.

Viktor Shklovsky “Poetry and Prose in Cinematography” trans. Keith Sanborn [“Poezija y Proza v kinematografii” in Poetika Kino Moscow and Leningrad 1927 Berkely Slavic Specialties reprint 1984, p. 142]
If the facts destroy the theory-so much the better for the theory. It is created by us, not entrusted to us for safekeeping.

Viktor Shklovsky
In Defence of the Sociological Method,” Russian Poetics in Translation 4 (1977): 94. Originally published in 1927.

How should we describe a work such as Tu, Sempre by Yann Beauvais? Visually, it consists of roughly 40 minutes of videotext in movement and arrest, largely white text varying in size on a black background, interspersed with a small number of images; its audio is a dirge of drone music by Thomas Köner punctuated by voice-overs by several individuals, sometimes one at a time, sometimes several at once. Text appears in French, English and Italian and voice-overs are in French and English. It is a work of immense complexity and depth and this is but the beginning of a possible description.

And where should we situate it historically? by genre?

The familiar formulations of genre in narrative will get us nowhere: it’s not a western, it’s not a musical, or a detective film. But those familiar with the history of avant-garde cinema will have already recognized even from the sketchy description given above that this work belongs to the genre referred to as the “text piece.” A short definition would be: a media work in which the use of text is visually foregrounded. The best known examples would be Richard Serra and Charlotta Schooman’s Television Delivers People (1973) in video, Michael Snow’s So is this (1982) in film and perhaps Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries flash movies from the late 1990s on-line. In fact, since the 1970s, text, in the form of both written and spoken language, has enjoyed a resurgence and integration with images largely unknown in experimental cinema since the beginning of the sound era. The works of Yvonne Rainer, Hollis Frampton, Paul Sharits, Su Friedrich, Craig Baldwin, Peggy Ahwesh, Guy Debord and René Viénet come to mind. The work of Isou, Lemaître and Christopher MacLain should be remembered as well, though they precede and fall somewhat outside the more widespread revival of interest in text as cinematic form.

The recuperations of the genre by American television commercials of the 1990s testify to the wide recognition of the historical importance of this work. For as Manfreddo Tafuri has pointed out, the fate of formal innovation in the arts is to be coopted by advertising.

Within the varied body of Yann Beauvais’s work, Tu, Sempre is one of several contributions to the genre. His earlier efforts include Still Life (1997) (video) sid a ids (1992) (video) andVO/ID (1987) (double projection film). Beauvais is also accutely aware of the history of the genre, having been one of the principle curators of “mots: dites, images” (1987). This collaboration between Scratch and the Pompidou Center remains the major international survey of the use of text in cinema, making Beauvais one of the major contributors to the theoretical and historical formulation of the genre,.

But the issue of genre is far from solved by simply labeling Tu, Sempre “a text piece.” For while it has pragmatic descriptive currency, such nomenclature is often little better within the domain of experimental cinema than “western” or “musical” is among narrative films. And while it names a recognizable entity, it says nothing about the relationship between films of that genre and other films, broadly considered. A more interesting possibility for locating Tu, Sempre and others like it is offered by the work of Viktor Shklovsky and the distinction offered in the epigraph to this section of my essay.

Shklovsky was one of the most thoughtful and widely educated theorists ever to seriously consider the relationship between film and literature. His basic division between prosaic and poetic, semantically dominated and formally dominated cinema has an elegant and intuitive simplicity about it. It offers the possibility of locating the fundamental dynamics of a work with respect to others. It says more than: It’s one of these and not one of the myriad of others. Its difference from other works is a matter of insight across disciplines. It produces relational information, rather than simply adding data.

To understand the basis of Shklovsky’s generalization, we should recall that he worked not only as a literary theorist and experimental novelist, but as a script writer, so he is deeply aware of the difference between literature and cinema even as he looks to apply to the domain of cinema the analytical tools he has brought over from anthropology into literary theory.

The title of Shklovsky’s short essay referred to above, “Proza i poezija v kinematografii” plays not only on the dual meaning of “kinematografija” as “cinematography” and the “film industry” more generally speaking, but alludes to the metaphor contained in the Greek etymology of the word “kinematografija”: the writing or drawing of motion. In Russian, as in Ancient Greek, one writes an image, or draws a text: “pisat’” does the same double duty as “graphein.” As we might now understand it, the gambit is to suggest, by way of this etymological play, that the cinema may be understood as a form of inscription. If it is, then implicitly, the rules which govern the folk tale and literature should also apply.

Further, Shklovsky alludes to the distinction he developped elsewhere between “fabula” and “sjuzhet”-roughly “story” and “plot”-a distinction which remains a fundamental theoretical reference point in the history of the attempt to analyze narrative in cinema. And while making this allusion to narrative, Shklovsky is attempting to point beyond the world of narrative cinema, to account not only for more familiar kinds of cinematic experience, but to see cinematic practice along a continuum comparable in breadth to the fundamental literary distinction between prose and poetry.

The examples he adduces to illustrate this insight range from Chaplin’s A Woman of Paris(prose) to Pudovkin’s Mother (which begins as prose and ends as poetry) to Vertov’s A Sixth Part of the World (poetry).

Shklovsky was committed to serious analytical attention to both radical literary form and radical cinematic form. He had previously participated in and had written about the circles of Russian Futurist poets and painters; he was aware of their interest in joining linguistic and visual experimentation, such as in the work of Alexander Kruchenych. He also commented on the work of Vertov and the Kinoks. Perhaps because he takes radical experimentation both as an author and a subject, as one of his starting points, he is not one to flog a theory to death in order to make it align with practice, or vice versa. Throughout his work, he grapples with texts and experiences to reach insights into literary, political and psychological processes. If he’s forced along the way to modify his positions and assumptions he does so, and humor with resilience. When he reaches a dead end, he reflects on how he arrived there, leaving engaging narratives of endless and pleasurable delays, of unexpected excursions.

Tu, sempre puts Shklovsky’s insight to the test and produces immediate paradox. For while Tu, sempre clearly belongs to the poetic cinema-the “bessjuzhetnoe kino” [the plotless film]-which Shklovsky indexes to the work of Vertov, it is incorrect to characterize it as replacing semantic elements with formal ones in order to resolve the composition. The semantic aspect of this work, which we will consider later, is of fundamental urgency.

Tu, sempre offers a direct challenge to Shklovsky’s basic rules of cinematic form, because in spite of the supple and intuitive justice of Shklovksy’s insight, it somehow fails to account for a cinematic text-and let us remind ourselves that “cinematic text” is, after all, a metaphor-which foregrounds text itself equally as a strategy of cinematic form and as a vehicle for semantic content. Tu, Sempre further problematizes, while clearly posing the question, of the meaning of the resolution of a composition, in other words, closure.

Considering the matter in terms of one modernist conundrum of set theory, Tu, Sempreand the genre of “text pieces” intersect with the textual metaphors of film theory in the way that both chimeras and golden mountains famously belong to the set of non-existent objects: they are members of the set of all sets which are non-members of themselves. This genre, as practiced over the past 30 years, occupies one of several spaces between “art” and “theory,.” Ironically, or by design, it tends to subvert the claims of the kind of theory, based on the metaphors of linguistics, that may even have suggested it. And that is a most instructive work of destruction.

We might dismiss this paradox as contrived or even “inevitable” since Shklovsky set out those rules in 1927 and Beauvais made his work at the turn of the next century, but even by 1927 cinema practice had developed to the point where Tu, sempre might be considered a special case of the art of the intertitle. For animated titles were well known in the Soviet cinema of the 1920s and Dekeukeleire’s forty-nine-minute Histoire de détective, which consists of intertitles interspersed with a few deliberately banal images, would appear only 2 years later. Tu, sempre would not have been a technically inconceivable work in film for Shklovsky. Even sound recording was already known and The Jazz Singer, which had just appeared, was far from the first instance of experiments in synchronized sound.

II. Détournement as negation and prelude

Le plagiat est nécessaire. Le progrès l’implique. Il serre de près la phrase d’un auteur, se sert de ses expressions, efface une idée fausse, la remplace par l’idée juste.

Lautréamont, Poésies II,1870

Le plagiat est nécessaire. Le progrès l’implique. Il serre de près la phrase d’un auteur, se sert de ses expressions, efface une idée fausse, la remplace par l’idée juste.

Guy Debord , La Société du Spéctacle, Section 207 1967

In positioning Tu, Sempre as a social form of intelligence, Beauvais makes use of the legacy of the cultural and political strategy known as “détournement.” It was first theorized by Gil Wolman and Guy Debord in the 1956 as one of the perennial weapons of the avant-garde and later became one of the principle strategies of the Situationist International in their critique of the dominant ideology of their era. The Situationist International, in the first issue of their magazine, Internationale Situationiste (1958), provided the following definition:


S’emploie par abréviation de la formule : détournement d’éléments esthétiques préfabriqués. Intégration de productions actuelles ou passées des arts dans une construction supérieure du milieu. Dans ce sens il ne peut y avoir de peinture ou de musique situationniste, mais un usage situationniste de ces moyens. Dans un sens plus primitif, le détournement à l’intérieur des sphères culturelles anciennes est une méthode de propagande, qui témoigne de l’usure et de la perte d’importance de ces sphères.

This is the necessary form of plagiarism of which Debord speaks when he detourns Lautréamont in the passage from Society of the Spectacle cited above as an epigraph. Lautréamont is acknowledged as the patron saint of creative plagiarism, a practice to which he had extensive recourse in creating his own literary works. These were widely admired by the Situationists and, for that matter, the vast majority of important 20th century intellectuals in France. In the Society of the Spectacle, just after his own détournement of Lautréamont, Debord offers this refinement:

Le détournement est le contraire de la citation, de l’autorité théorique toujours falsifiée du seul fait qu’elle est devenue citation; fragment arraché à son contexte, à son mouvement, et finalement à son époque comme référence globale et à l’option précise qu’elle était à l’intérieur de cette référence, exactement reconnue ou erronée. Le détournement est le langage fluide de l’anti-idéologie. Il apparaît dans la communication qui sait qu’elle ne peut prétendre détenir aucune garantie en elle-même et définitivement. Il est, au point le plus haut, le langage qu’aucune référence ancienne et supra-critique ne peut confirmer. C’est au contraire sa propre cohérence, en lui-même et avec les faits praticables, qui peut confirmer l’ancien noyau de vérité qu’il ramène. Le détournement n’a fondé sa cause sur rien d’extérieur à sa propre vérité comme critique présente. (paragraph 208)

While that paragraph could easily eat a hole in the page large enough to devour this entire essay, it will not, prevent us from recognizing that, in Tu, sempre Beauvais creates his own variation on this practice. The Situationists for the most part refused to footnote their collective works or to claim them as intellectual property, though they did copyright, footnote and claim their droits d’auteurs for individually authored works. Beauvais, in a sense, has it both ways: first, immersing us in a sea of text, largely originating elsewhere, then, at the end, acknowledging that he has done so. He further reveals that some of the texts and all of the images were his. Music is credited and the identities of the speakers of the voice-overs are revealed. He credits those who provided technical and moral assistance to the project. And yet, the acknowledgement which frames the work as a counterpoise to the title card, carries this nuance: there is no simple way to identify which texts originate with what authors, or which voice-over belongs to whom. Beauvais’s own voice and texts are undifferentiated from the others, except by what qualities we may extract from them at the moment. He positions himself as one subject among others, so that we may do so as well. He takes the further step of subverting his authority by giving his own name entirely in lower case in the three places in which it appears in the credits.

In a parallel effort to problematize the politics of cultural and linguistic hierarchies, Beauvais uses not only texts in French but a great number in English and two in Italian in constructing the piece. Sometimes the English texts are translations of the French and vice versa. Sometimes a text may appear earlier then repeat itself later in its original language. Sometimes a text may be superimposed upon itself, with the text scrolling slowly up the screen from bottom to top while the same text crawls rapidly across it from left to right. This strategic device offers two conflicting senses of engagement. As the text scrolls vertically, we have a sense of reading at our own pace; as it moves horizontally, the speed at which we assimilate it seems controlled from without. Texts appear vertically as well, sometimes with letters oriented to the horizontal, one above the other, as in Apollinaire’s Calligrammes, sometimes at right angles to the “horizon,” thus challenging what might be called a crawl or a scroll in these cases.

Several other tactics are employed as well to control and to question the way text appears on the screen: sometimes a text will crawl from right to left while its mirror image-each letter flipped left to right-will crawl from left to right. Sometimes the process of mirroring occurs at the level of syntax, where a text will crawl from left to right in its normal order, while the same text crawls left to right with each word transformed so that the first letter appears last and the last letter first. At one point three, pairs of texts and their syntactic mirrors appear on screen. But there is more at stake than narcissistic entrapment in a labyrinthine mirror phase. What is at stake is an attempt to subvert the invisible, organizing hierarchical power latent in the givens of ordinary syntax, by holding a mirror up to language.

We are being challenged to disinscribe and reinscribe these texts. And the effect we might compare with Shklovskian ostranenie [“enstrangement”]. It is here taken to an extreme even Khlebnikov or Hugo Ball might appreciate, but with this difference: there is no utopian project of creating a transrational language [zaumnij jazyk], or even a nihilistic one of destroying language for the sake of shock. Rather as we decode these texts linguistically, we are forced to acknowledge the fact of their cultural and ideological coding.

As texts are superimposed across a slow-motion pan of a wall with homophobic graffiti (“AIDS CURES FAGS”), upon rushing landscapes of trees which dissolve to hand-held excursions across male limbs and torsos, across blank and tatooed skin, we are given composite images of the inscription of this network of social text upon the body politic as upon individual bodies.

While the broad outlines of a strategy of détournement may recall work such as Michael Wallin’s Decodings of 1988, it is here not pre-existing images which are recaptured for a delirious personal erotic narrative, but the texts-out of which AIDS has been created as cultural construct-which are placed under scrutiny, a word, then a letter, at a time. Tu, sempre analytically bodies forth the process by which this composite ideological construct of collective experience has been inscribed in “our” consciousness.

It is crucial to note, however, that this project has as its focus no master narrative-even by way of a montage of these inevitably familiar and unfamiliar texts-but rather the possibility and necessity for the construction of individual subjectivities, insights and intelligences around these texts and around the experiences they convey.
III. closure, disclosure

“I assert to begin with, that ‘disease’ does not exist. It is therefore illusory to think that one can ‘develop beliefs’ about it to ‘respond’ to it. What does exist is not disease but practices.” Thus begins François Delaporte’s investigation of the 1832 cholera epidemic in Paris. It is a statement we may find difficult to swallow, as we witness the ravages of AIDS in the bodies of our friends, our lovers, and ourselves. But it is nevertheless crucial to our understanding of AIDS because it shatters the myth so central to liberal views of the epidemic: that there are, on the one hand, the scientific facts about AIDS and, on the other hand, ignorance. I will therefore follow Delaporte’s assertion: AIDS does not exist apart from the practices that conceptualize it, represent it, and respond to it. We know AIDS only in and through those practices. This assertion does not contest the existence of viruses, antibodies, infections, or transmission routes. Least of all does it contest the reality of illness, suffering, and death. What it does contest is the notion that there is an underlying reality of AIDS, upon which are constructed the representations, or the culture, or the politics of AIDS. If we recognize that AIDS exists only in and through these constructions, then hopefully we can also recognize the imperative to know them, analyze them, and wrest control of them.

“AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism” Douglas Crimp. October 43

There has been a great number of works of art, and it seems above all in video, which have responded to the collective agon of AIDS: quiet and unflinching personal documents of love and devastation, such as Silver Lake Life, works which have responded to public images of AIDS and attempted to undo the damage such as John Greyson’s, records of incandescent rage and insight such as the work of David Wojnarowicz. I cannot even begin to suggest the range, nor would I pretend to be capable of it. What I think I can say is that, in this and in his previous works that have made an address to the pandemic, Yann Beauvais has taken a different route from others I know. He has given us its aspect as an inscription: in the way that text enters social discourse and personal consciousness, in the way graffiti may be written on a wall, in the way a needle and ink may create designs under the skin, and in the way Kaposi Sarcoma may inscribe its lurid presence. And he has provided us with models for its disincription and reinscription in a higher form of critical awareness.

We begin with 10 seconds of silence and darkness. The title fades up: “Tu, Sempre”-You, always-like a phrase from one of the ubiquitous Italian pop songs that form part of the everyday soundscape of Paris. It lingers a while then fades to black. In black, a series of low slow notes on an organ begin. Then the first installment of what seems like an unending stream of text starts to make it way across our field of vision:

My body feels like a third person in the room, my mind is a second person, my friend a second person, the doctor absolutely necessary.

This text disappears into black and the drone, like the distant hum of propellers-which will form the sonic ground of the piece-begins. Though this text disappears, it leaves an indelible impression on us. We have already begun to feel a very particular kind of fragmentation, a peculiar distance from our bodies. We become witness to the motions of these texts and at the same time to the motions of our own minds as we encounter them, parse them, lose them. We are overwhelmed. We are swimming against the tide. We can snatch only partial and fleeting impressions of some larger whole, the outline of which remains always beyond our grasp. Each is a part of some familiar yet arcane construction of the world. We return always to that “Tu, sempre” that second person, the mind which witnesses the spectacle of our interiority as it has been socially determined.

We have entered the world of HIV, of AIDS as it has been constructed, as a social textuality, which is nonetheless an inscription upon our bodies and our minds-as if there could ever be a discernible difference. The challenge, as Douglas Crimp underscores is that “If we recognize that AIDS exists only in and through these constructions, then hopefully we can also recognize the imperative to know them, analyze them, and wrest control of them.” “Imperative” is the key word here.

Tu, Sempre reminds us that the challenge is daunting as it is urgent. At every moment, we run the risk of being overwhelmed by the unrelenting assault on our very subjecthood. We grasp for hope, gasp for hope, but hope is in short supply. We must each struggle to form a radical subjectivity in the midst of such profound interior assault. The experience of a single viewing can be dizzying, and each successive viewing remains vertiginous, but the possibility exists that even if we cannot entirely master our vertigo, we can come to realize it as an aspect of our condition. The drone and confusion of voices can become a sign of the presence of other minds as much as the index of solitary consciousness alone.

In Tu, Sempre, we travel the distance from the recognition that Silence = Death to the insight that Voice does not necessarily equal life. And while death represents a form of closure we must all confront, in discourse, epistemological closure, formal closure, semantic closure are all dead ends for the subject in the midst of AIDS. No work can be perpetual in its longevity, its structure, or in the attention we devote to it. A digital video work participates in these limitations, whether it loops or not. Whether the titles and credits of a work merely bracket its chronological expanse, or measure the space from one electronic pattern to another, whether they delimit the telling of a story, or a phenomenological experience of time, they are subject to this limitation. This work takes on the task of signaling to us something beyond itself, beyond the so-called “real world,”or rather alluding, without mystification, to the complexity of the patterns of the ungraspable fabrics out of which we fashion the textures of the “real.”

IV The age of digital reproducibility

“Fiat ars-pereat mundus,” says fascism, expecting from war, as Marinetti admits, the artistic gratification of a sense perception altered by technology. This is evidently the consummation of l’art pour l’art. Humankind, which once, in Homer, was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, has now become one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached the point where it can experience its own annihilation as a supreme aesthetic pleasure. Such is the aestheticizing of politics, as practiced by fascism. Communism replies by politicizing art.

“The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility” (3rd version)
Walter Benjamin

HIV/AIDS has been a significant factor for many of these racist formations and has informed both national-popular politics and policy involving African migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, settlers and EC nationals.

Woman is traditionally seen as “other”, she is defined as “not-man”, and this is particularly clear in the context of AIDS. The body becomes the contested territory of AIDS, and for women, the ever-corporal sex, the body overwhelms the individual. Male HIV risk is based on behavior, what he does with his body; by contrast for woman it is who she is, not what she does. She is a dangerous body, defined by her gynecology: the womb and the vagina.

et d’ailleurs ce sont eux les pédés qui ont combattu et combattent encore pour que les autres cessent d’ignorer ma présence en Afrique, comme ce sont eux les pédés qui ont combattu et combattent encore pour que les autres cessent d’ignorer le sida de ceux qui ne sont pas eux: le sida des prissoniers, le sida des toxicomanes, le sida des “étrangers en situation irrégulière” expression faisant partie du vocabulaire que les autres en parfaite complicité avec “la vie” inventent chaque jour afin d’humilier davantage ceux qui ne leur ressemblent pas et de leur ôter toute existence

Plus d’un million de Chinois avec un sida déclaré merci le commerce du sang

marquer au fer rouge

AIDS IS NOT ABOUT DEATH. IT IS ABOUT PEOPLE LIVING WITH AIDS. This is bullshit. I understand the concerns about media and how it has manipulated images which can affect public perceptions and funding for research and health care. But AIDS is not just asymptomatic muscle boys and kick boxing dykes leading the public against this virus. Those of us dealing with manifestations of this virus need room to embrace and look at the very real possibility of Death. Having seen many friends go through horrifying illness and dies, having fevers and night sweats for the last two months, feeling horrible and fragmented, I demanded that we don’t slip into denial about Death as an aspect of AIDS

Germany saw a 33 percent rise in HIV cases last year, the first increase in five years. Seven hundred and fifty new infections were recorded, 51 percent of them among gay and gays and bisexuals. Many developed nations are reporting stepped up HIV transmission. Health officials have blamed safe-sex fatigue ? and deliberate ‘barebacking’ among gay men for some of the increase.

Barebaking has become so popular in the gay community that personal ads in gay papers and user profiles in AOL state barebacking only and no condoms. Barebaking is becoming the norm and condom use is the exception and uncoool. Protected oral sex is unheard of.

We know that Silence Equals Death, but we have just recently realized that Voice does not equal Life.

On ne peut combattre cette maladie sans soutenir directement ceux qui la vivent. (…) Un dicton africain me semble d’une grande pertinence: “On regarde dans la direction de celui qui nous prête ses yeux.” Doit-on pour autant aller dans le sens des bailleurs de fonds dès lors qu’ils apparaissent en contradiction avec les valeurs des personnes qui vivent avec la maladie.

Brazil’s decision will make it the first country to violate the patent of an anti-Aids drug and represent[s] an aggressive move in the developing world’s battle cheaper prices. Brazil has been one of the strongest voices in the developing world in the fight for cheaper prices and has threatened pharmaceutical multinationals that it would break their patents. The pressure work with Merck Sharp & Dohme, which agreed in March to reduce the price of Efavirenz, another drug in the anti-Aids cocktail, by 64%.

Given the multiple levels and domains of power relations implicated in AIDS discourse, no system or situation can ever be compared by simple analogy to the next, or totalize by structural analysis. It is hazardous indeed to seek a single logic underlying AIDS discourse or policy decisions.

There is no single universal educational answer to the challenges of HIV/AIDS prevention, and demands for simple transcultural solutions are themselves symptoms of a naïve globalism which has its political roots elsewhere in contemporary Leftist theory. Hence the continuing importance of repeating that there is no single, unified, global epidemic. Rather, as has long been apparent to those working in this field, there are distinctly different epidemics within any given country, moving at different speeds within different sections of the population, in relation to different modes of transmission, and different degrees and types of prevention work.

I want to write about KS. I haven’t really written about what I like now. I have a new skin. I have a new identity. They are not the same, but they do on occasion converge, even eclipse one another. …/… I’m looking at my arm and I don’t trust what I just said. There is a geometry to this, a poetry too. If I didn’tknow it was cancer and AIDS I’d say my arm-my right arm-is interesting, attractive. The spots are grayish, purplish, a light eggplant, mauve-a combination… I’m that sick. I could die that soon.

V writing: painting

SOCRATES: You know, Phaedrus, that’s the strange thing about writing, which makes it truly analogous to painting. The painter’s products stand before us as though they were alive, but it you question them, they maintain a most majestic silence. It is the same with written words: they seem to talk to you as though they were intelligent, but if you ask them anything about what they say, from a desire to be instructed, they go on telling you just the same thing forever. And once a thing is put in writing, the composition, whatever it may be, drifts all over the place, getting into the hands not only of those who understand it, but equally of those who have no business with it: it doesn’t know how to address the right people, and not address the wrong. And when it is ill treated and unfairly abused it always needs its parent to come to its help, being unable to defend or help itself.

PHAEDRUS: Once again you are perfectly right.

(Phaedrus, 275 d-e. trans. R. Hackforth, 1952, Cambridge University Press)

Collection : Espace Multimédia Gantner

Visit Thomas Köner’s website

About AIDS, see Act Up


Tu, sempre #

2002, béta, coul, sonore, 38’
2005, minidv, coul sonore version #6 41’
2007, minidv, coul sonore version japonaise
2008, minidv, coul sonore version #8 espagnole, 35’30                                                                     2012, minidv, cooul, sound, vrsão portugês # 11, 10’40

tu sempre  6 lignes

Version mono bande de l’installation du même nom. La bande interroge les représentations du sida depuis 20 ans. Cette bande perpétue le travail amorcée dansSID A IDS et Still Life, tout en le renouvelant dans la mesure ou la question du politique et des politiques vis à vis du VIH se sont transformés depuis ces travaux antérieurs. Le territoire de l’activisme s’est lui aussi déplacé. La perception de la bande simple transforme le rapport aux textes et aux sons dans la mesure ou la fragmentation, la dispersion, la diffusion visuelle des textes ne se manifestent pas du tout de la même manière. On se retrouve dans une linéarité que l’installation ou la performance brise. Dans ce cas c’est l’accumulation des informations autant que leur diversité qui façonnent la perception que vient contrecarrer la bande-son de Thomas Köner, dans laquelle s’impose la figure du récitant comme convoyeur/générateur/distributeur de sens.

Visiter le site de Thomas Köner

Sur la question du sida, voir Act Up.
Voir l’installation relative à ce film ou la performance

texte arabe et italien

Single channel version of an installation. The tape investigates representation of Aids since 20 years. This work renew what I was dealing with SID A IDS and Still Life, in the sense that the political issues as much as the policies toward aids have been in constant transformation since these works were done. Activism has also gone through radical transformation, displaced.
The perception of this work as single channel tape modified the relations one has with texts, sounds when they don’t collide with the space, when the text don’t exceed the screen and abolish to a certain extend the fragmentation. One is facing a linearity that was not present within the installation. The perception of the single channel is establish through accumulation text as image which are counterbalanced by the sound work of Thomas Köner, in which the figure of a teller conveys meaning.

3 lignes, 1 inversée


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- About Aids, see Act Up



The appearance of Aids unleashed media hysteria in favor of a rapid return of a moral order.Faced with this situation of denunciation, victimization and discrimination against people living with Aids, this film, using a specific visual form, attempts to articulate a condemnation of the use which is made of the illness, the form is a « cine-tract ». The film reveals itself through its oration, it is in fact a film of words.

Sid A Ids

The use of text allows a distanciation in relation to the effects being used, these are reintroduced by the appearance and treatment of the words which condition the reading of the film, here is the violence of the film which literally partners the act denunciation.
A critique of the arguments and images in other words of the consummation of the words which surround Aids. SID A IDS primarily investigates the reaction to the illness in the context of a French vantage point. The film attempts to favourise an emerging reflection on Aids while remaining within the practice of experimental cinema.

About AIDS, see Act Up

L’apparition du Sida a déclenché une hystérie médiatique à la faveur d’un retour à l’ordre moral effréné. Face à la dénonciation, victimisation et discrimination des malades, ce film tente sous la forme du tract cinématographique d’articuler une dénonciation de l’usage qui est fait de la maladie selon une forme visuelle particulière. Le film se met en scène par son discours ; il s’agit en effet d’un film de mots. L’utilisation d’un texte permet d’instaurer une distance par rapport aux affects en jeux, mais ceux-ci seront réintroduits par l’apparition et le traitement des mots qui conditionnent la lecture du film ; d’où la violence visuelle du film qui accompagne littéralement la dénonciation. Une critique du discours et des images, en un mot de la production et consommation des mots autour du Sida. SID A IDS interroge principalement la réponse à la maladie telle qu’elle a été faite en France. Le film tente de favoriser l’émergence d’une réflexion par rapport au Sida sans mettre hors jeu une pratique cinématographique expérimentale. Film réalisé dans le cadre de SI FILM DA.