Images After the Implosion
Fabrice Aragno, CNAP (Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris) and MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, New York)
Rethinking the Museum and Avant-gardes
The Museo Reina Sofía presents a retrospective on one of the vital artists and thinkers of our time: film-maker Jean-Luc Godard (1930). The series spotlights his twenty-first-century productions and his ventures into the potential of the digital image, where film is rewritten as a present-day art.
At 89, Jean-Luc Godard sits among the most avant-garde film-makers and, rather than lingering on past roles — writer, activist, poet — he has reinvented himself as a thinker through images. In his later years, Godard has made Goya’s famous maxim his own: I’m still learning; new knowledge related to the limitless exploration of the digital image, understood not from the fetishism of a new technique, but as the possibility of engendering a new discourse, a new useful language for another experience. This period also stresses the importance of a group of his collaborators: cinematographers Fabrice Aragno and Jean-Paul Battaglia, film historian Nicole Brenez, and photographer and film-maker Anne-Marie Miéville, Godard’s companion in his exile in Rolle, Switzerland.
The series begins after Histoire(s) de cinema (1988-1998), a gargantuan project that would take him a decade and in which he would officiate the history of the 20th century through successive multiplications of film histories, stretching to his recent participation in international festivals with brief pieces, the letters by an artist celebrating his concurrent disappearance and omnipresence.
In the series, four programmes form thematic strands. Firstly, Museum: two sessions focusing on how the film-maker questions the institution, “the old place”. On one side, filming, in essay form, for MoMA, ranging over memory, time and the role of art (The Old Place, with Anne-Marie Miéville, 1999), and, on the other, exploring the installation of an exhibition at the Pompidou, in itself a history of civilization (Souvenir d´utopie, Anne-Marie Miéville, 2006, and Reportage amateur (maquette expo), with Anne-Marie Miéville, 2006).
The second programme, entitled Language and Catastrophe, encompasses the trilogy Goodbye to Language, Film Socialisme and The Image Book, three feature-length films in which a new digital vocabulary sets the scene to speak of contemporary catastrophe and hope for the future. Interspersed with this trilogy is the screening of Film Catastrophe. The third programme, History, includes the epilogue to Histoire(s) de cinema, Godard’s version of the 20th century as a legacy of brutality and, finally, a devastating critique of other film-makers through the ethics of images. To conclude, the programme Apparitions presents the director’s film portraits — in JLG/JLG – Self-Portrait in December we get a look into his austerity and isolation in Rolle; in the rest, brief letters Godard sent to festivals where he questions himself, invoking absurdity and existential solitude (Buster Keaton and Samuel Beckett) while examining the rituals of cinema.
Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville
The Old Place. Small Notes Regarding the Arts at Fall of 20th Century
France and USA, 1999, colour, original version in French with Spanish subtitles, DA, 49´
This film was made for MoMA and serves as a moving compendium of Godard’s and Miéville’s aesthetic thought. Posing the question of whether art is “legend” or “reality”, i.e. myth or history, images of artworks from diverse eras and disciplines materialise. All of them are contained in this “old place”, the museum, a space of memory and reflection in times of amnesia and absolute market demand. Art, Godard tells us, is one more object from this past time but, between distance and proximity (“legend” or “reality”), it still entertains hope of changing the present: it is the invention of a fragment of another possible world. Authors also write 23 theories of unique beauty and mystery that claim, at the end of the 20th century, the right to exist from art.
France and Switzerland, 2006, colour, original version in French with Spanish subtitles, DA, 6’
Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville
Reportage amateur (maquette expo)
France and Switzerland, 2006, colour, original version in French with Spanish subtitles, DA, 47´
At the turn of the 21st century, the Centre Pompidou undertook a project to mount an exhibition curated by one of the previous century’s great film-makers, with the initial title Collage(s) de France, archéologie du cinéma d’après JLG. Godard would not only pull out of the project, he also declared that the final exhibition, entitled Voyage(s) en utopie, Jean-Luc Godard, 1946-2006. À la recherche d’un théorème perdu (Centre Pompidou, 2006), did not represent his thinking. He also remarked that the only trace of the original show was the maquettes, which Godard made by hand and which he used to mount its curatorial discourse. The two films in this session film these maquettes, a personal imaginary museum in which Godard puts forward the most radical installation of the exhibition space. Souvenir d´utopie is a silent walk around the exhibition, with Miéville’s camera simulating the visitor’s gaze. Reportage amateur (maquette expo) sees Godard narrate the theoretical diagram of Collage(s) of France, according to the arrangement of rooms initially conceived in his project: Myth, Humanity, Camera, Film(s), The Subconscious, The Bastards, Reality, Death, The Grave. An inimitable challenge to the conditions in the museum.
Adieu au langage (Goodbye to Language)
France, 2014, colour, original version in French, English and German with Spanish subtitles, B-R, 67´
Godard’s second film in a new digital medium and 3D technology. We imagine the film-maker drawing a line under analogue film, after Histoire(s) de cinema, and trying out a new way of writing with the digital image. Goodbye to Language assumes an elegiac tone of abandonment on numerous levels: in the film medium, in the stories of lovelessness between the film’s two couples, two nostalgic and youthful remakes by Godard, and in the role of the word (language) to define the world. It is also the pure and innocent birth of a new experience, when words are left behind. How does the world speak to us when the simple and conventional code that reduces it disappears? The prominence of the dog Roxy (“the only being that will love you more than you love yourself”, a Charles Darwin quote Godard utters) and the exuberance of nature speaks of a fledgling sensibility when words become surplus.
Switzerland, 2010, colour, original version in French with Spanish subtitles, DA, 97´
Godard’s first feature film that is shot completely in video and fully utilises the juxtapositions, contrasts and saturation of the digital image, symptomatic of a time which is unhinged and rushed. The film-maker offers a film in three movements, in the form of a sonata: the first is quick, realised on a Mediterranean cruise with different stops; the second is slow and involves a family, a house and a petrol station in Southern France; the third, faster and shorter than the first, is a journey around some of the renowned enclaves on the shores of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
In the first movement, Such Things, Godard, Alain Badiou and Patti Smith share space with a motley crew of tourists who record images without looking at them — a cruise as an eroded version of the Grand Tour of the Enlightenment. In the second, Our Europe, a family is visited by two cameras while children debate liberty, equality and fraternity in a time of perpetual surveillance. The third, Our Humanities, focuses on the phrase: “the nation is not a country; it is a territory in conflict”. The approach of Film Socialisme is clear: to maintain a model of civilization alive in its fragments or delighting in the scene of its disintegration.
France, 2018, colour, original version in French with Spanish subtitles, DA, 55’
First session presented by Paul Grivas.
Paul Grivas is one of four cinematographers, with François Aragno, Jean-Paul Battagia and Godard, in Film Socialisme, forming part of the group of young collaborators working closely with the director in recent years. The role of prophet has followed Jean-Luc Godard throughout his career: widely known are his prophecies from May ‘68, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Palestinian Intifada. This is also the case with Film Socialisme, a film which astonishingly foresees the spectre of the European crisis, with the first part filmed on an ocean liner on the Mediterranean, denoting the moral debacle of old continental culture. Few could envisage this metaphor becoming international news: this liner is the Costa Concordia, the boat which capsized and sank in 2012 on the Italian coast, causing 32 deaths. In Film Catastrophe Paul Grivas captures the setting around the shooting of Film Socialisme: living alongside tourists, concerts, buffets, outdoor activities, and so on. Rituals which are inseparable from another on-board feast: tourists devouring images with their mobile phones.
Le Livre d´image (The Image Book)
Switzerland, 2018, b/w and colour, original version in French, English, Arabic, Italian and German with Spanish subtitles, DA, 84´
“The Image Book is cinema, and cinema is the lay culture that helps us against all books of the law, the Koran, the Bible, the Torah… It is the modernity of light against the darkness conveyed by those books of monotheistic religions. The image is what protects us against laws, dictatorships, rules. The image is the territory of freedom, fraternity… The principles of the republic of images. Each image is important, from those in my mobile phone to those from a sublime Hitchcock film in Hollywood. Each image is a citizenry in the republic of images, and a political model. Films are political models of co-existence, mutual solidarity, dialogue, against all rules that come from books, text, logos. All bibles are prescriptions (…). Images free us from those beliefs and prohibitions, and the way in which Jean-Luc (Godard) edits them, organises them, saves them, adds them and also disconnects them is an organisational model on how to be free,” writes Nicole Brenez, a lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3, and a film programmer, theorist and writer.
Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville
De l’origine du XXIe siècle
France, 2000, b/w and colour, original version in French with Spanish subtitles, DA, 16’
Moments choisis des histoire[s] du cinéma
France, 2004, b/w and colour, original version in French with Spanish subtitles, 35mm, 84’
This film shows the film-maker performing the role of a historian contemplating brutality and attempting to unravel its causes and motives through images, new words he writes with to produce history. De l’origine du XXIe siècle is a stream of violence, ecstasy and emotion before the legacy of the 20th century, a tumultuous and savage period. Documentary images live beside fictitious, pornographic and sacrificial ones — all, ultimately, images of history. “In search of a lost century”, recites one of the subtitles, the main characteristic of which Godard sets in the thought of Georges Bataille: the struggle between State control and the freedom of love. Moments choisis des histoire(s) du cinema, meanwhile, is a coda to the great Histoire(s) de cinéma (1988-1998). An epilogue contained in the phrase of film-maker and theorist Hollis Frampton: “No activity can become an art before its epoch has ended”. What remains of cinema after the 20th century?
Vrai faux passeport. Fiction documentaire sur des occasions de porter un jugement à propos de la façon de faire des films
France, 2006, b/w and colour, original version in French with Spanish subtitles, DA, 56’
A summary trial in which Godard expounds and dismantles film-making methods of other directors and references the possible link to a true discourse or, conversely, one which is manipulated, or profoundly false. A quote from Saint Augustine opens the film like a declaration of intent: “The truth is so cherished that even the liars wish that what they say is true”. The Latin terms bonus and malus are used by the judge/film-maker as moral categories (passports) assigned without consideration. In the dock sit Quentin Tarantino, Federico Fellini, Roberto Rossellini, Jean Vigo, Chantal Akerman, Martin Scorsese and Vincent Gallo, and many others. In contrast to the analytical and totalizing reflection of Histoire(s) de cinema, Vrai faux passeport is a critique in the strictest tradition of Charles Baudelaire: passionate, subjective, uncontrollable.
JLG/JLG – autoportrait de décembre (JLG/JLG – Self-Portrait in December)
France, 1995, colour, original version in French with Spanish subtitles, AD, 60´
Switzerland, 2008, colour, original version in French with Spanish subtitles, DA, 1’
Khan Khanne, seléction naturelle
France, 2014, b/w and colour, original version in French with Spanish subtitles, DA, 9’
Remerciements de Jean-Luc Godard à son Prix d´honneur du cinéma suisse
Switzerland, 2015, colour, original version in French with Spanish subtitles, DA, 5’
Bande-annonce de la 22ème édition du festival international du film documentaire de Jihlava
Switzerland and the Czech Republic, 2018, colour, original version in French with Spanish subtitles, DA, 1’
Sought by the whole film system, considered to be one of the great artists in our life and times, and rejuvenated in the exploration of digital language, Godard has become a ubiquitous presence in the programmes and homages of renowned festivals. Yet the film-maker responds by acts of disappearance and noticeable absence to become a spectre, a ghost, one more image. This session is a two-part self-portrait: in JLG/JLG – Self-Portrait in December we see his spartan lifestyle in the Swiss town of Rolle, his refuge and centre of operations. In the other short pieces, the film-maker examines his own disappearance and theorises about his marginalised and classless role. A poet who speaks about the world from outside the world: “So I’m going home/with The Ashes of Gramsci/a poem by Pasolini/it speaks of humble corruption,” Jean-Luc Godard remarks in Remerciements de Jean-Luc Godard à son Prix d´honneur du cinéma suisse.