October 18, 2013–January 5, 2014
MIT List Visual Arts Center
curated by João Ribas
Chris Marker: Guillaume-en-Égypte
photo: Icarus Films
With an unparalleled and uncompromising career that spanned nearly six decades, Chris Marker (1921–2012) stands as a unique chronicler of the second half of the 20th century. A writer, editor, photographer, filmmaker, and multimedia artist,Marker was born Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve in Neiully-sur-Seine, France, in 1921. Throughout his multifaceted life—from fighting with the French resistance to becoming an early adopter of digital technologies—Marker employed a variety of media in his investigation of the relationship between images, memory, and history. While perhaps best known for his radical 1962 sci-fi film La jetée, Marker worked as a writer and editor before turning to photography and film in the 1950s, and then to video and new media in later decades, producing over fifty films and multimedia works before his death in Paris in 2012. Chris Marker: Guillaume-en-Égypte, presents the first comprehensive exhibition of the renowned filmmaker and artist, surveying his pioneering work in writing, photography, film, video, and digital media.
Marker’s early photographic work was produced after joining the Parisian intellectual circles of the 1940s, and publishing poems, fictions, editorials, and film criticism. This ensuing vast photographic output is comprised of images taken throughout the world since the 1940s. Marker defined these travels—from postwar China, to eventually, the virtual worlds of Second Life—as part of an obsessive curiosity to capture “life in the process of becoming history.” Turning to filmmaking in the 1950s, the resulting films, television programs, and video works produced over the next fifty years made him one of the most innovative and influential filmmakers in modern cinema history. Heralded as the birth of a new genre, Lettre de Sibérie (Letter From Siberia, 1958), one of Marker’s earliest films, evinces the nearly unclassifiable combination of travelogue, documentary, essay, historical analysis, and humor that would come to define Marker’s cinematic output.
Marker’s interest in moving image production and political engagement led him to establish filmmaking collectives in the 1960s that sought to make films in a collaborative way and to support workers in producing their own films. As an astute critic of the relation between images and history, Marker would consistently turn to new technologies to expand forms of independent moving image production. By the early 1990s, Marker was working extensively in video—allowing him unprecedented abilities in the manipulation of images—and was an early adopter of digital technology. The introduction of digital media to create, store, and distribute images and texts in the following decades expanded the production of new kinds of independent filmmaking, as well as furthered his investigation of the shifting conditions of the image.
While Marker’s work from the 1990s reflected on the historical role of cinema, he also gestured towards its future, anticipating ways in which networks are increasingly sites of both personal and collective memory mediated through interfaces. Tracing the shifting conditions of the image through the technological innovations of the 20th and 21st century, Marker produced work for digital and online platforms through the late 1990s and 2000s. Marker’s use of such media speak to his commitment to exploring how new media technologies impact the processes of recording and interpreting history, and how digital technology is effecting the production and dissemination of images.