Nicolas Feodoroff, In Progress, in Last Room / Dépli, Pandore 2013
Considering a tablet and a film, Last Room, by Pierre Carniaux: eluding the finiteness of the film-object and its imposed progression in time, Thierry Fournier proposes with Dépli another way of comprehending film matter. Somewhere between the film and the interactive installation, the idea – apparently a simple one – proves to be as delicate to implement as its stakes are overwhelming: to make a film and its unfolding. That is, in the words of Thierry Fournier and Pierre Carniaux: to create two pieces of a single diptych.
Admittedly, the history of cinematographic forms teaches us that we have often dealt with the fundamental principles of what we usually refer to as cinema: some have chosen to liberate themselves from the movie theatre, and move to museum- or other spaces, while others have sought to undo the projection’s continuum. These experiences have constituted opportunities to break away from the ritual of the showing and of the progression, which both belong to a previously determined temporality, with multi-screen installations for instance, where a process of mental editing is left to the discretion of each viewer.
Dépli fits into this system, by appropriating itself the very same material as a film, but in a new way. Indeed, the project has another ambition: to take on the entire film and move within the very matter from whence it came, its raw footage, in an apparatus that engages a new way of watching and practicing images – particularily in the case of the theatre version of the installation, in which the viewer/user must stand, and cannot surrender to the comfort of the seat. These rushes, therefore – the raw material used to make the film – can be watched and experimented with at one’s own pace. Materiel that is usually invisible (what Chris Marker referred to paradoxically as his peelings), often rich, but that the film must extract itself from in order to assert itself as a film, through choices (aesthetic, ethic, their nature is of little significance in this case) made from recorded data. Here, the viewer is offered other options, as he gets a glimpse of the material that was set aside during the final editing process. But this is not about (re)making a movie by simply reediting it for one’s own account. Rather, it is about reclaiming and reworking these images in a different way, with broader matter, since the lengths of the shots in Dépli are 30 minutes longer than the ones in the film. Finally, beyond these conditions stipulated for play (which can be played individually at home, or in a movie theatre, live and in public) the Dépli apparatus leaves no trace of the viewer’s passage through the images, other than bits left in the memories of those who witnessed it. Herein lies the singularity of this experience, different every time, couched in the present of its execution, like a performance with no record.
With Dépli, the viewer’s place is revisited, and an additional tool is taken into account: the tablet. This quintessentially personal technical object is, in this case, engaged in a paradoxical use. At the crossroads of a collective space and a type of contemporary hyperindividualism that is exacerbated in this object, echoing the possibilities currently offered by different media and networks within this mass made available by the Internet, Dépli offers a means of updating experiences that have aimed to remove cinema from its current set-up, a form which was inherited from the theatre and has gradually prevailed as the norm.
The unfolding manifests itself as fabric, a combinatory of the present images. Through a very concrete gesture that involves moving one’s fingers, Dépli indicates this paradox between the distance that is particular to images (amplified in this case by the geographical origin) and the tactile proximity of these images, conveyed by the sensation of possessing them by a simple touch. By grazing them with the tips of our fingers, we invent a world that offers itself to our gaze. We move from the gesture to the projected image, to the actual manipulation of the images. Where we play on lengths, overlays, creating forms that also unravel possibilities, from the film to the tablet and the DVD. Wandering, drifting in a maze-like space, in which the viewer/manipulator is invited to lose himself, to dig through the visual matter, to develop his own desires, offer his own extensions from shot to shot, experiment his own associations, Borgesian possibilities of infinite junctions within a closed space.
This constitutes, according to Umberto Eco’s expression, an open work, a feat that is never necessary but always possible, challenged time and time again. It is about playing, like in a card game – but beyond the possible combinations in a given hand, the cards in this case can vary according to the associations and lengths that we remember, the mode and the degree of the dissolves between the images, the speed – slower or faster – the reversal of movement, the superimposition… There is no going back to before, but rather, to differently. A multiplicity composed of stops, suspensions, chance meetings made possible by this gesture. The unfolding that is operated does not involve taking the film apart, or leveling it. Nor is it about returning to some initial form that preceded the editing operation, like an origami that would regain its original shape after it is unfolded. Matter made ductile by the hand’s gesture, between two fingers, like a fold. As Gilles Deleuze notes: “The un-fold is never the opposite of the fold. (…) To unfold means that I sometimes develop, I undo infinitely small folds that keep disturbing the background; but doing this in order to draw a large fold on the side, from which forms appear”; he goes on to point out that “I always unfold between two folds, and if to perceive is to unfold, than I always perceive in the folds”.
To unfold is also to fold, and in this space, the image is no longer a window, but offers itself as a surface, an infinitely malleable preexistent matter. The status of the images changes: from their relationship to the implicit (but no less problematic) world with a preexisting reality, we find ourselves with the images as they are. From a type of verticality, going from the world to the image and back, we find ourselves in a horizontality of images subjected to our gestures, in which they function in relation to each other – as cinema does with editing. Close at hand and at a distance, we are therefore in a relationship of surfaces. The images become a surface that is replayed, doubled by the tablet’s own surface, over which our fingers slide, between video gaming and drawing, with this world at the tip of our fingers, a world that we are drawing. Nothing but images where we can operate by detail and in detail. Change of nature or degree? Change of gaze? A cinematographic langage, surely, and cinema, if we consider that it remains pure movement: not of the world and its beat, but of images and their breathing, that build worlds according to a renewed poetic. From the editing table and from the viewer’s seat, a short circuit has occurred in the relationship of the parts to the whole that is a film. Not total submission, but an overlap, a superimposition of the two moments.
From the film to its manifestation in Dépli? One that belongs to cinema in its historic form, the other would perhaps be one of its future forms? It would be vain and futile to attempt to make such a prediction. However, it opens up one of the possibilities of a cinema that encounters what Bernard Stiegler calls (in order to critique it) temporal industrial objects that give rise to this singular form. History has taught us that artists, like film-makers (coming from within cinema as a constituted space, and from without) have played with the finished form of the reel as it unrolls behind us and with its reception space, the theater. Let us keep the theater, the projection, its viewer, and unfold this reel which has become a digital stock, not of images but of sequences, of varying and unknown lengths.
To make a film, in this case, is to elaborate possible fragments of a non-existent film, and, to a certain extent, construct extension to the world that is the matrix film, organize our own meanderings that might emerge from it, belong to it, come out of it, without ever disconnecting form it. Like a reel that draws infinite interlacing -the image of an expanding film. Open up its possibilities, short, long, contemplative, random, calculated, systematic, dream-like… an infinite amount of possibilities, sustained by the intensification of its fragments. The pleasure of making and working with a particular matter, playing with chance and accidents, inventing, handling the images in their carnal thickness.
Nicolas Feodoroff is an art and film critic, and programer at FIDMarseille.