srijeda, 13. ožujka 2013.

Eric Baudelaire - L'Anabase de May et Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi et 27 années sans images (2011)

 The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi, and 27 Years Without Images

Osim što se preziva Baudelaire (inače je umjetnik širokog spektra), ima jedan od najimpresivnijih filmskih naslova (L'Anabase de May et Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi et 27 années sans images /The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years without Images).
Film govori o pripadnicima japanske ultraljevičarske pro-palestinske Crvene armije. Prije nego što se pridružio "teroristima" Masao Adachi, jedan od likova kojima se bavi film, bio je kultni underground filmaš. Njegov dokumentarac Serijski ubojica slijedi poetiku fukeiron (snimanjem eksterijera otkriva se represivnost političkog sustava) - vidimo samo mjesta na kojima je boravio Norio Nagayama, prije nego što je postao ubojica. Baudelaire u ovom filmu također slijedi fukeiron pa vidimo samo pejzaže Bejruta i Tokija te arhivske filmske i televizijske snimke.


Knjiga (libreto) L'Anabase de May et Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi, et 27 Années sans Images issu

Who are May and Fusako Shigenobu? Fusako — leader of an extremist left-wing faction, the Japanese Red Army, involved in a number of terrorist operations — has been in hiding in Beirut for almost 30 years. May, her daughter, born in Lebanon, only discovered Japan at the age of twenty-seven, after her mother’s arrest in 2000. And Masao Adachi? A screenwriter and radical activist filmmaker, committed to armed struggle and the Palestinian cause, was also underground in Lebanon for several decades before being sent back to his native country. In his years as a film director, he had been one of the instigators of a ‘theory of landscape’ — fukeiron: through filming landscapes, Adachi sought to reveal the structures of oppression that underpin and perpetuate the political system. Anabasis? The name given, since Xenophon, to wandering, circuitous homeward journeys.
It is this complicated, dark, and always suspenseful story that Eric Baudelaire — an artist renowned for using photography as a means of questioning the staging of reality — chose to bring forth using the documentary format. Filmed on Super 8 mm, and in the manner of fukeiron, contemporary panoramas of Tokyo and Beirut are blended in with archival footage, TV clips and film excerpts as backdrop for May and Adachi’s voices and memories. They speak of everyday life, of being a little girl in hiding, of exile, politics and cinema, and their fascinating overlap. All of which adds up not so much to an enquiry as a fragmented anamnesis. - Jean-Pierre Rehm (from the FID Marseille catalog)

Few artists have shifted from revolutionary imagination to revolutionary action like Masao Adachi, a collaborator with both the Japanese New Wave and the Japanese Red Army. A scriptwriter and colleague of Nagisa Oshima and Koji Wakamatsu, and a director of left-wing sex films, Adachi abandoned commercial filmmaking — and Japan — entirely in 1974 to join the extremist Japanese Red Army in exile in Beirut, where the group gained fame through deadly hijackings and bombings in support of a free Palestine and a worldwide Communist revolution. Also in Beirut was the group’s founder Fusako Shigenobu and her daughter May, who lived incognito for years. A film on exile, revolution, landscapes and memory, The Anabasis… brings forth the remarkable parallel stories of Adachi and May, one a filmmaker who gave up images, the other a young woman whose identity-less existence forbade keeping images of her own life. Fittingly returning the image to their lives, director Eric Baudelaire places Adachi and May’s revelatory voiceover reminiscences against warm, fragile Super-8mm footage of their split milieus, Tokyo and Beirut. Grounding their wide-ranging reflections in a solid yet complex reality, The Anabasis… provides a richly rewarding look at a fascinating, now nearly forgotten era (in politics and cinema), reminding us of film’s own ability to portray — and influence — its landscape. - Jason Sanders (from the San Francisco International Film Festival catalog)

Behind this year's longest title hides one of this year's most unusual stories - told in a highly unusual way! But first, the story: the radical Japanese director Masao Adachi abandoned his already controversial film career in 1974 to join the Japanese Red Army, a pro-Palestinian and militant group based Lebanon, led by Fusako Shigenobu, whose daughter May only returned to Japan as a 27-year-old, after her mother was arrested. The French photographer and artist Eric Baudelaire, however, tells the story of this unusual trio with a starting point in the Japanese theory of looking at landscapes - known as 'fukeiron' - which Adachi also practiced himself: by intensely filming society's surroundings, one can attain knowledge about its ideological power structures. Through his paradoxically beautiful collage of cine footage from Beirut and Tokyo, mixed with film and TV extracts as well as May's and Adachi's personal narration on the soundtrack, Baudelaire moulds a visually stunning trip down memory lane of two characters' tumultuous lives. Adachi could also be seen in Philippe Grandrieux's New Vision winner at last year's CPH:DOX, and is one of the filmmakers that has brought the avantgarde ideal closest to a possible realisation. -

Baudelaire’s most recent work looks at the complexities of recounting the history of the Japanese Red Army (JRA) – a radical group that emerged from the 1968 Tokyo student movement, settled in Beirut in the early 1970s, and engaged in sophisticated terrorist activities in solidarity with the Palestinian cause.
The exhibition consists of an installation encompassing his 2011 experimental documentary film of the same name, which centres upon the oral testimonies of two JRA protagonists: May Shigenobu, the daughter of JRA founder and leader Fusako Shigenobu, and Masao Adachi, a legendary underground film director, JRA member and theoretician. This is shown alongside documents, photographs, prison drawings and works on paper that further contextualise the JRA's radical journey, focusing on issues of representation associated with documentary, testimony and the production or absence of images. The Anabasis... engages with questions concerning the relationship between politics and film, and militant filmmaking versus activism without cinema – a distinction that Masao Adachi refuses, but that Baudelaire’s exhibition interrogates anew.
Baudelaire frames the story of the JRA in a literary tradition going back to Xenophon’s Anabasis: a journey of soldiers lost in foreign lands, wandering into the unknown on a circuitous journey home. In recounting their own journeys, May Shigenobu and Masao Adachi weave together intimate stories, political history, revolutionary propaganda and film theory. They each describe clandestine and imageless experiences in which images are nonetheless constantly at stake. May Shigenobu, for instance, spent much of her early life in hiding, often living under pseudonyms. When family snapshots were occasionally taken they were always then hastily destroyed. As she grew older, returned to Japan and started working as a television journalist, images began to provide her with a new means of self-invention.
As a filmmaker, Adachi devoted his life to images. During his years in Lebanon, he sought to advance his radical film practice by trading the camera for the rifle. Yet all the while he remained a filmmaker at heart, even conceiving of JRA aeroplane highjackings as screenplays. The scenarios were his own, the actors were JRA fighters, but the cinematography was left to the news cameras.
May Shigenobu’s and Masao Adachi’s stories unfold over new 'fûkeiron' Super 8 images filmed by Baudelaire in Tokyo and Beirut. Fûkeiron is a 'theory of landscape' developed by Adachi for his 1969 film AKA Serial Killer, an excerpt of which is also included in the exhibition. Through filming landscapes, he sought to reveal the structures of oppression that underpin the political system and cause alienation. The Anabasis... puts this theory to work and also turns it back towards its author, exploring the problematic overlaps between images of reality and those of fiction, and between a radical political engagement and an unsettling fascination with violence.
Exhibition graphic design by Regular (Jean-Marie Courant) -

The political and personal epic of the Japanese Red Army is recounted as an Anabasis, a journey that is both a wandering towards the unknown and a return towards home. From Tokyo to Beirut amid the post-1968 ideological fever, and from Beirut to Tokyo at the end of the Red Years, the thirty-year trajectory of a radical fringe of the revolutionary left is recounted by two of its protagonists. May Shigenobu, daughter of the founder of the small group, witnessed it closely. Born in secrecy in Lebanon, a clandestine life was all she knew until age 27. But a second life began with her mother's arrest and her adaptation to a suddenly very public existence. Masao Adachi, the legendary Japanese experimental director, gave up cinema to take up arms with the Japanese Red Army and the Palestinian cause In 1974. For this theorist of the fûkeiron (a movement of filmmakers who filmed the landscape to reveal the ubiquitous structures of power) his 27 years of voluntary exile were without images, since those he filmed in Lebanon were destroyed on three separate occasions during the war.
It is therefore words, testimony, memory (and false memory) that structure The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years without Images. Two intersecting accounts, mixing personal stories, political history, revolutionary propaganda and film theory. Thirty years of self invention in which the recurring theme is the question of images: public images produced by the media in response to terrorist operations planned for the television era, and personal images that are lost or destroyed amid the chaos of the struggles. Adopting an experimental documentary format, the accounts of May Shigenobu and Masao Adachi overlay new fûkeiron images, filmed in Super 8 in the contemporary landscapes of Tokyo and Beirut. -

The Red Army / PFLP: Declaration of World War by Masao Adachi & Kôji Wakamatsu:

Masao Adachi & Kôji Wakamatsu, both having ties to the Japanese Red Army, stopped in Lebanon on their way home from the Cannes festival. There they caught up with notorious JRA ex-pats Fusako Shigenobu and Mieko Toyama in training camps to create a newsreel-style agit-prop film based off of the "landscape theory" (fûkeiron) that Adachi and Wakamatsu had developed. The theory, most evident at work in A.K.A. Serial Killer (1969), aimed to move the emphasis of film from situations to landscapes as expression of political and economical power relations.
In 1974 Adachi left Japan and committed himself to the Palestinian Revolution and linked up with the Japan Red Army. His activities thereafter were not revealed until he was arrested and imprisoned in 1997 in Lebanon. In 2001 Adachi was extradited to Japan, and after two years of imprisonment, he was released and subsequently published Cinema/Revolution [Eiga/Kakumei], an auto-biographical account of his life

Masao Adachi, Serial Killer (1969) [cijeli film]

In 1969, before Masao Adachi decided to become a full part of 'United Red Army' and moved to Beirut for twenty years, he made this film. It's the story of a 19 year old man who becomes a serial killer after killing four men with the same gun. It is almost like a documentary, but you will not encounter an investigation of the case or an interview subject because the only thing that you see through the whole film is a landscape. This film follows the path of Norio Nagayama, the killer, from where he grew up to everywhere he goes until he commits a crime. The narrative of the whole thing is like watching the news.
What we see is just a plain landscape: a railway, tiny apartments, a road, a field of flowers, the waves made by a ferry boat, a dirty room, a barn, or a workplace. Everything is glimpsed along with the deadpan voice of the narrator, reading things with no dramatic feeling; everything is left plain and dead, flashing without any kind of drama.
This film has its own history because it was the origin of 'Landscape Theory' (fûkeiron), which claims the landscape as being an expansion of the state power. In this film, we see the landscape of poverty. It shows us the eye of the murderer and what he saw when he was young, the picture of struggle and poverty. The homogeneous landscapes of each town (we actually don't know which town is which in each scene) gives us only one picture of poverty.
Furthermore, this film was radical in its form because at that time the left-wing in Japan were making a very dramatic documentary (the same as state propaganda) so the absence of feeling in this film was like a critique of both sides.
Featuring the free jazz soundtrack by Masahiko Togashi and Mototeru Takagi.

Adachiju je hommage napravio i režiser Philippe Grandrieux:

 još o Adachiju: 

by Pierre Zaoui

The sole and only work and deed accomplished by universal freedom is therefore death—a death that achieves nothing, embraces nothing within its grasp; for what is negated is the unachieved, unfulfilled punctual entity of the absolutely free self. It is thus the most cold-blooded and meaningless death of all, with no more significance than cleaving a head of cabbage or swallowing a draught of water. - Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit

I have behind me two or three coffins for which I will never forgive
anyone. -
Antonin Artaud, Rodez Notebooks

It is hard to imagine a more horrid and absurd act than the terrorist attack of May 30th 1972 at Lod Airport in Israel. Three Japanese kamikazes 5000 miles from home shot blindly into a crowd—mostly made up of Puerto Rican Catholics on a pilgrimage—in the name of the Palestinian cause and of world revolution. One is not quite sure whether to break into laughter or tears, so much does ridiculousness clash here with bloody abjection. So one wavers between Dostoyevskian moral repulsion (“Demons!”) and Monty Pythonesque disbelief (the Judean People’s Front in The Life of Brian comes to mind).
But one need only spend a little more time thinking about the twenty-six victims of that attack, the vile purges that preceded it within the United Red Army, their fascination with violence, and their total confusion between reality and images, between internationalism and nationalism, between freedom and death, to stop laughing altogether. These tragic excesses—not of a generation but of a few lost Japanese—are not fascinating; they are wicked, lamentable. A lament that forces us, symmetrically, to abandon any overly moral perspective. Because after all, in their own way these young members of the Japanese Red Army did not lack morality. At least, they lacked none of the courage, selflessness, loyalty to community, solidarity, sense of sacrifice and other virtues that are the stuff of the most common morals. And it is hard not to detect a profound moral regret in the fact that after this attack, none of their “operations” aimed to kill, as they got lost instead in pure terrorist spectacles. Search as one might, interpretation will always reach a dead-end. There will be no “perfect” scumbags nor even “banal” scumbags, in Hannah Arendt’s sense of the word. So these terrorists do not inspire laughter any more than do their victims, because like them, they do not make good objects of mockery. The situation is a little more serious than that.
Here it is rather Hegel’s words describing revolutionary Terror that ring truer than ever: their liberation and revolution ideal was nothing but an ideal devoid of content, without mediation, a confusion between images and reality, feelings and reason, deprived of all feeling and all dialectical thought, which could only lead to “the most cold­blooded and meaningless death,” in reality as well as in images. In other words, the Lod attack and the whole associated story of the Japanese Red Army are not intolerable for aesthetic or moral reasons, but because they stem from a political sensibility and mindset that are essentially impatient. Indeed, as Hegel showed persuasively, beyond all morality, impatient sentimentality is the absolute worst political fault, much worse even than patient, well­considered Machiavellian cruelty. It is a disaster for the mind, taking the apparently highest and most generous thought of universality and reducing it to the most insignificant particularity. And it is also a disaster for the body, reduced at worst to the level of an obstacle without importance, at best to the level of an image without real content.
As true as Hegel’s judgment may seem, it is not necessarily wholly adequate for today’s world. First, because he could only formulate it after the event, from the perspective of a subsequent reconciliation between abstract freedom and concrete moral community, specifically the Empire, then the Hegelian constitutional state. But which subsequent reconciliation enables us to speak of those terrorist attacks of the 1970s? What have the Palestinian question and the chances for peace in the Israeli­Arab conflict become if not an endless despair?
What has terrorism become today if not a sinister profession of the future? And if the revolutionary perspective has been discredited by bloody, loathsome acts, what has become of the thought on its underlying causes—oppression, inequality, poverty, exploitation?
Second, and most importantly, because Hegel claims to fully understand the terrorist act. That fury of abstract universality has a determined place in his system as a pause in the life of the spirit which must be overcome. Yet who can really claim to understand terrorism, no longer of the State but by various splinter groups? Claiming to fully understand it amounts to either condemning or excusing it, that is, contenting oneself to judge and therefore not really understanding anything at all.
In this respect, a more fruitful approach might be the kind taken by Eric Baudelaire, who aims to understand and not to understand at the same time—to understand up to the point that one no longer understands—and also to show, refusing to understand or explain, so that with a dreadful feeling of confusion we are surprised to find ourselves understanding, discovering a subtle sympathy, telling ourselves that maybe monstrosity is our shared condition. He sets before us a kind of ever­divided desire: the desire to understand and to not understand, the desire to understand what we do not understand and the desire not to understand what we are afraid of understanding all too well. Or it could be written: the desire (not) to understand, in its threefold sense—to see, to hear, and to share.
Where does this desire come from, if it rejects from the start not just all fascination, all nostalgia, but also any elevated position from which to pronounce “the” truth of the past? Perhaps from today, actually, from our latter­day reluctance to understand and not understand what happened and what was lost in those years of powder and lead. What went off the rails? Where? Why? We do not know. The unpardonable criminal failure of those young idealists of yesterday in no way clears us of our own failure, our current inability to offer anything more than talk of an unthinkable new departure and an impossible return. This could almost be expressed as a fake Zen proverb: the certainty that someone else is lost does not in any way guarantee that we have found ourselves, nor even that we have the ability at least to find ourselves.
Taking up the profound intuition of Alain Badiou, who sees in Anabasis —understood as an embarking, a wandering and a return— one of the possible symbols of the century that has (or has not) just ended, Eric Baudelaire suggests that we take another look at one of the movements that drove this modern form of anabasis to one of its highest levels of insanity: the Japanese Red Army.
It is a matter of being precise, however. Not about the idea of insanity, which explains both nothing and too much, but about this very notion of anabasis. Because what exactly is it about here? The anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu and that of Masao Adachi is, in truth, much more literal than Alan Badiou’s. His is a metaphor for a century’s wandering and returning, symbolizing the poetic space opened between Saint­John Perse’s lyrical anabasis and Paul Celan’s tragic anabasis. Eric Baudelaire is by contrast more mistrustful of poetry and metaphor. It is no refusal, so much are his silkscreen prints and his tracking shots of Tokyo and Beirut fraught with tragic poetic richness; yet more mistrustful. Or put otherwise: he is naturally on Celan’s side, deaf to the heavy pathos of the likes of Saint­John Perse. His anabasis does not try prophetically to speak the truth of a century, but circles around absent images of a crime, gropes among its traces, and focuses on those who were not so much actors as spectators of that atrocious expedition from Japan to Beirut and back again. A bit like in Circumambulation, one of his previous films, when he circled around Ground Zero with his camera: wanting to understand, circling, filming, wanting not to understand, refusing to see, his head lowered. And when it is a matter of anabasis, of a wandering and a return, maybe it is better to circle and film than to speak — the literality of images versus poetic metaphor.
For this reason, Eric Baudelaire is also much closer to Xenophon’s text itself. You could even say that he follows its sequence more precisely. What in fact does this so­called “march of the Ten Thousand” entail?
First the departure elsewhere of young men from all of over Greece, thirsty for adventure, glory and money. The elsewhere of that period was Persia, geographically the present­day Middle East. But the goal was already ancillary, mercenary; they were helping Cyrus overthrow his brother, much in the way that, mutatis mutan- dis, the Japanese Red Army placed itself at the service of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). No romantic indulgence here —not the call of the desert, nor the call of the road to the unknown. Anabasis is primarily the story of an initial confusion between thirst for the outside and mercenary interest.
Next, a wandering, when Cyrus dies in the battle of Cunaxa and the Greek army finds itself lacking any plan or goal. Victory no longer means anything more than warding off defeat. Both groups suffer deep solitude, leading to arguments, division, treason. The destitution of an uprooted herd. And nostalgia for the kingdom of water (Greece? Japan?): “thalatta! thalatta!”. And even worse, boredom. Xenophon is obviously not a great author. He loses himself in images, instead of getting down to construction and verisimilitude, and you get bored stiff reading his work, but it is doubtless a boredom worthy of what the Greeks experienced as they spent months crisscrossing foreign lands in search of some sort of sanctuary from despair.
But this is not a neutral wandering. It is not an intoxicating journey or a series of picaresque encounters, but an organized, compulsory crime. What can a routed army survive on if not plunder, pillage and murder? Even Xenophon could not hide this. At heart, Anabasis is the story of crimes that are paradoxically both necessary and pointless; a very strange war of conquest that has suddenly become defensive, the defense of self outside oneself, hunted conquerors, compulsory criminals that dream they are glorious heroes.
Hence the return. But it was far from being an organized retreat, however much Xenophon may have showered himself with praise at the time (his genius, his know­how, his prudence). It was more of a chaotic flight. How many men had set out? How many returned? Anabasis is a return to the same thing, worse off; it is the sterile dialectic of an enthusiasm and a disappointment that lead back to the point of departure, only burdened by a few more deaths and regrets. And even a collapse: returning not to one’s city steeped in glory, but instead home to Mother, or to no one if she is already in prison. Anabasis is not the tale of a ruin of the ruined, but of a ruin of ruiners, of people who are the chief architects of their own ruin. Once again, Xenophon is no Homer, and Anabasis is the poor man’s Odyssey.
Finally, an apology, a perpetual justification. No matter what some specialists say, Anabasis is essentially an exercise in self­justification. And there is no reason to reproach it for this, so well do we understand why. After surviving one’s own rout, what destiny can one hope for other than having to endlessly justify, to keep mulling over one’s crime, its necessity, the error it represents, and to bunker down behind one’s initial noble reasons? Especially when this justification coincides with a much greater rout, the collapse of Athens. Over subsequent centuries, Athenians were to recognize themselves in this story, which came to symbolize their destiny, and Anabasis was to enjoy considerable success. Understood in terms of its historical reception, it is thus no longer simply the tale of a few lost youths, but more the story of their rout at the heart of an even greater rout that was to mark the end of an era. Ruin within ruin, Athenians of yesterday just like people in today’s societies who are no longer quite sure who is manipulating who, or even for what reason (a past or a future? a private image or a collective destiny?). You would think that not only the failure but its vain justification had been—in itself and in face of an even greater failure—part of the plan all along.
There is no question then of giving in to a romanticization of anabasis, ancient or modern, nor to an unequivocal, too comfortable condemnation of its actors. They certainly had a wretched homecoming as criminals without glory, but we ourselves are still wandering, away from the scene of who knows what new and even viler crimes.
What is the good of such a realization? Is it nihilistic despair, or the same old song about impotent youth, forever spectators of a past that eludes them as much as the present? Maybe not, since this is where everything turns around, where we are seized by vertigo. Eric Baudelaire’s exhibition, in fact, is not a political analysis, it is an art exhibition. We are not dealing primarily with ideas, but with images and voices, images that are indirect, clouded, controlled, and manipulated in both senses of the word. Raw voices, neither judged nor decrypted (in the name of which higher code?). One cannot help thinking of the primitive gestures of contemporary art: of Duchamp diverting common objects and images, of Malevitch melting all figures into the abstraction of color. And of its original purpose: saving the concrete by means of diversion and abstraction (which no longer has anything to do with philosophical abstraction); saving the beauty of the world and the landscape by refusing its human, all too human aestheticization; saving art by denying it. In short, going back to an entirely different anabasis, that of contemporary art, which never stops searching for something new in the point of rout that leads to a return, a reprise, a remake.
So is this the vertigo of analogy, as Jacques Bouveresse would say? An infinitely doubtful vertigo that will end up placing the indistinct suffering of men, all men—Jews, Palestinians, Israelis, Japanese, Greeks, Puerto Ricans—at the service of artists? Absolutely not.
First, because if we accept Gerard Wacjman’s assertion in L’Objet du siècle (The Object of the Century) that contemporary art begins with Duchamp and Malevitch, we have no choice but to recognize that the anabasis image has a much longer history in art than in politics. If art’s interest in this image gives it meaning today, it is perhaps not so much as a lifeline, but as a disturbing mirror that shows a reflection of one’s time and at least provides food for thought. It was neither politics nor poetry that first modernized that ancient image of the anabasis, it was the visual artist working with images, conscious of their perpetual fall and resurrection in a world closed anew.
Moreover, it is hard to deny that in a sense today we live in societies of widespread anabasis where in art, politics and science, in the most public lives as well as the most private, we hear people speaking of nothing but that: of new departures and returns, of conquests and quagmires, of the loss and rediscovery of meaning.
Finally, because if we concede that the greatest wisdom consists in more than just “not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn,” to use Spinoza’s words, but also not to understand as Spinoza would rather have wished, only to convey everything that has happened, with all of the nebulousness and the nagging questions the past entails, then we have no choice but to recognize that art makes use of the past as much as it does not make use of it, makes use of the present as much as it diverts from it to find something new.
In any case, latching onto this anabasis image at least seems a little more interesting than speaking of a postmodern world, the end of history or a clash of civilizations. It allows us to avoid sterile contrasts between fervor and brooding. We have no choice, our age has set itself up between the two, and contemporary art was the first to understand this. And above all, this liberates us from all nostalgia for the past as well as all hope for a more glorious future. Our age is not a great one, and its art must therefore forbid itself from trying to be the greatest art, true art in the Hegelian sense or propaganda art like that of the last thurifiers of revolutionary terrorism. But although this lucid realization can liberate us from all of the garbage of grandeur—glory, fanaticism, sacrifice, war—the modest art of today, which Eric Baudelaire’s work embodies rigorously, deserves its fair measure of thanks. It is an art of peace, of questions, and a call for more sharing, instead of more judgment and conflict.

A Bright Darkness: Masao Adachi   


Always lines, never forms! But where do they find these lines in Nature? For my part, I see only forms that are lit up and forms that are not. There is only light and shadow.
Francisco de Goya

The Desire to Make a Film
The film opens with the hypnotic cadence of the oscillation of two bodies, of which we perceive only parts. A man swings a little girl; we listen to the swing’s squeak and a child’s voice, whispering. The camera gets closer and closer to the bodies – we can feel this shaky camera, and the vibration of the body holding it. Afternoon light gives the image an atmosphere of intimacy, like the first words of the filmmaker, emerging with the same luminous tone of the bright darkness that embraces the bodies of the man – Masao Adachi – and the child.
The first images of Masao Adachi immerse the spectator in a tactile space. A space that returns us to another video-film made by Philippe Grandrieux with Thierry Kuntzel in 1981: Cubist Painting. Based on the text of the same name by Jean Paulhan, its narration is built by alternating video (Kuntzel) with film (Grandrieux) images. In this work, the protagonist, after observing a room bathed in blinding light, enters into the darkness and conceives a new sensorial perception of his everyday space. ‘It would thus seem […] that touching takes precedence over seeing, tactile space over visual space; as if our gaze was to become an extension of our body’. (1) This is rather like the transmutation of filmic space that occurs in the first sequence of Masao Adachi. Watching the images of the encounter between Adachi and the child, we feel the sense of touch replacing that of sight, tactility predominating over the visual space. We experience the gaze as an extension of the body, our retinas reborn as fingertips.
We swim into a touchable, liquid darkness, an intimate space analogous to Adachi’s exercise of introspection in the opening scene. In Masao Adachi, the spectator makes a trip into the interiority of a body, through the streams of consciousness of Adachi’s memories. In ‘The Painting Before Painting’, a chapter from Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, Gilles Deleuze describes the moment prior to what he calls the ‘act of painting’ – that moment when the painter, hypothetically, stands before the blank canvas.

1. For an extract in English from Jean Paulhan’s La peinture cubiste (Paris: Denoël, 1970), see here.

It would be a mistake to think that the painter works on a white and virgin surface. (…) The painter has many things in his head, or around him, or in his studio. Now everything he has in his head or around him is already in the canvas, more or less virtually, more or less actually, before he begins his work. They are all present in the canvas as so many images, actual or virtual, so that the painter does not have to cover a blank surface, but rather would have to empty it out, clear it, clean it. (…) he paints on images that are already there. (2)

2. Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation ( London : Continuum, 2003), p. 86.
In that sense, we can read the film’s opening sequence as the mise en scène of all the things that Masao Adachi ‘has in his head’, as if we were witnessing the ‘filming before filming’ of the Japanese director.
If Masao Adachi opens with a journey into its subject’s consciousness and desires, making us think specifically about his work, we shall soon discover, after seeing the selection of fragments of his cinema spread throughout, that it also constitutes a powerful document of Grandrieux’s own work and processes. In fact, the selection of Adachi’s scenes not only illustrate his words, but also stage some of Grandrieux’s filmic sources, inspirations and references.
In the film, Adachi remarks:

The film must be returned to the world of sensations. Since we filmed with our sensations, we must finish the film with sensations and not as a prisoner of our ideas. To go on, a sensation is something that flows, it’s very fluid, while ideas are fragments of thoughts. This goes back to what I said earlier in the film. Actually, what are filmed are just fragments of thoughts. The film is only visible once it is returned to the world of sensations. It's a question I would like to pursue, and it provokes in me the desire to experiment. That’s it, Philippe. I think that's the essence of cinema. (…) The world of ideas is made up of fragments of thought. The world of sensations is linked to that of ideas, and we just need to return to the world of sensations. I say this because I think that Philippe does the same.
Adachi’s thoughts place his images – and Grandrieux’s, too – in the ‘way of sensation’ that was formulated by Deleuze in his analysis of Bacon’s painting.

The Way of Sensation: Filming a Face Marked by Time
In his analysis of Bacon’s works, Deleuze defines a third way of bodily figuration, neither figurative nor abstract. ‘There are two ways of going beyond figuration (that is, beyond both the illustrative and the figurative): either toward abstract form or toward the Figure. Cézanne gave a simple name to this way of the Figure: sensation. The Figure is the sensible form related to a sensation’. (3) Grandrieux, in his text ‘The Insane Horizon of Cinema’, traces the major characteristics of his cinema. One is the research of the transmission of sensations through filmic images; this is how cinema becomes a ‘sensorial experience of the world’.

3. Ibid., p. 34.

We are won over and forget ourselves and we forget what we carry, and what we don’t know, what we can’t know, although it fascinates us and brings us to life, to a life that is lived, and so it unfolds. This rhythm, this way of framing, of lighting the body, of interrupting the take, it comes, it’s there, and cinema closely touches its essence, a sensorial experience of the world, whose destiny is to transmit through sensations, the only means which are its own, to convey a fraction of the passing world, the sensible world, soon dissipated, lost, carried away by time, a part of time, and that feeling of ‘inevitable solidarity’ may resound in each one of us. (4)
4. Translation by Maria Palacios Cruz at Diagonal Thoughts. Originally published as ‘L’horizon insensé du cinéma’, Cahiers du cinéma, no. 551 (November 2000).
Following this line of thought, Grandrieux’s desire in Masao Adachi is not only to build a portrait of this artist’s life and work but, above all, to continue developing the obsessive issue that appears in all his cinema: how to film a living body, marked and affected by time. The same question relates to the Figure, ‘a sensible form related to a sensation’, as expressed by Deleuze. ‘The portrait of a man, his hands, his face, shaped by the time in which he has lived’: Grandrieux’s words accompany the images of Adachi’s wrinkled hands, filmed so, so close, abolishing all possible distance between subject and camera. ‘Does the beauty of the hands, the face, express the truth with which life passes through us?
This is the same question of ‘painting time’ enunciated by Goya in his famous declaration: ‘Time also paints’. Painting time is a research also embodied in Francis Bacon’s portraits and their figuration of bodies; in some sense, Goya is situated in the same ‘way of sensation’ as Bacon, and that Adachi and Grandrieux express in their cinema. Deleuze on Bacon:

There is a great force of time in Bacon, time itself is being painted. The variation of texture and color on a body, a head, or a back (…) is actually a temporal variation regulated down to the tenth of a second. Hence the chromatic treatment of the body, which is very different from the treatment of the fields of color: the chronochromatism of the body is opposed to the monochromatism of the flat fields. To put time inside the Figure – this is the force of bodies in Bacon. (5)

5. Deleuze, Logic of Sensation, p. 48.
We can find in Grandrieux’s filmed images, in his bodily figurations, the same ‘variation of texture and color on a body (...) putting time inside the Figure’ – especially as Grandrieux is himself the camera operator, ‘imprinting’, in this sense, his own moments of living, his bodily traces, in the skin and body of the film, just as a painter does with a brush in the living surface of the canvas. Grandrieux films Adachi and whispers about his search for some images in which we can feel the beat of life; while the camera searches for the traces of a lifetime in its journey across Adachi’s hands and face. The portrait of the Japanese filmmaker is chiselled or drawn by the filmmaker over a background of darkness – sending us back to Goya’s black paintings and, above all, to the figuration of bodies and faces in Grandrieux’s own filmmaking career.
In his films we find faces emerging from darkness, in the cabin where the characters of Un lac (2008) live; faces discovered as scraps of light in the hotel room where Jean (Marc Barbé) kills one of his victims in Sombre (1998); virginal faces like that of Claire (Elina Löwensohn) in Sombre or Hege (Natalie Rehorova) in Un lac that remind us of Renaissance Madonnas; disfigured faces, transformed into animal visages, with jaws instead of teeth, like Jean or some other male characters in Grandrieux’s films. And mirror faces, reflecting Goya’s and Bacon’s desire for painting – or Adachi’s and Grandrieux’s desire for filming – the beauty of time and of life.

It’s Possible that Beauty …
In one of the Adachi extracts selected by Grandrieux, one guerrilla rebel, after talking about his hard training conditions, declares: ‘The landscape was very beautiful. Everything was so lovely. It’s possible that beauty has strengthened our resolve’. After his speech, over a shot of the blue sky crossed by the white line traced by a plane – a shot reminiscent of one in Sombre – the phrase is spoken again, but this time by the French filmmaker, who adds: ‘I’m reminded of Dostoevsky: beauty will save the world’.
Beauty will save the world: and so we return to the opening sequence, where Adachi explored the nature of his desire to make films – ‘No, it’s not a question of logic. It’s a question of taste’. Something that language can hardly express.
The sensible world, the beauty of Nature that inspires the guerrilla fighter to keep fighting – this is a central subject of the film. It comes back at the end when Adachi, questioned by Grandrieux about the relation between the worlds of ideas and sensations, answers: The film is only visible once it is returned to the world of sensations. It's a question I would like to pursue, and it provokes in me the desire to experiment. That’s it, Philippe. I think that's the essence of cinema’.
With these words Adachi is, rather than closing the film, reopening it: the spectator returns to the first shots, within a bright darkness that lights up two bodies. A bright darkness where a man swings a little girl, and we listen to the swing’s squeak and a child’s whispering voice. The camera gets closer and closer to the bodies – we can feel this shaky camera, and the vibration of the body holding it. Then, the filmmaker will start to speak his thoughts aloud, trying to explain his desire for filmmaking … And then …

Eric Baudelaire, Imagined States:

by Michel Poivert

Postface to the catalog “Imagined States,” Actes Sud, 2005
Translated by Sepideh Anvar. Original French version here.

The title “Imagined States” echoes a tradition of fictional literature. It summons up images of faraway lands, conquest and dreams. But these imagined States are not, however, the imaginary states that they first bring to mind. They strive to give shape to the dreams of peoples in search of a constructed identity; whereas imaginary states would be founded more on an artist's projection in a fantasy universe. The photographs of “Imagined States” must therefore be understood as an elaboration on imagined constructs of the State which, although explicitly artistic, is nevertheless informed by reality. The imagined States physically exist; they are on maps and have their own history and geopolitics – as we shall see later. Nothing imaginary here, only the imagination of an artist: the terrain in which he carries out his own esthetic experiments. How, therefore, does one photograph the longing for Statehood? The State as a state of mind? A State without borders, without a legitimate flag: a theoretical State. How does one photograph a utopia, that other name that Thomas More gave to the ideal State?
Eric Baudelaire already questioned the imagined quality of the State some years ago while working on the American West. Was the evolving dream of the Western frontier, with its unfolding geographical wonders and human violence, itself not an imagining of the American State? The first volume of “Imagined States” that he presents here requires the viewer to unfold the other part of the world map and go far to the east. To Abkhazia. A mountainous region with a subtropical climate on the shores of the Black Sea, a republic in the former Transcaucasus, a de facto independent state that is officially part of Georgia. Abkhazia is the size of a French département, with a population of two hundred and fifty thousand people, and it has been destroyed by a war that was reported nowhere. Abkhazia exists as a State only by dint of the sheer will of its inhabitants. Eric Baudelaire, who speaks enough Russian to meet the Abkhaz without the help of an interpreter, is neither an academic nor a journalist, in spite of his long stays in this region, at times in the company of a writer friend. “Imagined States” is not reporting in the sense that its content is not informed by transitive logic (information, messages, speech). It is not anthropological research seeking documentation to explain the stakes of the place and the people. Nor is it a self-centered voyage of initiation where Elsewhere is simply a foil to describe how one understands oneself. Everything here is considered in a manner that combines the state of things as they are and the artist's intervention. Almost everything we see has been adjusted: a detail added, figures posed, a specific color chosen, animals or cars arranged… But Abkhazia never becomes a backdrop or a pretext. It is where the image is thought out. The precise place where the question that interests the artist is asked. The issue of the intellectual representation of the State hangs on this unity of place. As such, the figures only play their own roles, the animals are not far from their own pastures, the cars have only made a detour on their way to their initial destinations. The considered use of artistic device, shall we say, is what describes the locus of the imaginary in the minds of those who dream the State. A way of shifting things, that is just perceptible and which presents itself to the viewer within the inherited (and deliberately claimed) legacy of land art arrangements: an emphatic curve etched in the ground, an abandoned construction site evoking both ruin and incompleteness, a procession of posts midst sea and sky like a Richard Long line crossed with Robert Smithson's spiral jetty, a cement building torqued to a dizzying height worthy of a Richard Serra, a disemboweled house torn like a Gordon Matta Clark… With, from time to time, yet more poetic references, such as that car overflowing with mandarins being hauled as they sometimes are in these places. A car chosen here because of its color: blue like an orange.
How to express the imagined nature of a State? By choosing collapsed and enchanted spaces in the places visited – parade grounds, a memorial – thus underlining the need to represent the State through elements of protocol. Places similar to stages on which characters chosen because of their professions measure themselves. The comic actor, the set builder, the painter and the puppeteer, each with the authority to conjure up a world from nothing. A dialogue is established between these craftsmen of representation and a photograph of Abkhaz ministerial corridors that house – irony of ironies – a ministry of foreign affairs. The longing for a State engenders simulated protocol. An atmosphere of general sublimation reigns. Such that no place, be it only ruins, evokes compassion. Landscapes, architecture and seaside are all swathed in the magic of idealized sovereignty. That overriding theatricality created by Eric Baudelaire plays on timelessness. Are we looking at the remains of a country ruined by conflict, or is this an embryonic nation emerging from communism? Everything moils about in a multiplicity of destinies; historical entropy in a single place. And to contain this ambivalence, as if to give form to such a complicated notion and complex longing, the artist has chosen to craft Beauty, handling it like raw material, working it as one does basic matter.
But beauty here is not that of “pretty pictures”, or, if it is, only in the sense that these images must be seen as postcards sent from an imagined State. Eric Baudelaire drew on a monumental reference when assembling his rhetoric of beauty: the films of Andrei Tarkovsky. From Stalker to Nostalghia, magical places are at the heart of the work of a filmmaker inspired by a spiritualism which, in the 1970s and 1980s, dealt with the question of imagined States in a clearly different vein from that of Pasolini, but with the same spiritual and political beauty. But Eric Baudelaire is not simply transmitting current tarkovskian esthetics through a 4x5 inch view camera. He brings to this deliberately celebrated legacy an understanding of photography that he succeeds in fusing with cinematographic references. “Imagined States” has an esthetic connection with a new generation of photographic artists for whom it is as natural to reflect on the photographs of William Eggleston as of Jeff Wall. For here, the melding of the colorfully commonplace and the rigorous demands of staging drawn from modernist painting is perfectly accomplished. The dialectical dynamic between natural images and constructed images (those two poles of photographic esthetics) works beautifully.
“Imagined States” aspires to be a fable. There is no longer any reference to Abkhazia in the title of this series, thus raising the images to the level of linked metaphors. Indeed, these photographic documents are to be meditated upon like frescoes. The Sleeper is the very first figure in the book. Caught in an off-center highangle shot, the head of the sleeper – whose wavy hair is presented to us in all its affectation, thus transforming it into a frozen, haunting wave – introduces the speculative quality of “Imagined States”. Each image is above all a mental image. The photograph of the sleeper observed by a face on a television screen, which emphasizes the strangeness of the hair, establishes the motif of disturbing elements slipped into each image. Like the toy placed on the shelf in the portrait of the comic actor. Or, more explicitly, the child on the wooded forest road leading to a house, whose wandering expresses the anxiety of familiar mysteries. Read in this way, places that have been abandoned or given over to animals or to solitary beings take on a mysterious resonance. The feverish dream of a State multiplies the number of symbols, imbues small nothings with a magical protocol worthy of childhood ritual. Eric Baudelaire has not taken “pretty pictures”, his photographs are too pretty, precisely because of that excess that is the key to wonderment.
The ambition and the risk of this work therefore lie in a poetic and political thought process that seeks to find formal solutions able to connect the essential nature of photography and the nature of the conceptual framework being developed. The large format of the exhibition prints of this first opus of “Imagined States” was chosen by the artist to demonstrate the esthetic autonomy of each photograph. Each piece is meant to cause wonderment beyond the first glance. And over time it is meant to preserve in its mystery even the doubts it raises on the deeper nature of what it reveals. Each representation asserts convictions – convictions that fade away under the light of the fiction emanating from that very representation.

Powers of the False / Museum of Ante-Memorials, 12th Taipei Biennial PDF

Sugar Water (2010)

The billposter descends the stairs of the Porte d’Erewhon metro station, approaches a large billboard filled with a deep blue poster, and begins pasting up an image of a generic car located in an anonymous Parisian street.

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