First horizons (2001-2008) by Martine Rousset
Asnières in 2005, in an old factory just behind the train station with its dark, tucked away basement in a complicated arrangement of Dostoyevsky-like cellars, bitterly won over from the city, there,
some artful inventors, engineers and poets set themselves in motion, in an unlikely constellation,
from diverse yet precise origins, to work together towards creating an artists’ film laboratory.
The aim: to make their own films – so it was necessary to find the machines, learn to use them, to teach each other, and that this should cost nothing, or next to nothing – and that’s the gist of it.
Canny engineering and a strong arm were needed,
to transport, install, adjust, craft and graft away to get this machine up and running.
firstly, the machines unveiled, very precisely optic, mechanic and chemical,
palettes deployed in a full array,
how the machines and hands conversed,
but yet what to do with them? some sought out gold in Byzantine mosaics,
others black memories of the Soviets, and yet another the bitter mountains of Kurdistan…
the machines broke down, they were repaired, we began again, and we didn’t know half of it.
we didn’t know half of it, the beautiful, wild pathway of all creation.
It was necessary to become a stoic worker for one’s film, an untiring surveyor always at the coalface of course…
The chemicals needed to be prepared, something to eat for lunch,
read Fernand Deligny, all this while tossing over Walter Benjamin
or lugging a developing machine down to the cellar…
all the machine’s possibilities were going to be put to the test, the hand would go beyond the mere manipulations of narrow industrial standards,
the possibility of:
breaking the rules, re-adjusting, violating, examining, pushing things further, unlocking
the spirit of the place willed on to look anew, at how it works, to go in search of the unseen,
with great gusto,
rather than setting out to instantly pigeonhole the venture, beforehand, as completely as possible, etc.
never cast the unknown onto the known, my French teacher would say, yes, yes! we’ve never forgotten…
a conviction to really get inside this invention, the processes, the nuts and bolts of the thing, to see how it’s put together and comes undone, the rules and disturbances, everything.
those industrial laboratory technicians knew a thing or two, well some of them, but their understanding was intimate, personal, solitary, useless and dumb; it went with the job, but job was of no interest.
we observed that the unseen did exist,
which a single, mediocre idea of the-camera-as-an-eye obscurely applied, a mere mechanical function of 24-frames-a-second made it “look as it should”, and a basic chemical process made it “turn out right” and then all this combined with exploiting the machines in the most ordinary fashion,
exploiting the cinematograph in its most mercantile way,
the nature that speaks to the eye of the camera is not the same as the one that speaks the eye, said Walter.
we tampered with this,
we noticed while filming that it was going to see where the unseeing eye carried it,
an uncomfortable yet adventurous path to the yet-unseen was opened up to us, in the icy cold cellar! darkness and protective masks,
grey dust-coats, peculiar odors of weird chemicals, outwit them! With baths a bit warmer or a bit cooler film yellowed, fiddle with the proportions,
then in it goes!
the matipo hums, a tender thought to Potemkine, and in it goes!
It’s said the cinematograph’s proletariat nature is a la mano, all negatives and positives.
the scale varied in pitch, bit-by-bit, from one day to the next,
photogram by photogram or almost,
the first gestures that were no longer,
the check-list: wind onto the spool, develop, rinse, fix, bleach, rinse, dry,
give it form, give room to reality of the imprint,
something’s there, but then isn’t anymore,
left the latent meaning of its mark and its trace,
something, revealed by the hands, is to be read.
this story of the imprint takes hold of the spirits, held within the cellar’s blackness,in the somberness of the baths, one touched the film, shutting the eyes to see it better,
prepared itself for the arrival, the emergence, the tangible appearance, coming from this strange photosynthesis, going from light to dark, from optic to tactile, concocted from strange chemical processes, from which an image is born,
a document, coming from water, dissolutions, rinses, fixes,
an alluvial document, sedimented, stratified, archeological deposits
an image-deposit, where physical visibility brews
an image-ore, the work of times, ones we know and ones we don’t,
ones of our working hands and of our unconscious eye,
ones where memory and history overlap in this radical inscription,
an image we’d never seen with our eyes, never,
that ended up understood, recognized, sent from a faraway echo.
a time of sorts was necessary for this, to wait.
the image navigated its way through the palimpsests of the matter’s memory-time,
circulated around our cells through unknown pathways,
what can be seen in the hand-image that cannot be see when looking at the hand?
The anchoring of its presence, its memory alive, the solid ground of its history,
the imprint unmasked, removed from the hand of man opened the materiality of time,
an extraordinary and indisputable silent account, obscure,
one detected indistinct sounds
we didn’t find some lost origin, we found the horizon, what had never been, the passing of reality in the roots of language, those hidden things at the back of industrial laboratories – zero access – bankers’ scams reign,
in the name of the sacrosanct, magic pull of cash!
exploratory discoveries went their own way.
and then, something came up and then was gone, looking at us, looking at us,
what is looking at us deep in the cellar black?
the phenomenal matipo, records, copies, regular, rustling, long, long, long, 11 frames per second, a very, very long time…
in the cargo holds of a fictional concoction, probably by Joseph Conrad, somewhere near the Bermuda Triangle.
vigilance, check, adjust a la mano, do these spools unwind with precision? Does their navigation stay the course?
on it turns, in the black, without eyes, in the profound darkness where the hands of time work,
down the pit! to the coalface!
go and make the film, the eyes of the hand linked the hands of time
a kind of Makhnovtchina language, joyous and wise worked and worked on
canny engineering was needed, so, things were slapped together with outstanding rigor, thought was needed, some ideas, listening, a stance as well, one that goes against the grain, and the flow and theorizations in many ways postmodern,
to put some nerve into a language that cut a path right from image’s beating heart,
appeared as though,
vanished, distanced, backed away from imitation’s fate, the angst of the frame, obsessive questions of editing, formal structuring, sharpness, clarity etc. gave way to what the image could bring, freed from figurable figurativeness.
To work on one’s vision, and not one’s design
Lay open the palimpsest below the spectacle’s messages,
embrace unknown alchemies, the spiral of mingled time
These images under the guise of time, coming from far beyond memory, reveal within their trajectory the absolute presence of the living from where originate our languages; they tell us more than we know, they defuse functional newsreels, drive back perfunctory immediacy and the current fate of the image to eagerly wanted cloning, and they thwart the tawdry shackles of knowledge.
Silver based images in the hands of artists in their laboratories is necessary to art, what it has left alive,
unsubjugated, enduring images, a part of history and the inscribing of its memory,
of the perpetuity of thought which is their very substance, of the embodiment of meaning,
images whose very existence resists the totalitarian enterprise of human reification.
to put it firmly.
In Haghardzine, in the north of Armenia, in a forest,
is a kharkchar sculpted by hand forming an infinitely delicate
white, grey and black embroidery
beside it, an ancient tree
its weather-beaten bark forms an infinitely delicate embroidery
they look on the forest.
Dilidjan, Armenia, November 22nd, 2013.
Translation: Wayn Malm