Friends, Owls, Turtle Doves, Greece, Chrismas: Chris Marker & Us

Wednesday — 12.26.12 — Friends, Owls, Turtle Doves, Greece, Chrismas — Chris Marker & Us


0. Friends, Owls, Turtle Doves, Greece, Christmas — Chris Marker & Us
1. About this Wednesday
2. The 13 episodes of The Owl’s Legacy
3. Chrismas with Comrades
4. Catherine Lupton on The Owl’s Legacy
5. Chris Marker on Eldridge Cleaver’s We Have Come Back / Congo Oye (1971)
6. About New York Year Zero
7. Some links

1. About this Wednesday

What: Screening / Being Together
When: Wednesday — 12.26.12
Where: 16Beaver Street, 4th Floor
When: 4:30 pm
Who: Free and open to all

On the second day of Christmas, we invite you to join us in watching Chris Marker’s 1989 television series The Owl’s Legacy (L’Heritage de la chouette). Made up of 13 26-minute episodes (5 hours, 40 minutes total), The Owl’s Legacy is a discursive tele-symposium on Greece, an epic production on language, history, and an attempt to dissect the heritage and construction of the West.

We will gather at 4:30, set up some chairs, spread out some food and drinks (please bring some to share! every event is a potluck!), cue the video, and spend some time together.

Chris Marker died this July 29th on his 91st birthday. A world unto his own, Marker combined a militant internationalism with creativity, humor, intelligence, and sensitivity, disregarding any possibility for commercial success, individual recognition, attention, and instead focusing his life on alternate commitments and occupations.

In the last year, we have repeatedly come back to the recent struggles, revolts, and crises in Greece: in October with Alexandros Papas, a participant in Athens’ Autonomous Assembly of Zografou; in January and February with discussions with Occupied London collective; in January with presentations by Brandon Jourdan & Marianne Maeckelbergh on the ongoing resistance of the social movements; and last July with Georgia Sagri & Costas Panayotakis on Syntagma Square, the general assemblies, direct democracy, and austerity. In the midst of current local organizing against a New York Golden Dawn, here is a continuation.

Unlike so many events which happen around New York, we do not mean this invitation to propagandize, to educate, to exhibit artwork, or to memorialize the dead, the important, the individual, the artist.

In the face of so much defeat, degradation, dejection, so much depression, despair, disaster, so much disillusionment, dispersion, dispossession, and domination, simply coming together, being together, is a start. To watch something together, eat and drink together, to talk, think, meet, share, spend time together, we might slowly begin to (re-)build something better, stronger.

These marathon events–as with our screenings of Solanas & Getino’s The Hour of the Furnaces (1968, 260 minutes), Watkins’ La Commune (2000, 345 minutes), and Kluge’s News from Ideological Antiquity (2008, 570 minutes)–should simply be excuses to come, be, together, away from our homes, alone, bored, stuck, away from our ruts, routines, roles, responsibilities, and rationalizations.

This is the nature of our call, our invitation, our conceit, for Chris, for Greece, for friends.

2. The 13 episodes of The Owl’s Legacy

1. Symposium, or Accepted Ideas; 2. Olympics, or Imaginary Greece; 3. Democracy, or the City of Dreams; 4. Nostalgia, or the Impossible Return; 5. Amnesia, or History on the March; 6. Mathematics, or the Empire Counts Back; 7. Logomachy, or the Dialect of the Tribe; 8. Music, or Inner Space; 9. Cosmogony, or the Ways of the World; 10. Mythology, or Lies like Truth; 11. Misogyny, or the Snares of Desire; 12. Tragedy, or the Illusion of Death; 13. Philosophy, or the Triumph of the Owl

3. Chrismas with Comrades

Last year, Death to Capitalism Cinema commemorated “The End of Modernity, the Death of Innocence” at the Spectacle Theater, remembering the Xmas 1977 death of Charlie Chaplin with his Modern TImes (1936), and the Xmas 1989 death of Ceausescu with Farocki & Ujica’s Videograms of a Revolution (1992). This year it’s the death of Chris Marker, the Greek economy, the European Union, the West, capitalism, the environment, art, cinema, politics, discourse, the occupy encampments, the student movement, the labor movement, hope, etc.

“The spectacle of terrorism imposes the terrorism of the spectacle. And against this immoral fascination (even if it engenders a universal moral reaction) the political order can do nothing. This is our theatre of cruelty, the only one left to us…”

Death to Capitalism Cinema originated at last year’s (re-)occupation of the New School (November 17-25), which included a 24-hour screening room. For now, many are convinced that capitalism, cinema, and the New School still exist. What will they think in 2013?

“A face on a lover with a fire in his heart / A man undercover but you tore me apart / Now I’ve found a real love you’ll never fool me again.”

4. Catherine Lupton on The Owl’s Legacy

The broad cultural history examined in The Owl’s Legacy is angled, as might be expected, through the filter of Marker’s sensibility and established preoccupations. Making the series brought Marker back to one strand of his intellectual origins, since one of the more reliable fragments of information about his early life is that he obtained a degree in philosophy from the Sorbonne.

Many of the facets of ancient Greek thought and culture explored in the series – the concept of selfhood as a constant interior dialogue with the Other, the Socratic principles of rigorous intellectual enquiry by questioning and debate, the centrality of myth and the meaning of artistic creation – are the foundations of Marker’s own approach to cinema and the other audio-visual media as a perpetual dialogue with oneself and others, which seeks to generate reflective knowledge about the world.

Episodes focused on nostalgia, on history twinned with amnesia, and on the Olympic ideal, extend themes widely presented in earlier works, such as Le Fond de l’air est rouge, Sunless and Olympia 52. Marker’s growing preoccupation with how images and illusions escape the realm of shadows and influence the course of history finds expansive material in the spectre of ancient Greece as a set of ideals developed and perpetuated by later generations – not to mention the tantalizing befuddlement of illusion and reality in Plato’s cave.

5. Chris Marker on Eldridge Cleaver’s We Have Come Back / Congo Oye (1971)

[from an email received from Sandor Krasna, 3 August 2010]

“familiar” -are you kiddin’ ? The worst disaster in my film career… Apparently Kathleen forgot that we had an exchange about that a few years ago, when she was organizing a mammoth screening of the Panthers movies, and our mutual disappointment, each of us having daydreamed that the other at least had a copy of the Congo piece. To make a long story short, it’s true that thru common friends I found myself doing the editing of that unique testimony on the short-lived and surrealistic Maoist Congo. Hardly a sign of geopolitical prescience by brother Eldridge, exhilarated as he was to meet somewhere his fantasy, a black Marxist-Leninist Republic… But as a document, a real gem, and specially due to the extraordinarily gifted Bill Stephens, who was then discovering video cameras as we all were. You should realize that those were the first steps of video recording and that Bill used the very first model of hand-held camera issued by Sony (using tape REELS). He had no experience whatsoever -nobody had, and nobody then was talking of video artists- but he proved to be the best cameraman ever working on those contraptions. Eldridge was in Algiers, and I experienced a new and original way to edit a movie : by phone. I described him the shots, we discussed, we compared our conceptions, and then I made the cuts, by hand, with markers (sorry, it’s the proper term) of extra-thin tape to set the starting point of the few seconds necessary for the real tape to stabilize, all that controlled with a stopwatch, and bingo ! pressed the button. The result was, as I told you, unique, because nobody then was authorized to film in RP Congo, while Eldridge and his crew had access to the president, the prime minister, the guerrilla chief and other dignitaries who one year later were almost all murdered, while the Mock-Chinese State was disappearing in the limbos of History. Now comes the tragic part : this unique document was lost. My unforgivable fault is not to have made a personal copy once the job was over -but there were frantic times, I was jumping from one corner of the world to another, I didn’t consider it to be a film of mine, I had done it to help Eldridge, who in turn persuaded himself that this secret weapon would help him to take back the power in the Panther party -hence an historical radio exchange between him and Bobby Seale “Eldridge you’re finished, you’re nothing… -No man, for now I have the VOODOO !” (that’s how he nicknamed the video). It’s only years later that I did ask what had happened to “OYE”, and nobody knew. Some said the original had been kept by E.C. himself, but I wonder what he would have done with a huge 2-inches reel… Anyway I vaguely hoped that he had managed to keep a copy somewhere, but Kathleen gave me the last stab. For besides its immense historical value, it wasn’t a bad movie at all.

Now many years later, I was watching the TV in my hotel room in Hong Kong. And in the Sunday morning program, when the immaculately white-clad televangelist appeared, I recognized with stupor Eldridge himself… but that’s another story.

6. About New York Year Zero

AFFECT is a front group. Earlier this month it hosted a presentation of Brandon Jourdan & Marianne Maeckelbergh’s “Global Uprisings in the Age of Austerity” series, featuring their recent video work on Greece. In November it produced a video, Sandy Far Rockaway, documenting relief work following October’s superstorm. In July it organized a triple-feature marathon screening on insurrection and wildcat strikes.

7. Some links

Autonomous Occupation of 90 5th Avenue:
Death to Capitalism Cinema:
From the Greek Streets:
Global Uprisings:
The New School Reoccupied:

16 Beaver Group
16 Beaver Street, 4th fl.
New York, NY 10004

4,5 — Wall Street
2,3 — Wall Street
J,Z — Broad Street
A,C — Fulton Street
1 — Rector Street
R — Rector Street