Chris Marker

By Kaizen, William | Artforum International, January 2014 | Go to article overview

Chris Marker


Kaizen, William, Artforum International


MIT LIST VISUAL ARTS CENTER/ CARPENTER CENTER FOR THE VISUAL ARTS

Years before Chris Marker made his first film, lie actively pursued still photography, and he spent much of his subsequent six-decade career engaged with a wide variety of media. Marker enthusiastically embraced analog-video synthesis in the 1970s and began experimenting with digitally altering images in the 1980s. In the last decades of his life, he published his work on CD-Rom, Flickr, and YouTube and built a museum in the virtual world Second Life dedicated to his oeuvre and influences. Split between the galleries at MIT and Harvard, the ambitious exhibition "G uillaume-en-Egypte"--which took its name from Marker's pet cat and alter ego--offered an overview of all these aspects of his practice and more.

Curator Joao Ribas made an admirable attempt to be as inclusive as possible while staying true to each of Marker's original mediums. The artist's YouTube videos, which include digitally collaged send-ups of the marriage of Prince William (The Royal Polka, 2011) and the death of Steve jobs (iDead, 2011), were shown on a computer monitor. So was Marker's Second Life museum, which was available for viewers to tour using an avatar of Guillaume the cat. The artist's thirteen-part television series on Greek philosophy, The Owl's Legacy (1989), was shown on an array of monitors, as were other video works, including the charming and little-seen animation Theory of Sets, 1990, which uses Noah's ark as a pretext to teach children math. An extensive selection of Marker's films were also screened at the Harvard Film Archive. Unfortunately, many of these were also given a considerable amount of exhibition space, which could better have been used to house more of the artist's gallery-oriented works.

The exhibition at MIT featured three series of photographs that, at their best, interrogate the relationship between photographer and subject, often capturing the momentary connection that takes place when someone is looking into Marker's lens. Such images are found throughout his now-iconic series "Coreennes- (Korean Women), 1957, and "Staring Back," 1957-2006. …

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