Chris Marker: A Grin Without a Cat at Whitechapel Gallery
In the first UK retrospective of celebrated French filmmaker and photographer, Chris Marker, five immersive multimedia installations are brought together for the first time, presented alongside extracts from his iconic films, such as A Grin Without a Cat (1977), rarely seen photographs and a series of books called Petite Planete.
Exploring themes of the museum, travel, image and text, and war and revolution, viewers are welcomed by a large projection of Ouvroir: the Movie (2010), which features a tour of the virtual museum he created using the website Second Life, guided by his online avatar: a black and orange cartoon cat called Guillaume-en-Egypte. In this meta experience of museological curation, Marker forces the viewer to question the act of seeing and interpreting art.
Next, we are presented with all the people and places encountered by the artist on his travels, with an extract from Sans Soleil (1983), in which letters from an anonymous woman to a cameraman, and panoramic shots of Japan and Guinea-Bissau in Africa, explore notions of memory and technology.
Another highlight includes a newly re-mastered edition of Le Jolie Mai (1963) in which Marker invites the viewer on a romantic journey of Paris, seen through the eyes of strangers on the street, and told through interludes of commentary about the hours of sunshine in May and the amount of meat and potatoes eaten in the city each month.
Fusing realism with eerie science fiction, and lyricism with politics, Marker’s “film essays”, of which he was a pioneer, are no more mysterious than the man himself who famously changed his name, and who spent his artistic career avoiding photographs and interviews. Indeed, whenever the artist was asked for an image of himself, he’d always send one of a cat.
This is a comprehensive study of a very talented artist, and the possibilities of what art has been, and still is, capable of in the digital age – thoroughly engaging.
Chris Marker: A Grin Without a Cat is at Whitechapel Gallery until 22nd June 2014. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.