Chris Marker || Zapping Zone (Proposal for an Imaginary Television)Originally - 1990-94, Shown now at Whitechapel Gallery, London, in the exhibition Chris Marker: A Grin Without a Cat
Mixed media Installation: 13 Monitors, 13 Videos, 7 Computers, 7 Computer Programs, 4 Light Boxes with 80 Slides, 10 Photomontages Colour / Black and White, 1 Maneki Neko
This installation, made up of twenty screens occupies a ‘Zone’ in which many modes and sources of images - photography, cinema, video, animation and sound - meet and merge. The spectator is invited to ‘zap’ between one screen and another, one image and another, and from one memory to another. The concept of the ‘Zone’ is drawn in art from Tarkovsky’s famous film Stalker (1979).
Through the piece Marker also invites the viewer to travel through the themes and subjects that make up his personal mythology: his favourite cities (Berlin, San Francisco, Tokyo), his artist-friends (Christo, Roberto Matta, Andrei Tarkovsky), his totem animals (cats, owls, elephants), as well as extracts from his films (Sans soleil, Le Joli Mai, L’Heritage de la chouette …), photographs of his travels, and collages.
Zapping Zone (Proposal for an Imaginary Television) was created for the exhibition Passages de l’image at the Centre Pompidou in 1990, where it was Marker’s intention to create a work ’ bristling in every way’ with audio-visual and computer works which could not find a place on television.
Marker wrote about the installation: ‘Those, of whom I am one, who practise ‘naive computer programming’ in the same way that there were once ‘naive painters’, will be content simply to show their images, and when their naivety will have taken them down several paths (photography, collages, calligrams, films, before ending up with the computer), they will risk showing some of the stations on their itinerary.’
(Words taken from Whitechapel Gallery, London)
I’d sadly not known about Chris Marker until I went to Whitechapel Gallery yesterday, but I found his vast work across medias intriguing. I first watched Statues also Die (1953) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzFeuiZKHcg) which is an essay film that exposes the detrimental causes of Colonialism in African Art. The shots, completely from a visual perspective, have a clear affinity to what shaped the shortly later, French New Wave films.
To leap forward around 40 years we now see Marker delving into new media with the piece mentioned and shown before Zapping Zones (1990-94) which was the piece I spent most time with. It’s orientated around the spectators individual ‘zapping’ between the visuals, whilst being subjected to all of the audio from the screens. However, longer you stay there the more acute your listening becomes to specific outputs, and especially with the use of glitch visuals and still images, you can begin to marry output audio to visual from different units, together. This ‘Zone’ also, isn’t surrounding you, which when considering it a ‘Zone’ seems a little curious, however, I see it as an association and communication with two points: In our homes, in general, we have our media outlets (Television, computers, Stereo) to the sides of the space, and Zapping Zones is adhering to and complimenting this. The second communicated point is that in fact, you can walk away from the media, it is only on one side, the opposite side, is the entrance/exit - although this may well of been for simplicities sake, I still felt the benefits of this layout for communicating a message.