October 2008 - Return to Marienbad


Paris, Galerie la Ferronnerie

Video installation for 1 video-projector, 1 mirror and sixteen books.
1 video editing, 64 mn.

In the installation October 2008 – Return to Marienbad, sixteen emblematic images from L’Année dernière à Marienbad (Last year in Marienbad) by Alain Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet (1961), are shown turned upside down. Though some viewers may still be able to identify them, their perception will certainly be altered. The perspectives are thus disrupted. The buildings become blurred and shifting, in contrast to the reflections they produce. Starting out clear, the horizon comes to be obstructed by a series of bushes and railings. Through the flux of camera movements, the field of view closes in, serving to either trap the viewer within it or place them outside of the image entirely.

The montage’s construction makes reference to the unfolding of the game running through the entire film. Its composition is based on a cycle made up of sixteen fragments divided into four categories (seven images in which a castle appears in the distance, five that linger on a path running through the middle of a park, three focusing on a pair of statues, while the last shows the water of a pond), which are separated by black screens of variable length. Once the sixteen-fragment cycle is complete, the montage enters into a second cycle, which maintains the same order of presentation of each section, but removes one or more fragments from each category (thus one of the images showing the pathway disappears in the second cycle, two park scenes from the third, one of the statue images in the fourth and so on). This principle is repeated until, at the end of the ninth cycle, all sixteen fragments making up the initial montage have been removed; the loop format then allows the montage to return to the beginning.

Each time one of the fragments reappears in an ensuing cycle, it systematically undergoes both figurative and sound modification. Throughout the montage, leading up to its eventual elimination, it is thus subject to a series of alterations (from one to nine, depending on the fragment), which are sometimes minimal. Viewers are invited to identify the various changes effected – which, necessarily, become increasingly evident as the fragments become ever fewer (and the alterations made to each element are seen closer and closer together within the montage) in addition to the nature of the modifications made – the most glaring of which (devised in the spirit of some of Alain Resnais creations) ultimately contaminate viewers perception of the entire collection of images (dilution of image sequence, reversal of order of appearance, split-screens allowing for reflection effects, the use of a soundtrack that does not fit with the scenes shown within the film, cutting lines from dialogues, musical restructuring etc.)

Most fragments are accompanied by textual excerpts from L’Année dernière à Marienbad. Each piece of text links to the rest, weaving together the telling of a segmented tale which visitors may, if they wish, take into consideration. The story changes with each turn of the cycle (due to the deletion of certain fragments as well as changes effected upon individual fragments from one cycle to the next) causing the resultant text to move in different directions, or indeed deconstructing it in reference to the film’s structure and the screenplay experiments carried out by Alain Robbe-Grillet.

In this way, a single path through the estate of the imaginary castle of Marienbad is subject to constant modification, which eventually causes the visitor to become lost in a maze reminiscent of the one that Delphine Seyrig appears to pass through in the opening images of each of the different cycles. Gliding along to a slow waltz rhythm, like the figurine of a music box, the young woman leads the visitor into an ever more eroded and deserted landscape. In this sense, she comes to act as the double of his/her gaze, in line with the role she tends to take on in Alain Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s film – in which the young woman played by the actress (designated by the letter A in the script), despite her reservations, eventually moves towards the character played by Giorgio Albertazzi (X), analogously to a viewer ever more caught up in the progression of the tale.

Unlike the conclusion of L’Année dernière à Marienbad in which the protagonist seems to be freed, in this work Delphine Seyrig fails to find a way out of her inextricable trap. She eventually dies, in a manner similar to Jack Torrance, frozen into a statue in the Hotel Overlook estate (Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, 1980). A gunshot suggests that she has been eliminated from proceedings, following which the slow waltz starts up again, and the visitor realises that the character appears to be once again floating at the end of the pathway.

A mirror (which can be replaced by a water surface for a larger scale projection) is laid on the ground, in front of the projection surface. By reflecting the images shown in the montage and thus turning them upside down, it establishes a kind of memory of the film, although this, like the memories visitors may have of it, is to be altered by the various manipulations effected. Depending on their position within the installation space, spectators may or may not include the reflection within their field of vision, and may cause it to pivot to a greater or lesser degree in relation to the projected surface, so as to align the two images in parallel or articulate them at different angles. This relation to the mirror, which refuses to assign the spectator a specific positioning within the exhibition space, in a sense reflects the analytical approach that visitors can adopt with regard to the installation, by making lesser or greater reference to the work of Alain Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet, which will clearly be unknown for some visitors.

The reflection allows for the enactment of a superposition of different layers of Time, by placing the period to which the montage belongs, represented by the installation’s title as a contemporary element, in continuity with that of the 1961 film and, further in the past, that of the architecture of the garden featured. On the one hand capable of refreshing the spectators memory of the film, the mirror also works to build up a certain sense of uneasiness by accentuating the effects of the frame’s closing in and the progressive disappearance of the decor through the camera movements, or, at a certain distance from the mirror, causing the images to appear crushed, bringing each image into collision with the one underneath. Reinforcing its treatment of symmetry, it also brings about kaleidoscopic effects, adding to the maze-like construction of the work.

Sixteen of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s novels and writings are also arranged in front of the projection. Through a process similar to that of the dialogues encroached upon by the soundtrack, their titles suggest further frameworks for interpreting the installation. Some of them invite visitors to consider the montage’s structure (In the Labyrinth), the nature of its constituent elements (Snapshots) or the visual and sound modifications effected (The Erasers, The Recurring Mirror). Some invite the visitor to question the installation’s aims (Topology of a Phantom City, Recollections of the Gold Triangle) or its creator’s approach in relation to the cinematic piece re-worked (Repetition, The Voyeur). By referring to the context of the economic crisis signalled by the installation’s title, some impose a sociological and political perspective (Project for a revolution in New York), figuring the work as an illustration of current shifts in French society (moving architectural structures, obscured horizons) and the threats these pose for social harmony (A regicid). Lastly, certain others simply suggest a fantastical and romantic approach (The slow slidings of pleasure, Djinn – a red hole between disjointed paving stones) and indicate the ambiguity of the figures shown (The Immortal One). Arranged in a triangle in line with the structure of the game’s process enacted in L’Année dernière à Marienbad (yet also possible to manipulate and move around within the installation space), the works offer up an array of interpretation keys, but just as many means of becoming lost within the piece.

It should be noted that this structure, set up at the foot of the projection surface, varies according to which edition of the montage is being shown within the exhibition space. Chosen from a list of eighteen éditions de minuit publications (which never features the screenplay of Alain Resnaistxt_quote_single_close and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s film), the sixteen novels provide a set of keys (though representative of the author’s work) which is itself (from one presentation of the installation to the next or during a single showing) subject to fluctuation. Although each of the titles can be related to the approach taken by October 2008 – Return to Marienbad, they can also be viewed in relation to the content of the fragment corresponding to it structurally within the montage (the first book on the top row referring to the scene introducing the image cycle, and so on), working to emphasise a particular aspect of the installation or the perspective it gives on Alain Resnaistxt_quote_single_close and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s film. In the first five editions of the montage, the fragments have never been associated with the same novel twice, so as to maintain the shifting nature of the experience offered.

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