For the last fifty years, Jean-Luc Godard's work in cinema and video has innovated, provoked and inspired. Since the completion in 1998 of Histoire(s) du Cinéma, an eight-part videographic experiment in cinema history, Godard's recent work on film and video has featured strongly in debates about audiovisual art and culture, especially regarding questions of historical memory, technological change, and the future of cinema in all its forms. This historical moment provides the perfect opportunity for a critical reassessment of Godard's entire corpus and its key role in film culture. It is the aim of FOR EVER GODARD to meet this challenge.
FOR EVER GODARD is a four-day international conference to be held at Tate Modern, London, 21-24 June 2001. It is the first event of its kind ever to be devoted to Godard's work in Britain. It brings together both well-established commentators and the younger generation of critics working in the fields of film and television, art history, cultural studies, philosophy, music, and literature. It draws on talent from many different countries and from different intellectual backgrounds.
The event will also feature screenings of rarely seen work by Godard, thus complementing the major Godard retrospective taking place in June and July 2001 at the National Film Theatre. There will be French/English interpreting facilities, and Tate Modern is hoping to broadcast the event on the World Wide Web. The conference will provide the basis for a substantial new book on Godard's work.
The conference is organised around fourteen sessions using a range of formats: two-speaker sessions, speaker and respondent sessions, and a number of discussion panels. In every session, priority will be given to exchange of ideas and genuine debate.
The sessions are based on the following themes:
Speaker: Antoine de Baecque (Cinémathèque française, Paris): 'Godard in the Museum'
Godard has always been interested not only in painting but in the way that painting is displayed, both in formal and ideological terms. In certain of his films (Les Carabiniers, for example), he has proposed ideas and images of the museum, whether this be the imaginary galleries of André Malraux (for whom Godard has a particular fascination), or the real spaces of the Louvre (in Bande à part) or MOMA (in one of his and Anne-Marie Miéville's most recent works, The Old Place). Antoine de Baecque will examine how Godard's work, especially Histoire(s) du Cinéma, has both destabilised and reconstituted the relationship between the museum and the moving image. He will also ask how Godard's artistic signature might itself become part of a museum culture. How might Godard's work feature in the museum? And how far might it help us to rethink the museum itself? De Baecque's responses to these questions are informed by his experience as project-director for the new 'musée du cinéma/Henri Langlois' at the Cinémathèque française.
Respondent: Chris Dercon (Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam) Chair: Laura Mulvey (Birkbeck College, London)
Speaker: Trond Lundemo (Stockholm University): 'Index and Erasure: Godard's Approach to History'
Lundemo explores Godard's approaches to questions of history in Histoire(s) du Cinéma, in particular the work's techniques of segmentation and indexing of excerpts and quotes (films, art, literature, music). Lundemo argues that Deleuze's concepts of 'multiplicities' and 'singularities' are key to understanding Godard's approach to film and art history as virtual reserves for writing history. In Histoire(s) du Cinéma, memory is shown to be set in motion, even eradicated, in order for 'recollection to take place'. Lundemo argues that Histoire(s) du Cinéma is pertinent to any discussion of segmentation and archival practices in the kind of database brought about by the 'new media', as well as in the field of museology.
Speaker: Libby Saxton (University of Cambridge): 'Anamnesis: Godard, Lanzmann, and the possibility of an ethics of cinema'
Saxton stages an encounter between Godard and Claude Lanzmann, a filmmaker whose name is absent in Histoire(s) du Cinema but who, like Godard, has abandoned narrativity in order to explore cinema as a way of rethinking time and memory, as well as the fraught relationship of aesthetics to ethics in the wake of historical events. By interrogating both Histoire(s) du Cinéma and Shoah as heuristic lenses through which to view each other, she examines the extent to which Godard's accusation of cinema's amnesia - the fact, for example, that it reneged on its ethical obligation to present the unthinkable brutality of the Nazi concentration camps - is redefined by works such as Lanzmann's that focus on a present anamnesis essential for the mourning of a traumatic past. To re-phrase the question using Godard's terms: if only the mournful presentation of the camps could give to cinema the ethical redemption it seeks, what would such a 'redemptive' cinema be like, and how different would it be from Lanzmann's Shoah?
Chair: Zsuzsa Baross (Trent University, Canada)
Speaker: Nicole Brenez (University of Paris): 'The Forms of the Question'
The question is one of the most specific, persistent, and dynamic forms throughout the whole Godardian corpus. From Tous les garçons s'appellent Patrick (where Brialy questions pretty girls without even waiting for an answer) to Histoire(s) du Cinéma (where every sound and image seems to pose a question), Brenez will trace the evolution of the different forms of the question. She will focus on five major ways in which the question finds its forms, from the most classical to the most problematic: a. interrogation sequences; b. narratives of enquiry; c. modes of dialogue; d. moments of torture; e. and finally, the Image-Question, a specifically Godardian form, the hybrid product of the art poétique, the crisis of montage, and the systemisation of the sketch. Dedicated to Alpha 60, Brenez's enquiry will
interrogate one of the strongest formal tendencies of Godard's work as a whole: the question.
Respondent: Jonathan Dronsfield (Middlesex University)
Chair: Alan Wright (University of Canterbury, New Zealand)
Speaker: Janet Bergstrom (University of California Los Angeles): 'Nature in Godard's Remakes: Digressive Thinking in Images'
Godard has always talked about his producers' demands for a 'story' as a form of tyranny. In his later work, he has often resolved this dilemma by choosing titles that refer to stories everyone already knows, thus allowing himself to 'remake' them in his idiosyncratic manner. A second strategy to break with the usual sense of story is Godard's use of stars, who function themselves as 'remakes' because of the way he uses their iconic resonance within the history of cinema. Equally, the hermetic lure of much of Godard's later work may be characterised as a digressive 'thinking in images', a description that Godard himself has alluded to digressively over the years. While digression (i.e. non-linear progression in argument or storyline, hopscotching allusions to and quotations from the plastic arts, literature, and philosophy) has marked Godard's work as critic and filmmaker from the beginning, his later films are more evidently philosophical and digressive in form. Bergstrom will bring together the 'remake' and the 'digression' by focusing on images of nature in works such as Prénom Carmen, Je vous salue Marie, King Lear and Histoire(s) du Cinéma.
Speaker: Peter Harcourt (Carleton University, Canada): 'Analogical Thinking: Organizational Strategies within the work of Jean-Luc Godard'
Referring to the ideas of the Surrealist poet Pierre Reverdy which reoccur in films as diverse as JLG/JLG, King Lear and Histoire(s) du Cinéma, Harcourt explores the notion of analogical thinking i Godard's work. He argues that even if disjunctively one image leads to another, by means of a process of collage, analogies possess their own form of narrative logic and bypass the sequential linearity of rational thought. Image precedes idea, idea suggests space, space sanctions character, and character enables dialogue. The less concerned they are with narrative, the more Godard's films are dependent on this way of thinking to unify their disparate elements. By taking Scénario du film Passion as exemplary of Godard's need to 'see' before he 'writes', Harcourt reveals that this extraordinary fictional essay is not only about the process of conceiving a feature film,
but also an innovative idiolect within cinema.
Chair: Angela Dalle Vacche (Emory University, Atlanta)
A panel discussing questions of self-portraiture, autobiography, voice, and the status of the filmmaker as creative artist.
Panellists: Richard Brody (filmmaker, New York), Nathalie Heinich (C.N.R.S., Paris), Roland-François Lack (University College London), Muriel Tinel (E.H.E.S.S., Paris)
Chair: Wendy Everett (University of Bath)
A panel on the relationship between cinema and the visual arts, including the question of Jean-Luc Godard as painter.
Panellists: Jean-Pierre Gorin (filmmaker, San Diego), Sarah Wilson (Courtauld Institute, London), Gérard Fromanger (artist, Paris) Chair: Cerith Wyn Evans (artist, London)
Speaker: Monica Dall'Asta (University of Bologna): 'Godard and his Angel'
Dall'Asta interrogates Histoire(s) du Cinéma in the light of Walter Benjamin's philosophy of history, a tradition that can be traced back to Nietzsche's reflections on the 'use and disadvantage of history for life'.
Dall'Asta reveals that as a montage of quotations, Histoire(s) du Cinéma constructs a (hi)story - or a history that is also a fiction - from a specific, unrepeatable point in time, endowed with the power of mobilising the whole past and identified with the moment of cinema's death. Yet by indicating a purely cinematic method for the making of history, Histoire(s) du Cinéma also shows that cinema will live in the future as a praxis of audiovisual film history, when the memories stored in the archives will finally become the matter of montage.
Speaker: Leslie Hill (University of Warwick): 'A Clandestine Companion: Godard and Blanchot'
Hill explores the presence and influence of Maurice Blanchot in Godard's later work, and most specifically the actual figure of Blanchot in the climactic final moments of Histoire(s) du Cinéma. Hill brings to bear Blanchot's literary and philosophical work on three central concerns in Godard's cinema: the question of history and the last man; the theme of the ghost in relation to a politics of the film image; and finally Godard's citationality, his constant play with titles, quotations, and other textual
fragments, a massive question that can best be articulated by reference to Blanchot's notion of the neuter.
Chair: Elena del Rio (University of Colorado)
Speaker: Vicki Callahan (University of California Los Angeles): 'On the "Sacred" and Cinematic Vision in the Films of Jean-Luc Godard'
Callahan argues that the sacred or spiritual elements in Godard's later films can be found not in any apodictic or transcendental certainty, but rather in the denial of these very categories. According to Callahan, who refers in particular to Nouvelle Vague, the sense of the sacred and 'true' in Godard is tied to a notion of flux and the performative. It is, in fact, woman's (and nature's) instability as image which Godard privileges, and this fluidity, tracked by cinematic vision, becomes the path to the spiritual life in his work. To put this another way, cinema, difference, and the possible may all be viewed as associate links to the sacred.
Respondent: Michael Goddard (University of Sydney)
Chair: Lætitia Fieschi-Vivet (Birkbeck College, London)
Speaker: Laurent Jullier (University of Metz): 'JLG/ECM'
Jullier explores the symbiotic relationship existing between Godard's sound-work and the German record label ECM, which has released the sound-tracks of a number of his films. He argues that if the sound-tracks of Godard's films play freely on the effects of unintelligibility and concealment, these same characteristics effectively disappear when they are transferred onto CD. Does this mean that a Godard film risks being transformed into one long video clip? Jullier argues that Godard remains a fundamentally modernist filmmaker since his soundtracks never feature the musical equivalent of his manipulation of images, voices and noises.
Jullier considers why it should be that music retains its integrity in Godard's work and is never subjected to the techniques of serialism, free jazz or cut-up.
Respondent: Nora Alter (University of Florida)
Chair: Larry Sider (School of Sound, London)
Speaker: Vinzenz Hediger (University of Zürich): 'A Cinema of Memory in the Future Tense: Godard and the Logic of the Movie Trailer'
Once Godard is reported to have said that in the future he would be making trailers instead of movies. Hediger will argue that there are indeed many affinities between Godard's later works and the logic of the movie trailer.
Both exist in the future perfect: they create a desire to look back at cinema from a point further on in time. Both work with collage and enigma: they reduce cinema to a series of excerpts and confront the audience with the task of reassembling the pieces into intelligible forms. Hediger will demonstrate that far from being an avant-garde alternative to mainstream cinema, Godard's later works in fact continue its trailer-logic, subverting the sequence of announcement and event and replacing it with a cinema of memory in the future tense.
Speaker: Christa Blümlinger (Free University Berlin): 'On s'est tous défilé'
In this short video piece about a fashion parade, Godard reflects on the apparatus of cinema and the representation of the human figure. The 'défilement' of images and the 'défilé' of figures come together in a dynamic movement that Godard has explored in many of his works, especially in Histoire(s) du Cinéma. Blümlinger will examine the links between Godard's filmic reflection on this subject and a text called 'Du défilement au défilé' by Serge Daney, the essayist who is Godard's chosen interlocutor throughout the later work and who for Godard was the last in a long French tradition of essayistic visual thinkers. She will show how Godard deploys this figure of the 'défilé' in order to reintroduce into the recording of the human figure a dialectic between emotion and objectification.
Chair: Elizabeth Cowie (University of Kent)
Speaker: Adrian Martin (critic, Melbourne): 'The Wind Cries Mary: Godard's Lyricism'
Martin proposes a stylistic and figural analysis of Godard's lyrical practice of montage. He argues that in the lyrical mode (which includes much of Godard's work of the 1980s and 1990s), either the plot of the film tends to suspend itself altogether, or plot elements are gathered together and re-ordered into a kaleidoscopic mosaic that looks backwards and projects forwards within the text. Devices such as a poem or a song drive the organisation of the images, sounds, colours, gestures, and rhythms.
Indeed, films such as Passion and Je vous salue, Marie may be viewed as extended 'songs' constructed on the lyrical principles of association, compression and dilation of ongoing motifs. Martin will unpacks the stylistic elements of certain key lyrical sequences in Godard's work and show how these elements are integrated or 'streamed' in complex aesthetic rhythms of junction and disjunction.
Respondent: André Habib (Concordia University, Montreal)
Chair: David Oubinia (University of Buenos Aires)
A panel on cinema's relations with television, video, and digital technologies, including comparison between Godard's work and the projects of Chris Marker and Aby Warburg.
Panellists: François Jost (University of Paris), Catherine Lupton (University of Surrey Roehampton), Maurizia Natali (Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, R.I.), Hilary Radner (University of Notre Dame)
Chair: Ian Christie (Birkbeck College, London)
Speaker: Marc Cerisuelo (University of Paris): 'From Mépris to Histoire(s), or the Godardian fiction of cinema'
Cerisuelo argues that Le Mépris is not only the first 'metafilm' of the New Wave but also the first chapter in Godard's 'critical history' of cinema.
The film reveals the true ambivalence of Godardian discourse, for although it is (among other things) remarkably lucid about the present condition and the legitimacy of cinema with regard to cultural history, it is also resolutely historicist and haunted by the nostalgia of a golden age and the certainty of an end. Cerisuelo traces the workings of Godard's double critical discourse through its link to the French tradition of the genre (from Diderot and Baudelaire) and its resistance to a universalist or objective model. He reveals in the process the limits - precisely historicist - of such a narrative.
Speaker: Domietta Torlasco (University of California Berkeley): 'Godard's Histoire(s) du Cinéma and History as Memory of the World'
Torlasco addresses the relation between cinema, history and memory in Histoire(s) du Cinéma by reading the work against the grain of Benjamin's theory of experience and its controversial notion of aura. She argues that Histoire(s) du Cinéma presents us with the transformation, and not the disappearance, of the aura that Benjamin considers essential to the disruption of chronological time and the possibility of recovering forgotten pasts along with the memory of alternative futures. Despite the fact that Benjamin's art-work essay confines cinema to shock, consciousness, and presence, his work on Baudelaire and Proust, together with his epistemological annotations on the 'dialectical image', justify the reconfiguration of cinema as a medium for the preservation and activation of mnemic traces, as well as the transformation of the present.
Through a close reading of Chapter 3A, Torlasco demonstrates how Godard's practice of montage rediscovers and affirms cinema in its capacity for memory and resistance.
Chair: Junji Hori (University of Tokyo)
A panel discussing the changing forms and projects of Godard's work in the past fifty years, especially focusing on political changes and the changing relationship between cinema and its contemporary world.
Panellists: Nicole Brenez (University of Paris), Thomas Elsaesser (University of Amsterdam), Jean-Pierre Esquenazi (University of Lyons), Jean-Michel Frodon (critic, Paris), Annette Michelson (New York University) Chair: Jonathan Rosenbaum (critic, Chicago)
Organisers: (Contact [email protected])
Michael Temple (Birkbeck College), James S. Williams (University of Kent),
Michael Witt (University of Surrey Roehampton)
Andrew Brighton (Tate Modern), Ian Christie (Birkbeck College), Jill Forbes (Queen Mary College), Catherine Grant (University of Kent), Colin MacCabe (University of Exeter), Paul McDonald (University of Surrey Roehampton), Laura Mulvey (Birkbeck College), Jeremy Ridgman (University of Surrey Roehampton), Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago), Hilary Smith (British Film Institute), Cerith Wyn Evans (London)
Tickets for the four-day conference cost £70 full price and £50 for concessions (children, students, unemployed, pensioners). Demand for tickets will be high and there will only be two hundred places available, so we suggest that you book early. We cannot sell any tickets ourselves.
Please purchase your tickets directly from Tate Box Office by any of the following means:
By post: write to Tate Box Office, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG, England
By telephone: call +44 (0)20 7887 8888
By fax: call +44 (0)20 7887 8898
E-mail: [email protected]
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