Monday, October 08, 2007
Last night I had my first encounter with the work of Gregory Markopoulos. Eniaios IV, "Nefeli Photos," reel 2--a half-hour of incredibly beautiful, fleeting images working on my eyes and mind in ways I hadn't experienced before. It was easily the highlight of four consecutive Views from the Avant-Garde programs I saw, the last four of the weekend. (Not to say there wasn't strong work elsewhere in these programs; there was, probably Breer & Farocki's work most of all.) But this tiny excerpt from the Eniaios project (an 80-hour-long opus) seemed extra-special. Rhythmic arrangements, slowly unfolding a space, shafts and orbs of light, afterimages and sillhouettes, the most austere apportionment of unforced beauty (spread out over time, like a web spun--perhaps by the spider seen in the opening minutes), the interpellation of History (a Byzantine church as a physical space--a room--but also as a mode of vision and of experience, that is, a way of being and feeling). Each shot is carved, like sculpture, in both space (many of the shots are largely shadowed, so you're seeing maybe two-thirds black frame for an image, the bright light and colors resting like a block amidst the rectangular composition) and time (they appear fleetingly, for a few frames or a few seconds, and disappear into the void again, and we pass them like landmarks and mile markers in our film journey [apologies to Doug Cummings]). At one point I thought to myself, 'All told, this Eniaios has to be the most amazing cinematic achievement ever.' It's not even as though this particular work/segment itself felt like a "masterpiece," a monument--it seemed almost earthy, everyday, rather. But I think that it was just working at such a high level, in such an incredibly rich, economical register, that you could start to speculate what its companion pieces might look like, what directions it might go on. Surely it's only speculation; and what do I know, this is the only Markopoulos I've even seen? But this is how it moved me.
Markopoulos's contributions to film form begin with his earliest work of the 1940s, develop through the subsequent decades, and culminate in ENIAIOS, on which he worked during the final years of his life. His important innovations, such as editing with the smallest unit of film (the single frame), and the simultaneous narrative of past, present, and future, or his most individual use of colour, are all directed towards the representation and resolution of complex emotions. These innovations prefigure many contemporary practices in the arts. (source)