Chris Marker: Staring Back
Time Out New York
October 11, 2007
Chris Marker’s “Staring Back” was originally organized by the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio, where it debuted over the summer. Comprising almost 200 works, it spans six decades and is Marker’s first photo exhibition—surprising when you consider that he’s best known for “La Jetée” (1962), a film made up of still images.
These small, black-and-white, informally mounted digital prints consist largely of shots of French protesters and closely cropped portraits. Each bears visually similar obfuscating artifacts, which, depending on the type and age of the negatives, are due to the effects of time, visible grain or pixels (many of the 35mm images were altered in Photoshop). The result is that dates, geographic distances and even media are blurred: A scene from a 1968 protest is nearly identical to one from 2003; an image of a young Siberian woman from 1957 is congruous with a 1990 shot of a Berlin activist and a film still from 2003.
Marker ingeniously splits the difference between photography’s ability to capture reality and its capacity for falsifying events by taking images out of context. Here, he levels political and theoretical discourse—and transcends what might have been a mediocre documentary project. Sprinkled throughout the exhibition is wall text he wrote; it concludes with a poem from Marker’s 2003 CD-ROM, Immemory: “…a gaze / a post / a gesture / that points / to the truest of humanity / better / than images / or humanity itself.” The artist has the goods to back up his words, which are eloquent and sincere, and get to the heart of his life’s work.
— Amoreen Armetta