Web cinema is an oxymoron. The internet is a resource; a hilariously unreliable encyclopedia for a distracted population amusing themselves to death as Richard Feynman has written - and all by themselves together. The new "web cinema" furthers none of the real time phenomenon of engaging with the seventh art. Bite sized videos on a computer screen actually remove the viewer from the energy and participation inherent in the original motion picture viewing experience. As dull as endless hours of someone else's home movies - web cinema creations are typically viewed by one person watching a computer monitor in an endless possibility of environments. The very essence of cinema involves company, darkness and a communal experience.
The actual successor to the seventh art is Second Life. The enigmatic French cineaste and sociopolitical rabble rouser Chris Marker has been offering up his home movies for six decades now. At 87 he has led the charge out of the heady 16mm revolutionary 60's of Parisian student unrest into the subdued society of blinking solitary screens that incite mass hypnosis via YouTube today. Second Life is the perfect realm for Mr Marker to further his socially conscious antics. While newcomers to the moving image who may never have spliced a real piece of film let alone toiled at a steenbeck lay claim to being the future of "web cinema", Chris Marker has moved on and taken the foundations of cinema experience with him into Second Life. As a new medium Second life is not an extension of human experience like Youtube or Facebook it is an alternate collective experience in the spirit of film viewing.
Image: Monsieur Guillaume, photo by Bettina Tizzy
Famously elusive, Marker can engage people with remove in this alternate reality. While Marker stays put in Paris - his avatar traveling to points infinite in Second Life - he continues to have a presence in our actual reality through his recently appointed live action avatar Thomas Vuille. Vuille, the creator of serial Parisian graffiti cats has been rocketed out of obscurity into the public domain as a result of Marker's interest. A collaboration made in cyber heaven, Marker's attraction to Vuille's anarchic art practice started with the resemblance he saw to his own cat Guillaume. Marker's homage to Guillaume, "Cat listening to music" is the original and probably the most sublime YouTube home movie or "web cinema" ever created. Thomas' enchanting graffiti cat has taken Marker's subject back into the real world to continue his heroic journey while Chris ventures deeper into the virtual world to further the artistic discipline of cinema. Just as cinema propels us into a place that feels intensely real but is only a representation experienced collectively so - in spite of real time connections - Second Life has the potential to further the collective cinematic experience by creating a space for parallel experience.
Chris Marker first appeared in Second Life in the company of his longtime guide, Monsieur Guillame, a cat and a furry entity at the opening of his exhibit l'Ouvroir. On Tuesday, March 11th, 2007 at 11am SLT / 19:00 CET, in conjunction with a Real Life exhibition in Zurich, Switzerland, at the Museum Gestaltung. Marker exists in this cyber realm in much the same way as he has in the real world - only occasionally venturing out of his virtual hiding place. The site is still active but you may knock at his cyber door for hours if not months without a real interaction. He is there and he is not.
Image: Ouvroir, photo by Barbara Binder
Just as he was and is in his films, Marker is there through the creation of the work but absent in the experience of it. Marker's highly regarded meditations on the state of our existence, including the infamous short film La Jetee, have mellowed into playful observations of our lunatic society through the eyes of a cleverly positioned graffiti cat who echoes Marker's own feline amour "Guillaume". Featured in such video art classics as "Cat listening to music" Marker's cat has been reborn on the streets of Paris and the world and redrawn in Second life. This has revived the profile of Second Life at the same time - no longer a cyberia where losers go to live the lives they cannot in reality - it is becoming a creative platform, an infinite silver screen for individual heroes journeys to be played out in concurrent time.
Recently Marker participated in a brief discussion in Second Life that was broadcast live through Harvard's Film Center. He cheekily "assisted" the cinematic dialogue in Second Life commenting on the limitations of the Second Life communication in amusing misspelled entries under the pseudonym Sergei Murasaki. Not unlike a director's talk before or after the screening of a film in real life, the event offered more in the way of an experience of Marker as mischief maker than any elucidation of his Second Life experimentation as the new platform for his cinematic explorations. Marker's contribution to the evolution of cinema into video and Second Life is documented, reviewed and archived on a comprehensive site that includes examples of what web cinema might have been if users were gathered around a giant screen together. His Youtube premiered video "Leila Attacks" from 2006 begs this communal experience and serves as a stark example of the non-cinema experience of "web cinema". Like any great innovator Marker has infiltrated the realm of pretenders to his throne and dabbled enough to prove his explorations in Second Life are the real web cinema.
You can see other recent works, including experimental film loops such as Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men 2005 - at Peter Blum Gallery- Chelsea. New York. Between May 16th - July 31st 2009.
References and resources:
Museum of Design, Zurich: http://www.museum-gestaltung.ch/E_welcome.html
Marker Website: http://www.chrismarker.org/
YouTube: Leila Attacks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iParBp8cS0w
Chris Marker's second life site: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Ouvroir/187/61/39/
Archive of Marker as sergei-murasaki interacting on Second life during Harvard event: http://www.webknot.net/2009/05/17/chris-marker-sergei-murasaki-presente-son-exposition-dans-louvroir/
blog describing l'Ouvroir: http://islandouvroir.blogspot.com/
Telling Stories A History of Web Cinema: http://www.druidmedia.com/booksscripts/ahistoryofwebcinema.html
"Web Cinema" a Rogue site posting "great films and videos" http://ukrtv.com/en/
M. CHAT info site France: http://monsieurchat.free.fr/MChat.php
M. CHAT info site Chile: [url=http://omarperezsantiago.blogspot.com/2007/11/monsieur-chat-clausura-feria-del-libro.html ]http://omarperezsantiago.blogspot.com/2007/11/monsieur-chat-clausura-feria-del-libro.html