Quelle heure est-elle ?
From 2004 to 2008, and this before Passengers, Chris Marker developped for the first time his idea of photographic reportage in the Parisian underground. Quelle heure est-elle? shows women in black and white in a pale metro.
Funny title. Breaking the French grammar rules, Chris Marker reminds us that woman is the figure of otherness and cinematographic image that he has more often used. “Cinema and women have become two inseparable notions, a film without a woman is like an opera without music”, he said in 1997. In this case, it is not about animated sequences but fixed pictures. For all these reasons, Quelle heure est-elle? does not break the rule and delivers a series of thirty six faces, mainly women, traveling in the Parisian subway.
They are either young or old, sitting or standing and meditating, bored, questioning or bursting into laughter. As a voyeur without desires, Chris Marker steals from them an instant of their everyday life, a sensitive view, suspicious or pale. The photographer has scavenged, as an objective documentary, in order to capture in these moments the exact nature of each of these women. And they did not see him. As a reference in the title, Marker begins his experience using a miniature digital camera, a watch on his wrist. Even through the use of the little gadget instead of more classic gear, the contemplation remains the same, devoted to stop the time.
These photographs awaken the innocence that Chris Marker has nourished all along his career, but pose a question on their accessibility. Analogically twisted, they affect, almost mystically the visual perception. The digital allows to hide and observe, always closer and silently, as the presence of the camera, concealed or not, has become a general use. Marker, in his search for understanding the world, seems to be focused on technology. That technology that he observes daily and that he uses to deliver sensitive impressions on what surrounds us. Either technology has deceived him, or he tries to undermine it from inside. Because nevertheless the aesthetics and beauty of images, the linearity they posses leaves an impression of the unfinished. Maybe it is just lacking the crafty words from the photo-novels that made Chris Marker one of the most influential artists.
Quelle heure est-elle, by Chris Marker, exhibited in 2009 at the Peter Blum Gallery in New York, and also as part of the large retrospective on him featured in Arles this year
From July 4th through September 2011 in the Palais de l’Archevêché
8 Boulevard Lices
04 90 43 35 10