Press Release – City Gallery Wellington
From June 21, City Gallery commemorates the centenary of WWI with an emotive eight-screen video installation by pioneer French filmmaker Chris Marker, Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men (2005).
Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s famous poem The Hollow Men (1925), Marker mixes lines of text with moody photographs of wounded veterans and beautiful women to evoke the hopelessness of those who experienced the war to end all wars.
The eerie soundtrack, Corona by Toru Takemitsu, is performed by Australian pianist Roger Woodward and further educes the despair.
“Chris Marker is known as a political filmmaker, but here he puts political analysis aside to focus squarely on the human cost of war,” says Curator Robert Leonard. “While contemporary art prefers ambivalence and ambiguity, irony and critique, Owls at Noon Prelude is instead powerfully emotional.”
Now beyond living memory, every New Zealander was touched by the Great War. Ten percent of our then population of one million served overseas.
“The Memorial is a traditional form of art and Marker updates it using digital media,” says Leonard.
About Chris Marker
Chris Marker (1921–2012) was a pioneer of the experimental essay film—his essay film Statues Also Die (1953) is currently screening in our exhibition Viviane Sassen: Lexicon (until 15 June). However, Marker remains best known for his sci-fi time-travel fiction film, La Jetée (1962). A writer, photographer, film director, and multimedia artist, Marker has had numerous retrospectives, including Planète Marker at the Pompidou Centre, Paris, last year, and A Grin Without a Cat currently at the Whitechapel Gallery, London.
Chris Marker on Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men
“Owls at noon, night birds in the day, things, objects, images that don’t belong, and yet are there. Leaflets, postcards, stamps, graffiti, forgotten photographs, frames stolen from the continuous and senseless flow of TV stuff (what I’d call the Duchamp syndrome: once I’ve spotted 1/50th of a second that escaped everybody, including its author, this 1/50th of a second is mine). Bringing into the light events and people who normally never access it. It’s from that raw material, the petty cash of history, that I try to extract a subjective journey through the twentieth century. Everybody agrees that the founding moment of that era, its mint, was the First World War, and that it was also the background on which T.S. Eliot wrote his beautiful and desperate poem The Hollow Men. So the Prelude to the journey will be a reflection upon that poem, mixed with some images gathered from the limboes of my memory.”
Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men
21 June – 7 September
City Gallery Wellington | Free