Sunday, May 20, 2007

In memoriam Thierry Kuntzel

there is the awful leaden weight of death over the thought of Heidegger. what is so depressing about it is the absurdity which he gives it: the meaninglessness. I don't mean that deatth is intrinsically meaningful, but that it has many meanings, for specific dyings. And each is embedded in a locale, in a world, among the living and the dying, for whom it means immensely

Thierry Kuntzel's Nostos is currently showing at ACMI in the Beaubourg touring video retrospective. It is a lovely thing, the inhabitance of a room with light, recorded in greyscale, on a bank of (memory supplying details) nine monitors in a 3x3 grid (might be 4x4). They are heritage boxes, and the light trap is excellent, so you are alert to the fading of light, the flare in the camera - which would have been a tube camera, liable to comet tails and saturation - and the sluggish decay of the phosphors in the old tubes, longer and slower than the modern ones, and longer and slower than the simple line scan overwriting a flare of brightness. Because the light trap is so good you're aware of the blaze of light - you are basically in night-vision mode, all rods, few cones, straining after the photons, but when they burst your rods flare out and carry the afterimage.

These beautiful artefacts (as engineers will call them - unexpected or unwanted products of the technology) are integral to the devices it is shown on (I recall seeing a single channel version years ago at the Institut Francais in London, in a dimmed but ambient-lit room, very differently - i recall a blue tone to the image there, but that might be a trick of memory). These screens will eventually lose the capacity to show the work, and it will be reconstructed, in a new form on new screens. With luck it will be around for years to come, transferred to new storage media. Perhaps the archivists will try to register some of these artefacts - tone the screens with an ambient grey to denote, or point towards, the off-black quality of video black back in the day.

The archive of digital materials points us always to the fundamental ephemerality of this seeing, this version, this event, this mounting and staging, this moment of viewing which is so tragically tied to time, but which makes its statement against panic by offering, as the obverse of tragedy, the utterly now.

Kuntzel's Nostos is its own tribute to the way electronic media more perhaps than any other except performance -- which Nostos records in the actions of the woman in the room we see passing light over the walls -- , or the media of everyday interactions, kisses, kindnesses - the way electronic media can, if they wish, announce their own fading as integral to their experience.

In this way Nostos teaches us not to mourn, or to mourn in the knowledge that life is for the living, but dying is for the living too.

(post to empyre list 27 April 07)

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