Thierry Kuntzel and the Return of Writing Raymond Bellour
It was after this that there was most of a virtue for him, most of a cultivated charm, most of a preposterous secret thrill, in the particular form of surrender to his obsession and of address to what he more and more believed to be his privilege. Henry James, "The Jolly Corner"

The cinema has alwayshad trouble analyzing itself. Representing itself, on the other hand, is something it does almost incessantly, its most powerful works haunted by a kind of mirroring and mise en abyme which seem to be their favorite form of torment. Lang, Hitchcock. In its purest fiction, the machine even runs away with itself, carried away as if in a hall of mirrors, where in the attempt to see its own image, it no longer knew where to stop. When I say "analyzing itself," I mean pausing and stepping back in a way that displaces and redefines the way we look at a given art form: in the case of literature, for example, Mallarrne, Blanchot, Barthes. For the cinema, which lacks neither representations nor words (as music does), nor discursive temporality (as painting does), the possibility of analyzing itself is an ever-present temptation and obsession. There are two ways it can do this: from the outside, through writing, and through work on the defilement which ensures the cinematic illusion. Eisenstein, Vertov, They combined the two in a way which explains their privileged position in film history and theory. But, for historical and ideological reasons, they remain too concerned with rhetorical effect and didactic purpose. In relation to the machine itself, the example of Michael Snow is altogether more striking; as was that of Mallarrne in his time, and for a long time after. Thought must perhaps step back from history in order to

Translated and published with permission from Cabiers du Cinema. Originally published as "Thierry Kuntzel et le retour de I'ecrirure," Cabiers du Cinema, no. 321 (March 1981). Photos courtesy of Emmanuel Meynard.


see its objects better. This is why I think Thierry Kuntzel 's videotapes are extremely important. In referring to Mallarrne , I am not trying to confer aesthetic value or respectability, but to situate a movement, a change of direction which has taken place and, from another point of view, is being repeated. The slide from film to video may perhaps one day be compared to the move away from the alexandrine and toward free verse in poetryout of this there emerged a reflection on the literary fate of language, and the same is happening today for the image. Exceptional in this respect is Godard's Sauve quipeut (Ia vie) and its displacement of the image inside of fiction. The cinema is indeed "truth 24 times a second," but on condition that you decompose it, make it turn back on itself and denaturalize it, so as to reinvent it-which is the work of theory, on the basis of its position outside, what the cinema is trying to do, what video is making possible. And what Thierry Kuntze!' s approach illustrates with extraordinary precision.

First of all, then, there is the movement from work on the film, "filmwork," to the film itself, and video as a response to that. Thierry Kuntzel's theoretical writings are unusual in that, unlike those of Baudry and Metz for example, they do not concern themselves with the cinema proper, i.e., an apparatus which stops short of any actual film; but neither are they really concerned, like so many other analyses, with the films to which they refer. It is more a case of bringing out, each time, the "other film" which the film is hiding, which can define it and which passes unnoticed. But this is not so as to reveal a structure, the exemplary logic of its functioning-even if the texts seem to follow this route, even if they mark it out, and manage to say more than so many others whose purpose this is. For what is at issue, what needs to be specified beyond but also within the object, is a subject-effect, a psychical scene. That is clear from the outset. Kuntzel stops to consider the first 27 shots of Fritz Lang's M.I He says: the "film-work" can be understood in relation to the "dream-work" whose operations he follows through-a question addressed by the film to the cinema. A theoretical position which implies a certain knowledge. But above all a displacement: "This reading of a film's beginning is the 'film' of a beginning of reading."2 Between sight and insight, the pause, the slowing down, the putting into words, enable us to glimpse "another film." The question is addressed to the defilement. It is followed through by

Lyotard's acinema: within the dominant system of production and consumption. and which the cinema maintains at the cost of an "uncanniness" [une "inquietante etrangete "). This division is a cleavage which only the animator and the analyst (' 'the disanimator") can assess. the concept of filmic apparatus [ap-parei! filmique) is created. quite different from Baudry and Metz 's concept of the "basic apparatus" [apparell de base) or "apparatus" [dlSpositlft)." and the "work" onto the' 'text' '). in rhe concentrated space-time of the opening sequences. in relation to what the stopped film. but between them. Hence the final statement: The filmic which will be the object of the filmic analysis therefore will be found neither on the side of motion nor on the side of stillness. for example. The classical film thus becomes the point of departure [from which] another film might be imagined: a film in which the initial figure would not find its place in the flow of a narrative." In this way. in the generation of the projected film by the film-strip. the one you don't see and the one you see or think you see..reference to an animated cartoon by Peter Foldes (Appetit d'oiseau) which allows the problem of the still to be posed in different terms: going from the ideality of signifiance (Barthes... Kuntzel analyzes. " the effect linked to motion). is the object of the filmic analysis which Appitit d'oiseau brings out. 4 31 The analysis is therefore undertaken with the "other film" in view (as the "readable" in Barthes opens onto the "writable. beginning with the bird." A key-concept. The repression which is related to it. the expanding secret that it guards. directs it. between the film-strip and the film-projection. between the genital parts of the two sexes. and what the analysis constructs. in which the configuration of events contained in the formal matrix would not form a progressive order. . unfolds. in which the spectator / subject would never be reassured. the guarantee of emotion (of "l'emouvoir." The "other film" appears. this would be a film of sustained terror. in the negation of this film-strip by the projected film . of the privileged moments in which everything is programmed: the mad desire of the film (its multiple fantasy to be a film and to portray scenes) and the meaning which takes hold of it. manipulated and reduced to its basic patterns. reduces it and stretches it out to the set proportions of a drama oriented toward its conclusion. Sylvie Pierre) toward filmic knowledge. shows: the most fantasmic transformations. The Most Dangerous Game:" The other film is what the classical film (American especially) hides best.

albeit in a fairly basic way. the desire for a theory which would extend toward something other than itself." 10 Concurrently. La Rejetee."8 And the desire is reformulated. constant inscription. I obtain two [similar] mechanisms mirroring each other. [In this mirroring of machines] while the perception-consciousness system is submitted to this screen-effect. its ability to transform. 9 Functional logic: this text was first written as an introduction to the analysis of a fragment of Chris Marker's La fetee. had he known of it. as in the film-strip and the film-projection. could the unconscious grasp another space. in the film-can. The reformulation of a wish. a pointer to future research: "Perhaps it will finally be possible to find a way of writing which is sufficiently labile to render the fluidity of film. Freud's model for the psychical apparatus. the conservation of the traces: this is the very mechanism of the system of perception-consciousness and of accumulation within the unconscious. its mixedness. for a shift from the film-projection toward the film-strip. A virtual film. In the projection. " .!' There again. the film-beneath-the-film. regrouping in configurations' 'never" seen or heard before in the order of the defilement. in between its physical mass and the psychical density of its defilement becomes the apparatus.[screen-effect]-but constantly referring to each other: intersecting.32 The film itself. In this work. the condensations. the process (of misrecognition) whereby they are continually interdependent. overlapping. video is used. two exhibitions of conceptual or environmental art. for its plasticity. the strip rolled back up again on a reel. But another analysis: a re-editing of the shots being analyzed (with the aid of video) aiming to conjure out of a film already struck by a conscious immobility all the violence of the memory-pad. beyond the defilement. might well have found a more exact analogy in the filmic apparatus. of the screen memories turned upside down: the unconscious layered with accumulated traces. a film free from temporal constraints-where all the elements would be present at the same time..e. .. If I [plug] the psychical apparatus [into] the filmic one. beginning in the space between them defined by the analysis and. and the specificity of its signifying process. the force of repetition and secondary revision establish as biographical fiction and representability. The filmic apparatus is a model of the psychical apparatus. another time. its movement. redrawn in 1925 on the lines of a writing machine (' 'the mystic writing-pad"). the conditions of perception. without any effect of presence.. a volume. i. as it were... This other film-to use another image. deletion on the screen. the other film. it is a case of modifying: space. which the displacements. another logic-the [film-strip] to which it is structurally close?.

spelled out in neon. The tapes-all of them-have tried to go back over that period-those years-to recount it silently. suspended. "The focus of Trans is the subject. King Kong. It wasn't deliberate: video imposed itself on me-in those long drawn-out images. born of this impossible recapture. They are simply the continuation. La Desserte blanche. it came and came again: dilated." "Trans refers the subject back to nothing other than itself. In 1925. quite different from anything else I know. "The other film" (second section of "A Note upon the Filmic Apparatus") stops: the interrupted text may be added to the unfinished analyses (The Man with the Movie Camera. in that it resolved a problem of writing which had hitherto been insoluble: the constant ability of the receptive surface to receive.). "Memory. Thierry Kuntzel has made eight tapes (five completed. which are barely images. 'real" one. of the same experience: which would have become unbearable to explore any further without this new medium which gives it fresh impetus. La Desserte multiple. terror. Nostos 2.N." its illuminated letters standing out across the gallery. rouge. T-wo-men. they make up a whole. abandonment. absence. contemplative. the permanence of the traces in the wax of the . La Desserte noire. the subject is you. The tapes-all of them-bear the mark of that period-those years. Letter from an Unknown Woman. Time Smoking a Picture. On the first of these tapes-marking the shift from the interrogation and tracking down of film to the production of video-Kuntzel wrote. and within the framework of the Institut National de l' Audiovisuel (I. a-chronological. Echolalia. the action in progress. It wasn't deliberate. 13 33 Over the last two years. the . Nostos 1. assigning to the spectator something of my position-the strange position of the watcher. They are not intended to be explanatory: theory reflected in practice. Vampyr. which links the subject up to itself more directly. an initial whole. and others in which the same desire is repeated). with all the risks that that entails. It only serves as an index." "Trans reverses the usual relation to the object. but a clarity of their own-an intense clarity. the psychical apparatus.the body which remembers. bleue. Sttll. his or her own time. ecstatic time. by other means. three in the process of being edited)."12 1978. I can still see. The other film begins: the other of the other. or which at least are barely images of anything-after a long period of silence. Freud saw in the "mystic writing-pad" [the "wunderblock"] an almost exact representation of the psychical apparatus. imposing an idea of time on the spectator. excessively perhaps. To my mind. The fact that they grew out of theory confers no privilege on them. This is no longer valorized.A.

a plus une pipe. where the image takes shape while vanishing under the influence of desire and fear. So in these tapes there is some reality." he means light as that which permits the appearance of form. there is little representation: only as much as will allow one to work under the image and between the images. 14 II. itself shaped continuously by mental flux. since it is through the eye that the unconscious sees. stopping short of analogy and going beyond it. hardly visible. The eye of the spectator is given. if you like. but only on condition that it disappears. on the screen which has changed imperceptibly from blue to white. ' '). As if there were a mental light which there. For example. the "thing-presentation"). at the beginning of Nostos 1. . neuronic) body a strictly energetic analogy which would allow the former to express the latter and to act as an extension of it through an interplay of forces. But rather: of only half representing. and at the same time not representing. rhythms. became perception. the writing-pad being no more than an approximation? The working title of Nostos 1 was for a long time Wunderblock.34 writing-pad. and hardly very new (" Trans is not putting representation into crisis: 1926. Does video not constitute the perfect model." It is not a question of wiping out representation. And so an image is invented which corresponds to this double impossibility of truly representing. To represent? "In Nostos 1. That's too easy. Neither is it a question of aiming directly beyond by postulating between the medium and the psychical (perceptive. a form appears. intensities. It emerges out of a total concentration on light and in relation to the transformations effected by the synthesizer. a figuration of figuration: a continuous passage. ceci n 'est di. When Kuntzel says: "A kind of mad desire to make light visible. But two functions were missing: speed-simultaneous inscription and deletion-and the possibility of making the traces which had disappeared reappear. affective. impossible to fix between the abstract poles of primary and secondary. perception being itself no more than a projection of inner light. of getting past the "gangue of analogy" in order to study not so much representation as the fact that there is representation and that work is going on constantly in the psychical apparatus between perception and the inner image (from the conscious trace to the lost image. and nothing else. in front of our eyes.

taken from a body. suggesting a flickering effect. then lost against the sky: soon we realize that this is part of an arm.indistinct. of a shoulder. disappearing and reappearing all the while. like the beating of a wing perceived. in the joining together of still disjointed fragments. and a window-frame emerges. lit in such a way that the eye follows it. and sees nothing else. the beating becomes more intense. 35 . but far more meaningful. When the body begins to take shape. an effect which is no more than variations of light on a body without volume whose very precariousness introduces the possibility of sight. and moves upward. since it is anchored in the body of the image: a special modification of the frequency (similar to a noise-bar) underpins this constant appearance-disappearance.

become lost in the image: no scanning.36 When. also that of a man. later on. pass through. evanescent form). in a different way: no more wandering forms or flickering light. invading the frame with its dark surface (this time it is a follow spotlight. a brush of light which scans a shape. the process continues. no modifications of the frequency. but modifications within the fleshy mass which is hollowed out to the point of emptiness. their erasure is produced quite simply by manipulating through lighting what . Later on again. one. a second face appears. modelling the solid. then two characters appear.

this beyond -presence-and-absence. 37 . in this case two colors-the synthesizer thus becoming that which modulates this space.the camera reads as graduated shades of grey (luminance) and which the video synthesizer then sorts into just two visual possibilities (keying).

38 And when the woman on the ground stretches out. crumbling away as it takes shape. . the way the different tones and the follow spotlight are handled together creates the body which can only just be called a body. the intensified play of light getting caught in the folds of the dress. accelerating the vanishing / crystallization of the image.

not only. the second man and the woman. First of all the hero and the woman appear alone. or at least. coming back again. in trying to be less. which converts its passage into memory: forgetting. with the face of the second man. For example. the pulse of a thought. Their paths do not really cross. and these two series alternate in their turn with the "hero" walking and the woman moving forward. as if in a narrative sequence. aims at more: the fiction of its transformation. . are involved in some kind of drama. its history. Fiction(s) For we are. in the very continuity of the defilement. its shape. the "hero" sitting by the window alternates. the characters. the man. and then their paths cross as the result of an action which brings them together-but this is not the way to describe surface effects where shapes come together. an ideal equivalent of the singular moment in the analysis when the film-projection is converted into the film-strip via the study of single images and images in slow motion.39 "Stopping short of analogy and going beyond it. evident in the way the forms are interwoven. Representation stripped of its support opens up a mental space where the image. in fiction. under the image and between the images. In Nostos 1." That also means producing. of course. interminably.

But this something has more to do with the form in which it appears than with a stated meaning. ). and no interpretation is required. lighting a cigarette. quiet. The banality and elementary character of the gestures are essential to this: "a few minimal actions: turning the pages of a book."15 . a proliferation of music which has never been heard (before). irregular building up of a representation-a door opens. color. immobile." The fiction relates to a mode of operation. looking around. in the sense that a dream is always telling a story about something. esp. the pulsation of color. looking. or in particular a latent meaning to be formulated: no image ever becomes metaphorical or symbolic. single frame from cinema film.40 They slide into each other. on a secret perhaps. Stdl is the apparatus itself. it makes no difference) through video. is never simply the wish to be a dream (unlike Maya Deren's Meshes oftbe Afternoon. "Just imagine: the story comes to a halt. is remembered and relived. a secret: what the screen could never reveal without modifying the way the monitor usually works: the vibration of light. 2. it skirts around. opening one's mouth. sitting or lying down. if you like. fiction linked to fantasy. this: light. materialized (or immaterialized. 3. which does this so well). is the double of the psychical apparatus. Yes." becomes fiction about fiction as Mallarme says in the Preface to his poem "Un coup de des" ["A throw of the dice"]. it tells us something else and more about the dream. Still: 1. static photograph. of stories which have never (yet) taken place. The film-the tape-never aims to be simply a dream. crossing a space. silent. as in a dream image. And so there is fiction. of words which have fallen silent. movement ceases. The initial motif of Nostos 1 embodies a kind of mental destiny: the flickering of the image which pins the hero against the intermittent frame of a double window (it could be a train) suggests in the most rigorous way that the subject of the defilement. the way in which the dream is inscribed in time. calm. the sound-track falls silent. "avoids narrative. the slow. (etc. of the filmic apparatus. You ask yourself: 'but what's going on?' For 25 minutes.

the grain of video (something like the alphabet suddenly appearing as such in a written text). he is seized by the "intimate conviction" that the door "would have admitted him to the last room of the four. the image of the doorway. like the hero of' 'The Jolly Corner. the landing at the top of the stairs which is created and destroyed as it is transformed.. Or. into the other. halfopen. but the black trace on the floor (black on white or blue in the tape) suggests an open door." "projected himself all day. had it not . in thought . lingering in the house where he spent his childhood. the matter probably of a quarter of an hour before.. the waiting life" 16 is a case of "'cultivating' his whole perception ..41 Everything is acted out between: first. the real. A door can be open and closed. the keying effect.. only a black hole-the fiction is potential for the spectator who."17 For the Kuntzel spectator as for the James hero-the spectator untouched by the elaborations of fantasy. been closed since his former visitation. or course.. the organic base. But in the fourth frame there is no longer a door. Take a close look at the second "still": the door is closed. since the' 'snow" which vibrates in the small frame to the point of invading the image is the foundation. and third.. the fiction which is built by these transformations. which indeed was but another name for his manner of . second. the room without other approach or egress.

"!" Kuntzel speaks of "the time that time takes to pass. back and front.42 spending his time. white. combining the artifice of the camerawork-the stopping up and down of the lens. yellow. but continuously. surface and depth. distinguishable as a variation of light and color. ochre. The relation between these two frames thus comes as close as possible to representing the unrepresentable: the spatial or temporal in-between created by the disjunction / conjunction between mental representation and perception. according to the light. conscious and unconscious. from purple to dark brown.with the projection of natural light which. and cut into it. another one. past and present. There again you have a static frame (made to vibrate merely through an inverted sweep). the color often shifting imperceptibly." Time as fiction: that is indeed the subject of these tapes which are at once so perfectly static and so mobile. the one the hero smokes while sitting on the window ledge after crossing the field of the image. in real time. As the hero-the author and original spectator-establishes his presence. in the way a cigarette is consumed. follows the downward curve of a sunset. crossing the room in both frames at once. we are given the outline of what representation holds out to fiction: . at the end of the tape. violet. Time Smoking a Picture: time constructs the image by devouring it.

'memory volume. vite ernporte. in a volume. forgetting about them. then held by the woman. car c'est I'exhalaison Des sentiments vecus de toute une saison Qui pour moi sort avec puissance de la vue. images halfglimpsed. by various means. d~ja loin de moi. piling them up. forms a single unit. as in memory. . is the perpetual unfolding of a condensation which is continually re-forming. where he can see his life slipping past.the hero's gaze into the window. depositing the images one on top of the other. inside and outside. "La vue. indecise et forcee D'aller vers le passe." which are quoted at the end of the tape: Mes yeux plangent dans un coin d'azur: rna pensee Reve. First of all on its own in Nostos 1. Grace I'intensire subiternent accrue Du souvenir vivace et latent d' un ete D~ja mort. which appear and disappear like the human figures. Inside the book. as in the last lines of Roussel's poem. The book is the image of this: caught in the fiction because it is at the origin of fiction. The action of leafing through the book repeats the work of the film.!" 43 a Time is in this respect the flip-side of Nostos 1: in the broken continuity of space-time." The book. its pages turned faster and faster (like calendars shedding their leaves in films of the thirties to suggest the passing of time). perdue. it determines the serialization and eventual return of elements which make "images piled one on top of the other" into a . the writing-pad And so the film. absente. returning to them.

with the force of ambiguity peculiar to him. Mallarme can. Freud in Mallarrne. ever since his utopian dream was first revised in the light of historical and technological developments. The first because the affirmation of the Book. who from "A Project for a Scientific Psychology" (1895: two years before "Un Coup de des. somewhere between the optical machine and the writing machine. sent back in the tape to its functioning. whose workings will replace many a volume. refer this effect "which must take place in the reader's mind" to the "cinematograph. as an absolute of language. obviously.44 On the one hand Mallarrne revisited. of prismatic subdivisions of the Idea the instant it appears and while their concurrence lasts. is conceived of as a mise en scene ("rather. with advantage. fused in the electronic . the writing on the page. thus abstracted. is a theorized cultural referent: a testing ground of the avant-garde ever since Mallarme drew out its radical implications. Freud and Mallarrne. "21 The book. in some exact spiritual 'mise en scene' "20). And Freud. aims at the production of a psychical effect in which the writing. on the other Freud." Freud and Mallarrne searching in the same direction in different languages) to "A Note upon the 'Mystic Writing-Pad'" (1925) moves from the utopia of science to the reality of the theory he has constructed in his search for a metaphor capable of representing the functioning of the psychical apparatus.

a luminous trail of forms. And later on there are images: photographs thrown down. it facilitates the workings of memory. The book is not really an image to be interpreted: it is the image of the image at work.image. The tape was shot with a modified paluche. in what amounts to a flowing away of representation. Nostos 2 comes back to this. making a kind of second book or loose-leaf pad. The delayed action paluche becomes the brush of light which composes an unseen image: in the black and white rushes (which are to remain black and white in parts) the black and the white. Becauseof this process. At one point. because it has been just that. the constant camera movement replaces the effects created in Nostos 1 by frequency modulation and the follow spotlight. from which it seems to take its energy. A book of images. creates a milky substance from which representation seems to emerge. piled up by the hand ofthe woman who shows them to the spectator. the multi-layered psychical image of our Western infancy. it is an idealized memory object. acquire their separate identities only to merge into each other. the action of leafing through a book is exposed to this effect and becomes amplified as a result. 45 . but its starting point is a completely different inscription of the trace. 22 which leaves an afterimage. this' 'trailing" brought about by the stopping up and down of the lens. They are clearly taken from a family album (there is nothing to stop us from thinking that they are being dreamed about by the hero whom we have seen with his eyes shut). or a picture book. of the memory-effect. already strongly contrasted thanks to the special qualities of the paiucbe.

You might even go so far as to think that they are at the origin of these processes. as you look at these photos which pile up and disappear from view into the white from which they emerge. in your response to this structural play. its future development. in you. it only exists. its avatars) has no referent other than the flat neutrality of the appearances and disappearances which mark it. Identification does .46 But the peculiar strength of this sketch of a family history is that it cannot be pinned down. All it tells us is that this has to do with a family history. whose traces form an accumulation of screen memories. when it does. But this luring scenario (the psychoanalytic fiction. The figures you see are linked to the processes of remembering and forgetting which they undergo. you could very well think this. that they are subject to the pressure of the image because they are and have been producers of images and that they are still the place where these processes occur and their reference point in time. Yes.

the modification of the frequency which composes the hero's movements creates an extremely violent. against a background which has no depth. having eluded us. Then the two figures face to face. Then it closes in again. Identification. to open out this time in one continuous movement. from blue to white) appears. Then the form comes together again to open out in stages. . in white and black (the outline will change constantly. each body being attached to the other by what eventually becomes the same double object (a circle. but in a manner which is less clear and less immediate. The video image reflected on. to participate in this play on time through "free and individual modulation. A form in which more than one element is brought together. in this way introduces something new. a breathing in and out which borders on suffocation. Take Echolalia. The rest is potential. already touched upon by the experimental film. the double body of a woman. each according to his or her own history.not go beyond the little that can be identified. the corporal effect that makes it so striking. hits us in another way. an appeal to the reader-spectator. In Nostos 1.' '23 47 Video-body Reverse and complement of this process of abstraction: the body of the image. gasping rhythm: the discontinuity of the trace and its conversion into memory produce a physical pulsation. a mirror) in which various reflections appear. disappears. from white to blue.

the bodies move upward. a double object. one and the same. lean forward. after a last. Then once again the original white mass returns. separate. in terms of a metapsychology of the cinema. Let us say. split into two again. that what Echolalia does first of all is to articulate the two levels of identification with the figure and the camera (secondary / primary) through which Metz situated the imaginary posture of the cinema-subject. and finally. they plunge downward again to become a motionless mass. the two figures face to face. bodies which sometimes consist of no more than a single line.48 Then once more you have the division into two. basing his analysis on Lacan's mirror. 24 The symmetry / dissymmetry between the two figures . the disappearance of one and then the other. sudden movement. changing color at the same time. ornate dresses. their fusion. holding this weird object which turns in their hands. interpenetrate as if through a kiss. which sometimes sparkle like coats of mail or strange.

but Bill Etra is working on a machine which should be able to differentiate 64. 28 The electronic image has immense possibilities . is one year old and his speech consists entirely of echolalia: rhythms. .' defining as the ideal of the avant-garde this resistance to the symbolic. . Never before had I seen a body being created and recreated as in this tape. What it has to offer is extremely unrefined and cannot be compared to all the possibilities of a palette. To the point where it can be seen as a representation of birth itself. "27 The body first. intonations. shifting stresses . What the "story" of Echolalia is about: the adventure of the body / light traversed by rhythms and intensities. Of course. Birth in the image. Narcissus and Echo coming together. language-body.' '26 The fundamental nature of the body. That is indeed what Kuntzel's (wordless) tapes show. 49 Writing / painting This image is also about painting-painting as its particular temptation." thereby defining. always assuming that not too much of its excess is restored to the symbolic order. in the context of other psychoanalytic references closer to the Kleinian theater of terror and aggression. language before language. and this force which brings the invisible into view. What is captured visually and reflected upon re-emerges as physical knowledge and emotion. forever deluded. and which the cinema brings into view in / under its fascination with the specular. The bodymirror emerges in the images in which the spectator sees his / her reflection. in which Jean-Louis Baudry. linked to its material violence as well as to its imaginary condition. Today there are usually only seven levels of grey which the synthesizer sorts out according to a given color." determined by the confusion of hallucination and perception. video still has a long way to go. But the work of the image also represents that' 'more archaic mode of identification. And yet. It's still feeling its way. . sees the power of the cinema-effect. perhaps for the first time. She speaks about the "antifilm" in the same way that Lyotard refers to the "acinerna.(the same / the other) and the mirror-circle which is created as they unfold leave the spectator free to assume whatever posture s/he likes. of the possibility of birth . forever divided. caught in the images of its destiny. stopping this side of Lacan's mirror. "F. its unfulfilled wish. birth of the image. the level of somatic frayage (facilitation) of the "non-symbolized drive" which she calls the "semiotic. which can scarcely be described in words. referring it in Freudian terms to the primordial experience of oral satisfaction.P Kristeva speaks of "what stops short of identification.

recalling the way in which. and how it has developed historically. Rather than thinking that his tapes can already be identified with painting. La Desserte blanche. through video. to reflect on what it is. aware of the limits which the medium imposes if it is used seriously. ever-changing outline in Echolalia. of positions imprinted. the lack of development in Still. mental organization and the influence of the body. In his tapes. perception and hallucination. a motif will often be reworked. of movements to and fro. as does the thinking of a painter who saw his art as a "kind of perpetual cinema. But the Dessertes are addressed more directly to painting. what it has done. by the same eye-although in different rooms. Monet's Cathedrals. appearing and disappearing. in painting. the mobile fluidity of Nostos 2. in a delicate move which involves relations of color. except in our memory of the space. producing the overall effect of a moving picture.50 not unlike those which painting has always had at its disposal. the Dessertes ought ideally to be seen together. Kuntzel is working in this direction. to refer them also to painting (flat forms in Nostos 1. for example ("I had nightmares all night long: the cathedral was falling down on top of me. Gestures reduced to their essence-in a black and white stratified by a mixture of positive and negative sensitive to tiny variations of lighting. . all reappear in these three tapes. Matisse's La Desserte serves as an emblem here. black. lit differently to suit the tonalities. red and blue. the gesture in time solidifies through the mental and visual accumulation of instants. Like the Cathedrals. As time stretches out indefinitely. and multiple.between a movement and its ending. the shadowy moment when it begins again. it looked blue or pink or yellow. in a way which resists its basic ease of operation (which makes it so like photography).' '29 The earlier effects of remembering and forgetting. to revise our understanding of painting. somewhere between bas-relief and photograph. Kuntzel is trying to go toward painting. Consider the three Dessertes: white. the constant color shifts which culminate in Time . First of all there is the fact that these three tapes are elaborated on the basis of a single interior. and in all the tapes. . the sparkling. or many versions of the same painting created. ). The woman who appears in the doorway has thus never really walked through the door. In this way it could be said that he does indeed reach beyond painting: in a movement which leads us. and they lead us to reconsider the biases of the other tapes. or that they go beyond painting through the mechanical use of chains of effects and programmed contrasts which can be obtained by the synthesizer."?"). . form and time.

. melts into the background and begins to spread.51 When suddenly at the end a reddish pink invades the frame from the left. half penetrates the woman's body. the color is an event in the pure state: the coming into being of painting.

bleue. varied. rouge: in different color blocks. combined.52 La Desserte noire. and by their transformation. attenuated by the interplay of the sheets of' 'snow. mingling with shades of blue. effacing and reestablishing the contours of these ghostly postures according to a quite different tempo. which has become heavier and more opaque. the other more flaky) now cause the substance. to the point where the medallion is effaced. the face. the hand moving forward. pink and white under the influence of a very fine' 'snow" which creates what can surely be called a pointillism of the trace. Blue: two sheets of snow which merge into each other (one very fine." again. emphasizing contrasts which have become quite violent (a bright blue medallion against a red / orange / purple background). Red: the keying allows a form to be isolated (the upper body. to vibrate'. . the bowl of fruit). Black: the same image is reshaped by black which is held apart in shifting forms.

new color possibilities. Against the first background. through the variation of color values. The variations in lighting are produced by these mini -displacements of the camera (which are linked together by dissolves) and create. by the work done on an isolated motif: the fruit which appears. then three. But I was struck especially. by changing the angle of the light. then against a number of decorated backgrounds. against the decorated backgrounds. in the areas of overlap and through the use of a colorizer. the analysis of light is carried much further. first one piece. in the rushes. This process is continued.53 La Desserte multiple. they appear to be animated by an inner movement. against the initially bare background of the table [/a desserte]. In this still unfinished tape. . and of these gestures recaptured somewhere between the painter and his model. then two. within the same framework. the result of three cameras placed very close together around the table and changing speed gradually as they turn around it.

But it also picks up what has been learned both theoretically and culturally from . toward another body-memory. the "snow" with its webs of traces and dots. these processes which focus on the still life. to reply to the cinema. Thierry Kuntzel's gesture is twofold: one of picking up and of displacement. to work on that evolution of the image which takes shape in the nineteenth century in the conjunction of techniques for reproducing reality and the new status accorded to subjectivity. But it remains to be understood above all in relation to the gestures it permits. from impressionism to cubism. Through the very technology which amplifies it. as it meets up with the problems of painting. what more visible way could there be of saying that video. Frampton. Video can of course be thought of in specific terms: the electronic image has a very definite specificity. between cinema and painting. the three apples. psychoanalysis) in terms of an inner image. Nekes (which Kuntzel has followed so closely). whose effects are prescribed and multiplied by psychology (hypnosis. It picks up and displaces through video the more radical experiments of the already long tradition of the experimental cinema: Snow. To question painting. to its spatio-ternporal decomposition.54 Color linked to movement. is leading us on to the terra incognita of a new determinism of the visual (to mention only the image).

they find in video the (intellectual. Because the' 'leap into cinema" at the age of eight was a "search for earlier images. is part of a movement which is gaining ground and making itself felt in a number of ways. thanks to the paluche. the illusory defilement of the fairground train in Letter from an Unknown Woman. the machine that will read the 55 . psychoanalysis. : a camera in the right-hand pocket of your trousers. quite simply. as if saturated with psychical energy. In the same way. the technical effects in The Man with the Movie Camera. always just beyond. obsession. too costly and unrefined. Epstein.." said Fieschi about the paluche. the doors and windows in films by Lang and so many others. the other to Mallarrne. through' 'unusually varied editing in the shot.P" To paint and at the same time to link visions (and words) in time is to write. the recording on a sound and image tape of the meanderings. message.' '32 the lost. to give it that supplement which it still lacks and which would ultimately bring it close to writing. Cocteau. A comparable. theorized them. Writing as expression. Artaud. as Fargier emphasizes. but rather to allow us to escape its spell by taking away some of its power. 3 3 "The eye." of writing never before seen or heard. Go back to the texts assembled in L 'Art du Cinema: listen to Andre Beuchler. and this same space. and so many other cinematic moments which recur and give body to his fiction because he has also lived through them. although very different. a hand. And yet: This is the point we have reached . "An eye at the tips ofone's fingers. giving a new lease on life to an ideal which has accompanied the cinema from the outset. Kuntzel's tapes. Elie Faure. material) force which makes it possible to displace the cinema in relation to itself. Writing not as a privileged endeavor. revelation. to analysis of the cinema. from autobiography to thought. freely orchestrated from the essay to the poem. No doubt Astruc was thinking of something else when he spoke about the "camera-style" (as his films and references show). cinema-confession. of Vampyr. handled them. Astruc. displacement comes to mind: Jean-Andre Fieschi in his Nouveaux mysieres de New York. to the point where they become not only the referents but the formal exponents of the images of childhood: the famous matching up of looks in Nosferatu which he is able to reconstruct. although it is still tentative. Video.. elusive look in Vampyr. the frozen images in La jetee. remind me here and there of the ever-receding scene of the look in The Most Dangerous Game." said Manet. The ideal of "une ecriture inotiie. of the slow or frenetic unfolding of our imaginary universe. The one closer to Proust. when considered purely in terms of their psychical effect. essay.' '31 his attempt at a filmed autobiography goes back over the new images which have subsequently captured his attention.

270. Pouvoir. no. no. A language so rigorous that it will enable our thoughts to be transcribed directly onto the film .. "Le Defilement: A View in Close-up. . p. unpublished in French." Revue d'Esthitique." Ca Cinema.. no. 1975). 23. 2." p. 36 It seems to me that given their particular level of abstraction. "The Film-Work. Insight. and then with Tania Mouraud and]on Gibson.. "The Film-Work.W." pp. 2.. p. See also "Sight. 3 (1976)." Camera Obscura. no. 59. 56. "A Note Upon the Filmic Apparatus. 2." Communications. 1 (Spring 1978)." enclitic 2." Camera Obscura. Raymond Bellour and Elisabeth Lyon for their help in the preparation of this translation. there is nothing that fulfills this expectation better than the video-tapes of Thierry Kuntzel.. 39. signed' 'Trans" with Tania Mouraud.. Ibid. 2. no. Voir. Lectures (1973). Kuntzel ." Communications.. no.. Kuntzel. 23 (Paris: Seuil. and Power: Allegory of a Cave. p. Ibid. originally published as "Savoir. Ibid. 6. In 1976 and 1977." Quarterly Review o/Pzlm Studies 1. 8. Translated by Annwyl Williams I am grateful to Lisa Krueger. originally published as "Le travail du film. "The Film-Work. 10. Kuntzel.. A. Cinema: Theone. "The Film-Work. p. 11. 7. 2. 4." Camera Obscura. NOTES 1. 5 (Spring 1980). 271. 7-8 (May 1975). 2 (Fall 1977). no.. 5. 6 (Fall 1980). originally published as "Le travail du film. no. Thierry Kuntzel.56 words and images of our personal landscape . 3. Ibid. originally published as "Le Defilement. 9. 24-25.

" Oeuvres Completes (Paris: GallimardvPleiade. Essays and Letters. [All catalog translations mine-A. p. 1981). absent.E. no. L. 12. . Folder.W. ed.12. "Trans" tracts. Mallarrne. Invented byJean-Pierre Beauviala. 4 (1956). 9 travaux videographiques (catalog produced by the Ministere des Affaires Errangeres-i-Videoglyphes. Aldan. Ibid.] 14. 2 (1979). 17. "Enquere sur le livre illustre . indecisive and constrained." Videoglyphes. 216.. 2 (january 8. no. challenging the supremacy of the look in the organization of the visible. La vue (Paris: Pauvert) p. "Un Coup de des. p. vol. Christian Metz . Four French Artists (bilingual catalog produced by the Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres-s.) 23. Raymond Roussel. Video. July 1980). already far from me. the paluche is a black and white video camera of about 20 em. my thoughts. originally published as Le Signifiant imaginaire: psychanalyse et CInema (Paris: U. -Trans. 1977).G. p. Paluche: (literally. p. 1964). 1981). p. Ibid. trans. [Literally: My eyes dive into a small patch of blue. thanks to the suddenly increased intensity of the undying and latent memory of a summer already dead. 57 13. D.Videoglyphes. 1 (November 16. 1945). the paluche becomes an extension of the hand rather than the eye: "the most unexpected images become possible. Cook (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press. Stephane Mallarme.] 20. 212. and which have "trickled into the image. 1980). Video: la region centrale. 1956). Citations from Kuntzel without other references come from these two catalogs. 21. Mallarrne. 18. October 1980). Cited by Kunrzel among other fragments of texts which were part of research for Nostos 1. The Complete Tales ofHenryJames . It is known for its sharp contrast and the minimal amount of light that it requires. 16. a slang term for hand). 19. often compared to a microphone or a flashlight because it is held in the hand. 10/18. 15. 1977)." trans.. 24." Mallarme: Selected Prose Poems. The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and Cinema (London: Macmillan. la memoire au poing (Paris: Hachette. B. 22. p. "Crise de Vers. 166. Because of its size and mobility. 1976) and no. French Video Art-Art Video Francais (bilingual catalog produced by the American Center in Paris. Video About Video. Edel (London: Rupert Hart-Davis. long. dream of going toward the past for it is the exhalation of the feelings and experience of a whole season which for me is coming out with power of sight. lost. 38. 73.." (Anne-Marie Duguet. 208. quickly borne away. 878.

75. Video. a Postscript Two years later. 31. Cited by Mallarrne in "Edouard Maner. rouge et bleue . and T. pp. 28. ed. co-authored by Philippe Grandrieux for the series Regards Bntendus. 23. the film is built around a text written by Jean Paulhan which proposes a kind of story. no. Hommage Claude Monet (catalog produced by the Editions des Musees nationaux. 32. produces a mutation analogous to that produced by cubist painting-a radical shift in the representation of "reality. about a man (a couple) who experiences in his home. film and video come together to talk about painting. 1960). Here." Communications. 152. 28. Cited in Dominique Belloir. as well as perceptual. Two of the three Dessertes (Noire. no. Elements of the third Desserte have become part of a film (or a tape. 32. 34. "Ellipse sur la frayeur et la seduction speculaire . 1981). co-produced in 1981 by the I. 30. Jean-Andre Fieschi. Ecrits et propos sur I'art (Paris: Hermann. Henri Matisse. "Point'de vue sur un troisierne oeil. The video work responds to questions posed both by the text and by the sections shot on film: the video-space. "The Apparatus: Metapsychological Approaches to the Impression of Reality. 35. p. "Le grand ecart. 589. p. originally published as "Le dispositif: approches rnerapsychologiques de l'impression de realite. 33. 1 (Fall 1976). 1 [French television].A." Communications. 26. Pierre Lherminier (Paris: Seghers. rencontre avec un Corse des Carpathes. it's hard to say which) on cubism: Cubist Painting (Iapeinture cubiste)." Camera Obscura. intellectual and cultural. 532.F. in his daily life the questions posed by cubist painting-questions about one's physical relation to things. no. p. Jean-Paul Fargier. 597. Ibid.." Le Monde (Paris). 27.. pp. p." Oeuvres Completes. Commissioned for television. Art. Waiting for their own specific form. Ibid. no. Paris: Editions de l'Etoile. 1972). Ibid. 1981). 291. and Multiple) and Nostos 2 have remained works in progress. Anthology. 29. 73-74.58 25. progressively refining the work on representation.. but as a video process found within a film.N. p. Jean-Louis Baudry. Julia Kristeva. p. pp." Cabiers du Cinema. 23. Explorations (special issue of Cabiers du Cinema. 119-120. 36. ." Painting emerges from inside the image itself. in transforming the film-space. 310 (April 1980).

making the view impossible but never becoming a theme in and of itself. made during a tour of Northern California with other artists in 1980. A vast project is in the making. video pushes the moving image toward the book. Here again. completed ones as well as works in progress. plus new tapes and some fragments which rework aspects of the old tapes to bring out something new. R. but the irony abour this' 'buena vista" of San Francisco and the Bay is that the view which has already been obscured by an increase of blue in the image.The only remaining production: Buena Vista. in conjunction with the audiovisual section of the Ministry of Foreign Relations: a' 'complete edition" of Kuntzel's tapes. there is a park by this name in San Francisco. May 1983 59 . remaining on the level of a perturbation in the image: disappearance-appearance. as much in its concept as in the way it is received: the mise en scene becomes a mise en volume. In fact.B. is further blocked by the repeated entry and exit of a woman.

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