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Chris Marker: Travelers in Time

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By Kiša Lala

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©Chris Marker, Untitled # 200, 2008-2010 Color photograph mounted on white Sintra 22 3/4 x 31 1/2 in. (57.8 x 80 cm) Printed 2011 Edition of 3 Courtesy of Peter Blum Gallery

French photographer and filmmaker, Chris Marker (b.1921-2012), best known for his conceptual films Sans Soleil and La jetée, had a show of recent photographs at Peter Blum gallery entitled Passengers.

As an avid documentarian Marker had found an ideal recording device that could take candid photographs of people in public spaces: a camera embedded in a wristwatch. Armed with this device he could pretend to check the time while discreetly capturing passersby on film. In this new series, taken in the Paris Metro, he uses various photo devices to capture a similar feel.

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© Chris Marker Untitled # 1, 2008-2010 Color photograph mounted on white Sintra 13 1/4 x 16 1/2 in. (33.7 x 42 cm) Printed 2011 Edition of 3, Courtesy of Peter Blum Gallery

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©Chris Marker, Courtesy of Peter Blum Gallery Untitled # 3, 2008-2010 Color photograph mounted on white Sintra 13 1/4 x 16 1/2 in. (33.7 x 42 cm) Printed 2011 Edition of 3

Though this photo-journalistic technique is not unique, the sum of these images portray people caught in inward journeys, and reveal fragments of inner space: A private face, reserved for a time when one is alone, not expecting to be recognized; people's bodies sag, their faces are deflated, lacking animation or engagement. People stare through black, opaque windows into infinite distance.

Sometimes Marker digitally altered the images to enhance their impact - in the Soho Gallery there are 4 portraits of passengers juxtaposed next to historical paintings that draw parallels using aesthetic symmetry. Women are the photographer's preferred subject and Marker projects his ideal onto their vacant public faces.

Many of Marker's works are meditations on the moment, and travelogues that intersect physical space and memory. The 29 minute La jetée (1962), narrated through a series of photo-montages, depicts an experiment in time travel where the protagonist returns to an incident in his memory from his childhood in which he recalls an assassination - which later turns out to be his own. This simple, recursive and haunting plot from the era of French new wave films, precedes by decades, films such as Inception which are overwhelmed by their digital acrobatics.

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Untitled # 202, 2008-2010 Color photograph mounted on white Sintra 24 3/4 x 31 1/2 in. (62.9 x 80 cm) Printed 2011 Edition of 3 © Chris Marker, Courtesy of Peter Blum Gallery

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Untitled # 201, 2008-2010 Color photograph mounted on white Sintra 25 x 31 1/2 in. (63.5 x 80 cm) Printed 2011 Edition of 3 © Chris Marker, Courtesy of Peter Blum Gallery

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Untitled # 203, 2008-2010 Color photograph mounted on white Sintra 25 x 31 1/2 in. (63.5 x 80 cm) Printed 2011 Edition of 3 © Chris Marker, Courtesy of Peter Blum Gallery

Chris Marker, even in his 90's, continued to experiment with new technologies and humour. Also, at the Chelsea gallery, is a folder containing Chris Marker's postcards. This series of postcards of "How a Grinning Cat Visits the HISTORY OF ART" is worth a peek. Some time in late 2001, the graffiti of a grinning cat called M. Chat, more grin than body, began appearing on the Paris streets, and spreading quickly in notoriety, began to be used on political posters and demonstrations occurring in France at the time. Incidentally, Chris Marker's own cat stars in another of his short "bestiary" films - forming a part of the diverse reveries of this provocative and imaginative filmmaker.

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Chris Marker's Postcard showing M.Chat in Jan Van Eyck, published by Peter Blum Edition in 2009.

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Chris Marker's Postcard showing M.Chat in Vincent Van Gogh, published by Peter Blum Edition in 2009

A book accompanying the exhibition, Passengers, is published by Peter Blum Gallery.
Peter Blum Gallery, 20 West 57th Street

Article amended with dates to reflect Chris Marker's passing
Text:www.KisaLala.com