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New Left Review 29, September-October 2004


Formal rigour, social interrogation, poetic intensity: Jean-Luc Godard stands in the premier rank of contemporary artists. In this striking reconceptualization of his work, the movies take their place among sound compositions, TV, texts, videotape and graphic art, as elements of an ongoing multimedia installation.

MICHAEL WITT

SHAPESHIFTER

Godard as Multimedia Installation Artist

Jean-Luc Godard, at 73, is one of Europe’s most prolific contemporary artists. [1] I would like to thank Michael Temple for his useful comments on a draft version of this essay, and Nicole Brenez for her practical help. In the six years since the release of Histoire(s) du cinéma, his eight-part videographic history of cinema, and history of the twentieth century through cinema, he has gone on to produce an astonishing quantity of work in a variety of media, thus confounding those critics who thought his historical project some sort of testament. Much of this recent work has been made in collaboration with his long-standing companion, the photographer, filmmaker and writer Anne-Marie Miéville. [2] Besides her extensive photographic and audiovisual output, Miéville has published several books, including Histoire du garçon, Lausanne 1994, a tribute to her late brother, Alain, comprising texts and photographs, and three volumes based on her film and video work: Nous sommes tous encore ici: dialogues de film, Paris 1997; 2x50 ans de cinéma français, Paris 1998, co-authored with Godard; and Après la réconciliation: scénario, Paris 2000. Her latest book is a collection of short texts, Images en parole, Tours 2002. It includes four video essays, all closely related in formal conception while diverse in topic and tone: The Old Place (1999, co-directed by Miéville), a set of dialogic reflections on the state of art at the close of the twentieth century; L’Origine du vingt et unième siècle (2000), a chilling personal vision of the birth of the twenty-first century out of the slaughter and trauma of the twentieth; Dans le noir du temps (2002), a philosophical evocation of the last moments of youth, courage, thought, memory, love, silence, history, fear, eternity and cinema; and Liberté et Patrie (2002, co-dir. Miéville), a playful adaptation of Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz’s 1910 novel Aimé Pache, peintre vaudois, in which the duo deploy Ramuz’s fictional alter-ego, the painter Aimé Pache, to reflect on their own artistic trajectories and the Franco-Swiss dimension to their work.

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