68 DIGITAL SKETCHES ON THE PRESTIGE OF JEAN-LUC GODARD
This series follows on from last year’s FIFTY FICTIVE RECORD COVERS. At the time they seemed a fairly peripheral project but the ideas about text with picture and null or fictive objects nagged away at me. I have revisited the issue, initially attracted by a stricter, more uniform picture format as much as relations between text and picture. Rather than actual musicians setting a key for abstract designs and playful themes, I’ve chosen a less direct or specific object. This time I’ve imagined various products and publications related to noted French film director, Jean-Luc Godard.
Godard is the grand old man of art cinema these days. The vast array of material available on or by him indicates a deep cultural entrenchment. The idea was to treat his name as a sort of brand, not for any specific product but as a way of clustering movies with attendant texts, of recycling and annotating images and music. So the works here are not strictly movie stills, DVD covers or posters, but really a kind of garbled version of the whole cultural apparatus. It is something that is very appropriate to Godard. He is not only a topical and restlessly experimental director but an intensely verbal – not to say verbose – one, given to inter-titles, citation, paraphrase and a bold, Modernist graphic style, all of which resonate with my theme. As a non-French speaker, my experience of his movies is almost entirely to the accompaniment of subtitles, so that from the outset, text and image share a close, albeit fleeting relation. The bi-lingual wordplay to my title is basically a nod to the role of translation, in Godard’s work in particular, in text and pictures in general.
Initially I thought formats would be confined to screen aspect ratios and DVD cases but I soon learned screen ratios are as varied as formats in my recent series. A stricter format must therefore await a future series. Here I have mainly confined myself to TV/Academy ratio (3:4ish) American widescreen (1:1.85) digital video (9:16) and DVD case (1.4:1). The really widescreen ratio used by Godard in the 60s (1:2.35) unfortunately is not usefully accommodated in my site template and I have to rely on enlargements off the page for works using that format.
Notes continue at the bottom of the page.
GLG-03A – 9 VARIATIONS
GLG-04A – 10 VARIATIONS
GLG-07 – ENLARGEMENT
GLG-14 – ENLARGEMENT
GLG-17 – ENLARGEMENT
GLG-23A – 4 VARIATIONS
The works of Godard and use of text in pictures are both longstanding concerns. I abandoned text after the WORKOUTS series (1988) unable to find a script or typeface distinctive in painting. But that was because I was not really thinking about kind of text, in relation to the picture, rather than painting. I was thinking about text in a purely personal way, without real content. With GOOD-LUC GODARD that problem disappears, firstly because I am working with software, which effortlessly assimilates text, and secondly because the design of the text has everything to do the kind of comment made. As in Pop Art, text firstly refers to various publications and presentations. It does not have to be personal, as I once supposed. But it does have to have a distinctive referent and route of reference, which I believe it does in this series. Having realised this, it will be difficult to resist text in future series.
My entire career is peppered with works that take their inspiration from his movies. From art school there was this portrait of the director at work on Masculin Féminin from 1971 (recently unearthed in a somewhat distressed state and not otherwise included on my site) while in 1973 this painting used the pose of a man grabbing a woman from a still from Vivre sa vie. In 1974 there were photo-copy works based on stills from Masculin Féminin, while in London in 1975 this work used the canal-side location and sports car from Band à part. In 1977 After Weekend was based on a still from the eponymous movie. Back in Melbourne in 1985, there were a series of line drawings of Myriem Roussel (star of several Godard movies from the early 80s) and in 1986 Cafe Anouchka used elements from Masculin Féminin and Vivre sa vie. ‘Anouchka’ derives from the name of Godard’s production company in the 60s and his pet name for Anna Karina. In 1992 Bad Apart used the canal-side location from Band à part again and obviously played upon the title. Two Necessities, also from the CAR PEOPLE series (1992-5) used a still from Je vous salue Marie as background while Madison Routine (1992) refers to the dance sequence from Band à part. Lastly, in 2000 a portrait of the director was included in my suite of ten portraits, LIKENESS.
GOOD-LUC GODARD was thus also an opportunity to review my own development and provide a perspective. Part of that history involves a ten year involvement (1975-85) with moviemaking directly, so that the example of Godard carries a more personal meaning. Reflecting on this not only revived old demons but prompted extended research. I read two lengthy biographies and viewed around ten of his movies, apart from amassing a library of over a 1000 images and related articles. Let’s face it, I was obsessed. The series could easily have run to two or three times the number of works eventually selected, and one way or another was in preparation for much of the year, although I am counting just July – September as the production frame. All this research did change my view of Godard the man as opposed to the artist, although I know he would dismiss the distinction. As a person he is clearly deeply flawed, although this is possibly what drives him to the greater lengths that make his pictures so striking and original. His art compensates for his life.
I know my enthusiasm is unlikely to be shared and on the face of it this series might seem negligible, but it is hardly alone there. I could happily write a much longer appreciation of Godard at some point, perhaps to be made available as a PDF, but for the moment I need to say goodbye Godard.