|Dear Readers !
This is an exceptional issue of Art in Society, the multi-lingual
international art journal, because it is mostly in German. Much of it focuses
on films by Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet. In memory of
Danièle, we have decided to publish a number of emails, occasioned
by the news that she has passed away, that reflect the respect and love
felt by artists and filmmakers for her and Jean-Marie. They were sent at
the time to Doris Schoettler-Boll, an artist who died early this year and
who is also greatly missed. In Bochum, many years ago, Danièle gave
Doris the bouquet of flowers she had just been presented with by the organizers
of a film retrospective focused on “Straub film.” It seems that they instinctively
recognized each other as kindred, tender yet combative souls inspired by
the same longing for real justice, real liberty and real equality.
Harun Farocki, another friend and soulmate of Doris and the Straubs, is
not among those who sent Doris Schoettler-Boll an email expressing his
sense of loss. He had already left us, before Danièle went for ever.
Then, there are a number of articles dedicated to a few
films by the Straubs that were written long ago by Andrew (or Andreas)
Weiland, a bi-lingual poet living in Germany who is also the founder of
this non-commercial, irregularly appearing art journal. One of them, on
the Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, was written at the
time when the Straubs came to Bochum to show their films at the film club
run by Sebastian Feldmann and others. It was the first encounter of Andreas
with the filmmakers, but not the last one. The short text (in German) that
he wrote in January 1969, is entitled To see the world (and to
make others see the world) implies changing it. The German sounds nicer,
less wordy: Die Welt sehen (machen) heisst sie veraendern. The subtitle
is: Straub Film: A First Impression. The text appeares in spring 1969,
in issue 3/4 of the little film and poetry mag that Steven
R. Diamant and Andreas edited at the time. There follow other texts by
him, on Class Relations (Klassenverhaeltnisse) which were
sent by Jean-Marie to Manfred Blank, on the editorial board of Filmkritik,
and which Manfred was ready to publish after some editorial changes were
made (which Andreas okayed). But they were rejected nonetheless. The Filmkritik
was not the right place for poetic impressionism.
The poetic text on Empedokles, also supported
by Jean-Marie, was partially published in Claudia Gehrke's Konkursbuch,
thanks to the intervention of Barbara Ulrich.
Yes, and then there is, of course, that long poem triggered
by the viewing of Moses und Aaron, the film that gave us
back Arnold Schoenberg's opera, just like other films of the Straubs gave
us back Kafka and Hoelderlin, enabling us to read these works in a way
that makes sense today, that recovers and actualizes their “sense” because
that sense was always critical, and intervening in the struggle for a world
where man is no longer a wolf to other men, where the men-eating society
that Lu Xun spoke of will belong to “pre-history.” Jean-Marie Straub translated
that poem into French and got the Frenh and German versions published in
an issue of the Cahiers du Cinéma largely dedicated to “Straub film”
as intervening film, combattive “Marxist cinema.” More recently,
a Spanish author has translated the poem into his language.
This issue is of course not exclusively dedicated
to film, and not exclusively in German. There is Gene Youngblood, many
years ago the author of a book on expanded cinema, who remembers his father
in a poignant text, and also sheds light on the media that have largely
marginalized filmmakers like Jean-Marie and Danièle, like Kenji
Mizoguchi, like Chris Marker, Agnes Varda, Joris Ivens, Robert Kramer,
Jean-Luc Godard – or that have relegated them to culture pages where they
were quite often dealt with as examples of the “art film ghetto.”
No, none of them belongs in that “ghetto” – none of them created film as
art in terms of films “for art's sake.” And yet, Godard is correct
in this, that “cinema for the masses is an idea of capitalism.” It implies
large investments, stars and the star cult, the extreme commodification
of the cinematic product, the desire to attain maximum results at the box
office. It implies the spectacular, often the inane, and it caters to the
most questionable, falsified and deformed “needs” and “desires” of the
public. It creates shallow myths, and despises clarity and the critical
mind of the viewer. It despises man. Above all, it does not question things
as they are. We glide towards an abyss, faster and faster, as ecconomic
crises grow more intense, and follow each other more quickly, as society
slides deeper into crisis and disintegrates, as the oikos
(“house”) of all that lives – Mother Earth – aches under man-made stress
and becomes a garbage dump, but they celebrate money and success and egotistical,
“individualist” blindness: yes, that sells. Yes, that gets attention.
We try to walk a different path here, as the filmmakers,
the critical minds and intervening citizens we care for did – we
choose the narrow path (as the old saying has it), not the wide road, the
avenue with sixteen lanes where millions of cars crawl forward to the abyss.
The cities are illuminated as never before, the spectacle of lights drowns
out the dark corners where families made homeless sleep in a crumbling,
rusty old car parked in the cold night on the parking lot of a supermarket,
and where returned GIs with severe psychic problems, an aged, handicapped
man, an artist, youngsters on meth, sleep on pieces of cardboard, while
a teenage girl walks past them, selling her body for the price of a breakfast
at the cheapest McDonald joint.
If you're with us, stay on board, reader. You just go
ahead, then: find out whether you would like to learn German and read things
not available in English. And otherwise, yes, we hope there will be still
something here, for you, in this small, modest issue of Art in Society.
And if not, there are other fine attempts to intervene in the ongoing debates
that try to call us to action, that try to wake us. Go and participate.
We are with you, reader. We are with you, friends and citizens. We can
change the world.
for Art in Society