THE PROMETHEAN MAGIC LANTERN (Or conjuring oneself from a hat). 'Eniaios' Perceptions, cycles V-VIII

por David Phelps

Eniaios VI-VIII (Gregory J. Markopoulos, 1949-1991)

“Not only, by its memory of former experiences, does this consciousness all the better retain the past, to coordinate it within the present in a newer and richer determination, but living a more intensive life, contracting a growing number of external moments into its present duration by its memory of immediate experience, it becomes better able to produce acts whose internal indeterminacy, which must extend through a multiplicity of moments of matter, however vast, will pass all the more easily through the sieves of necessity. Thus, whether we consider it in time or in space, freedom always seems to grow its roots deep in necessity and to organize itself by it. Spirit borrows from matter the perceptions from which it draws its sustenance, and offers them back to matter in the form of movement, where it registers its freedom.”— Henri Bergson, Mémoire et matière. 1

“Méliès accomplishes a musicality of moving forms by way of rhythms of bodily movement (the dance of his magicianship) and the rhythms of appearances and disappearances (his harmony of the unexpected being always expected, as a great composer always surprises with each development of a theme yet elicits the sense that each harmonic evolution could have occurred in no other way). Méliès creates perhaps the first silently audible rhythm in the esthetic history of film. He is a drummer in a jungle of stage props at the dawn of the medium.” — Stanley Brakhage, “The Silent Sound Sense”.2

“THIRD RULE: State problems and solve them in terms of time rather than of space.” — Gilles Deleuze, “Bergsonism”.3

Love-Seeing With the Mind

For the gift of fire, men hailed Prometheus the Messianic God; to the Olympians, he would basically remain a sideshow magician who had given up one trick to the mortals while refusing them another. The details are variable within this template: a kind of poetic inversion of that fire that would, he suggests, wrathfully dissolve the same bonds of civilization it had enabled, Prometheus must find himself instead wrathfully bound to a rock for the very knowledge that could unbind him. In Aeschylus, his visions are bound to recurring recollections of future events that could set him free from Zeus; by Shelley, he can’t even remember his curse upon the universe, and to disclaim its words will have to reclaim them first, or rather, as Shelley puts it, recall them to recall them. Sentient in a black, silent world, he gets to thinking, and, as his name translates to “fore-sight,” his laments come to compose pre-dictable recitations, immanently musical. For as a mode of whiling away the time in a world where neither time nor space are supposed to exist, the meter of the immortals would measure each moment as it passes to the next. “Time growing old teaches all things,” says Aeschylus’ Prometheus in Thoreau’s translation,4 though the bastard English, at least, raises a question of whether growing older means Time moving forward within itself or receding farther and farther back. Or both at once.

Who reigns? A seer—alternately spectator and dictator of the future, both master and slave—Prometheus would be both a voyeur, rendering future matter his eternal perceptions, as much as an agent, rendering his perceptions as matter down the line. His power, at least, is negative: in Aeschylus, he can prevent the future by announcing it in time to Zeus, while in Shelley, he can prevent the future simply by recalling the past. In both, then, enunciation becomes a form of erasure, and Shelley’s Demogorgon is explicit about his suspicions whether the truth can ever be spoken or, for that matter, imaged:

If the abysm
Could vomit forth its secrets . . . But a voice
Is wanting, the deep truth is imageless;
For what would it avail to bid thee gaze
On the revolving world? What to bid speak
Fate, Time, Occasion, Chance, and Change? To these
All things are subject but eternal Love.5

When dredged into word or image from the abyss of a black and silent Grecian night, the deep truth can only become a calcified unit of a shifting world’s relativities: whether it is too private for publicly communicable terms, or rather too universal for such particularized terms, Love is in any case puppetmaster even of Fate, a term here that doesn’t quite signify the irrevocability centuries of Christian passion plays have suggested. For even Fate can shift and revolve, depending on whether Prometheus recalls his curse, and yet Demogorgon, the play’s Revolutionary king of shadows, doesn’t think to suggest that just as Shelley’s characters revolve around his hero, and even their words around the same issues, in the revolving structure of the play, images might also revolve around each other to offer alternate inflections. At the very least, each appearance of an image could suggest the disappearance of so many others, as, conversely, an empty top hat could suggest the possible appearance of so many rabbits to come. Of course how could he think to suggest such a thing? All that would require a new image magic.

Memory Matters

“The image conceived by the author has become flesh of the flesh of the spectator’s image… which was created by me, the spectator. Thus the process is creative not only for the author, but also for me, the spectator, in whose mind it has also taken shape.” — Eisenstein, “Montage 1938”. 6

“I propose a new narrative form through the fusion of the classic montage technique with a more abstract system. This system involves the use of short film phrases which evoke thought-images. Each film phrase is composed of certain select frames that are similar to the harmonic units found in musical composition. The film phrases establish ulterior relationships among themselves; in classic montage technique there is a constant reference to the continuing shot: in my abstract system there is a complex of differing frames being repeated.

…Limitless change in rhythm, or the sudden interjection of alliteration, metaphor, symbol, or any discontinuity introduced in the structure of the motion picture, makes possible the arrest of the film spectator’s attention, as the film-maker gradually convinces the spectator not only to see and to hear, but to participate in what is being created on the screen, on both the narrative and introspective level.” — Markopoulos, “Towards a New Narrative Film Form”.7

The fact of Temenos partisanship—some spectators enthralled, some alienated, almost all beguiled—would seem to legitimize the claims on all sides that the Eniaios is “austere” or “uncompromising” (buzzwords throughout the orders), even while Robert Beavers, by now the project’s guardian, has repeatedly called it “a speculative film.” Meaning: maybe, that Markopoulos’ montage of an 80-hour film, never to be projected in his lifetime, would turn out an act of blind faith in what might happen one day on-screen, like Beethoven’s late pieces composed deaf. But also that this site-specific “experience” and “event,” rather than filmic object, remains at the mercy of its time and place of viewing, as well as at the mercy of the viewer him or herself: in stretches of black leader, extending between single frames of flashing white that build, eventually, to images figured from Markopoulos’ own filmography and finally durational shots, it’s up to the viewer to create and recreate the film in his own mind out of imagined afterimages, preempted visual rhymes, and imposed mental rhythms. These half-hallucinations of forward movement, coaxed by a film under erasure, may only seem substantiated on-screen, sometimes after hours, by the film’s own accelerating pulse.

And so the kind of criticism the movie seems to urge—reportage on a performance and its reception, rather than on the thing itself—seems both obligatory for a film that’s different at every screening and for every viewer. At worst, this kind of criticism can become the sort of cocktail-party lubricant least suited to the one movie that sets to recreate its viewer’s consciousness out of scratch—as the viewer seems to project it out of black night in watching. At best, it can provide a skeletal summary to keep track of what’s going on that even the very experience of watching will belie. The film seems to insist it not be detailed—in Markopoulos’ Heideggarian terminology, treated as information and informed upon—but interacted with, the same as it interacts with the site and mind’s eye.

Or, better, eye’s mind. Each image clears the path for the next, though, at this endpoint of analytic montage, it’s up to the viewer’s memory to contract them into constellations in which they can interact. As instantaneous perceptions, Markopoulos’ flashing frames allow the viewer to atomize thought to these units, and follow and redirect them at once. The viewer, finally, can treat the film as the film treats the viewer: a mechanism of perception growing perceptive even of its own movements outward; a consciousness trying to recall itself from its own, dumb stupor.

In Poundian (or Apollonian) terms, the Eniaios would be the “cinema of the cure” (vs. Godardian “cinema of the diagnosis”): the sort of clearing in which the first act of filming, the subsequent act of extracting individual frames out of Markopoulos’ films, and the final act of viewing the film in 2012 in a field all collapse together as the same event of a single frame. For when such single frames (only occasionally sustained past 1/24th of a second into movement) are projected at a screen, there is no longer a simulated event occurring on-screen; instead, the image marks the threshold at which the events of the film on-screen cross over into the event of the projection itself, occurring in the same time frame of an instant, seemingly arisen out of all time frames whatsoever. Each image becomes the seed of a possible experience, and that experience, referring outwardly to the time of filming and inwardly to the viewer’s imagination anticipating and recollecting images simultaneously, is one that happens speculatively.

Let It Be (Light)

A movie as interactive architecture, Eniaios is set at sundown in Arcadia: a silent movie that takes place in Pan’s homeland, a field cleared amidst thickets dense with a kind of morse code of crickets and cicada’s clicking. So not a silent film—Markopoulos didn’t care much for insects, says Beavers, and yet the bugs are 1) the soundtrack, ticking out a meter in the long runs of black, and sometimes, as throughout the start of cycle VI on June 29th, in the same anticipatory short-short-long rhythms of Markopoulos’ white light out of black; 2) the image, rhyming the film grain with their silhouetted flights in front of the projector; and 3) in the case of the mosquitoes, a pinch awake—sometimes even in rhythm with the film. As featured on the Temenos program notes as a true emblem of the movie, The Bug, collapsing the illusion of shadow play into the reality of the projection, inevitably manages moments of Quixotic dare-do in the descent towards his own gigantic but dwindling on-screen silhouette, that he meets finally in a single speck of black.

Of course, every viewer at the event is no different, drawn on by the light. Blinding, shamanic, and metrically apportioned—pulsating forward but only back on itself in endless repetitions—the white flash that ritualistically in(tro)duces each cycle is the ultimate cinematic image: outside of space and time yet pulling bugs and humans through both; a clearest clearing possible of illusionary terms.

“There are always secret laws, but obvious secret laws: the light which records and photographs; the light which develops; and the light which projects. But a fourth light or source must exist which comprehends what the other three have merely appeared to capture and suspend. That is the issue. It could be speed.” — Markopoulos, “The Intuition Space”.8

With the accelerating white flashes, all alternate ontologies of the image are dissolved: the content, light, and screen itself become the same thing, simply white. What’s left is just the object of the screen itself against the sunset landscape, made out by shadows: the presence of space unfolding in the real time of the crickets. Maybe singular outside of Vertov, the Eniaios figures the viewer into a space and time that’s exactly the space time where he or she is already sitting.

The lingering presence of each image in Eniaios, in and out of darkness, isn’t anything like a presence of re-presented content (a contradiction of terms whose reconciliation only the most durational filmmakers seem to attempt, by making the viewers relive the length of the scene). As each image is a kind of found object, extracted from one of Markopoulos’ films, each frame becomes a souvenir, a distillation, recalled in darkness, of larger constellations: both the film from which it’s derived and the one, Eniaios, in which it’s now placed.* In Markopoulian terms, his previous projects become the unseen anti-matter—the black leader, or, as cycle V seems to figure even this black leader itself, the soil—from which these fragments become visible as sprouts. But these are only two cardinal points: to matter and anti-matter, Markopoulos would add not only the negative image (its colors inverted, perhaps, or its orientation upside-down?) but the negative of the unseen image:

“But again, if a film-maker is truly a film-maker, he will have the knowledge which one could state as being that of Matter and Anti-Matter. He possesses that mirror which presents for him (a) what is seen, (b) what is not seen, (c) the opposite of what is seen, (d) the opposite of what is not seen.”9

To follow Markopoulos’ mystic mathematics, wouldn’t that opposite of what is not seen, simply become a total image, the whitened screen, the opposite of the black leader that dissolves the movie into blackened night? With the white image of the white screen, the image, for one of the only times in movie-history, gives us clarity what we’re seeing—the screen itself—even while this projected image of white dissolves into the white of the screen so that, really, no image is made visible at all. On the one hand, in other words, the only image we have is of the screen itself; on the other, it’s the total image: all images dissolved together into a blinding flash. For the white plays the total image, a constant, choral refrain to the progression of filmed images cycling closer as if towards some ecstatic truth. But the white is also the possibility of a figurative image, one contained within the prismatic composite of white, and it is this play of potentialities that keeps the movie open in constant anticipation of what could come next, of how long it will be held—and so on.

Infinities of Instants / Instants of Infinities

“Matter, in our view, is an aggregate of ‘images.’ And by ‘image’ we mean a certain existence which is more than that which the idealist calls a representation, but less than that which the realist calls a thing—an existence placed half-way between the ‘thing’ and the ‘representation.’” — Bergson, Memory and Matter.10

And yet the white, the total, unfigurable image of light itself, is even figured within the film, as Markopoulos embeds sources of light within his images, then seems to leap in and out of these figures in the white-light flashes. For example, when an image of a window-frame of white light in a cathedral is followed by Markopoulos’ own frame of white, the screen seems to mediate the images as much as the interval does between them: the white flash plays as both the projector light onto the screen, as well as the window light from the previous image now summoned out of the screen. Like a cyclopean eye, the screen makes for its own meeting place between what is there is an instant and what is figured over time, between sight and memory, the outward and the inward, the matter and the mind, or, much better, between intentionality and perception, themselves interdependent: however the viewer figures the images in time or space, or their connection to one another, these figurations are obviously illusions, but ones that have to be projected in order to be seen. The single image stands in for many potential films, so many representations even of the filmmaking process:

“With the motion picture medium you have to deal with the medium itself—with the “film as film.” You film what you must film. During filming, regardless of whether it’s in sequence or not, if you’re really working with the film as film, you’re creating something one way, you’re telling a story one way. Then, when everything is finished, and you see the film rushes sort of in one lump sum, as I do, you see what has been done, what you’ve said. It’s as if you’re saying it a second time. Then it all starts developing: you start editing, you start taking a shot frame here and a shot from there and putting it together. In my case, using those single frames, sometimes very elaborately, much more so than in The Illiac Passion, you’re recreating the work a third time. And then finally you see it the first time when you receive the first print. So actually there are about four processes that one goes through, and each time it’s a retelling until it becomes something which it must become, something out of nothing.”11

Here, the screen and eyes, caught between captured object and projected apparition, extend the mediating role of the images themselves, as traces, resurrected remains of an absent body they’ve supplemented. For each image is a trace of a place and time as conceived from Markopoulos’ vantage point: a trace of his original, scripted plans; a trace of his own responses to the material as worked out in his montage; a trace of the film from which they’re taken; and most significantly, a trace even of themselves, as the flash imprints on the eyes an afterimage, which the viewer continues to see in blackness as his retina’s own projection.

By disbanding any contingency between shots or even frames, Markopolous returns cinema to its origins if only by turning it to ruins. The illusion of movement, generated from a succession of images demonstrating sustained variations off each other, is broken down to its roots in single, photographic flashes that attain a speed through stillness as their frequency accelerates and the audience is left to imagine the line of motion linking one to the next. As in the earliest cinema of attractions—Lumière, Méliès—the illusion isn’t so much the images tricking the viewer as the viewer tricking the images. Cinema’s foundational trick of movement becomes another projection of the viewer to bring these ruins to life—or half-life, as the ruins remains ruins, the photos photos, on-screen:

“Until now, the film spectator has imagined that he was viewing a moving picture on the screen. However, the fact that the moving picture is never in actual movement has never been considered by the film spectator. This one immeasureable barrier has prevented the film spectator from understanding not only what the nature of film as film is, but has prevented him from understanding, also, the Nature of what he is constantly being subjected to by the various types of films which he views. If the spectator imagined at one time that it was entertainment that he was viewing, it was not entertainment; if the spectator imagined that it was propaganda that he was viewing, it was not propaganda; and, if today, the still unenlightened film spectator imagines that he is viewing the film as film he is sadly in error.”12

Among other things, Eniaios can be considered as an argument. Photography had fossilized instants for perpetuity; cinema had returned them to transience by subjecting them to illusionary movements and, often enough, the fabrication of a continual, narrative time-frame; with movies, each frame would become almost meaningless in of itself and meaningful only relative to each other. The revelation of each frame had basically been garbled for bigger points. Markopoulos’ single-frame films —starting around Gilbert and George—would allow him to break through what were, evidently, cinema’s own adamantine bonds, simply by recalling (in both senses here) their function. No longer bound to the preceding and subsequent frame for a false sense of movement within a temporal unity, each frame could acknowledge its fundamental stasis and transience alike, its fixed apprehension of a single instant for eternal but instantaneous contemplation. No photograph held in the palm of one’s hand could do this, since no photograph could be held for just the same duration as that at which it had been shot, whether 1/24th of a second or 1/48th. With Eniaios, Markopoulos would release the single out of the false temporal unity of narrative, and viewers would at last be able to determine the valence of every single frame: whether they were experiencing the scripted story, the documented rushes, the montage rhythms, or some movie of their own devising in superimposing these perceptions on top of each other.

But wasn’t this revelation really of greater illusions under- and be-lying any notion of the flashing single frame at the origin of cinema? The notion of the instant is just one more mirage, as even 1/24th of a second measures a span of time—one that viewers are just too insensitive to perceive as anything but instantaneous. And not only does frame rate or shutter speed measure lengths of time, but arbitrary lengths of time: as a unit of time, 1/24th of a second is less originary to the Art of Movies than historically inscribed, registering a moment in cinema’s own precarious history between the slower speeds of the silents of the 20s and the faster frames of digital cinema and The Hobbit of 2012. Finally, any consideration of photographic illusion aside, the flashing flames arguably perform the exact opposite of cinema’s first functions: time petrifies space into frozen instants rather than let it reveal itself in duration.

Before the standard frame rate even was 1/24th of a second, Henri Bergson would make something like these same argument. In cinema, Bergson would repeatedly find a neat allegory for spatialized time: that is, the arbitrary quantification of time into discreet, successive units, each subordinate to the others in conveying a continual progression that would not be evident in any single unit alone:

“For that is what our habitual representations of movement and change hinders us from seeing. If movement is a series of positions and change a series of states, time is made up of distinct parts immediately adjacent to one another. No doubt we still say that they follow one another, but in that case this succession is similar to that of the images on a cinematographic film: the film could be run off ten, a hundred, even a thousand times faster without the slightest modification in what was being shown; if its speed were increased to infinity, if the unrolling (this time, away from the apparatus) became instantaneous, the pictures would still be the same. Succession thus understood, therefore, adds nothing; on the contrary, it takes something away; it marks a deficit; it reveals a weakness in our perception, which is forced by this weakness to divide up the film image by image instead of grasping it in the aggregate.”13

While Bergson was drafting Matière et Mémoire, the Lumière brothers would be patenting cinema, an art that even without montage could finally disassemble spaces into comprehensible units and map them onto discreet blocks of time: soon, with Griffith if not before, spaces would even broken into measures of time that could even count off rhythm at every cut.

And yet, in betraying these foundational illusions of cinematic spectatorship, Markopoulos only manages to map his spaces onto a different time frame than that of narrative: the time it takes for the film to run through the projector. As for the single frames of white and figurative images do not follow each other successively but are parsed, set apart in spans of black. Though they are edited into a progressive order, the “progress” of the cycles, or sense of accelerating movement, occurs not in the images themselves but as the viewer’s own sense of the shortening intervals—whose effect hinges entirely on how fast the film is run. Supposedly, Markopoulos even envisioned screening Eniaios at progressively higher speeds every night, starting from 1 frame per second, to alter the experience. It is precisely by “divid[ing] up the film the film image by image,” that the viewer is forced to “grasp it in the aggregate.”

An application of Bergsonian schema, then, would now suggest Eniaios as a default candidate for Bergson’s other mode of time, duration, different in kind from spatialized time and thus irreconcilable with it:

“Bergson calls virtuality the ontological underpinning of duration. In duration, mental states are in a relentless process of reciprocal transformation and differentiation. Such a transformation/differentiation prevents them from solidifying into discrete presences, actualized effects, and self-contained entities. Nothing, in duration, gets to be a presence or a substance. Duration is not the collection of actualities, for it leaves room for a range of possibilities that may or may not become real.”14

But no matter how many Bergson citations are superimposed onto the Markopoulos experience, neither will quite legitimize or illustrate the other; at best they might just make some sense(s) of one another. “Duration,” a protean process of self-differentiation, entails the kind of smooth glissade that cinema might imitate (in the warp of Brakhage or Tony Scott’s superimposed shots slipping in and out of darkness and each other to destabilize all meaning of the “shot” or “cut” altogether), but to which no conception of time might be further opposed than the unitization of single frames of determinate lengths. Still, it might be asked whether, for the viewer, Markopoulos’ single frames demarcate the present into image-units of 1/24th second frames—or whether, more simply, these single frames demarcate their own passing. The answer, if there is one, is that it does both:

“We are too accustomed to thinking in terms of the ‘present.’ We believe that a present is only past when it is replaced by another present. Nevertheless, let us stop and reflect for a moment: How would a new present come about if the old present did not pass at the same time that it is present? How would any present whatsoever pass, if it were not past at the same time as present?” — Deleuze, Bergsonism.15

That is: Markopoulos’ frames, flashing rhythmically, clearly count, but what? Besides time, apparently, they count themselves:

“Number, for Aristotle at least, can be a numbering-number, or a numbered--number. Or, to say the same thing in another way: number is (a) that which is counted, and (b) that by which we count. This double numerical function parallel the double temporal function of the now.”16

For this counting, this incessant return to the same shot at discontinuous moments, is as much a way to unitize time into discrete actualities of individual images as it is a means of dissolving a linear time scheme into an orbital one. Even as the shots count off the time of the projection, and build to flurries of movement, they don’t develop teleologically towards some climactic state so much as trade in a dynamic tension between them. The intervals of black mean the images no longer need to follow each other in any conceivable chronology: for the most part, it becomes impossible to tell which frame was registered first and which last, or whether they had been filmed instants, minutes, or years apart. Instead, these different moments from filming, whether they are seconds or years apart, are held up by the film as if simultaneously, and it becomes possible to juxtapose various moments of a shot’s continual, self-actualizing transformations, to see these different moments not as synchronized alternatives.

In other words, the differences between shots become a way of gauging Griffith’s invisible wind in the visible trees—if not by any quantitative standard. With Eniaios, then, the cinematic premise of unitized time, quantified by images of determinate length, becomes the premise of the film’s own logic, only to turned against itself altogether. It would be easy enough to detect Romanticism, surrender to the movie’s rhythms, and conclude that as a victory of mind over matter, Eniaios successfully turns the world into cinematic grammar by overdetermining every shot: nothing is left to chance, as no miracles could possibly arise between the collision of two predetermined frames. But Markopoulos’ destabilizations would have to be ignored: that as frames are flipped upside down (sacrilegiously upside-down in the Salonica sub-film), and displaced chronologically, they belong above all to no time or space but that of the film being projected on-screen. However the experience of traveling thousands of miles to bed in a Greek Orthodox village ornamented with Virgin Mary nightlights might orient viewers to a screen-as-Mecca, the screen’s a screen, the frame’s a frame, and the perception of blinding revelation has to still be a viewer’s projection.

For instead, the movie forces that collision of two frames to become a projection of the active viewer who can only (passively) discern the transformations between shots by (actively) superimposing them onto each other in the intervals between images. Again an act of the mind, rather than eyes. The intuition of a continual movement out of discrete moments of stillness means that an infinity of instants can be grasped in a single one, or rather, that a single instant creates the possibility for an infinite number more. As the movie’s accelerating play of appearances and disappearances—a necklace, girl, and investigator-voyeur swapping in for one another in Twice A Man’s Hitchcock salon segment—turns shot-reverse-shots into narrative suspense, narrative suspense into a Méliès magic of objects conjured and removed at will, and Méliès magic into the religious revelation of a long-anticipated climax, whose events are summoned, as in The Dead Ones at the start of Markopoulos’ career, by constant back-and-forth rotation between two or more shots that seem to actualize each other into movement.

The academic satisfaction here is surefire: Eniaios shifts the locus of its experience from sensory perception into the eidetic projections of a memory that is as much the viewer’s own—of moments that have just flashed by—as the filmmaker’s remembrance of moments long-gone. But to measure, frame-by-frame, the length of time the film takes to project—what we can call “Temenos Time”—Markopoulos has to upend the diegetic Representational Time (let’s call it) of letting his scenes play out on-screen. And this is, it appears, a violence against his own work, as his images are representations in of themselves. In other words, while the cutting of these shots of places and times into single frames easily marshals them into iconographic poses, it only does so at the expense of the internal rhythms that they would have followed on-screen—and have, at some point, followed in historical reality. As Markopoulos denies them these representational realities to impose rhythms of his own devising, it might be concluded that what happened is secondary to what he can make of it: reality, basically, is an excuse for the artist’s legerdemain.

Yet Markopoulos’ code of grammar is as much a response to the material as an imposition on it; as in the origin myths it resurrects, it is an order born out of the disorder of chance, if not chaos. Eniaios’ favorite mode, in these cycles, seems to be ekphrasis: his subjects, including emblems and paintings, restagings of Greek tragedies, and the ruins of Mystras and Olympia, are typically traces of artworks themselves, and often already as static as a single frame. Because, given this stasis, Representational Time would only become the Dead Time of watching the non-transformations of objects sitting still on-screen, what is needed to mark the transformations of time is not a linear, representational time scheme, in which nothing seems to change, but a parallel chronology that can show discrete actions unfolding in their own time as if at once—and by which these actions can even seem to transform into one another in Markopoulos’ magic act. Thus Eniaios’ images revolve in a kind of narratival orbit, taking off from iconographic seed images as if to see the whole film as actualizations of this seed as it takes root. Chronologically indeterminate, in Bergsonian terms, they become subject to new necessities.

The whole motion of the Eniaios cycles, as the shots cycle faster and fast into a mock-simultaneity (impossible on film), moves towards both a resurrection and overturning, a recall, of representational time. The films can unfold, at last, in 1) the real time of the Temenos, 2) the representational time in which they were shot, but also 3) the orbital chronology of the film that upends all sense of linear progression; the shots grow faster, tighter together not as an endpoint but concurrence. In sustained shots and interlinking movement, the sites can come to life, the people move, the shots grow longer, and the past, caught on film so many years before, can be channeled into the eternal, ever-fleeting present of the Temenos.

More questions arise at this impossible determination to reconcile the time of the events on-screen with the time of their projection years later. This analytic method to disclose the self-actualizations of a shot under perpetual transformation might also play, quite differently, as a Romantic method once again by which the film and even viewer seem to be actualizing it into movement—and into the now.

Cinematomic Fission

“Theoretically, we said, the part played by consciousness in external perception would be to join together, by the continuous thread of memory, instantaneous visions of the real. But, in fact, there is for us nothing that is instantaneous. In all that goes by that name there is already some work of our memory, and consequently of our consciousness, which prolongs into each other, so as to grasp them in one relatively simple intuition, an endless number of moments of an endlessly divisible time… The qualitative heterogeneity of our successive perceptions of the universe results from the fact that each, in itself, extends over a certain depth of duration, and that memory condenses in each an enormous multiplicity of vibrations which appear to us all at once, although they are successive.” — Bergson, Matter and Memory17

“…in the course of experiencing a work of art its elements gradually coalesce into a single, unforgettable total image.

In both cases—be it the process of recollection or the process of appreciating a work of art—it remains true that a unified experience enters our mind and emotions through the whole, and the whole does so through the image. This image enters our consciousness and through its totality every detail of it is also preserved in our memory inseparably from the whole.” — Eisenstein, “Montage 1938”.18

“The film image is a crystallization of Time; indeed, a crystallization in Time. One particle of Time contains trillions of imprisoned images, and all those foreign bodies which create the sense of the image itself.

…For the filmmaker to refrain from viewing his film rolls as images in movement is to imbue them with a far greater and extraordinary Movement. It is, perhaps, a fallacy to continue to believe that film is constant movement. The movement must be separated and achieved by the filmmaker’s craftsmanship in editing. This craftsmanship of editing is a reflection which mirrors the art of meaning. The materials to this greater end are less known in today’s filmmaking than they were fifty years ago. The reasons for this are the same, always the same: commerce.

An inspiring voice says, “Look how pink the branches look through the green leaves.”

What we are dealing with is the use of the image, a single frame, as a measured element in the construction of films. Just as we cannot imagine the meaning of the universe, so, too, in viewing on a table a single film frame or groups of film frames, we cannot imagine what they actually contain. We see the single frame. We hold it this way and that way; upside down, right side up, reversed. All sides seen and unseen. From these we begin to construct the life course, the filmic form of the work at hand. Whether one succeeds or not depends as in all the arts upon the gift which is individual of the, in this case, filmmaker before the divided elements before him. It is a rare privilege for the filmmaker to create for the film spectator a whole from the divided parts before him. That is filmmaking; that is creation; that is always a divine inheritance, never achieved, never learned, but continuously sought. The learned, the achieved are the entertainers.

Who can dare to imagine what a single frame might contain? What future process could activate a single frame? What action could void its singular flatness and cause the necessary Collision? Could cause that collision which would animate the very contents of each, individual single frame?” — Markopoulos, “The Intuition Space”.19

Molecular and Adamantine Bonding

“There is no language. There is no art. There is no knowledge. There is but film as film: the beginning and the eternal moment.” — Markopoulos, The Intuition Space.20

Like a grammar without a language, each cycle self-constructs/destructs out of escalating variations of calls and responses: of the alternating black and white leader; of the stereoscopic crickets sounding off across the screen; of the cricket-sounds and image-flashes; of the white leader and filmed images resounding against one other out of sustained intervals of black; of shot/reverse-shots exchanged within infinite permutational alternatives of shot duration, of interval duration, and of rhyme scheme: whether, out of black, a previous shot will be repeated or rotated with another. So the viewer must anticipate the film he is watching musically: both what the next frame of image will be as well as when. Ultimately, the only actual call-response is between the light launched from the projector onto the screen, and back from the screen onto the landscape: offering and recalling images as if sacrificially, this fort-da between the screen and the viewer again finds an exercised audience projecting the film’s images back onto the film itself.

One never knows what’s coming, nor when, yet each image seems proof of a scheme accelerating concentrically outward, both from sequence-to-sequence as well as within them: the portrait films usually working from a fixed shot of hands to the face and room and action. The escalation from stillness to movement in cycle V, from paced-out frames of Mystras’ ruins out of time to the entrance, 150 minutes, of The Mysteries’ humans, moving in the near-present day, seems to precipitate the cycle’s own simulation of motion through a quickened montage, as much as it’s precipitated by it: the faster the images of men are cut together, the faster they’ll appear to move. A lesson from Griffith, whose orgasmically-accelerated cutting could seem to make time faster, hastening it to its inevitable conclusion even over the full duration of a “real-time” sequence. Cycle VI, working through a kind of sliding scale of art—>to life, shifts from Chartres’ beige, brick exterior—>to its petrified statuettes—>to clothes—>to drawings—>to sustained shots of a man in stillness—>then moving—>until the camera finally moves itself.

Rather than tout anything like aesthetic purity, each shot seems to aim forward and back at once to each other in Markopoulos’ shuffled rhyme scheme, a concatenation of images evolving rhythmically as it goes. In short, a structure, like consciousness, expanding outward to include new elements even while returning cyclically back on itself: mining each accumulated element for new associations, finding and losing itself constantly. The atomized images of hands, shirts, and elbows in his portrait films (which open Orders VI-VIII) of artists posing in their studios, treat their bodies as sedentary vessels waiting to be revived into movement; the would-be establishing shot of the subject’s entire body is deferred, prefigured by a small, visual synecdoche of hands, and the detail becomes the basis for the whole, as the whole becomes the basis for the detail only retroactively.

Even, or especially, at the movie’s most obscure, Markopoulos’ hand is sensed thinking and rethinking the position of every image, “recalling” by both binding and unbinding, winding and unwinding these image-chains for the viewer, as if each were a kind of stream of consciousness in hieroglyphics. The image is presented and present as an image. But again the viewer, like the filmmaker, can’t decode so much as refigure.

The distillation of a figure into a single frame not only collapses its potential figurations into a single image representing itself as such, but allows these possibilities to multiply according to the viewer’s own idiolectic affinities. Using myths “’pointillistically, as illuminated, exotic parts [sic] of departures,” Markopoulos would write of The Iliac Passion, “I allowed myself to depart, to drift, to journey among the emotions of the players I found during my odyssey; until finally, in the final version of The Iliac Passion, the players become but the molecules of the nude protagonist, gyrating and struggling, all in love, bound and unbound, from situation to situation in the vast sea of emotion which becomes the filmmaker’s proudest endeavor.”20 Where nude Prometheus, suffering a heroic silence, might be figured as a black hole pulling the other characters into orbit in both Aeschylus’ play and Markopoulos’ half-adaptation, by Eniaios, the molecular affinities of each image are no longer to a central source but simply to each other. In the earlier version of Markopoulos’ The Iliac Passion from the mid-60s, imperial stretches of Markopoulos’ concept art—Jack Smith as Oprheus, Andy Warhol as Poseidon on an exercycle, and “the swinging sky-scrapers of New York City” as the chorus—constitute a sort of long-take documentary of the New York underground staging scenes across the city. The movie’s main tension, between the neatly allegorical meanings the film has proposed to portray, and the sustained documentary form it’s finally taken, seems to confront the problems of cinema of attractions’ first, staged tableaux more than half-a-century later: for the durational form has to be freighted by the ideas it needs no more than a frame to represent. Or perhaps it’s vice-versa. By Eniaios, in any case, these same images, now reduced to single frames, become the figures not only of old films and filmic memories, but of documentary and allegory harmoniously at once.

Again the interval of black between images acts as a synapse by which the viewer can figure connections: in cycle VI, from the fossilized earth-tones of the cathedral to the flame of the Iliac Passion near the end, the Promethean forge becomes operative as a prime mover of dissolution—including that of the figure-as-image into image-as-image, a splay of light and color. As a neat scheme towards color and movement, it redoubles: the figuration of the first half’s painters and paintings comes undone not simply by light and rhythm, but by the strange intercutting in the second’s breakdown of action sequences—hands lifted and faces turned—by which each gesture seems to summon the next. The ability of a cut to work telekinetically, channel thoughts into gestures, mental motions into physical ones, extends Griffith again: the closest precedent to the kneeling supplicant of The Mysteries, who seems to pull Eniaios into light and dark and alternating gestures with the cup of his hand, could be Lillian Gish in Way Down East waking from a dream of her lover that, in a single cut, seems to invoke him, startled, to do the same.

By looking back to look forward, it becomes easy enough to anticipate these schemes: from stillness to a simulation of movement again in cycle VIII, as the space, appearing to swivel open from the yellow pants of Valerio Adami to his profile, only suggests the kaleidoscopic effects of the Twice A Man reel(s) by the end, in which cuts are cued to doors flying open and close as if the action were revolving in constant, centripetal force around to a single pivot point. The movement again from stained glass classicism into a scrambled modernity of Man’s people entering, exiting, and waiting around ferries, elevators, and doors, all transitional spaces, builds through Salonica’s distant objects, windows and candles staking the edge of the frame, to the medium framing of The Iliac Passion and the cuts around close-up gazes in Twice A Man from opposite ends of a city that culminate with a continuous zoom reiterating/retracing the forward movement of the entire cycle. Or at least this is one montage the viewer can conjure out of the intervals.

Every type of montage becomes possible here: even just two frames of the exact same shot may play as repeated images, alternate takes, consecutive instants, or different fragments from the same scene. And the interval itself may play as a gap of black over the scene (as if the scene were continuing to play beneath, redacted), a concision between two shots as if nearly to synchronize them together, a narrative catalyst (deploying a person into a previously empty space; displacing a character across a city), or a kind of caesura between “poetic” associations. The Iliac sequence in Order VII seems to pivot on owls flying halfway through, a single burst of movement and release conjured, if one likes, out of Taylor Mead’s frozen traumatics. Off-set in the frame, the carved religious emblems in the Punschun sequence, also from Order VII, of a sword, a mountain, and a fish build to one of a rose, neatly centered. Though set in stone, it’s the kind of standard telos of a quest narrative that spectators might not have known they were watching; a ribbon round a bush, framed just before the fish emblem, and patterned almost identically to it, acquires a new iconographic/symbolic figuration only retroactively in the viewer’s eye. When an extended shot of the ribbon dangling in the wind cuts to an image from high of a fisherman standing in the water, the three horizontal stripes of land, river, and stones on the opposite bank seem to redraw the frame lines around the subject—as in the emblem sequence just before—as if, as in Griffith and Ford, the real frame of action were the land itself. Yet in the shift from one outstretched band to another—from the ribbon to the river—, the invisible movements of wind and waterflow, seen almost only in their effects on the on-screen subject, seem to be actuated by the montage itself. Movement again is perceived naturally only through analysis of still images. In embedding these sources of light and movement, each invisible except in its effects, within the frame and montage, the movie seems to precipitate these natural effects miraculously from the gaps. But of course it’s the viewer’s imagination: the movie enables this double consciousness of imagining each thing as it could be, only by seeing each image as it is.

And so? How could mental intercourse with a screen be anything but a distraction? Of course the whole curative proposition should be that what one gets out of the experience is only experiential itself. So why write about it except as cataloguing or propaganda? Whatever willful ignorance the experience seems to presume—curative art after not only the Holocaust but TV; the useful abstraction of dull, quotidian rhythms into beautiful music; the recovery of myth out of lived experience only by the imposition of a lavish choreography within image and montage alike; an excision of all but the most sanctified instants from an undifferentiated mess of reallife; or, alternately, the sanctification of routine motions by the movie’s much sharper ones into miraculous revelations—all its transmogrifications of lived experience into high art only respond, and signal back to their multiple sources in lost, far-flung points of history while bringing them forward as virtual realities and alternate presences of the world they’re projected into. Instead of dwelling on the romantic side of familiar things, or seeing the beauty in everyday life—Eniaios does nothing like these clichés of curative art—Markopoulos’ whole project can seem curative for finally laying bare cinema’s own function of resurrection to kill and revive every instant simultaneously.

In The Research of Lost Time

“The truth is that memory does not consist in a regression from the present to the past, but, on the contrary, in a progress from the past to the present. It is in the past that we place ourselves at a stroke. We start from a virtual state which we lead onwards, step by step, through a series of different planes of consciousness, up to the goal where it is materialized as an actual perception; that is to say, up to the point where it becomes a present, active state; in fine, up to that extreme plane of our consciousness against which our body stands out. In this virtual state pure memory consists.” —Bergson, Memory and Matter,21 p. 319

As someone—Jonas Mekas?—once suggested, Bresson could be Markopoulos’ only contemporary counterpart22: another filmmaker who pivots around transitional spaces and moments as nexus points for his own, concentric montage; and another filmmaker who obsesses over flattened representations (movie screens, TV screens, record players, books, paintings, science exhibits, and theater, besides the constant framing of mirrors, windows, and doors, all in Une femme douce (1969) alone) as an acknowledgment of his own representational images that must be reanimated into presence, into flesh, through sheer mental projections. In the shuffled time frames of Une femme douce, a girl lays alternately awake, sleeping, and dead. Like Markopoulos in his portrait films, Bresson likes to present his subject limb-by-limb at first, as if to recompose the body before he resurrects it into life: and the viewer, wondering in the screening room what the difference is between a leg that’s living and a leg that’s dead on-screen, is left with simply the image of a leg whose presence within its scene must be projected into it. The upended chronology plays as a kind of upshot of Bresson’s virtual apartment, where music and quotes and TV shows from even more time frames coexist and circulate with the characters from room to room: in this space out of time, media, even including the story we’re watching and being told, is endlessly re-presented and revived, as the girl never will be. The man can only revive his memories, but however pure, they’re not powerful enough to burst the present.

The narrative, then, of the characters’ pronouncing information on the soundtrack, should serve to inscribe the leg’s status in this world as living or dead, but here Bresson, like Markopoulos, offers only the presence of the image-as-image: for even this narrative information is usually delayed like an alternate caption onto the picture. When, for example, a record of beach pop plays over a shot of the boyfriend obliviously pacing his apartment to look up a crossword term, we can wonder whether we’re hearing these sounds within the scene while the girl plays them in the background, or whether, after her death, he is replaying them, even in his mind, as a halcyon memory of her surf-pop beauty; Bresson’s cut to her, taking off the record and replacing it with a more suitably somber classical piece, seems to be an answer except that he only cuts to her after the pop music has stopped playing. The elements are not the evidence they seem to be of single truths but rather alternate counterparts. This parceling of elements and materials into discrete entities, the sounds and images the filmmaker has to work with, means they are treated as such: a small painting in a book cuts to the large painting in a museum, but they appear as identical images on-screen until the entrance of characters into the museum offer a kind of yardstick of their comparative dimensions. In cut after cut from media to media, Une femme douce lays bare the material sources for the image and sound (the soundtrack is just a vinyl record)—and then goes further to show that materiality as nothing more than images and sounds in the movie theater, all looking the same. In Bresson’s deceptive montage, paintings are not the size they seem, events don’t happen when they seem to, and legs may turn out to be alive just when they were thought to be dead. A space of doubt is opened for the viewer to project belief, but in figuring the image as a body in a chronology, what is projected is as much truth as a lie. Ultimately, the leg is however the viewer wants to figure it. Projection is the only resurrection, but occasionally, once the viewer has started to actualize the possibilities of these elements as they link together, the close-ups of clothing and limbs, and the wide shots of paintings and empty spaces, may follow into movement and duration, like memories responding from the screen.


“Recollection can only be said to be actualized when it has become image. It is then, in fact, that it enters not only into ‘coalescence,’ but into a kind of circuit with the present, the recollection-image referring back to the perception-image and vice versa. Hence the preceding metaphor of ‘rotation’ which prepares the ground for this launch into the circuit.

… Recollection must be embodied, not in terms of its own present (with which it is contemporaneous), but in terms of a new present, in relation to which it is now past. This condition is normally realized by the very nature of the present, which constantly passes by, moving forward and hollowing out an interval. This is therefore the fifth aspect of actualization: a kind of displacement by which the past is embodied only in terms of a present that is different from what it has been.” — Deleuze, Bergsonism,23 p. 66, 71

“For know there are two worlds of life and death: 
One that which thou beholdest; but the other
Is underneath the grave, where do inhabit
The shadows of all forms that think and live
Till death unite them and they part no more;
Dreams and the light imaginings of men, 
And all that faith creates or love desires,
Terrible, strange, sublime and beauteous shapes.
There thou art, and dost hang, a writhing shade,
‘Mid whirlwind-peopled mountains; all the gods
Are there, and all the powers of nameless worlds, 
Vast, sceptred phantoms; heroes, men, and beasts;
And Demogorgon, a tremendous gloom;
And he, the supreme Tyrant, on his throne
Of burning gold. Son, one of these shall utter
The curse which all remember. Call at will
Thine own ghost, or the ghost of Jupiter,
Hades or Typhon, or what mightier Gods
From all-prolific Evil, since thy ruin
Have sprung, and trampled on my prostrate sons.
Ask, and they must reply: so the revenge 
Of the Supreme may sweep through vacant shades,
As rainy wind through the abandoned gate
Of a fallen palace.” — The Earth, Prometheus Unbound,24 Shelley, 1.195-1.218

Love’s Tax (Liars, Lyres, and Looms)

By Ovid, it is Prometheus who casts the “godlike image of man” out of clay, though it takes the God of Nature to animate this newborn humanity. Prometheus’ tools are not so metaphysical; in Dryden’s translation, he “temper’d into paste” that “aetherial energy,” and just added water—“mixt with living streams.”25 He remains in the end an artisan, a contriver of forms and blender of slop to which the Soul must be added. We can leave him here, still untethered from the rock, and pulling a shift in the Olympian kitchen.

After all, the Promethean connection, was most forcefully articulated as a matter of work ethic for Markopoulos: “…this film has taxed every nerve, fibre and muscle of my Being,” he would write of the Iliac Passion—“That this should have been so is only fitting, for was not Prometheus himself daily visited by that uncompromising eagle sent by Zeus!”26. By Eniaios, no longer in adamant quest of capital, now grasping at visions that would evaporate as soon as they’d be seen, at a work he would in fact never see projected at all, his own pursuits would turn less Promethean, maybe, more Orpheic. If the voluntary memory, the attempt to seize a moment that would vanish at the attempt, had been Orpheus’ downfall—as it becomes the downfall of any Temenos viewers who take it as their task to see what’s on-screen—Orpheus hadn’t had a camera to record that simultaneous moment of appearance and disappearance for eternal, empty-handed resurrection. Instead, in niggled pluckings he took up tunes. If he was anything like Markopoulos, his solicitations of the lyre probably solicited him soon to hum along inopportunely at daily moments of banality to these songs that would become totalizing traces of things that couldn't be revive. As curative propositions, they sang their own lament.

Special thanks to Robert Beavers and Sam Engel—and Paco, Miguel, and Miguel.


* Robert Beavers points out the misconception that the embedded films within Eniaios—sometimes four or five per cycle, with some lasting over an hour long—are all re-edits of previously completed films, as many of these sub-films, including the portrait films, were edited for the first time explicitly for Eniaios, while others, like The Iliac Passion (which appears in every cycle) were re-edited into series of reels that have been distributed across the cycles. Regardless, these embedded films are transfigured in some sense(s) by their juxtaposition next to each other, so that each cycle leaps forward and backward across time and space between these films.

1. Henri Bergson, Matière et mémoire (Paris: Les presses universitaires de France, 1965), http://www.costoso.net/images/matiere_et_memoire.pdf. My translation.

2 . Stanley Brakhage, “The Silent Sound Sense,” Film Culture 21 (1960): 65.

3. Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Hobberjam (New York: Zone Books, 1991), 31.

4. Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, trans. Henry David Thoreau, in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, (Boston: The Riverside Press, 1906).

5. Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prometheus Unbound (London: J.M. Dent and Co., 1898), 68.

6. Sergei Eisenstein, “Montage 1938,” in Towards a Theory of Montage, ed. Michael Glenny and Richard Taylor, trans. Michael Glenny (New York: I.B. Tauris, 2010), 310.

7. Gregory Markopoulos, “Towards a New Narrative Film Form,” Film Culture 31 (1963-64): 11-12.

8. Markopoulos, “The Intuition Space,” Millenium Film Journal 32/33 (1998): 73.

9. Markopoulos, “Love’s Task,” Film Culture 53-54-55 (1972): 95

10. Bergson, Matter and Memory, trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1911): vii.

11. Markopoulos, Interview. “Question-and-answer session with Gregory Markopoulos folloing a Screening of The Illiac Passion in Brussels, Early 1968,” Gregory J. Markopoulos: Mythic Themes, Portraiture, and Films of Place, ed. John G. Hanhardt and Matthew Yokobosky (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1996), 103.

12. Markopoulos, “The Intuition Space,” 73-74.

13. Bergson, The Creative Mind. Trans. Mabelle L. Andison (New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1992), 18.

14. Giovanna Borradori, “The temporalization of difference: Reflections on Deleuze’s interpretation of Bergson,” Continental Philosophy Review 34 (2001): 11.

15. Deleuze, 58.

16. Stephen Crocker, “The oscillating now: Heidegger on the failure of Bergsonism,” Philosophy Today 41 (1997), 414.

17. Bergson, Matter and Memory, 75-77.

18. Eisenstein, 301.

19. Markopoulos, “The Intuition Space,” 72-73

20. Ibid., 75

21. Markopoulos, “The Adamantine Bridge,” Film Culture 53-54-55 (1972): 87-88.

22. Bergson, Matter and Memory, 319.

23. Deleuze, 66, 71.

24. Shelley, 12.

25. Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. John Dryden.

26. Markopoulos, “The Adamantine Bridge,” 88.