Eût-elle été criminelle

EPFC | November 3rd, 2015

guest curator: Mia Ferm

This month in Portland, the Association of Moving Image Archivists is holding its annual conference, which means different aspects of the world of moving images (panels include ‘Ephemeral Films of National Socialism in Austria’ and ‘Processing Film Collections Labeled in Non-Latin Alphabets’!) coming together, collaborating, or at the very least getting a drink with one another. And no doubt people will also be talking about accessing archives for creative use. Film and video archival footage, especially that which documents historical events or from films that are culturally significant, is most often thought of as the go-to for documentary projects. But with its long history of found-footage films, the experimental and avant-garde worlds are also invested in the topic. After all, it’s practically the very definition of experimentation: cutting it up and editing it, putting it in a new context, and perhaps finding new meaning. With this in mind, I’ve rounded up a few recent film and video works that do indeed attempt to find new meaning (or perhaps reveal the truth that was already there?) by re-editing and examining historical and culturally significant images and documents, and doing it in unconventional ways. Let’s call this little journey “Reconstructing Memory.”

For the first in the series, I’ve selected a short work by French filmmaker Jean-Gabriel Périot from 2006, Eût-elle été criminelle / Even If She Had Been A Criminal, which presents a sort of condensed history of WWII, and takes as its topic the public humiliation of French citizens who slept with their German occupiers during the war. Like much of his work, the short is highly constructed from archival footage and Internet-sourced images. Périot is a tight and precise editor who creates image sequences that become social critiques on labor conditions, war atrocities, gay rights, persecution, and revenge. There is a theoretical foundation to his method: the “iconology of the interval” proposed by German cultural theorist Aby Warburg. The idea being that history is located in the intervals between two images. On this Périot himself says: “Those dark and unexpected spaces were purposed to the viewers as spaces of liberty, the liberty for them to think and to fill the missing links by their own thinking. There, in a time where media try obviously to make the audience not to think, is the place for some radical and political art.” For all my long-windedness though, it’s best to just watch the film. You’ll get it because it hits you in the gut.

link to Jean-Gabriel’s film: