Lions After Slumber #3 – Graeme Thomson & Silvia Maglioni

21 October 2014

Graeme Thomson & Silvia Maglioni: the third contribution for the talk series Lions After Summer (you may find the previous two here 1 & 2). Graeme Thomson & Silvia Maglioni are filmmakers whose work interrogates potential forms and fictions emerging from the ruins of the moving image, and whose practice includes the creation of feature films, exhibitions, sound and video installations, performances, event-works, tube-tracts, radio shows and books.

Since 2005, their production (and, on occasion, resistance to production) has emanated from Terminal Beach, a constructivist zone for critical reflection, exploring possible new configurations of image, sound, text and politics using cinema in expanded form to reactivate lost or forgotten archives and histories and to create new modes of collective engagement with contemporary thought, occasionally in alliance with other collectives. Their first feature film, Facs of Life (2009), draws on encounters with a number of former students of Gilles Deleuze and with the video archive in which they appear, navigating between the terrains of documentary, fiction and essay to explore aspects of Deleuze’s philosophical legacy. In Search of UIQ (2013) unfolds the story of Félix Guattari’s lost science-fiction screenplay, Un Amour d’UIQ (UIQ in Love), through a series of fabulations and spectral re-enactments, in relation to key social and political transformations of our time from Autonomia struggles to the digital recoding of daily life. Their work has been presented in a number of international festivals, museums and art spaces including FID-Marseille, Bafici, Jihlava, Il Vento del Cinema, Anthology Film Archives, Tate Britain, Serralves, Centre Pompidou, Redcat, MACBA, Ludwig Museum, Castello di Rivoli, LABoral, The Showroom.

Here they write about their film choices and discuss three hypotheses concerning the Infra-quark Universe:

Le Camion – Marguerite Duras (France 1977)
Still in Cosmos – Makino Takashi (Japan 2010)
Ghost in the Shell – Mamoru Oshii (Japan 1997)


Both as filmmakers and film viewers, we dwell for the most part in the world of the unmade. Inordinate amounts of time given over to imagining scenes that will never see the light of a projector booth. Or sifting through rushes, scrutinising the images for signs of others that can only ever be missing. Missing inaction. The radical passivity of what goes on retreating from sight, withdrawing from the gaze.

Perhaps this is also what drew us to Félix Guattari’s Infra-quark Universe (UIQ), an infinitely tiny, invisible intelligence that is already and not yet here, part and parasite of the machining of brain and world, whose possible forms and effects seem to vastly exceed the already questionable bounds of the unfilmed script where it was first discovered and where it continues to insist.

As a horizon of possibilities, science-fiction cinema is in many ways something of an oxymoron. Whatever charge of futurity it carries tends to dissipate with the fatigue and predictability of decisions already made in production. It’s not simply a question of how the money will be squandered, investment in technological wizardry whose only real dreams are of the scrapheap, but of an inability or unwillingness to perceive and accommodate more lasting shifts and ruptures in the production of subjectivity, processes that may lead to, or simply reveal, unknown forms and configurations of life and desire.

But if conditions are not ripe for the unknown to be born, then the unknown must inhabit the conditional, the limbo of how it “would be” or “would have been”, the undemanding demand that exceeds and shatters every possible condition by which it could be met. This is the unresolved, suspended key of Marguerite Duras’s Le Camion, a film that perhaps more than any other announces the onset of what Guattari famously called “the winter years”.

Hard to describe this “seeance” that lives between the possibility and impossibility of seeing what it recounts. A filmmaker, Duras, and an actor, Depardieu, read through the script of a film that “would be” or that “would have been” and that finally “is” in this strange unmaking of, a film in which a long-distance lorry-driver picks up a half-crazed woman drifter who speaks of the end of the proletariat, of her mental disorder, of her wish that the world go to ruin – the only possible politics as far as she is concerned – as they both stare through the windscreen at the implacable road ahead.
Vous voyez? – Duras asks Depardieu at regular intervals in the darkened room where the reading, though not the film, is taking place. Because Le camion can only unfold by way of a perpetual displacement via a series of long sequences that to the accompaniment of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations transport us across the flat, fogbound wastes of northern France, the routes nationales and their dispersed populations reduced to invisibility by a bleak sprawl of factories, block housing and hypermarkets.

“If there is a big bang, it must be happening everywhere, and at every instant,” says Guattari’s UIQ, echoing Félix’s own words from Chaosmosis, referring to an “eternal return of the nascent state.” In Makino Takashi’s Still in Cosmos, we seem to return incessantly to this effulgent birthing of the image. Atomized fragments of the material world coalesce into momentary chaoids emerging from and falling back into stochastic swarms of data whose speeds of variation and modulation push towards the limits of vision, while the soundtrack – conceived and performed by Jim O’Rourke – constantly ups the level of intensity. A film of a plenitude, an excessive outpouring, that exhausts, and that leaves the viewer exhausted, but in a good way.

Guattari’s UIQ in Love ends at the moment when the heroine, Janice, undergoes an operation which merges her brain with the infinite hyperconsciousness of the Infra-quark Universe, an operation which gifts her with an undesired immortality, one that in a strange way adumbrates the experience of network connectivity. “May it give her back her death” she cries, or he or it or they, after a failed suicide, but to whom or what is this plea addressed? Its postscript (or post-crypt) is Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell, a film whose somewhat clunky premise – the title ostensibly referring to a mobile armoured riot police unit – becomes a dark metaphor for what remains of the human within the mesh of highly policed though eminently hackable data systems, nodes and flows that begins to function like a life support machine even as it contributes to a progressively diminished reality and dematerialization of experience. Or it might well be viewed in the opposite sense, the ghost as data’s spirit dwelling within, yet disquietingly separate from, the mortal carapace of self.

(Graeme Thomson & Silvia Maglioni)