Interview with yann beauvais for .txt / texto de cinema

Interview with yann beauvais for .txt / texto de cinema

.txt -As Keith Sanborn said in one article, you developed or invented the “text piece” films. In your cinema how could you shortly define this (anti) genre of film?

yann- I have no precise memory of this text of Keith Sanborn might be something he wrote about Tu, sempre. For sure, I have been interested by this relationship between text and film. One of the first things I ever did with film was to condense the master I wrote, into a short film work. I wrote some of the text as images on the film strip in order to induce/produce meaning with an economy of means. One word at a time (on 2 or 3 frames) to experience how film works showing an image which give itself as a presence: Voici (here). This word can be understand as look at this, here I am an image but in fact a word as image.

Th use of text has always been important within film making, not only at the time of the silent film, but text is an important component of visual information and has been display or put forward within the images by different filmmakers according to there involvement within the written or printed words. This urge of the text within the image is not new if one think about renaissance painting, illuminations of the middle age, and then more recently about comics. Within films the used of text by the surrealists was introduce to break the causality, linearity of the narrative. And this, of course, was more efficient within the avant-garde. What interested me was to have a film made only with texts, I had incorporate very often within my diaries sections with text, being graffitis on the wall of Paris, signs etc (as in Disjet, Divers Epars…) or combine text with images such as in Spetsai, Transbrasiliana, War on Gaza, Hezraelhah.


To read requires time, the pace of reading is different for everyone despite the fact that we could always find an average reading speed, and within printed text, one takes its own time. But one is facing text within a film, a video one is subject to the pace of the maker who has set up a certain duration for each text. Within the film and television industry the pace is relatively formatted. You have to respect a duration for people to read without being speedy. Subtitles are following this type of social agreement which is given as respectful to the reader, while it is more surely a technical diktat which impose its aesthetic into a display of information. As if everything should be shown, produce similarly and given at the same speed.


Facing a text within a moving projected image we are experiencing a temporality which is imposed to us , as it is the case with the plot in most films. The time of its appearance is not sure, we don’t know if we will have enough time to read, so often we scan the text, more than we read it. Therefore why not using the possibilities that reading can produce / induce within the scope of time based arts. I found that there were a lot of connections between film as music, and films as text, on different levels, being questions, of patterns, rhythms, duration…


Returning now to the questions of text pieces films, I would say that among other people I have been dealing with such an issue and have been digging this path since 20 years, when I mad this first film on/about Aids. Before that, the text piece films were proposals dealing each one with issue which had to do with theoretical issue, such as with the reduction of the thesis as well as with VO/ID. In this film the question of the interconnection between experimental films and the art at the time when postmodernism was into its full gear was something important for me. At that time it seems that the question of filmmaking could not avoid the questions that postmodernism, punk and so on were addressing to post-structural filmmakers. In relation to the space I was creating for experimental films I could not ignore what was at stake and how to coop with theoretical issues. At the same time I wanted to articulated these issues (art, film, and their politics…) with personal ones, in order to explore the multiplicities of a“subject”.

The text piece film became one of the way to active and link my film making with new tools, from Still Life (1997) the used of video processing and used of computer gain a bigger space within my filmmaking. The plasticity and the fact that it was possible to see quite immediately the result after the rendering made it possible to think film with text as something which could be a performance but also something which could be made live.

(Which I have very often stage with Tu, sempre at least since 2002). In est absente (2005) the text from the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud is appearing with different color, on black or white surface, when it is present as the installation in the Maison Rimbaud in the room where Arthur Rimbaud used to live as a teenage, the text are project onto a mirror which reflect the text into the room, until the text exit through a window… This film as VO/ID, Sid-A-ids (1993) , Still Life and Tu, sempre is a text piece film.


.txt -Considering Stan Brackhage’s Text of Light; Michael Snow’s So is This; Jean Luc’s Historie du Cinema; and your`s VO/ID. What could be called a text in a film after those radical experiences?


This question is tricky because first of all as you know there is no text with the film of Stan Brakhage the Text of Light, there is only the texture of the light, and reflexions of light though this glass ashtray that Brakhage used as a motives/sources for his film. Therefore when you wish to know what could be a text in film after some of this radical experience you are quoting, I would say we have only open the field there is plenty of ways to deal and incorporate text within time based arts. The computer and then the web have modified totally the way we are thinking, producing and making images. What seem to not belong to film have been largely incorporate into new film grammar, such as for example composing, motion text, etc…. Within time based arts, text has become one element which have not any longer a specific location within their images, its appearance, its motion, its behavior have become element with which we can paint, write the image. There is no limit its used and one can think of this marvelous cascade of words or number as a way to organize new horizons, such as text as space, and this in film!


The dynamism of the motion apply to words or sentences, paragraphs or pages transform the relation we used to have with the written information, as if the concreteness of the text was at stake as soon as you deal with it through motion. Let’s not forget that the illuminating boards giving news or the stock exchanges are part of our daily environment, and this situation has much as the works of artist dealing with text create a dynamic from which film can’t be separate. It is not by mistake that works like So Is This, Vo/id or Secondary Currents have appears in the 80’s at a time when Barbara Kruger or Jenny Holzer… were questioning the master voice: his/story, and the modernism myth.


The perception of film as text has been extremely useful to decode the articulation of pro-filmic elements within the production of a discourse, but one could also thing of text as a moving pattern from which it is not the necessity to master all its components than surfing over them, in order to produce or grab some meaning and not necessary a meaning. The text is not any longer A Master TEXT, but something from which you grab meaning from its rhythms, its localization, its motion; all poetic is given by considering the text as a visual object, something which could lead to the production of some sort o rebus which is a way to expand the possibility of the writing. Connection between texts which are overlapping, crossing, on parallel lines at different speed, all these strategies show that text has become one of the element of the image with which you can play as much as the other. The text is an object to be activate, it’s meaning is transform by its delivering.


.txt -Following the last questions thought, what’s your opinion about the use of the concrete poem (Organismo) in the film Cinema Falado from Caetano Veloso?


yann- In Cinema Falado, there is a short sequence dealing with written text as a visual object. While the presence of the text within that film is constant as oral object, as speech, it is only used as a visual object once, in one sequence if we ignore the end titles. In that sequence a line of text: o organismo quer repetir…

This sentence is also said by a man.

A kind of zoom within the text is produced, fragmenting the sentence, focussing on word in order to create another one such as the word organismo is followed orgasm e a lettra o, to make the portugues word orgasmo. Then, the doubling of the letter O evokes immediately the play on text that Fernand Leger did within Ballet mécanique. What one moment appear a sentence: On a volé un collier de perles de 5 millions. This sentence is followed by its fragmentation in different closed-up tending and focusing on the zeros. The use of the sentences as visual object used in painting as a common practices was relatively new within film in the early 20’s. Here the play had to do with shifting of the quality of the object, passing from meaning to form within the space of the screen.

The short poem that we hear and read in Cinema Falado remind us of this textual dismantling used by Leger and others transforming the size and position of the words within the frame in order to dynamite the visual patterns one could generate from of a word or a letter. In Léger as with a lot of film from the 20’s avant-garde (Dziga Vertov, Hans Richter,Charles Dekekeulaire) the used of text was certainly linked to its used within the tradition of cubist painting.

In the case of Caetano Veloso, it would be difficult to forge a strong relation between the treatment of the sentences with concrete poetry, maybe because other graphic intervention within the film serve more as a quotation than as an exploration of the possibilities produced in film within visual text. One would find a lot of example of such a practice within experimental cinema and video art of the 70’s and 80’s, where the question of meaning his linked to its visual rhythms, typos etc…. such as in the works of Gary Hill, Peter Rose, Su Friedrich, Yvonne Rainer, Manuel de Landa, Joyce Wieland, Maurice Lemaitre…

In the end titles it is the graphic aspect and the color play which is at work. It is question of treatment which is not directly connect to the meaning. It has to do with design, text in motion in color. It offers a kind a fireworks with written informations.


.txt – Once you told me about the different possibilities for a text in a film. You’ve defined those words in their relation to film images. In this sense they could be poetic, informative, theoretic, etc. Now thinking about your cinema using VO/ID or even Tu Sempre as examples, Could you talk about the texts which appear on them? And how the text can directly be transformed in a moving-image?


yann- In VOI/ID we are facing two screens and two texts which are deliver nearly word by word, one is in French while the other pone is in English. If you happen to understand both languages you will have discover some jokes, puns between them. Irony and wit are at stake mocking the seriousness of the general mood of what is said. The necessity to have both language reflect the fact that as an activist of experimental film I could not in 87 limit myself to a french speaking audience who was not very aware of some of the critical thought which was happening in the states and England. It was urgent to have access to other information and critical exchange outside the french debate! The use of this two language reflected the horizons in which I was living. The sound tracks of this film is also double, with on one track Mick Jagger song : Cocksucker Blues, while on the other one, Gilles Deleuze is saying a text of Nietzsche, with a music by Richard Pinhas. But here the used of the voice and the content of what is said has to do with personal issue, being gay and having study philosophy, I used these sounds to introduce myself within the scope of the film even if it is indirectly.


In Tu, sempre what ever version, is a bank of data about aids which have been compiled through the years, and from which I select different texts encompassing, personal memory, activism, clinical studies, press from the 80’s to nowadays. The main language are once again American and French, but Arab, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese are present. The nature and the selection of the texts depends of the place where the works would shown or perform. According to this there is an emphasize on the country and its dominant language, as well as a specific research dealing about aids and VIH within that country or place. For example when it was shown in Tokyo, I had a version translate in Japanese in order to give access to certain type of information to counter balance some a certain type of belief who stage Aids as a sickness specific to Caucasian on one part while there was some specific data about aids in Japan with text by Japanese writers etc. Each opus of Tu, sempre is using as a based of information which give an opportunity to scan the Aids pandemic since now 30 years. This data was compiled 12 years ago and is actualized since then.

For each presentation an accentuation is given to the production of discourse around aids within the country, and research is done in order to have statistics related to the place where the installation, performance is taking place. The diversity of the texts brings strange encounter between Aids activist, religious and reactionary comments, newspaper headlines as much as testimony, the scope of the epidemic is such that the works reflect the different directions taken within the increase of the epidemic, within the fight against the states and the big pharmaceutical companies. Novels, testimonies, are convey in order two have a multilayers perception of the epidemic and give an opportunity to grasp the multiplicity of this epidemic. There is an accumulative effect and a distress effect that the crossing and appearance of text induces within the spectator. He / She has to choose what to be read, where to focus. The alternation of presentation of the text which can scroll from left to right or right to left, can scroll from bottom to top and reverse, or appear words by words, or scroll in different direction or in parallel direction but at different speed induce a certain panic within the audience who has to take some decision in regard of what is happening.

Visual space is constructed in juxtaposing different size of scrolling texts and transform the screen into a volume where things come from a distant… The dynamic of the text is produced by their typography, speed of scroll and juxtaposition and density alongside its specific meaning. Contradictory information are often joint within the same frame but this might occurred in different language.

On another manner the use of texts within photographic images can facilitate a kind of dialogue between the two sources or they can enter into a kind of counterpoint relation as in the case with music. In Entre deux mondes (2011) (whatever version, french, English or Portuguese) the irruption of the text as paragraphs and scroll delivering part of the Black code of Louis the XIV put a different light on the garden of Versailles, it works in a similar manner but with a kind of distance when in Spetsai (1989) the text of Guy Debord about ecology cut in the middle the diary filmic images of the Greek island.


.txt -In 1987 you’ve curated some films for a film program called Mot: dite image. Or ” Words say images ” as we could translate losing the sense of “malediction” from the french title. Which films have impressed you in this text matter?


yann- I curated this show for the Centre Georges Pompidou (20 different screenings) because I had done VO/ID and wanted to explore what had been done within text in the realm of experimental film. While making that film I had research and compile some documents from this type of films. The research was stimulating because I had to expand the way I was thinking about this relation between text and film. As you know, traditional film has always been seen and though in relation with the written topos, such as script, dialogue etc. In that sense, cinema is always a kind of narration in which everything is made to facilitate the understanding of the text. Working with text, as an object, as a visual object will transform this perception. Like the cubists whom introduced within their paintings paper-collé, pieces of newspapers, letter as sign, within film making such a practice was convey within its own history. Looking at silent film one will notice the decorative pattern and framing of the titles, inter titles as a rules in their uses. It seems impossible that the avant-garde would not have done anything with such element, and of course they did. I realize this seeking for works, remembering works such as some Kinoglass by Dziga Vertov, Man Ray, James Watson & Melville Mariner, Len Lye etc. A discovery was a film by Charles Dekeukelaire: Histoires de détective 1929 which was like a pre-structural films which could have encounter Oulipo! Films such as White Calligraphy by Taka Iimura was very interesting because we were facing an historical text (the history of Gengy) but only with the design of ideogram. The works by Peter Rose and Yvonne Rainer as much as Su Friedrich, Anthony McCall & Andrew Tyndall were important because they were dealing with the possibility to narrate differently within experimental film. Today if I had to redo the exhibition the film and video corpus would be extremely larger because since the advent of the computer the incorporation of text has been widely explore, in different ways such as for example Ryan Trecartin, Young Hae Heavy Industrie, Susan Hiller…


.txt -Alexander Kluge said: the history of cinema come from the future. What possibilities do you for the future of cinema (as a language or as a way of thinking)?

yann- If one think of cinema from it’s analogical support one would say that the future of cinema is the archives, but if one extend the concept of cinema including different time base arts such as video, flux of data of whatever type, then the history of cinema will re fathom the history that we used to tell. Think about the shift that the computer produce s within a revision of media history, showing that during nearly a century cinema had put aside its graphic aspect for the narrative sake, locating that space within the special effects while it was another manner to make, perceive and conceive cinema. I am not very keen on guessing what will be the future of cinema, suffice to say that if cinema has to redefine and renew constantly itself in order to be present in the future.


Link to download in english:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.