Marie Jager


C Magazine - October 2006


Marie Jager's The Purple Cloud seems in many ways an ideal model- work that responds to the contemporary world while facilitating transcendence.

Named after an obscure and rococo turn-of-the-century science fiction novel in which all but two members of the human race are wiped out by a volcanic dust cloud, Jager's project include a photomontage of an enormous faceted purple gem plopped on an ice floe in a shimmering arctic sea, an installation in the 1970s California Light and Space tradition: streams of violet-hued sunlight, created by colored vinyl adhesive placed over the museum's windows, and a video collaged entirely from images of actual locations and landscapes mentioned in the 1901 fiction. - Rachel Kushner

Flash Art - April 2007

flash art

Ruins abound in Marie Jager’s most recent project, The Purple Cloud, an early version of which was seen in Celine and Julie Go Boating at Anna Helwing Gallery, Summer 2005, where it was presented as a film trailer and installation.

At the 2006 California Biennial, The Purple Cloud takes shape as a 14-minutes animation film screened in a dark gallery “theater” with related installation elements scattered about outside, such as a series of small collages presented as lobby cards at the entrance of the museum, a film script available at the museum’s bookstore and a purple vinyl cut-out of the eponymous cloud affixed to the museum’s windows.

Titled Sunscreen, this vinyl piece extends the book's sci-fi story-line into the space of everyday life in Southern California, where the climate is already the reigning topic of the day. In this way, it metaphorically figures the imaginary that drives the filmic narrative while literally shielding the interior of the museum, just as it would the interior of a car, from the sun’s rays.

More literally still, Sunscreen also serves to remind us that cinema is fundamentally a process of projection: light passed through tinted films. As we move in and out of Sunscreen’s purple shadow, the borders of the black box and the white cube, the imaginary and the real, Jean Louis Baudry’s “basic cinematographic apparatus” becomes just another twentieth century relic. Flickering on the threshold of obsolescence, its “deconstruction” is now suffused in a fantastic, nostalgic sense of the uncanny, like the dismantling of an automaton. As Jager has already suggested in her filmic adaptation of Karel Capek’s RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robots) from 2003, the medium is haunted through and through by just such Gothic figures: the counterfeit human filled with machine parts or else, conversely, the counterfeit robot hiding the human inside. These two form the Janus-faced emblem of the cinema’s reconfiguration of what phenomenologists like Gaston Bachelard term a “dialectic of inside and outside.”

As with RUR, The Purple Cloud is based on literature, an obscure apocalyptic novel from 1901 by the British author M. P. Schiel. Likewise, also, it is the book as such that supplies the film’s structural foundation; not just the ideas it contains but the language, the printed word, as it appears on the page. Words that describe the world’s ruin are themselves ruined via the same cut-up montage-process that William Burroughs, for one, likened to avant-garde art and practiced in the express aim of “advancing” literature to the next stage of “visual literacy.” It is of course significant that the publication of Schiel’s novel coincides more or less with the invention of cinema.

In Jager’s film, his words serve as fragmentary inter-titles for an equally fragmented series of images that fade into one another, slideshow-style, as if only just automated. These images are actually a series of discrete collages – each one deliberately hand-made; each one a work – with contents culled mainly from old National Geographic. As suggested by the vintage electronic soundtrack, which alternates between a Stockhausen-style mix of musique concrète with synthesizer sounds and an orchestral score by Francois de Roubaix, The Purple Cloud is caused as much by climactic disaster as, to quote Paul Virilio, “the information bomb.” - Jan Turmlir

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