16mm, silent; 7'21"
In 1957 Marcel Broodthaers made La Clef d l'Horloge
, an eight minute, 16 mm film about the work of Kurt Schwitters. In 1967 he made Le Corbeau et le Renard
, a seven minute color film that was shown at Knokke, although the selection committee had turned it down.
Trepied: M. Broodthaers, your curriculum vitae shows that film is not your only activity. Could you tell us then what film means to you?
Broodthaers: Before I answer, I'd like to say that I am not a filmmaker. For me, film is simply an extension of language. I began with poetry, moved on to three-dimensional works, finally to film, which combines several artistic elements. That is, it is writing (poetry), object (something three-dimensional), and image (film). The great difficulty lies, of course, in finding a harmony among these three elements.
Trepied: How did you manage to find that harmony in Le Corbeau et le Renard
Broodthaers: I went back to La Fontaine's text and transformed it into what I call personal writing (poetry). I had my text printed and placed before it various everyday objects (boots, a telephone, a bottle of milk) which were meant to form a direct relationship with the printed letters. It was an attempt to deny, as far as possible, meaning to the word as well as to the image. When I'd finished shooting, I realized that once the film was projected onto a regular screen, I mean a plain white canvas, it didn't exactly give me the image I had intended to create. There was still too much distance between object and text. In order to integrate text and object, I would have to print on the screen the same typographic characters I had used in the film. My film is a rebus, something you have to want to figure out. It's a reading exercise.
Trepied: So it's not a classic film, or a commercial film, more like an experimental film. Perhaps an "anti-film"?
Broodthaers: Yes and no. An anti-film is still a film, just as an anti-novel cannot quite help being both book and writing: my film expands the domain of the "conventional" film. It wasn't designed primarily or at least exclusively for a movie house. In order to see and be able to understand the total work I wanted to create, the film must not only be projected onto the printed screen but the viewer must also possess the text. I suppose you could call my film a kind of pop art. It's a "multiple," the kind of thing that has recently been talked about as a means of assuring widespread distribution of art. That's why it will soon be shown in a gallery, where they have printed more than forty copies of the screen and the book. It will be sold as a work of art, each example of which will consist of a film, two screens, and an enormous book. It's an environment.
Trepied: You are clearly not interested in the general public. How do you envis- age the artist's role?
Broodthaers: Whether he knows it or not, every artist today is engage. The problem . . . is to be consciously engage . . . authentically . . . not to be- come the object of others' engagement. The seeming engagement of people like Godard and others disturbs me. An artist in Europe no longer has a definite function that he can either accept or reject. His success or failure is merely a matter of chance. He remains marginal to society. This is particularly true in Belgium, where it's clear there is only contempt for the artist. In any case, Belgium has offered the artist no useful support, no support, I mean, that would help him escape the tyranny of chance.
Trepied: Where would you prefer to live?
Broodthaers: In the United States, the most advanced industrial country, the country that sent us, among other things, the Living Theater, which I believe will be an influence on all artistic creativity from here on. That is, of course, an artistic opinion, not a political one.
Trepied: What are your plans for the future?
Broodthaers: To incorporate more reality into what I do, and to make a film about Vietnam, based on written signs. Nothing like that has been shown at Knokke lately. Tre'pied: Do you think there is still any future for film?
Broodthaers: I don't believe in film, nor do I believe in any other art. I don't believe in the unique artist or the unique work of art. I believe in phenomena, and in men who put ideas together.
Marcel Broodthaers in UbuWeb Sound