Jonathan Owen, DOUBLE X
Chris Marker said that memory, remembering and forgetting and its acts of recollections and vanishings, are intertwined: ‘I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. We do not remember, we rewrite memory much as history is rewritten. How can one remember thirst?’ Meanwhile Robert Breton said: ‘Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen’ and ‘Hide the ideas, but so that people find them. The most important will be the most hidden.’
Sarah and I were having a conversation about lost films, or incomplete or partially lost films. She tells me the original cut of Robin Hardy’s folk horror film The Wicker Man (1973) is missing. That the version we now see is called the ‘Middle Version’, made from a 35mm print, found by accident, at the Harvard Film Archive. She tells me the original cut of George A. Romero’s black-and-white vampire story Martin (1975) is gone and about Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left (1973), which was cut by cinema projectionists offended by the film’s unbearable graphic violence. It’s not all horror films and she talks about the film ‘Him’ (1974), a gay porno film about a mural artist with an erotic fixation on Jesus by Ed D. Louie (thought to be a pseudonym). She tells me about a silent era actor – Valeska Suratt – whose entire catalog of Hollywood features, made between 1915 and 1917, have all disappeared.
Jonathan Owen’s eraser drawings, which implies a mark is erased before a mark is made are full of missing parts, photographs misplaced of ‘evidence’ or authenticity, lost of their ordering of reality, empty of, as Roland Barthes would describe, a punctum, or at least a shift in its emphasis or a refocus: ‘the detail that attracts you to an image, an ‘element which rises from the scene’ and unintentionally fills the whole image.’ Barthes also spoke about the origins of photography and that the ‘first photographic implements were related to techniques of cabinetmaking and the machinery of precision: cameras, in short, were clocks for seeing’ and called the object being photographed ‘the spectrum’.
I read a lot about hauntology recently, and it forms of reduction, its phantoms, and paradoxes, about the intermingling of presence and absence, about gestures that de-animate, veil or disguise, a pointing away. I think something in hauntology reflects on Jonathan Owen’s practice: analyzing the act of seeing, within the image, disrupting its field of gaze, in his drawings and extracting or excavating out from the object and its histories, making them porous, in his sculptures. I think the fascination in these images and objects is what has disappeared from them, what their voids become reservoirs for. What they open up to.
When I was publishing a lot more than I do now I often used a lightweight 90gsm silk paper stock, the stock your holding in your hand reading this page. I chose the paper for economic reasons – it’s cheap to distribute. But also because of its properties, I like how it folds, how the images would crack along creases, and how much it ‘showed-through’, the degree to which printing on one side of a sheet would be visible on the other: how much one image would overlay or overlap into another, form into a shadow, adopt a backward text, collage gently or abrasively; has prismic exchange, adds or removes value, where one thing could be seen through another, a medium to distort, slant, or envelope and piece together antithetical images. And a flicker, 2-frame films, an event unfolding, slight or vast temporal shifts, appearances and disappearances, consciously or arbitrarily. And like in the three eraser drawings, all from 2018, (Parade), (The Cameraman), (Fellini), that constitute the project ‘Double X’, this is how a narrative begins.
1.Dialogue from ‘Sans Soleil’, (Dir.Chris Marker, 1983)
2.Robert Bresson, Notes on the Cinematographer, Green Integer, Los Angeles, 2009
3.Roland Barthes, La Chambre claire, ‘Camera Lucida,’ Hill and Wang, New York, 1980
plus 16mm film (documentation)