Présence Africaine, Statues Also Die

When men have died they enter history. When statues have died they enter art. This botany of death is what we call culture.”

— Statues Also Die (Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, 1953, 30min)

Commissioned by the pan-African quarterly Présence AfricaineStatues Also Die marked Chris Marker’s first foray into the essay film genre. After its first screening at the 1953 Cannes Film Festival, and in spite of winning the Prix Jean Vigo in 1954, Statues Also Diewas banned in France by the Centre National de la Cinématographie for its controversial anti-colonialist stance. While a truncated version was made available in 1963, the unabridged film only became available in 1968 and would not be widely seen until decades later.

As comprehensive analysis of the institutional mechanisms of museologics, Statues Also Die prime contention is, in effect, that anthropology and ethnology have their Schroedinger’s Cat; that the removal of an object from its spiritual context-in-community, it’s enslavement and caging in the museum and it’s sacrifice to the white deity of Art, cannot but change it’s state. The black cat, once its museum-box is opened, is always found dead. Astoundingly, in what is only his second film, Marker starts with a cogent and prescient discourse, a formulation of race politics before the days of the civil rights movement, before the rise of post-colonial “third world” studies, and well before semiology and cultural studies established themselves as recognised academic disciplines. (via)



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