by silvia simoncelli
In December 1956 on the pages of Cahiers du Cinéma two articles in controversy to each other appeared: “Montage Interdit” by André Bazin, which functioned as counterpoint to Jean-Luc Godard’s “Montage, mon beau souci”. For Bazin cinema, in order to be considered art, had to favor sequence shots and long shots at the expense of the editing; Godard responded to his position affirming that cinema had, exactly in the cutting, its peculiar quality.
Between these two figures, and between these two definitions is to be understood the title, the material and the methodology of the work “Montage interdit” by Eyal Sivan, Israeli filmmaker born in Haifa. For this project Sivan has unexpectedly left the form of the film and, through a procedure of deconstruction of the cinematic apparatus, has created an online platform which reacts to themes and theoretical interests behind his production, from the early The Specialist, Portrait of a Modern Criminal (1999), to Route 181, Fragments of a Journey in Palestine-Israel (2003), until the recent Common State, potential Conversation (2012).
Montage interdit is primarily a project on the archive, understood as a device able to impose order and generate authority. But Sivan’s interest for the archive is all – contrarily – in the possibility of the profanation of such device, as proposed by Agamben, which is to be effected through a constant process of de-archiving and re-archiving, with editing being the method and the main instrument of such operations.
Montage interdit hosts on one web page hundreds of filmic fragments, which can be arranged according to different criteria and keywords. The core material is composed of film excerpts of the 163 films by Jean-Luc Godard, with which Sivan builds a fluid constellation of possible narrative paths. Hence the definition of “Montage Interdit” (forbidden editing), as a modus operandi to build an archive that finds, in the rejection of a univocal order and in its constant reorganization, its reason for being. The choice of Godard is obviously not accidental, but allows Sivan to carry out in parallel both a political commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian situation, on the role that it played in European culture, religions, ideologies – a theme that Sivan deals with in all of his production – and a theoretical discourse on the role of film and the use of images.
With Ici et Ailleurs, a movie produced in 1976 with material filmed five years earlier, during a stay in Palestine, Godard openly takes position on the Palestinian Question using the editing in a highly provocative way. All the political, complex and radical work of the French filmmaker offers Sivan research material, to which the artist adds many interviews, opinions, comments, building a system of notes and quotes that coexist on the same level with the text to which they refer. This multilinearity, negating both the order of the archive and the accumulation of the database, allows the user to put two or more fragments in relation to each other, creating an interaction that cannot be predetermined in any way.
Godard also provides Sivan with an opportunity to formalize his theoretical reflections. Notre Musique (2004) collects the recordings of some lectures on cinema where French director uses the idea of field and reverse shot in order to define the contrast between fiction and documentary, narrative and reality. The process of constant control that follows is an essential tool for Sivan to releasing the story from a single interpretation, and to revealing the role of cinema and images in the invention of “the other”. A complex process, made possible by the tool of editing, which allows juxtaposition of images – at first seemingly univocal but concretely antithetical, making them react with each other as to produce a new image. This is the case of the poster for the famous film from 1960 Exodus, to which Sivan pairs a photo of the harbor of Jaffa crowded by Palestinians leaving for their exile in Lebanon, in 1948. Two opposite events which are interpreted through the dominant iconographic reference, that prevents to wonder about the true nature of the events represented.
For Sivan the issue of the viewer’s redemption from narratives’ univocity has a solution not in the formulation of new answers to the topic presented, but rather in the process of rephrasing questions. And through Montage Interdit Sivan allows the audience freedom to question images, to build with them new narratives and to appropriate the editing device, otherwise forbidden.
Silvia Simoncelli is graduated in Aesthetics at the University of Milan and she has got a MA in Curatorial Studies at the ZHdK, Zurich, where she works as a lecturer since 2011. He teaches at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts of Milan and Naba, where she is course leader of the Advanced Course in Contemporary Art Markets. As curator, has realised projects for the Winterthur Kurzfilmtage, Wascherei Kunstverein at Zurigo and the Kunsthalle Sao Paulo. She currently works with Dencity in Milan for a series of public art projects.