The Marcel Collective (Belgium)

The Marcel Collective

The Marcel Collective is a collective of Brussels based visual artists, writers and musicians, formed to make a film of the same name and give birth to a film director of the same name. Its principal members include: Jean-Philippe Convert (1972), French born artist / film maker who is active in the fields of written art, performance and video art. His work has been exhibited at Archéologie d’un territoire, Cinemathèque française (Paris) Architectures of Survival, Outpost, Mandrake & Gallery 533 with art 2012 (Los Angeles), Unfair Project, Parachutists Foundation & The Service Garage (Amsterdam) and Urbaines Festival (Lausanne). Kosten Koper (1972), British born fine artist, filmmaker, musician, electronic music publisher, curator and events organiser who was a member of the group Diskono, which created situations and environments for the creative perception of music. He made the two-part documentary film Sad In Country (2007–2008), on the subject of Belgian art collectives, with Catherine Vertige.

Video title:

2010, 27″00′ mins

Marcel is a collective, of Brussels based visual artists, writers and musicians, formed to make a film of the same name and give birth to a film director of the same name. ‘Marcel’ is a docu-drama which charts the factual and fictional associations between three celebrated artists who gravitated around the surrealist movement in Belgium: Marcel Duchamp, Marcel Mariën and Marcel Broodthaers. A rocambolesque mise en scène, hallucinatory decor and spatiotemporal collages make the reappearance of these ghosts of surrealism possible.

‘Marcel’ takes as its point of departure a reinterpretation of Marcel Mariën’s controversial film, ‘L’imitation du cinéma’ (‘The Imitation Of Cinema’) (1959), itself a satire of the book ‘The Imitation Of Christ’ (Thomas A. Kempis, 1424). Playing on the intentionally outdated aesthetics of this historic film, Marcel critiques current cultural trends for historical reenactment and the aestheticization of documentary form, in a similar way to Mariën who based a film on a book of religious devotion from the Middle Ages to critique surrealism and bourgeois Christian society.

‘Marcel’ was shot over five days in summer 2009, within the confines of a “conventional” film shoot, with all the hierarchical constraints this implies. The cast was a blend of professional actors and amateurs from the social and artistic circles surrounding the filmmakers. Through a series of collective discussions, open screenings of work in progress it became a meditative exercise on the collective filmmaking process itself; adhering to Barbara Hammers maxim that: “collective filmmaking is like walking over dead bodies to achieve your aim, and it’s a paradox which cannot be solved.”

‘Marcel’ is a deconstruction of historical persona, which shatters an archaeological cultural experience into fragments of non-linear “faction”, making explicit the filmakers personal relationship to knowledge. At the same time, the film uses the documentary form as a tool to engage in cultural pickpocketing; Mariën himself being no stranger to deception, passing forged bank notes drawn by Magritte and financing ‘The Imitation Of Cinema’ with money he (allegedly) swindled from the company he worked for.

‘Marcel’ is a negotiated cultural looting spree which plunders archives and swipes fragments, retracing it’s steps through psycho acoustic fictional space. Markers to works of Marcel Mariën such as ‘As Famous As The Unknown Soldier’, ‘The Unfindable’ (currently resting in the window of The Seven Stars pub, London) and controversial autobiography ‘The Raft Of Memory’ are specifically placed to serve as points of narrative orientation. It utilises the worn-out cinematic tropes of film set & location shoot, classic cinematographic linearity, sound synchronization and image editing conventions, in an attempt to free itself from them. It is fiction as documentary, a narrative container which empties it’s historical contents and replaces them with living documents of the imperfect universe spinning around the filmmakers.

“There is no merit be anything, whatever it can be.” – words inscribed on the gravestone of Marcel Mariën, taken from one of his last notebooks.