Saul Bass celebration
animates Google's name in several different styles, playing on the
designer's best-known credit sequences. Photograph: Google/screen grab
Google has marked the birthday of Saul Bass with one of the search engine's
most elaborate "doodles" yet – an animated sequence based on his
designs for film title credits, film posters and corporate logos.
Bass, who died in 1996, worked with film-makers including Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese over the course of a 40-year career, approaching his commissions in the spirit of a graphic design problem to be solved. Launch the Saul Bass poster gallery ▶ Photographs: Saul Bass estate/BFI
Born into an immigrant family in New York's Bronx, he began working
on print work for film adverts in Hollywood during the 1940s. A
breakthrough came in the film industry when he was hired in 1954 by Otto
Preminger to create an innovative title sequence for the credits of the
film, Carmen Jones, which he did using an animated flaming rose. Until
the 1950s, the normal method for film credits was to present names and
titles on cards, or against an unmoving backdrop.
The following year, Bass's credit sequence for another production, The Man With the Golden Arm,
played again with a strong graphic image – white lines rearranging
themselves into a twisted arm – which was carried over into the film's
publicity, prefiguring the corporate identity approach of modern film
Bass later worked for Alfred Hitchcock on North by Northwest and Psycho, once again using his favoured lines, which morphed into a vortex of whirling spirals in the opening credits of Vertigo.
After a lull in the 1960s, he made a comeback in the 1970s. His last completed credits sequence was for Casino, which featured Robert De Niro being blasted by a car bomb through a raging inferno of Las Vegas neon in Casino.
Chris Marker's La Jetée was semi-remade by Terry Gilliam as 12 Monkeys
The essay film, a form pitched between documentary and personal reflection, exploring the subjectivity of the cinematic perspective, has now become an accepted genre. Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet,Jean-Luc Godard, Errol Morris and Michael Moore are among its main recent exponents, but Chris Marker, who has died aged 91, was credited with inventing the form.
Marker's creative use of sound, images and text in his poetic, political and philosophical documentaries made him one of the most inventive of film-makers. They looked forward to what is called "the new documentary", but also looked back to the literary essay in the tradition of Michel de Montaigne. Marker's interests lay in transitional societies – "life in the process of becoming history," as he put it. How do various cultures perceive and sustain themselves and each other in the increasingly intermingled modern world?
He was born Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve, most likely in Neuilly-sur-Seine, on the outskirts of Paris, although one source gives the place of birth as Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia – a legend that Marker did nothing to dispel. His pseudonym is said to have been taken from the Magic Marker pen.
Chris Marker, left, with Alain Resnais. The pair collaborated on the propaganda film Far from Vietnam. Photograph: Getty Images/Gamma-Keystone
Marker fought in the French Resistance and supposedly with the American armed forces during the second world war. He emerged from the Parisian Left Bank intellectual climate, coming under the influence of two postwar figures, André Malraux and André Bazin, working with the latter on the theatre section of the magazine Travail et Culture, then under the aegis of the French Communist party.
He wrote a novel, Le Coeur Net, published in 1950 and translated the following year as The Forthright Spirit; a book of criticism on the playwright and novelist Jean Giraudoux; poems and short stories; and film reviews for Cahiers du Cinéma. But it was his lucid and committed leftwing documentaries, all of which he wrote and many of which he photographed, made from 1955 to 1966, that established him as a major film-maker. It was during this period that the poet Henri Michaux proclaimed: "The Sorbonne should be razed and Chris Marker put up in its place."
"I write to you from a far-off country," begins Marker's Lettre de Sibérie (Letter from Siberia, 1958), which uses cartoons, texts and voiceover. In the film, Marker questions the objectivity of documentaries by repeating one sequence three times, each with a different commentary. Depending on the commentary, Soviet workers building a road were either "unhappy", "happy" or "noble".
The passionate and influential Cuba Si! (1961) contains two interviews with Fidel Castro. It ends with the Bay of Pigs fiasco, which took place in April 1961, during the editing of the film, which had been shot a few months previously. The anti-American tone of the ending caused the French government to ban the film until 1963, but Marker published the text and stills before then. However, this could not amply communicate the expert use of sound, image and text that makes his films so special.
Marker brought the same foreigner's eye view to bear on his own city in Le Joli Mai (1963), which he compiled from 55 hours of interviews with the people of Paris (boiled down to around two and a half hours) with a linking commentary spoken by Yves Montand (replaced by Simone Signoret in the English version). The interviews assume the form of a dialectic during which Marker's tone is often ironic and judgmental. For example, when one interviewee says he wants material success, Marker remarks that his view of life is "a trifle limited".
Marker's La Jetée (The Pier, 1962), a roughly 30-minute post-third world war story, is made up entirely of stills, except for one brief moving shot of a woman opening her eyes. This futuristic photo-novel film, semi-remade by Terry Gilliam as 12 Monkeys in 1995, abstracts cinema almost to its essence in bringing to life the story of a post-apocalyptic man obsessed with an image from his past.
Set against the backdrop of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Le Mystère Koumiko (The Koumiko Mystery, 1965) consists of a series of conversations with an attractive, French-speaking Tokyo resident named Koumiko Muraoka. Through her, and modern Tokyo, Marker is able to comment on the loss of identity in the face of globalism. Koumiko considers her own features too Japanese, while the director interprets the aesthetics of contemporary Japanese fashion as a subconscious desire to neutralise Asiatic features and erase the otherness that attracts Marker himself to the culture (and to the heroine).
In 1966, Marker set up a company, Société pour le Lancement des Oeuvres Nouvelles, to produce new work. It financed Loin du Vietnam (Far from Vietnam, 1967), a timely propaganda piece with contributions directed by Godard, Agnès Varda, Alain Resnais, Joris Ivens and Marker himself.
Le Train en Marche (The Train Rolls On, 1971) was a documentary focusing on the director Alexander Ivanovich Medvedkin, and his CineTrain of the 1930s, on which film crews travelled through the Soviet Union making documentaries. Using archive footage and photographs, Marker illustrates how the CineTrain functioned as the means by which films could include and educate the masses in Russia at the start of the revolution. More than 20 years later, after the fall of Soviet communism, Marker returned to Medvedkin in Le Tombeau d'Alexandre (The Last Bolshevik, 1992). The film is a series of video letters to Medvedkin (who died in 1989) and provides a broader, incisive meditation on the nature of reality, fiction, art, ideology and history.
Taking an even wider perspective was his 1977 film Le Fond de l'Air est Rouge (a slogan from the May 1968 protests). It was given the English title The Grin Without a Cat. Divided into two 90-minute parts, it tells the story of the New Left activist movement, from its birth as a byproduct of the Vietnam war to the CIA's ousting of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, which sounded the death knell for ideological hope. For Marker, truth is always a matter of an individual's point of view: history does not exist apart from through our personal experience and interpretation of it.
"You never know what you're filming until later," remarks one of the film's many narrators, summing up Marker's distinctive way of working both within the moment and out of it. In Sans Soleil (Sunless, 1983), a fictional cameraman (a Marker surrogate) tries to make sense of the cultural dislocation he feels in Japan, West Africa and Iceland. Using diverse images, letters, quotes and musings, Marker continued to extend the limits of the documentary, making use of new video technology and image-processing by Hayao Yamaneko, credited with special effects. The result is a film that Marker described as like "a musical composition, with recurrent themes, counterpoints and mirror-like fugues".
"I remember that month of January in Tokyo, or rather, I remember the images I filmed of the month of January in Tokyo," says the narrator. "They have substituted themselves for my memory. They are my memory … the act of remembering is not the opposite of forgetting."
Apart from the Medvedkin documentaries, Marker made further films on directors. AK (1985), profiling the location shooting of Akira Kurosawa's Ran on the slopes of Mount Fuji, included an interview with its 75-year-old director. This reverential impression of the Japanese master at work is revealing about Kurosawa's methods and his relations with his crew. Marker also uses the subject for his own brand of poetic-philosophical celluloid essay on the Japanese and on the making of a film. For the French TV programme Cinéastes de Notre Temps, Marker paid homage to Andrei Tarkovsky in Une Journée d'Andrei Arsenevitch (One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich, 2000).
In the 1990s, Marker expanded into multimedia installation work such as Zapping Zone for the Pompidou Centre. In the film Level Five (1997), he made use of the new video technology and paid homage to Resnais' films on memory and the unconscious. Gradually, a woman called Laura (named after the eponymous heroine of the Otto Preminger film) attempts to reconstruct a true historical event through information derived from a global virtual network known as Optional World Link (or Owl, a wry reference to Marker's production company Argos Films and its emblematic mascot).
That decade, Marker, always the innovator, made a CD-Rom called Immemory, composed of stills, film clips, music, text and fragments of sound. It is over 20 hours long and can be viewed in many different ways.
Throughout his career, Marker, who was notoriously secretive about his private life, was rarely interviewed or photographed, often responding to requests for his photograph with a picture of a cat – his favourite animal.
• Chris Marker (Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve), film director, born 29 July 1921; died 30 July 2012
Our ability to remember forms the basis of who we are and is a psychological trick that fascinates cognitive scientists. But how reliable are our memories?
• Don't miss your free two part guide to memory with the Guardian and Observer this weekend
Photograph: Jill Mead/Tricia de Courcy Ling
guardian.co.uk, Fri 13 Jan 2012 11.11 GMT
Memory is our past and future. To know who you are as a person, you need to have some idea of who you have been. And, for better or worse, your remembered life story is a pretty good guide to what you will do tomorrow. "Our memory is our coherence," wrote the surrealist Spanish-born film-maker, Luis Buñuel, "our reason, our feeling, even our action." Lose your memory and you lose a basic connection with who you are.
It's no surprise, then, that there is fascination with this quintessentially human ability. When I cast back to an event from my past – let's say the first time I ever swam backstroke unaided in the sea – I don't just conjure up dates and times and places (what psychologists call "semantic memory"). I do much more than that. I am somehow able to reconstruct the moment in some of its sensory detail, and relive it, as it were, from the inside. I am back there, amid the sights and sounds and seaside smells. I become a time traveller who can return to the present as soon as the demands of "now" intervene.
This is quite a trick, psychologically speaking, and it has made cognitive scientists determined to find out how it is done. The sort of memory I have described is known as "autobiographical memory", because it is about the narrative we make from the happenings of our own lives. It is distinguished from semantic memory, which is memory for facts, and other kinds of implicit long-term memory, such as your memory for complex actions such as riding a bike or playing a saxophone.
When you ask people about their memories, they often talk as though they were material possessions, enduring representations of the past to be carefully guarded and deeply cherished. But this view of memory is quite wrong. Memories are not filed away in the brain like so many video cassettes, to be slotted in and played when it's time to recall the past. Sci-fi and fantasy fictions might try to persuade us otherwise, but memories are not discrete entities that can be taken out of one person's head, Dumbledore-style, and distilled for someone else's viewing. They are mental reconstructions, nifty multimedia collages of how things were, that are shaped by how things are now. Autobiographical memories are stitched together as and when they are needed from information stored in many different neural systems. That makes them curiously susceptible to distortion, and often not nearly as reliable as we would like.
We know this from many different sources of evidence. Psychologists have conducted studies on eyewitness testimony, for example, showing how easy it is to change someone's memories by asking misleading questions. If the experimental conditions are set up correctly, it turns out to be rather simple to give people memories for events that never actually happened. These recollections can often be very vivid, as in the case of a study by Kim Wade at the University of Warwick. She colluded with the parents of her student participants to get photos from the undergraduates' childhoods, and to ascertain whether certain events, such as a ride in a hot-air balloon, had ever happened. She then doctored some of the images to show the participant's childhood face in one of these never-experienced contexts, such as the basket of a hot-air balloon in flight. Two weeks after they were shown the pictures, about half of the participants "remembered" the childhood balloon ride, producing some strikingly vivid descriptions, and many showed surprise when they heard that the event had never occurred. In the realms of memory, the fact that it is vivid doesn't guarantee that it really happened.
Even highly emotional memories are susceptible to distortion. The term "flashbulb memory" describes those exceptionally vivid memories of momentous events that seem burned in by the fierce emotions they invoke. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, a consortium of researchers mobilised to gather people's stories about how they heard the news. When followed up three years later, almost half of the testimonies had changed in at least one key detail. For example, people would remember hearing the news from the TV, when actually they initially told the researchers that they had heard it through word of mouth.
What accounts for this unreliability? One factor must be that remembering is always re-remembering. If I think back to how I heard the awful news about 9/11 (climbing out of a swimming pool in Spain), I know that I am not remembering the event so much as my last act of remembering it. Like a game of Chinese whispers, any small error is likely to be propagated along the chain of remembering. The sensory impressions that I took from the event are likely to be stored quite accurately. It is the assembly – the resulting edit – that might not bear much resemblance to how things actually were.
When we look at how memories are constructed by the brain, the unreliability of memory makes perfect sense. In storyboarding an autobiographical memory, the brain combines fragments of sensory memory with a more abstract knowledge about events, and reassembles them according to the demands of the present. The memory researcher Martin Conway has described how two forces go head to head in remembering. The force of correspondence tries to keep memory true to what actually happened, while the force of coherence ensures that the emerging story fits in with the needs of the self, which often involves portraying the ego in the best possible light.
One of the most interesting writers on memory, Virginia Woolf, shows this process in action. In her autobiographical essay, A Sketch of the Past, she tells us that one of her earliest memories is of the pattern of flowers on her mother's dress, seen close-up as she rested on her lap during a train journey to St Ives. She initially links the memory to the outward journey to Cornwall, noting that it is convenient to do so because it points to what was actually her earliest memory: lying in bed in her St Ives nursery listening to the sound of the sea. But Woolf also acknowledges an inconvenient fact. The quality of the light in the carriage suggests that it is evening, making it more likely that the event happened on the journey back from St Ives to London. The force of correspondence makes her want to stick to the facts; the force of coherence wants to tell a good story.
How many more of our memories are a story to suit the self? There can be no doubt that our current emotions and beliefs shape the memories that we create. It is hard to remember the political beliefs of our pasts, for example, when so much has changed in the world and in ourselves. How many of us can accurately recall the euphoria at Tony Blair's election in 1997? When our present-day emotions change, so do our memories. Julian Barnes describes this beautifully in his Booker-winning The Sense of an Ending, when a shift in his protagonist Tony's feelings towards his former lover's parents unlocks new memories of their relationship. "But what if, even at a late stage, your emotions relating to those long-ago events and people change? … I don't know if there's a scientific explanation for this … All I can say is that it happened, and that it astonished me."
Of all the memories we cherish, those from childhood are possibly the most special. Few of us will have reliable memories from before three or four years of age, and recollections from before that time need to be treated with scepticism. When you think about the special cognitive tricks involved in autobiographical memory, it's perhaps no surprise that it takes a while for children to start doing it right. Many factors seem to be critical in children's emergence from childhood amnesia, including language and narrative abilities. When we are able to encode our experience in words, it becomes much easier to put it together into a memory. Intriguingly, though, the boundary of childhood amnesia shifts as you get closer to it. As a couple of recent studies have shown, if you ask children about what they remember from infancy, they remember quite a bit further back than they are likely to do as adults.
There are implications to the unreliability of childhood memories. A recent report commissioned by the British Psychological Society warned professionals working in the legal system not to accept early memories (dating from before the age of three) without corroborating evidence. One particular difficulty with early memories is their susceptibility to contamination by visual images, such as photographs and video. I'm sure that several of my childhood memories are actually memories of seeing myself in photos. When we look back into the past, we are always doing so through a prism of intervening selves. That makes it all the more important for psychologists studying memory to look for confirming evidence when asking people to recall their pasts.
And yet these untrustworthy memories are among the most cherished we have. Memories of childhood are often made out to have a particular kind of authenticity; we think they must be pure because we were cognitively so simple back then. We don't associate the slipperiness of memory with the guilelessness of youth. When you read descriptions of people's very early memories, you see that they often function as myths of creation. Your first memory is special because it represents the point when you started being who you are. In Woolf's case, that moment in her bed in the St Ives nursery was the moment she became a conscious being. "If life has a base that it stands upon," she wrote, "if it is a bowl that one fills and fills and fills – then my bowl without a doubt stands upon this memory."
What should we do about this troublesome mental function? For one thing, I don't think we should stop valuing it. Memory can lead us astray, but then it is a machine with many moving parts, and consequently many things that can go awry. Perhaps even that is the wrong way of looking at it. The great pioneer of memory research, Daniel Schacter, has argued that, even when it is failing, memory is doing exactly the thing it is supposed to do. And that purpose is as much about looking into the future as it is about looking into the past. There is only a limited evolutionary advantage in being able to reminisce about what happened to you, but there is a huge payoff in being able to use that information to work out what is going to happen next. Similar neural systems seem to underpin past-related and future-related thinking. Memory is endlessly creative, and at one level it functions just as imagination does.
That's how I think we should value memory: as a means for endlessly rewriting the self. It's important not to push the analogy with storytelling too far, but it's a valuable one. Writing about her novel, Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel has explained how she brought the protagonist Thomas Cromwell alive for the reader by giving him vivid memories. When writers create imaginary memories for their characters, they do a similar kind of thing to what we all do when we make a memory. They weave together bits of their own personal experience, emotions and sensory impressions and the minutiae of specific contexts, and tailor them into a story by hanging them on to a framework of historical fact. They do all that while making them fit the needs of the narrative, serving the story as much as they serve truth.
To emphasise its narrative nature is not to undermine memory's value. It is simply to be realistic about this everyday psychological miracle. If we can be more honest about memory's quirks, we can get along with it better. When I think back to my first attempt at solo swimming, it doesn't bother me that I have probably got some of the details wrong. It might be a fiction, but it's my fiction, and I treasure it. Memory is like that. It makes storytellers of us all.
• Charles Fernyhough is a writer and psychologist. His book on autobiographical memory, Pieces of Light: How we Imagine the Past and Remember the Future, is published by Profile Books in July. You can pre-order it here. He is the author of The Baby in the Mirror (Granta), a reader in psychology at Durham University and a faculty member of the School of Life. You can follow him on Twitter at @cfernyhough
My friend, a big fan of Nick Knight, was showing me a series of videos the latter created for different fashion designers and bands. Below are videos he created for Massive Attack and for different Alexander McQueen fashion shows.
The beautiful 'Chicago Boys' band and study group, in a concert at the Serpentine Gallery in March 2012, showed us this inspiring video of Milton Friedman that was broadcasted as part of the concert and their research.
This is a video of the Chicago Boys project "While we were singing, they were dreaming" performing in 2010.
The article pasted below could be found on the following link: http://gu.com/p/3xj66 Relatively an old article, but I keep on referring to Jonathan Jones's vast knowledge that he uses in the right moments, and most importantly his generosity in the criticism field.
The meaning of 9/11's most controversial photo
Thomas Hoepker's photo of New Yorkers apparently relaxing as the twin towers smoulder says much about history and memory
• See here for Framing the debate on the death of Gaddafi
Thomas Hoepker chose not to publish this photograph in a book about 9/11. Photograph: Thomas Hoepker/Magnum
In the photograph Thomas Hoepker took on 11 September 2001, a group of New Yorkers sit chatting in the sun in a park in Brooklyn. Behind them, across brilliant blue water, in an azure sky, a terrible cloud of smoke and dust rises above lower Manhattan from the place where two towers were struck by hijacked airliners this same morning and have collapsed, killing, by fire, smoke, falling or jumping or crushing and tearing and fragmentation in the buildings' final fall, nearly 3,000 people.
Ten years on, this is becoming one of the iconic photographs of 9/11, yet its history is strange and tortuous. Hoepker, a senior figure in the renowned Magnum photographers' co-operative, chose not to publish it in 2001 and to exclude it from a book of Magnum pictures of that horribly unequalled day. Only in 2006, on the fifth anniversary of the attacks, did it appear in a book, and then it caused instant controversy. The critic and columnist Frank Rich wrote about it in the New York Times. He saw in this undeniably troubling picture an allegory of America's failure to learn any deep lessons from that tragic day, to change or reform as a nation: "The young people in Mr Hoepker's photo aren't necessarily callous. They're just American."
In other words, a country that believes in moving on they have already moved on, enjoying the sun in spite of the scene of mass carnage that scars the fine day. Indeed, I can't help thinking the five apparently unmoved New Yorkers resemble the characters in the famous 1990s television comedy Seinfeld, who in the show's final episode are convicted under a Good Samaritan law of failing to care about others.
Rich's view of the picture was instantly disputed. Walter Sipser, identifying himself as the guy in shades at the right of the picture, said he and his girlfriend, apparently sunbathing on a wall, were in fact "in a profound state of shock and disbelief". Hoepker, they both complained, had photographed them without permission in a way that misrepresented their feelings and behaviour.
Well, you can't photograph a feeling. But another five years on since it surfaced in 2006, it seems pointless to argue about the morality of the people in the picture, or of the photographer, or his decision to withhold the picture from publication. It is now established as one of the defining photographs of that day – with the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Centre's destruction approaching, the Observer Review republished it this August as the 9/11 photograph.
It is the only photograph of that day to assert the art of the photographer: among hundreds of devastating pictures, by amateurs as well as professionals, that horrify and transfix us because they record the details of a crime that outstripped imagination – even Osama bin Laden dared not expect such a result – this one stands out as a more ironic, distanced, and therefore artful, image. Perhaps the real reason Hoepker sat on it at the time was because it would be egotistical to assert his own cunning as an artist in the midst of mass slaughter.
Today, the meaning of this photograph has nothing to do with judging individuals. It has become a picture about history, and about memory. As an image of a cataclysmic historical moment it captures something that is true of all historical moments: life does not stop dead because a battle or an act of terror is happening nearby. Artists and writers have told this truth down the ages. In his painting The Fall of Icarus, the Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel depicts a peasant ploughing on as a boy falls to his death in the sea beyond: it is a very similar observation to Hoepker's. WH Auden's lines on this painting in his poem Musée des Beaux Arts apply perfectly to the photograph: "In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster …"
Stendhal similarly captures the dissonance of history in his novel The Charterhouse of Parma. A young man volunteers to fight for Napoleon at Waterloo, but instead of a defining moment of courage all he experiences are random, marginal, meaningless accidents on the edges of the great day.
History is not a heroic story, nor memory a block of marble inscribed with imperishable words of grief and rage. As Tony Blair – whose own response to this act of inhuman cruelty was to have such historic consequences – says of that day in his book A Journey, "It is amazing how quickly shock is absorbed and the natural rhythm of the human spirit reasserts itself … We remember, but not as we felt at that moment."
Personally I remember the shock of that moment perfectly. I have nightmares about it, which is strange, considering I am not an American and witnessed it only on television in Hackney, London. But I had come to love New York deeply and it felt like – it was – an attack on everything I held dear. Yet arguments about the meaning and, urgently, the response to this colossal act of violence started immediately. For every horrific account you can read of that day a horror has been caused, either directly or indirectly, by the "war on terror" that resulted: 12,000 killed by suicide bombers in Iraq …
And so, 10 years on, the meaning of this photograph is that memories fade fast. The people in the foreground are us. We are the ones whose lives went on, touched yet untouched, separated from the heart of the tragedy by the blue water of time, which has got ever wider and more impossible to cross. A 10-year-old event belongs to history, not the present. To feel the full sorrow of it now you need to watch a documentary – and then you will switch to something lighter, either because it is painfully clear that too much blood has been spent around the world in the name of this disaster, or simply because changing channels is what humans do. The people in this photograph cannot help being alive, and showing it.