For the last decennia memory has become, more than ever, an important subject for academic research. From a historical, but also from a more general humane scientific viewpoint, we could speak of a ‘boom’ of scientific publications concerning the collective memory and personal processes of remembering.
The image plays an important role in the processes of remembering. We could say man is ‘marqué par une image,’ to quote from Chris Marker’s film La Jetée (1962). This image can come to us both in a three-
dimensional form (theatre) as in a two-dimensional form (film, photography & video). Marvin Calson, for example, refers to the theatre as a ‘memory machine.’ (Carlson, 2001, p. 3) All theatrical visual parameters, like actors, scenography, costumes,... have a high visual recycling quality that appeals to the spectator. (Carlson, 2001, p. 173). The visual repetition appeals resolutely to the performative capability of our collective memory. The two-dimensional images of photographs, video and film have also made concrete certain themes and figures from our imagination or characters from dramatic texts, that they seem to have been fashioned by themselves. In this manner vague images from the realm of the imagination or remembrance are recorded once and for all, and become part of our visual culture. Remember the well known photo from the Vietnam War, on which a girl, maimed by napalm, runs across a deserted road, naked and crying. The image here is a specific form of the concrete visualization of a ‘historical memory.’ (Carlson, 2001, p. 33)
It is obvious that the impact of the image on the individual and collective memory has caused a considerable increase in the amount of ‘memory studies’ within film studies. It is however remarkable that especially films in which narrative structure is used to represent a memory trauma, are being analyzed. Authors like Paul Grainge (2003) and Vivian Sobchack (1996) analyze the narrative patterns in what Joshua Hirsch calls ‘posttraumatic cinema’ (Hirsch, 2003); narrative films that deal with the ‘acting out’ and ‘working through’ (LaCapra, 1994, p. 168-203) of a collective trauma. This approach, based primarily on psychoanalytic and poststructuralist perspectives, nevertheless excludes a body of films in which the narration is not the presiding and coordinating factor. We remark a void in the study of ‘postdramatic’ films concerning the mechanics of remembrance; films in which the authority of the dramatic paradigm is renounced (Lehmann, 1991, p. 27).
In ‘postdramatic aesthetics’ the composition is longer part of a regulating, logical whole, but is characterized by decomposition, juxtaposition and fragmentation (Lehmann, 1991, p. 140). Still, this does not mean the text is completely abandoned. In contrast with the historical avant-garde at the start of the 20th century, postdramatic aesthetics do no imply a radical negation of the classical dramatic aesthetics of Aristotle, but an operation of expansion. A play or film that leaves the model of the linguistic paradigm, creates, alongside the text, space for the image as an autonomous element generating meaning that is no longer a subordinated illustration to the narration. This research project aims to investigate the status of the filmimage in a ‘visual dramaturgy’. (Lehmann 2006, p. 93)
Hans-Thies Lehmann unfolded his postdramatic aesthetics within the domain of the performance arts. Nevertheless the link with film studies is obvious. In film, for example, until the 1940’s the pure ‘abstract’, ‘poetic’ or the surrealistic film was the only alternative to the formal conventions of the film narrative, which was based on the 19th century novel. Susan Sontag describes these films as extreme ruptures away from the formal structure of prose. The ‘story’ and the ‘characters’ are indeed set aside completely in favor of an association of images. (Sontag, 2002, p. 155) In the artistic developments of the French New Wave, French poststructuralist Gilles Deleuze observes a postrepresentative aesthetics. This is akin to the postdramatic aesthetics as described by Lehmann. The Deleusian film theory and – taxonomy as formulated in his L’image- mouvement and L’image-temps offers thus a grateful bridge toward the medium of film in the proposed research program.
In this project the following inquiries will be made: 1) What is the status and the function of film in the construction of a collective memory and the personal processes of remembering? 2) What do these processes of remembering signify in the postdramatic aesthetics of film? And 3) How can we place the work of film makers Gustav Deutsch, Aleksandr Sokurov and Chris Marker – being very representative for the problems posed by this inquiry – in this complex field of tensions?