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October 11, 2007

Eniaios IV "Nefeli Photos" Reel 2, 2004

Gregory Markopoulos's self-contained excerpt, Eniaios IV "Nefeli Photos" Reel 2, a fragment from his legendary, 80 hour, twenty-two cycle magnum opus, Eniaios is something of an alchemic composition of disparate, often contrasting images that conflate towards a dense singularity that no longer resembles its elemental forms - a vibrant, enigmatic, and sublime meditation on architectural landscape as both matter and space, saturation and void, where ecstasy exists as both a state of tactile intensity and profound spirituality. A composition in black where slivers of inanimate images occupying no more than a third of the screen at any given time (but made more focal by the framing of the dark margins) intermittently appear in repeating and overlapping arrhythmic cycles, the film is, in a sense, as much about the anticipation of the images as it is about the relation - and transcendent progression - of the images themselves: the light-streamed doorway of a villa that frames a clear blue Mediterranean sky with its deep toned wooden arch, the evocation of the rich colors of the villa in the translucency of a stained glass window, the kaleidoscopic fragmentation of the stain glass that is repeated in the mosaic pattern of Byzantine art, the flatness of Byzantine art that is reflected in the religious iconography of a church's medieval architecture. By limiting the visibility of the images into fleeting, but intense bursts of "activity", Markopoulos redefines the relationship between still life and motion picture, transforming the very nature of the images themselves in such a way that a photograph is no longer an absolute, historical reproduction of geometric and aesthetic details, but an architectural impression in an interactive and vital living consciousness.

Posted by acquarello on Oct 11, 2007 | | Filed under 2007, Views from the Avant-Garde

Comments

Not sure how useful this will be for viewing the film in its current, final form, since Markopoulos seemed to want to put as much distance between the original films and their Eniaios forms as possible, and Robert Beavers has also said that a knowledge of the original films is by no means necessary to the experience of the new. But here goes anyway:

The film out of which this section was edited, titled Bliss, was made in one day, shooting on two rolls of 16mm. Markopoulos would shoot rhythmic bursts of frames, usually with the lens partially covered. When he reached the end of the roll, he would rewind the film, and do the same again, with a different rhythm and a different framing. What started out as stripes of image eventually gave way to a gorgeous kaleidoscopic montage of the small church of which a portrait was being taken. A second roll was also shot in a similar manner, and in between the two rolls was spliced black leader, with the sounds of either birds or bells (I can't remember now; only saw Bliss once).

The new work (or re-work, as it were) is very much, as you've written, a composition on black; black leader has been placed between the once-dense images, so they come in revelatory flashes at intervals.

I saw the first 10 hours or so of Eniaios several years ago at its premiere in Lyssaraia, Greece. This, however, is the first time that I've seen the original film a section is based on; not sure if it was a help or not. Though it may initially be hard to parse, there is actually a very systematic rhythm to the images; by counting the duration of the blacks, it becomes possible to accurately predict many of the images. I'm pretty sure that this "counting game" of sorts isn't how Markopoulos would have wanted people to view his work, but it's an incredibly helpful tool in trying to get a handle on the overall structure of the work, which is one of the most difficult films I've seen.

Also, the white flash frames at the beginning and end of the piece are significant, though I'm still not entirely sure how; as far as I know, they act as titles, and they show up in relatively complex patterns in other parts of the Eniaios Cycle, particularly the dedications at the beginning.

I will say this, however. Having seen the beginning of the Eniaios Cycle and been initially quite resistant to much of what was going on, I find myself now, several years on, very grateful for the opportunity to see more. It was almost a comforting experience, though it's hard for me to explain why.

Posted by: Jason on Oct 12, 2007 11:54 AM | Permalink

Fascinating! Thanks for taking the time to write these notes out, Jason. Those flashes were actually what made me think that the bursts of images were arrhythmic, because they seemed to be like lightning strikes where there's only that brief burst immediately before the secondary burst(s) that you're "mentally cued" to anticipate that secondary image (within varying durations). But when that cuing, first burst happens, I couldn't tell. It doesn't seem to be a constant equation, like every few seconds, but I guess that's where the variations come in...with the way the rewound frames were being double and triple exposed. The kaleidoscope effect on this one was really quite beautiful, especially with the stained glass. I was seeing that in relation to the halo of the Byzantine figures which is what was making me think that there way some spiritual context about the whole experience.

Incidentally, didn't Beavers say he was also handing out information for the full Eniaios cycle playing "somewhere"? I didn't get a chance to grab a pamphlet from him, but it would be interesting to see where it would be projected.

Posted by: acquarello on Oct 12, 2007 8:36 PM | Permalink

There is a definite spiritual context here, and even though this part of Eniaios is a portrait of a small Orthodox church, I think the context is less Christian than ancient Greek. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the film is seeing through the obvious Christian context back to the ancient religion.

In the discussion that accompanied the Eniaios screening in 2004, one of the prominent names that was repeatedly mentioned was that of the Greek demigod Asklepios, who was the god of healing and medicine. In ancient times, patients would come to Asklepian temples for healing; they would then sleep overnight at the temple, and dream; these dreams were supposed to have either a diagnostic or healing power.

As I mentioned in the above post, the Eniaios screenings were held outside of the village of Lyssaraia, Greece, which is the birthplace of Markopoulos' father. The screenings took place outdoors from about 10 PM to 3 AM over the course of three nights; it was in many ways an Asklepian ritual, with cinema filling the role of dream.

Eniaios is about 80 hours long, comprised of 22 cycles (I think), and although it is a finished work, it hasn't been fully printed yet due to lack of funding. Cycles 3-5 will be premiering at the same site in Greece next summer. There's more info on this at:

http://www.the-temenos.org/events.htm

Also, to show you how truly isolated this location is, I think it's located around these coordinates (as best as I can tell). Punch them into Google Maps, and you'll be able to get a sense of where this site is located.

+37° 39' 48.63", +21° 55' 25.75"

Hope this helps, or at least is interesting. It's a fascinating, incredibly ambitious project.

Posted by: Jason on Oct 15, 2007 4:52 PM | Permalink

Ah, thanks Jason. I somehow had it in my head (perhaps more like wishful thinking, I suppose) that there would be a screening of the whole cycle like in Anthology or something. You're right of course about Markopoulos wanting the films to be screened in their natural landscape. But boy, that is pretty remote; it looks like it's on a separate land mass from Athens, with only one road that goes anywhere near there.

Posted by: acquarello on Oct 15, 2007 7:20 PM | Permalink


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