August 21, 2013

Against Answers: On the films of Jean-Gabriel Périot

"The first reason is that I probably felt guilty to be a filmmaker, an artist, and a privileged person who doesn’t have to really work, as a worker in a factory for example. I felt guilty to not work as people in my family or around me did."

Jean-Gabriel Périot’s films are unsettling. They unsettle me. And so, as one would expect, writing about them is an unsettling experience. None of the obvious locations of critique are quite adequate in deconstructing his overall project. To frame his films merely from the perspective of genre, as “political art,” for example, would be disingenuous, because they heedlessly disregard any singular category of work. To discuss them in a plainly formalist, straightforward manner is equally tempting, as Périot obviously employs a series of highly complicated and tedious visual strategies. But to do so would not simply conceal the powerfully material affective motivations behind their careful construction, it would be to dispossess them from the highly intentional manner in which they exceed form and structure all together.

So all I am left with are questions. The second that I think I have located some motivation internal to the films themselves– the second that I believe that I have discovered an authorial point of view or perspective, the “key” to understanding his films, which is also always an act of owning, of killing art, it slips away again, leaving me vulnerable, my outstretched hand hanging dead in mid-air.

Open to air strikes, perhaps.

Jacques Rancière: “It is the political relationship that allows one to think the possibility of a political subject(ivity) [le sujet politique], not the other way around.” With this political relationship in mind, I asked Périot via email if I could share with him some of my questions. We corresponded over a two week period. We discussed his films, as well as the relationship between “work” and art, being a coward, and the bourgeois position of filmmaking.

~ Aria Alamalhodaei, artsintern@ihphilly.org