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  • Writer's pictureJean-Francois Podevin


Jean-Francois Podevin's Time Machines by Colin Gardner

(continued from part-3)

"The passage from day to night when lights are switched on while it is still daylight, the forlorn cry of the swallows before night time, the footsteps of the waiter on the gravel, were all a beautiful and sad scene..."

However, over time, Podevin began to experience the reversed, mirror effect of these images: visits to France gradually began to evoke memories of California, and it became increasingly difficult to separate the two images as two distinct and separate lives. Indeed, any identification of personal identity with a concrete memory started to be called into question because the specific memories were never ‘pure’ – they were invariably composites, rife with ambivalence.

Podevin realised this when trying to recall an early childhood memory:

It was a scene that took place at the terrace of a stout looking “chalet” hotel-restaurant, at the edge of a pine forest, overlooking a lake, on the horizon of which the sun was setting. I recalled my parents, my uncle and aunts, two grandmothers, and my brother Jean-Paul sitting around a large round café table, having a parting drink, and discussing the directions to their respective way home. The situation was poignant. I was experiencing most of the people I loved in an unusual and breathtaking setting. The passage from day to night when lights are switched on while it is still daylight, the forlorn cry of the swallows before night time, the footsteps of the waiter on the gravel, were all a beautiful and sad scene, because in the following moments, day would become night and everyone would leave, following the harrowing goodbyes. From the “road side” of the building from which we exited, the deepening darkness flooded the forest revealing in the coldness of its obscurity a sense of inaccessible places, and made me fathom every kilometer that separated Paris from Lille or Valenciennes.

Although every family member who was present later recalled the incident, no one could agree on a specific time or place. It turned out that the scene had happened several times on different occasions with different connotations. In short it was a composite memory, built up from condensed and displaced elements akin to Freud’s dreamwork, but no less vivid (or real) for that. In fact, one could argue that because it was unconsciously constructed over a long period of time and represented cyclical and repetitive images/perceptions, it represented not only a profound expression of Podevin’s rite of passage from childhood to maturity, but more importantly an index of his transition from a mere ‘channeller’ of involuntary recall to a re-fashioner of memory as a creative, intuitive artist in the true Proustian sense.

It is significant that the Stochasticon images, in contrast to the flood of involuntary memories which engulfed Podevin when he tried to recall the hotel-restaurant scene, closely resemble framed photographic snapshots. In his discussion of the different types of memory in Proust, Gilles Deleuze equates this form of recollection (images as instantanés) with voluntary memory. It is an inferior form of search for lost time because unlike art, the true, transformative form of Proustian intelligence, it fails to resurrect and recapture the past directly in the dynamic, durational light of a present need and a future act (an affirmative becoming), but merely as a series of dead, ‘past-presents’, drained of both affect and action. According to Deleuze,

Voluntary memory proceeds from an actual present to a present which ‘has been,’ to something which was present and is no longer. The past of voluntary memory is therefore doubly relative: relative to the present which it has been, but also to the present with regard to which it is now past. Which is to say that this memory does not apprehend the past directly: it recomposes it with different presents.[iii][iv]

(to be continued in part-5 )

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