les presses du réel
excerpt
Marnie Is Not A Bunny Nor A Dummy (A Western Song)
Stéphanie Moisdon
(excerpt, p. 19)


It could be said that Marnie Weber's films seem to have fallen from the sky. Literally, to meet up with the earth, snow and water, the elements - wild, primitive nature as only the pioneers of the American West knew how to see it.
Over and above all the “objective” qualities that can be attributed to a work, there are some works that furthermore merit total “adhesion”. Anyone who does not subscribe to a universe as strange as Marnie Weber's will find it hard to understand its mechanics, to appreciate its inventions: just as the films of David Lynch require immediate identification with the characters, the landscape and his supernatural theatre.
If we do not respond to the surreal-oriented universe of Marnie Weber, to her belief in the imaginary, it is highly probable that we will not adhere totally to her project. But no doubt the age we live in has become too cynical to accept that there can still be individuals who put belief, the spirit, life above everything else to their dying day.
Every item in Marnie Weber's work, collages, music, sculptures, performances, films, is like a page torn out of her own story and the story of the wide open spaces of America, out of the private diary of a poeticized territory. A wild world that refers back to the Romantic atmosphere of the German Expressionists and the mythology of the Far West in the pictorial tradition of the 19th century. A world haunted by creatures, ventriloquists' dummies and chimera, by ghosts of young girls, the Spirit Girls, naturalized Ophelias floating on the surface of the waters and our adolescent screens.
Contrary to what the “intimist” aspect of the business might suggest, we are never in a psychological universe, but in that of pure presence to the world, as if Marnie Weber were the last woman, the last of the “primitive” artists. For her filmography has much in common with cinema in its earliest days. The quality of silence (not to say muteness), the grainy quality of the super 8, the contrasts of lights, textures, colors, the almost scorched whites of the snowy landscapes, give this constantly renewed impression of a “first time”, as if the camera were grasping a completely naked truth of the beings, outside any narrative, historical or sociological context.
Properly speaking there is no hierarchy or principle of order between Marnie Weber's various plastic and visual practices, but there is a common story linking them all. That story is the basis of a more all-embracing approach that allows her to create a sort of web, a kind of coherent and internalized system of communication. In that system the Spirit Girls communicate with other characters who have emerged from performances and collages. They are both the mediums and spirits that are reborn from these different worlds. To start with the Spirit Girls formed a musical group consisting of five teenagers who had died tragically in the 1970s and come back to earth to deliver their message of emancipation. From the first episode in 2005 (Songs that Never Die) we see the extent to which the Spirit Girls are “figures” of mediation and transgression, in the sense meant by the structuralist and folklorist Vladimir Propp. They do not define themselves for what they are, but by what they do, mysterious, irrational actions that serve to carry the story towards some other place, a different setting, different genres and narrative codes, from musical comedy to the western to the fantastic tale. Through the passing figure of the Spirit Girls, it is a question of staging a whole fantasized, fetishized, perverted universe where we witness obscure phenomena of (dis)possession and disembodiment. Phenomena that go beyond all her previous utterances when the ventriloquists' dummies of the third chapter The Sea of Silence appear in 2009, instruments via which the Spirit Girls mean to play and re-establish contact with the world.
Thus it is never a question of “reconstructing” a story, but of grasping, in the present, what could evoke older stories, fables and myths belonging to a common heritage. From Little Red Riding Hood to the magic of Esther Williams, these evocations are plentiful, with the blurring of time in which the beings travel, between the heroic years of the conquest of the West and those of the Hollywood studios, from the animal parades staged by traveling circuses to the Ziegfield Follies.
From her first collages and film essays, Marnie Weber conveyed a sort of cosmic lyricism that would develop in her later films, not hesitating to juxtapose the small and the huge, the ancient and the modern, human and animal, the trivial and the grandiose. It is this updated lyricism, influenced by the atmosphere of the 90s (a conception of culture devoid of hierarchies), that transfigures this dark, confused body of work, that is both crazy and generous.

(...)
Marnie Weber: other title



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