Black Sun

By Gary Tarn

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In 1978 artist and film-maker Hugues de Montalembert was attacked and permanently blinded while living in New York. Black Sun (2005) is a film based on his narrative describing life and vision from a perspective twenty five years later. This selection of frames was chosen randomly by speeding the film up five thousand percent and outputting one frame per second.



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And I knew he told me something very very important to him so I boarded the plane and it happened that he was sitting next to me in the plane and we flew for something like 3 hours and we didn’t say a word. He had told me what he wanted and he didn’t want to say anything any longer.
I think that is quite interesting the fact that people because they are not seen they can say something that normally they wouldn’t.
G>there was some

Yeah, that was on Singapore airline. I was sitting there and there was this Scottish guy getting quite drunk on champagne and offering champagne and telling me how the girls in Scotland were so beautiful and was rather over the top and then he left when we landed in Singapore and I said to the hostess what a strange Scottish guy I mean does he not have red hair and so on and she said what do you mean he’s not Scottish at all he is Chinese. So he took advantage to play Scottish guy and I said well if it made him happy, why not

No. No or very mentally ill people yes sometimes it happens in the street yeah, they frighten me they start to say things to my ear, to behave rude and that frightens me a lot because I have been attacked by completely mad people it’s very disturbing but it’s very rare most of the time non no. Even if I pay a taxi in New York and I give a 100 dollars because I make a mistake they don’t take advantage of it. They tell me it’s 100 dollars put it back in your pocket you are going to be killed, yeah.

(G), you know a good lesson was in ’80 I think -82, when I decided to go to Himalayas in India, Indian Himalayas to find this friend of mine I was in love with a girl and I knew she had gone to the Himalayas and I wanted to find her so I travelled alone in Kashmir then Ladakh then Danskai which are valleys of the Himalayas and I travelled for two months alone, nothing wrong happened to me absolutely nothing on the contrary. I think there is a good lesson in it. If you find a way to dance with people to dance with life nothing wrong can happen to you. I hope I mean I have to believe in it otherwise I will be paralysed. Because I arrived  in New Delhi and at once my bag my money everything disappeared and I said well, the only thing I can do is take a plane back to New York. And in fact after one hour everything was brought back by those people but they were not talking at all and they took my hand and they dragged me through customs and so on and gave me the money back with some of it turned into rupees and so on and they put me in a taxi with three wheels because a very inexpensive taxi and when I wanted to thank them and to give little bit of money and so on they had gone. And I asked the taxi the driver of the taxi: But where are they? Who are they? And he said they are just beggars. And they were beggars living in the airport and they saw me and saw I was helpless and just took on them to do everything for me. I thought Hmmm, that’s going to be an interesting trip.

I wouldn’t say that it’s hard but it’s worthwhile and you will encounter situations which you will not in another situation it’s a different, it’s a different trip, but you cannot travel superficially or you can put yourself in an organisation but if you travel alone you will meet people in/on a very strong level of course because you are not into landscape, which still is not true because I am into landscape it’s difficult. Yes for instance I was not, I love music but was not at all into music I was too busy with my eyes. And after I started to get absolutely passionate about music. But I discovered that I did listen very little to music secondly that I was not really listening to people no I was too busy looking. And that’s probably why it wasn’t difficult for me to adapt to the situation of not seeing because my brain was so trained that automatically it was producing images all the time. So I didn’t stop to see I just had to do the job so I was (exhausting) exhausted but little by little it became less exhausting.


Images exactly like you make in a film. I make a film in my head.

G> So you see me?

Not yet. It will come

yeah it’s like billions of information who arise automatically without me thinking of it at all my brain starts to build an image.

G>And then that becomes quite clear

Then it becomes so clear. One day a friend of mine said but…how do you imagine my face? I said what do you mean? I knew you before I lost my sight and he said no and I said but have you checked but I swear I saw you. He said no you never saw me. I said is he right. So we calculated and he was right.
But I knew exactly how he was, don’t know if he looks like that.
And of I think of that trip I did in Ladakh and Himalayas and I walk in those valleys with people I would meet a merchant of apricot  or a monk or whatever and I would walk I had no idea where we going. I was just walking with them and I spent two months walking with all those people.
that’s what I did with that film in Daohme. I stayed weeks and weeks without shooting just to understand to make connection with people there.


That was before, that was in 1973 and I was freelance reporter for Italian magazines in fact and that was ’73 when it was nearly the end and it was terrible but I didn’t focus on the war itself and I did focus a lot on populations and mainly the children and among the children mainly the orphans that’s why I was interested in people who were innocent and still had to endure the consequences of such madness and I remember arriving in an orphanage in Saigon and there was something like 1,000 children playing in a courtyard with balls and in a corner there was a very beautiful little girl of around 12 years old looking ashamed not playing because she had no arms any longer they had been blown up by a mine. That...those visions that was 30 years ago are still very vividly in my mind. So in fact when I find myself in the hospital of St. Vincent in NY I remember one of the doctors said but it is very strange you don’t look so upset with this blindness and I said - well, you may die without seeing all what I have seen (increasing chuckle) till now so I didn’t feel frustrated if I had been what I was planned to be, like working in an office in a bank and something like that would have happened to me probably I would have been desperate because I would know you work in an office and you say one day I will go to see the world. No I went to see the world and I one day maybe I may be obliged to work in an office but I am seeing the world and I saw the world very well and
In fact I still go on. I still look at the world, yeah (quite quietly). Perception is different but it’s still visual for me. G> I was in Vietnam

First it was not darkness because I could see the light so even if my eyelids were closed I could see through my eyelids. I could see the light and rather strongly so it was rather like to be in a golden light all the time. Unfortunately, that perception has disappeared quite a lot. I still have in on eye a good perception of light but much less acute than at that time. Second thing at all that, the few days and few weeks after the attack I was not in the dark for one reason which at first was incredibly disturbing the brain as a reaction wanting to see images (bad pronunciation) not receiving any more perceptions through the eyes would create himself, itself very strong images vivid images to the point I would talk to you and suddenly I would see something like a vision but absolutely real to me total produced by the brain usually very very strong images very disturbing like I would see the head of a man in you know those...marble you know just a head and those two white globes eye globes in marble white and suddenly like lightning like those two white balls would dissolve in light like cracks and in fact, I was seeing the cracks in my own retina.

My brain could see those cracks and would create an image with it. Or I would have very erotic images very strong erotic images and sometimes talking with somebody it was rather disturbing because suddenly you had those very very strong erotic images and I think why erotic? I think when human being is in touch with death and I have been in touch with death because I really though to die and of course I spent 3 months lying on a bed which is not life there is absolute...there is a very strong ani-