Kino Korrespondence

By Ken McMullen



all elements of the film or the object • Interrogate its form • Interrogate the use of time • Interrogate the use of space • Interrogate the use of text • Interrogate your own perception • Interrogate the work’s presentation • Interrogate its position • Interrogate its power • Interrogate its spell on you. • Interrogate always your preconceptions and prejudices.

IN PRAISE OF ERROR • The accidental happening offers us real chance of achieving insight • SKILL on its own produces boredom • ERROR is always unpredictable and exciting • It offers unexpected possibilities when developed and incorporated in the work • CONSCIOUSNESS comes out of our encounters with the objective world • ADAPTATION to external forces is the only way for the mind to survive • BEING came first… before thought and self-awareness • Do not be fooled by religious or mystical persuasion.

• PAINTING and SCULPTURE have no time element • The objects and the SURFACE AREA of the painting exist outside sequence and outside narrative • Painting and Sculpture can be our guide in FILMMAKING • Film is closer to these MEDIUMS than to script •All interpretive approaches to an object such as SHADOWS AND ERRORS are drawn from pre conceptions that limit the mind’s capacity to observe • Do not impose previous experience on the new work • Every work, ALL WORKS, mean a new departure, a fresh start • Don’t repeat… don’t be a bore.

REJECT THE STORY • FILM need not be narrative or linear • The linear approach to story telling is restrictive and reactionary … it strives to envelope the viewer in a child like world of predictability • Accumulative narrative form is the only truly radical form.

CONTENT is a need, a requirement for the mind of the observer • But… FORM is more PERSUASIVE • Freud suggests in The Interpretation of Dreams that LATENT content holds sway over greater areas of the mind than MANIFEST content • BEWARE of being taken in by story and story structure • We are not children and do not inhabit a child’s world • Reject formulaic story telling • Beginning, middle and end are done for… FINISHED • We do not know our beginning and we will not know our end… as for the rest… A JOURNEY • Do not kowtow to commissioning editors, producers or managers when they demand total comprehensibility before you begin.

SEARCH FOR NEW FORM • There are some works that lie on the boundary between spatial and temporal considerations • In FILM these take the form of INSTALLATIONS • In ART they may incorporate ACTION • Only if these works destroy the obvious and refuse compliance with tradition can they have validity.

• Engage with leading edge SCIENCE • Engage with PHILOSOPHICAL and POLITICAL issues

• Do not be seduced by the media
• Make your own work
• It is your SIGNATURE.  



The lead used in this work is one of the most radioactively dead materials in the world. Lead has a radioactive half-life of approximately sixteen years. The lead carries the seal of the mine in Spain where it was found. The work is effectively a ‘black hole’ to the background radiation in any environment.

Jacques Derrida outlines the
apparent impossibility of
spontaneous improvisation
suggesting that we are all subject
to the ‘prescriptions’ that we
carry in our pre-conscious and
in our deeper psychic processes.
Our attempts at improvisation are
perhaps a reflection, a mirror,
to uncharted impulses coming from
social, genetic and instinctual
forces. The work is seen in an
abrasive edited form that throws up
the impossibility of completion.

C’était un scenario très intéressant écris par Jean-Luc en personne qui a été approuve par des prêtres et des religieux afin d’obtenir l’accord de l’Eglise. Malheureusement ca n’est c’est pas passe comme cela. En faite c’est l’oppose qui c’est passe. Non pas venant de l’Eglise mais des gens. A cause de cela la situation devins très dangereuse lorsque le film fut montre dans certains pays principalement en Italie, au Brésil et en France. Nous avons eu des réactions très fortes de la part de gens extrémistes religieux bien que catholiques ils étaient très agressifs, Jean-Luc avait peur d’être un jour poignarde par des gens fous. Nous avions des gens qui priaient devant les cinémas, des gens qui lançaient de la peinture rouge sur les écrans de cinéma. C’était incroyable. Les réactions négatives s’intensifiaient au point ou le pape lui même pris position et menaça d’excommunier les producteurs et le directeur du film si le film n’était retire des salles de cinéma. Je commençais vraiment a me demander a qu’elle religion j’appartenais maintenant. Montrer des sujets religieux est une très grande agression pour certaines personnes. Le cinéma n’est pas le medium approprie pour montrer la religion. Ca vous met en danger.



FILM has been shot at twenty-four frames a second for nearly eighty years. At SLAC a radically different kind of image capture is being developed. Its purpose is to peer deep into the processes of nature. To achieve this a new kind of ‘camera’ will shoot at 15,000,000,000,000,000 frames per second.

Our understanding of LIGHT and TIME, the ingredients of motion pictures, is about to change dramatically. The question that requires consideration is where are we positioned in our approach to cinema and art on a scale which stretches from the analogue to the femto second?

Nuclear drive-in A six-minute video loop, Lumin de Lumine, transmitted by some of the most powerful projectors in the world, changed the north wall of the Torness nuclear power station in Scotland into the largest ever public art installation in Europe. Lumin de Lumine was filmed in 2000 as a collaboration with CERN scientists in the abandoned ISR tunnel of the first accelerator at CERN. It shows a young woman in a red dress swirling an electric light bulb around her head, thus creating a constantly changing image of intensity, darkness, and light.  

“The film means many things. I first wanted to illustrate the uncertainty of the quantum world, where the precise position of subatomic particles could never be known. But now, I find it a telling metaphor for the dark universe. There is very little light and we are constantly surrounded by darkness, be it dark matter or dark energy.” Dominique Pinon  


Bernard Stiegler in Guns and Poetry
... we are given a brief explanation of the importance of new data that points to the existence of the mysteriously named ‘Dark Energy’ which is the substance that is thought to make up more than 70% of the universe but of which we know almost nothing...

In 2000 McMullen brought John Berger to CERN to encounter the new physics along with technologies found there. Berger agreed but came armed with the poem Happiness by Borges. He suggested that the poem could not have been conceived before the emergence of quantum theory given the it’s reflections on Time and Synchronicity. The ensuing encounters were filmed as diary footage and finally found shape in the film Art, Poetry and Particle Physics.


… the concern was with alienation in the world’s most transitory and anonymous city.

The work set out to interrogate the materiality of film itself, questioning concepts of ‘focus’, ‘negative light’, action and motion, suggesting a future where syntheses between the different means of motion picture production, i.e. analogue and digital, could provide us with new forms and narrative possibilities.  


In 1983 a series of discussions took place with Jacques Derrida about his possible appearance in the film Ghost Dance. Derrida’s agreement to appear in the film was contingent upon the film exploring the nature of cinema itself … (playfully but nonetheless with deadly philosophical intent). Derrida was to play the scenes opposite the talented French actress Pascale Ogier. Much has been written about this sequence which became a seminal text. It is here to underscore Derrida’s proposal that cinema and psychoanalysis have a deep correspondence. What no one expected in the course of making the film was the explosion of unconscious communication that pervades the discourse.

Je voudrais vous I would like to ask you
demander une chose. Something.
Est-ce que vous croyez Do you believe in
aux fantômes? Ghosts?

Je ne sais pas. That’s
C’est une question difficile. A difficult question.
Est-ce qu’on demande First, you’re asking
d’abord un fantôme a ghost
s’il croit aux fantômes. whether he believes in ghosts.
Le cinéma est un art. The cinema is the art
fantomaschisme, si vous of ghosts, a battle
voulez, et je crois of phantoms.
que le cinema quand I think the cinema, when
on s’ennuie pas c’est ça. it is not boring …
Tout ça c’est traité, I think it has to do with
me semble-t-il …
Dans une échange entre an exchange
L’art du cinéma dans between the art of the
ce qu’il a de plus innui, cinema at its most
de plus inédit, et original, and
quelque chose de la an aspect of
psychoanalyse. psycho-analysis.
Je crois quo Ie cinéma Cinema plus
plus psychoanalyse égale psycho-analysis
science du fantôme. equals the science of ghosts

Exchange between Jacques Derrida and Pascale Ogier.

The name is Makem … Kay Makem
I lived out most of my life in a dream …
They called it motion pictures …
I emerged out of the Hollywood machine like a skinned rat …
One day in the late 80s
Something had happened …
Happened in a flash as I stepped of the sidewalk one fine sunny morning
I lost faith … There it was …
Before my foot had touched the surface of hot tarmac …
I had become a non-believer …
I began to doubt … first the values,
Then the hype … Then … myself
(2 beats)
I couldn’t write anymore; hated every script I’d worked on …
Detested the themes I was being offered.
It got worse; I found I couldn’t even think.
I see now that nobody … NOBODY … goes to Hollywood and comes out intact
Everybody is seduced.

ERICH FRIED, Guns And Poetry

Where have all the questions gone? To the scissors
What did they give us? Nothing but paper
Where has freedom gone? To the four winds
And democracy? To the dogs and to jail

GUNS + POETRY Towards a new and radical narrative structure, a synthesis of analogue and digital, a cinema of the future, and rejection of conditioning processes.

NOTES A New Film Shot In Paris / Lisbon / London 2008/9

Guns and Poetry looks at the nature and the new possibilities of cinema in the 21st century as digital developments take over from 35mm production releasing latent ‘ghosts’ and content. It expresses a kind of melancholy at the passing of the analogue age with its dream like qualities and a warning about the uses of the new advanced technologies in film and media production. The film will take a powerful position to defend qualitative cultural perspectives over commodity-orientated production. The kind that dominates so much thinking in the US, the UK, and most of the market orientated world.

A BEGINNING A Story Concept

There is a writer who has lost his belief in story telling… finding himself in limbo with only apparently random free associations to follow. Something happens… He finds an old Nagra tape recorder with some dusty ¼” tapes. The tapes play… Out comes a series of interviews all somehow connected to the inherent dangers of writing and cinema.

I found an old tape recorder…
On the tapes were a series of interviews…
Most of them had something to do with the dangers of words and cinema …
I began to fill in the gaps…
Then another story appeared in the Tribune…  

The story of one of the intellectual masters of a European revolutionary movement. He was brilliant in his economic and political analysis. He was dangerous. He cast a wide spell over a whole generation. The story was a first hand account written by one of his children. It described the strange limbo of living under the shadow of such a figure. I saw in this a re-working of the Oedipal story… a new angle… the deeper reason for the fratricide in the original Sophocles…

STORY DEVELOPMENT Who were the people and who carried out the interviews? He also hears a series of exchanges between people that he will never know or never see. One is some kind of king in exile in London. Another a political philosopher with a plan to ‘shake up’ complacency. An extraordinary tape which was some kind of surveillance of a prison visit to a political prisoner.


Location London Prison Visiting Room
Actors John Shrapnel (prisoner); Sam McMullen, SAM (visitor).

SAM They wouldn’t let me come before… I think we are all being kept under constant observation.  
Don’t keep any papers on you or in any obvious place. When things quiet down… Go back to Paris… Go back to the drama classes … Give yourself some time to get over this… And… don’t get involved in the popular uprising… The cultural economics are changing. Your chance will come.  

Each tape revealed another report… First repression in literature… Then repression in cinema. Then the economics of culture. Then the expression of radical philosophical positions. Then another surveillance tape… Was it the same prison… was the man the same?  


Location London Prison Visiting Room
Actors John Shrapnel (prisoner); Julia Fauvre (visitor).

JULIA I had made up my mind never to visit you.
JOHN Of course…
JULIA The reason I’m here is to help Sam. He partly believes your capture was somehow his fault.
JULIA He says he should have shot the cops.
JOHN He wouldn’t have stood a chance.
JULIA He spends his days reading your works. At night he is caught by the same nightmare… He helps you escape but you walk straight past him. You ignore him as you ignored us… Always politics before feelings. Politics without feelings are the politics of despair.
JOHN Politics needs action and thought… There is no room for the subjective. Poetry and Art are for feelings.
JULIA I prefer crime.
JOHN Go back to Paris… and… don’t get involved in any criminal activity. Even the kind of childish stuff you were always getting caught in. The times are changing… Your chance will come.  

OBSERVATION The dustiest tape of all had some extracts that turned out to be fragments of Shakespeare… Hadn’t Marx been infatuated with Shakespeare’s histories? Was it the voice of Karl Marx… don’t be crazy Marx wouldn’t have used a Nagra… No No No… A cassette recorder maybe, but not a Nagra or perhaps just his pen and his brain… Omnipotent… in all places at all times…  


Location Car Paris Street Night
Actors Dominique Pinon and Julia Fauvre after arrest.

JULIA Are you sure that I have to spend the night at the Palais de Justice?
DOMINIQUE You know that it is a crime against the State to lie and give false information about the monuments of Paris.
JULIA That’s bullshit… All facts are partly lies anyway. Those in power decide the facts. They tell you only what they want you to know.

OBSERVATION The tape recorder was more than just an old Nagra… It would have the power to change the world. So the writer begins to write again… amalgamating the fragmentary characters into a small group. Unifying the different tapes into a single time line. Filling in the gaps… Occasionally tearing the typed papers and arbitrarily re-positioning them. A new kind of narrative starts to emerge. A story for the future…

A CHARACTER This strange woman had a background very different from the role she was playing now. Like one of Fitzgerald’s characters she had led a charmed life on the outside. One year before she had been married to one of those anachronisms you find in certain elite circles in the major cities of the world but somehow he had managed to hold onto the secret bank accounts.  

Whilst Guns and Poetry draws on and acknowledges historic precedents from Classic European, American, and New Wave Cinema, the film points to a uniquely dynamic synthesis of form and content. Guns and Poetry is searching out its own pathway to catch sight of the new cinema that, in the words of Jacques Derrida at the beginning of the film, “… is waiting in the wings, about to emerge on stage and take us all by surprise …”.  


If we go to the cinema and I come with you and we watch the same film, we will still see two very different films. Because, as Jean-Luc Godard says so well, it is the viewer that projects the film. It’s not the projectionist. Which means that, of course, there is a projectionist who helps to project the film. But it actually provokes a mechanism that Freud calls ‘projection’ – in the psychological sense.

GEORGE HOFFMAN, close friend and agent of Henry Miller, in an interview with a literary agent…  

Monsieur Hoffman, pourquoi les mots sont ils si dangereux? Why are words so dangerous?

L’intolérance s’intensifie Les écrivains, les poètes, et beaucoup d’autres gens venant de pays beaucoup moins tolérant principalement des régîmes totalitaristes sont complètement bannis avec des menaces de mort sur leurs personnes. C’est un groupe de gens qui n’est pas ferme et qui a une façon de pensée différente, totalitariste par essence et c’est ceci qui est dangereux et qui malheureusement s’intensifie. Et un jour peut être ils reprendrons le pouvoir et le cycle entier recommencera.

Intolerance is growing, writers and poets and many people coming from much less tolerant societies are completely banned and with a threat on their life… it is groups who are not secular or belong to a different frame of mind which is totalitarian in essence and that is dangerous… and that is growing unfortunately. One day, maybe, they will be back in power… and then the whole cycle will start all over again.

Ken McMullen is a teacher of cinema and a Research Professor at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London.  

Available on DVD: Feature films: Ghost Dance, Zina, Partition, 1871

Documentaries: Art, Poetry and Particle Physics, Metzger

Original pages designed by Dennis Mariner,