Leila Topic text on HRT radio 2014, Solo at G-MK Zagreb
German film production company Filmgalerie 451 is known for the production of «risky» movies, that is, films which resist common formulas or typical film genres categorization. This company has produced works by innovative German directors who became classical figures, such as Christoph Schlingensief or Heinz Emigholz. Also, they don't shy away from presenting even experimental works of the upcoming authors. Until last year, besides the production company, in Berlin there was aslo a cult movie rental facility by the same name, on the crossing of Tor and Freidrich Streets. The facility presented an earthly heaven for all the movie lovers. In a typical Berlin interior with high ceilings with intarsions, wooden stairs with elegant winding handrails made of dark oak tree, there were raws of shelves with films; from Russian experimental animation from the beginning of 20th Century, to the most recent British, Thai and Korean independent production. This place of meetings and dialogs about the art of film has vanished due to the pitiless act of gentrification of the center of Berlin, which indifferently gives its cultural goods to the highest bidder. Precisely in the video rental store Filmgalerie 451, through an accidental encounter in 2007, Canadian artist Ève K. Tremblay conceived her multimedia project Becoming Fahrenheit 451. The number 451 recalls, of course, the title of the novel by famous Sci-Fi writer Ray Bradbury- Fahrenheit 451, the elements of which have also been approprited in the film of the same title by François Truffaut.
The plot of this novel describes not that distant future in the second half of 21st Century, in which books are considered a threat to the social peace. Books and reading, described by Bradbury, lead to unrest, reflexion on the current state of affairs and consequently, to unhappy and rebellious individual. Therefore, the books have to be destroyed by specialized squads of firemen who are burning them – 451 degrees of Fahrenheit is indeed the temperature at which the book paper burns. Only the small groups of «heretics», the so-called «book people» have the mission to save the books from oblivion, in the immaterial shape- in their own minds, through the method of photographic memorization.
The finding and encounter at this Berlin video rental place has triggered the artist's recollection of Bradbury's book, which she had read many years ago. This was the beginning of her years long reflective and persistent effort of memorizing a part of Fahrenheit 451 book- a metaphorical attempt to «become a book.» Tremblay, who graduated in French literature in Montreal, and later photography, has used her knowledge and preferences for literary forms and visual arts, but also scientific texts, history of mnemonic systems and mechanisms, to create a unique ambiance consisting of video installations, photographs, essays, drawings, collages and assemblages at MK Gallery in Zagreb. “Poetical approach and philosophical contemplation have come into play with constant material experimentations;” writes the curator of the exhibition Zeljka Himbele, who lives in New York City. Furthermore, notes the curator, this ambiance is also the artist’s attempt to say goodbye to this longtime project which required such deep immersion. While viewing the exhibition, the visitor finds several motifs which don’t create chronological narration but still connect multiple elements of installation, similar to the notion of cultural memory, or to the collaged cutouts of the front pages of writings that deal less directly with this phenomenon, like the poetry collection by Osip Mandelstam, titled The Noise of Time. This writer’s wife Nadezhda Mandelstam had memorized all of his poems to prevent them from disappearance while he was imprisoned in a camp near Vladivostok, between 1934 and 1938.
Furthermore, in the artist’s collages there appears the front page of seminal book by Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memory, which describes mnemonic technics of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, as well as Renaissance thinkers who, like Giordano Bruno, linked mnemonics to the occult.
One of the outstanding motives of the installation is a letter of the artist to Ray Bradbury himself, rewritten many times. The letter is an invitation to her opening, but it also reveals, in its diaristic form, the artist’s thoughts on the whole process of developing this project, particularly its latest iteration at MK Gallery. The letter also reveals the artist’s reflections on art making, says the curator, which the artist defines as “making and comprehending with grey matter.” This obvious reference to Duchampian intellectual legacy is clearly seen in the photographs and notes placed in open suitcases arranged on the gallery’s floor. The notes to Bradbury, also the notes to herself, are spread and assembled through the whole palette of different mediums, thus creating intriguing and inviting ambiance which, finally, reminds the viewer who is prone to literature not only of the primitive, fruitless attempts of book censorship during McCarthy’s America during the 1950s (to which, in fact, Bradbury’s book refers to), but also of the most famous syntagm –manuscripts don’t burn- that came from the pen of Mikhail Bulgakov in his The Master and Margarita.
The photographs of many places reflect the process which the artist chose for memorizing different parts of the book- by linking the lines with various objects, locations and architecture from her own past, infulenced by the notion of «memory palace,» mentioned by Frances A. Yates. One group of videos and photographs show people from the artist's close surrounding, who were invited to read and memorize parts of the books they like, in almost phantasmagoric compozitions that recall the film adaptation by Truffaut. Furthermore, there are colorful and vivid memory cards that served in the whole process of memorizing Fahrenheit 451, with the images of courtyards by which Eve was passing by on a daily basis while living in a part of Brooklyn called Bushwick. The exhibition also features a copy of the book Fahrenheit 451- the artist's paper-made companion since 2007, bought at Berlin's flea market Mauer Park, with numerous marks and notes in different colors which facilitated memorizing of particular textual parts. The visitor, while thinking about the ambiance, cannot escape recalling another landmark of Berlin – a commemoriation palace on The Opera Square, which gives its honors to the books burnt in 1933. In the words of Heinrich Heine, written hundred years before the rise of Nazis: «Where the books are being burnt, soon the people will burn as well.»
The new fiction writing and theory rising star, the American of Chinese descent Tan Lin, in his piece „Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking: Airport Novel Musical Poem Painting Film Photo Hallicination Landscape“ suggest a new way of reading: non-reading, that is. reading without reading. He claims, as cited by Zoran Rosko in his essay «Ambiental literature for the ambiental life,» that the most beautiful thigns in a novel are the ones which we don't even notice thinking about. He continues that the ideal novel shouldn't be read at all, and half- ideal should be read without focus, for example, by only keeping it next to our bed or looking through it while cooking. Indeed, paradoxically, in the age of the end of reading- because, let's be reminded, an average Croat reads one book per year- we read everything; clothing, brands, ads, receipts, parking tickets,... Everything becomes text but looses its meaning while becoming an ambiance, meaningless texture of reading experience. Reading thus doesn't stimulate the growth of soul, and looses its «higher purpose» since even the concentration camp guards were supposedly reading...
More and more, reading becomes a lifestyle connected to obsessive and uncontrolled spending. Precisely because of these reasons, Eve Tremblay's project is so stimulating; in spite of not succeeding in becoming a «book woman,: she convinces us how a work of literature is a sum of multiple factors moving towards each other and becoming inseparable part of the reader's experience. By looking at Eve's copy of Fahrenheit 451, one becomes aware how a piece of literature indeed is the partner which helps us in construction of our identities, in erasing the boundaries between real and fiction, as well as our collaborator in a fight against ambiental lives in the shadow of giant TV screen, which was precisely described, in distopian way, by Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451.