Coup de vent 

Conjectures on a video and its possible audience


Norbert Nowotsch

Deutsche Video-Kunst 1988-1990, Skulpturenmuseum Glaskasten, Marl


Let us assume that someone has never before seen a video by Jean-François Guiton. Let us assume that someone has never before seen a video at all, at least not an artistic video. What does he see here, what can he see at all? First of all, a spot of light, apparently produced electronically, moving like a radar searchlight in slow motion across the screen.

Can an observer , spoilt by television and clips, understand the fascination of this spot of light, sometimes flashing, sometimes moving softly through the image? Does he consider it to be electronic, magical or simply trivial?

Guiton’s tape provides an excellent starting point, as it has a phenomenological level as well as an analytically extensive one.

Even an early deciphering of the central story i.e. the famous “I see” effect as a praecox variant, dispels any boredom or disinterest: both levels are equally productive and fundamental to the very end.

But let us return to the events on the screen.

There is something scurrying surprisingly and yet sturdily through the image, conveying momentum, weight(ness) itself, but it first remains indefinable. A color joins the almost monochrome images, in fact the only one in the course of the entire video, a person clad in ”Yves-Klein” blue.

Gloves are put on, signalizing a preparation for deeds to come.

And, indeed, a second glance shows that even minimal image impressions are developing diverse aspects, the inconspicuous, flat spot of light becomes a recognizable three-dimensional form, becomes an object, a defined object, a stick, a weapon.

An image of suggestion therefore, of transcription to the object, to the purpose-built, alienated article of purely practical value. Silently it again sweeps through the picture, a battle cry, a trial blow; step by step a dramaturgy is developing…

Parallel to the images, one begins to understand the sound: heavy breathing, the gust of wind, the whistling sound of the truncheon cutting through the air, a flapping droning-sound of objects not yet identified…

And, like the wind, cries of birds and the whinnying of a horse are also indicators of tension, they tao point to the later theme, and are therefore to be understood both analytically and phenomenologically.

Calm follows movement, but it is not final, it is calm producing expectation, calm before the storm.

Radical change at the sound level, a quotation sounds: “From this hour, everyone will know that your invincibility is merely a legend.”

The exaggerated drama of the following film music develops on the calm of the succeeding images, the following image sweep thereby again gains increased effect.

Repetitive movements of the warrior, rapidly following each other, which, in their forced, almost despairing mechanics put the fighting ritual in general in question, as well as appearing rather detached from the bright elements swinging in constant rhythm, convey continuity and strength from within. 

The extensive technique of slow-motion, incidentally the only technical “finesse” used by Guiton, demands a short digression which, however, every more or less regular cinema attender or broad-minded television viewer can afford. With the aid of this trick, the actual technical reason for which was analysis, in particular the analysis of movement, then in the further course of film history frequently used to indicate special states of awareness (mainly dream, but also rapture), directors from Penn via Peckinpah to Cimino developed at the end of the sixties beginning of the seventies a new, shocking drama of dying, a contemporary variant of the dance of death. An examination of language in the real sense explicitly takes place in Gu;ton’s video in 000 places: the spoken word in Off, as a real film (sound) quotation, and ironically appearing referral to a controversial film genre, and the written word in the title, which can almost be seen as the content of the video. On the whale, as a direct translation, it suggests the temporary, epIsode-like element of the action, but points of course, at the same time, to an important visible and audible element of the video.

“Coup” additionally contains many of the essential movements of the video:

the blow, the push, the stab, also the “bang” of the climax. In the same way “vent” can be wind but also air and therefore refers to the sound variants, from the gust of wind to the gentle breeze and the breath. The “beaten air” can even be put together again at a stroke from both individual interpretations.

An important element is also the double function of the sound providing icons of tension: the whinnying horse, the bird’s cry, the howling wind: in these moments sound takes over the plot from the image, indeed, it now and then even advances ahead with the plot whilst the image “waits”. Here, among other things,the recognition is also conveyed that synchronicity of image and sound is not always the same as their identity. Back to the screen. The attack with the noise of weapons and battle cry is followed by title slow. motion picture as a follow-up, as instant replay, silent and only half as exciting: sound, so often neglected in videos, is allowed to show its strength.

“Piercing” noises accompany the images following the battle climax, they signalize damage, destruction. Calm and again continuity in sound and movement of one of the adversaries point to the victor, and only here does the solution to the puzzle clearly become shown in the image: a windmill, a struggle against the windmill. the old theme of Cervantes, of Don Quixote as the Man in Blue, and Rosinante was to be heard whinnying. Quixote’s fight against the windmills he considers to be giants is also understood as a fight against the omnipotence of technology, thus providing Guiton’s reserve in using electronic gadgets with an additional touch. But take care! One must not forget that Cervantes’ epos is also considered to be a picaresque novel, a satire of social conditions in his time.

So, who is now who? One last puzzle which will not be solved by video either. Especially films such as this one increasingly bring back video art from the accelerator boards of the animation computer or the coding rasters of the split screen controls and do not allow a reduced concern with technology appear as a spiteful inadequacy, but as a parallel path necessary for further development.


Norbert Nowotsch