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Night School Public Seminar 5: Okwui Enwezor, The Politics of Spectacle

Public Programs

Night School Public Seminar 5: Okwui Enwezor, The Politics of Spectacle

May 29 – 30 2008

Screening: The Case of the Grinning Cat, 2004, followed by moderated discussion with Jake Perlin, Assistant Film Curator/BAMCinematek Director: Chris Marker, Running time: 58 mins

In his newest film, The Case of the Grinning Cat, Chris Marker reflects on French and international politics, art, and culture at the start of the new millennium. In November 2001, the filmmaker became intrigued by the sudden appearance of grinning yellow cats on buildings, Metro walls, and other public surfaces, the appearance of which are a recurring theme throughout the film.

This engaging record of Marker’s cinematic peregrinations throughout the city, visually energized by his free-association montage style, chronicles strikes, demonstrations, memorials, election campaigns, celebrity scandals, international political incidents, and a seemingly endless variety of political protests (against the Iraq War, against China’s occupation of Tibet, against the government’s ban on the wearing of Muslim headscarves). The personalized commentary running throughout The Case of the Grinning Cat offers the simultaneously learned and witty reflections of the filmmaker, now in his early eighties, on both the contemporary and historical implications of these varied events and personalities.

The mysterious grinning yellow cats soon begin to appear amidst the banners and signs in some of the political demonstrations. Eventually, the creator of the grinning cats is revealed to be an art collective known as Mr. Cat, whose members are shown painting a massive representation of their mascot on the plaza in front of the Pompidou Center. The filmmaker’s own famous cat caricature soon allies with Mr. Cat, as Marker speculates on the political possibilities of such a feline association.