Cinema of the Body

Katerina Thomadaki dans L'Enfant qui a pissé des paillettes

There are two quite distinct periods in the evolution of our work: that of the Tétralogie Corporelle (Double Labyrinthe, 1976, L'Enfant qui a pissé des paillettes, 1977, Soma, 1978, Arteria Magna in dolore laterali, 1979), to which Ouverture, and Double Labyrinthe X Double Labyrinthe, 1977 also belong; and that of the Cycle of the Unheimlich (Unheimlich I: Dialogue secret, 1977-79, Unheimlich II: Astarti, 1979-80).

During the first period, our field of engagement was with identity and interpersonal relationship: it is the woman/self that is questioned, meditated upon, put into images. Double Labyrinthe appears as the matrix for all the themes and all the approaches which we developed together subsequently; our first glance at ourselves, the first opening into self-representation as pursuit of identity, as the taking of possession of our own image.

Self-representation is double: one looks at oneself, and at the same time one looks at another, and, one after the other, the "I" and the Other usurp the space in which we express ourselves, in which we perceive. To pass in front of, and behind, the lens - this eye, open to the world - is to destroy the classic dichotomies of subject/object, acting/transcribing, seeing/being seen.

From this flux, from this double stimulation of glances, this interlacing of two bodies and two imaginaries, there emerged the language of the intercorporeal, a language which we have not ceased to explore since.

Double Labyrinthe is also the moment in which the unconscious first makes itself tangible. It is a completely silent film, as Ouverture, Arteria Magna, Dialogue secret and Astarti were to be, silent as dreams.

Ouverture is a film without film, a live action, which itself presents the basic elements of our cinematic apparatus. With L'Enfant qui a pissé des paillettes we tackle the themes of childhood, desire, and female sexuality. Je(u): une enfance funèbre is the first part, the beginning of a development which leads towards birth, through an acting out of death, among the ambiguous couplings mother/daughter, girl/doll, culminating in the explosion of re-birth, through the encounter with the Other/woman.

The resonance of the image of the female body, in the mind and in the senses, its diffuse erogeneity, forms a pivotal theme in Soma.

After having explored the libidinal body, we touch, in Arteria Magna in dolore laterali, upon the subject of suffering, or, to be more exact, that of a whole body in confrontation with a determining trauma.

Maria Klonaris dans L'Enfant qui a pissé des paillettesMaria Klonaris dans L'Enfant qui a pissé des paillettes

The Cycle de l'Unheimlich initiates a movement from woman/self toward the concept of the feminine. "One calls Unheimlich all that which ought to remain secret, hidden, and which shows itself." (Schelling).

The feminine associated with the Unheimlich evokes the reappearance of the repressed, the disconcerting, the disturbing strangeness, that "which we took to be fantasy, and which presents itself to us as real".

In the Cycle de l'Unheimlich we attempt to rediscover, to invent, the traces of a deeply rooted femininity, irreducible, in possession of itself, autonomous, and not the mirage produced in the fantasy of the male, who attempts to turn it into myth, while preserving it in a state of subordination. The feminine begins to speak as it puts itself into images. Because, in the final analysis, we are dreamers of images. In the depths of every image, we ourselves are being born.

In Dialogue secret, the feminine is either sereine or frantic, doubled and redoubled by mirrors, multiplying itself through constant disguises.

Astarti starts with a re-reading of the feminine in myth. Astarti the nocturnal, the moon-goddess archetype, emerging from a shadowy underworld, Astarti as the idea of the feminine itself, as memory, dread, and death.

With the Cycle de l'Unheimlich, other women take part, apart us: Elia Akrivou in Dialogue secret, Parvaneh Navaï in Astarti, others, in the films which will follow. What is important for us is that, within our process, they remain subjects, that they are never objectified as actresses. They are asked to bring with them their own mental universe, the structures of their own thinking, and, each time, the encounter is fascinating in its difference. The encounter, the secret dialogue, always takes place within a silent vision. In the depth of their silence, their very beings are revealed.

Elia Akrivou dans Dialogue secret

Katerina Thomadaki dans Double Labyrinthe

Our cinema has often been spoken of as a cinema in rupture. This rupture is situated on several planes, as much on the plane of statement as on that of the creative process. For us, the method of producing images is as significant as the images themselves. Our cinema is marked by our determination to create in independence, far from the constraints and the norms imposed by the industrial cinema. We work together, abolishing specialisations. We appropriate for ourselves all creative functions, at once theoretical, technical and visual. On the level of our personal relationship, it is a political process, being egalitarian, based on dialogue and the autonomy of each, within the framework of a common project.

To draw a parallel with writing, our films and film/events work not so much like novels but more like poems and essays. No fictional alibi masks the mental experience. The process is action, which is to say, decision and the moving toward action of the subjects. Imaginative and conceptual sequence substitutes itself for narrative sequence. The film becomes a continuum of signifying images, structured according to non-narrative conceptual schemas. The progression of sequences is defined not by chronological linearity, but by associative groupings/slips. The fictional persona is abolished, to the profit of the presence of the subjects, moving through the films. Identity is not presented through the mediation of a third person, but enacted by ourselves. We incarnate our mental images, moving toward a validation of signification by the body. Relationship with language is thus inscribed within the field of relationship to the body.

Maria Klonaris dans Arteria Magna


To transpose to cinema what Artaud has said of theatre: "there is a mysterious identity of essence between the principle of cinema and that of alchemy. Every true alchemist knows that the alchemical symbol is a mirage, just as cinema is a mirage."

In the perpetual spectre which is the projected image, we establish the body, our own bodies, in their materiality. The body is the raw material of our cinema. The body, subject of disguises, transformations and metamorphoses, brings about the transmutation of material into mental, and mental into material. In the space of the body the fusion of abstract and concrete consumes itself, the mental image becomes spatialised thought. It is a "philosophical state of matter", where the unconscious clothes itself in the appearances of the body, the I/within shows itself as I/outside, and the language of the body materialises the language of the unconscious.

The elaboration of gesture and posture leads us, of course, to the imaginary. The body, charged with signs, produces at the same time a manifest meaning, a latent meaning, and a hidden meaning. The features which it seizes upon (objects, make-up, jewellery, costumes, gestures, posture), lift up the mask only imperfectly: they hide in unveiling, and reveal by hiding. Artifice is that through which the body becomes inaccessible, that is to say, through which it accedes to the unconscious.

The unconscious manifests itself in the closed chamber of the mind, the silent matrix of the dream, vessel of the alchemical process. Our films are "chamber films", manifestations of the night: we always shoot in the same room, always at home, and always at night. Our only venture outside: the water of a pond at the beginning of L'Enfant qui a pissé des paillettes. The black background which effaces all environment, and which we use in our performance works, evokes the interior screen: that which is found on the other side of the mirror, inside the mind, behind closed eyelids, and which promotes introspection. The quest of alchemy, after all, is the journey into the depths of things.


The room in which we film is the first place where projection, in the analytical sense of the term, is spatialised. The body is the first material screen, where we project the rituals of our desire. It is in that other camera obscura, the cinema hall, that the screen becomes a precise object, and projection a physical act.

By handling the projectors ourselves, we create a mirror effect between projecting and projected bodies. By our presence in the room, we give a physical quality to the cinematic apparatus, demythifying the technological process which presupposes the absence, the physical effacement ot the film-makers.

In addition, the putting of the film into a box, its reduction to the status of object, following the norms of traditional projection, is radically cancelled by the significant integration of other media: video, slides, live sound through a microphone; above all the slide, the fixed image, which has a very important place in our film/performances: it is the instant, suddenly caught in the trap of duration.

The expanded screen in L'Enfant qui a pissé des paillettes, the exploded screen in Soma, the pultiple screen in Arteria Magna, the white screen, emptied of images, and refilmed, in Unheimlich I: Dialogue secret, the black screen in Astarti, the broken, torn screen in Ouverture are so many devices for the explosion of projection, both mental and cinematic.
M.K. - K.T.,  1979 
First published in Canal No. 35-36, Paris, January 1980

Translated by David Templer
Published in Undercut, the magazine from the London Filmmakers' Coop n°2, August 1981

Maria Klonaris dans Dialogue secret

All photos by Klonaris/Thomadaki unless otherwise stated
Photo 1: Katerina Thomadaki in L'Enfant qui a pissé des paillettes
Photos 2 & 3: Maria Klonaris in L'Enfant qui a pissé des paillettes
Photo 4: Elia Akrivou in Unheimlich I:Dialogue secret
Photo 5: Katerina Thomadaki in Double Labyrinthe

Photo 6: Maria Klonaris in Arteria Magna in dolore laterali
Photo 7: Maria Klonaris in Unheimlich I:Dialogue secret

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Texts and photos: copyright Maria Klonaris/Katerina Thomadaki. All rights reserved.