Marker is a reclusive French filmmaker associated with the New Wave. His works have been extraordinarily important in the development of nonfiction cinema, although he is best known for his short science-fiction narrative La Jetée, a 1962 film constructed almost entirely from still photographs. Marker has embraced new media technologies ever since the introduction of videotape, and OWLS AT NOON Prelude: The Hollow Men was conceived in 2005 specifically for the Museum’s dedicated media space.
The work is generated by a computer program that creates a two-channel feed for six to twelve monitors on a simple, horizontal, eye-level plane. Every second monitor plays the same image; images alternate from each screen to its neighbor. On the soundtrack Roger Woodward plays Toru Takemitsu's 1962 piano piece "Corona." The black-and-white images include text (Marker's ruminations on T. S. Eliot’s beautiful and desperate poem The Hollow Men) and manipulations, sometimes to the point of stunning abstraction, of archival footage and photographs relating to the Great War. Marker’s nineteen-minute work is the first section of a multipart "subjective journey through the twentieth century," the "founding moment" of which —"its mint"— was, according to the artist, World War I.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art , p. 227.