The death of Jean Louis Schefer, writer, art critic and film theorist

The death of Jean Louis Schefer, writer, art critic and film theorist

The disappearance of the writer, art critic and film theorist Jean Louis Schefer deprives the world of images of a singular, independent and profound perspective. Died on June 7, in Paris, at the age of 83 (he was born in this same city on December 7, 1938), the author of Skeletons and other fantasies (POL, 2016, his latest book) had the ability to relaunch thought in new directions, drawing his readers into his often dazzling, assertive, daring writing.

In dialogue with structuralism, psychoanalysis, philosophy and the history of art, marked by his meeting with Roland Barthes at the age of 19 and author of a thesis under his supervision on “The figurative writings” , Jean Louis Schefer gave up his teaching duties at the University of Vincennes in 1978 in order to devote himself to writing. He will publish about thirty books. Whether they relate to literature, painting, parietal art or cinema, his books are driven by a desire to get out of the interpretive frameworks that too quickly scrutinize the experience of images.

He refused the position of the specialist and, instead of reducing images to signifying structures, language games, projections of a preconstituted imagination or more or less faithful representations of reality, Jean Louis Schefer preferred, as an amazed scholar, make their enigma resonate in us. “Since I started working I don’t know, or less and less, what a figure is; what motivates it, what its use is. Nor what is its place in the set of symbolic instruments of a culture.he wrote in Paleolithic Art Matters (POL, 1999). He observed: “Images are the most mobile terms and the most susceptible to mutations. » In this historical process of metamorphosis, the plasticity of the images was for him, in the final analysis, that of the humanity which looks at them.

“An Experimental Night”

This thought of the image manifests itself brilliantly with regard to the cinema. In The Ordinary Man of Cinema (Cahiers du cinema/Gallimard, 1980), one of his most widely read books, he makes himself the paradoxical theoretician of a cinematographic experience that does not need theory. It is in fact not a question of producing a meta-discourse on cinematographic language nor of making an analysis, no more than a psychoanalysis, of the images, but of writing from the experience of the ordinary spectator. Because the cinema immerses the spectator above all in “an experimental night” where an avalanche of affects crosses it. The image on the screen must therefore be considered in the existential conditions of its experience, including through the body of the spectator, who appears as “the realized latency of the image”.

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