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07 December 2023

“CINEMA PAPER” BY ÉRIK BULLOT: the dance of the phosphenes

Not everyone is aware of the fact that the censor of the Ministry of Culture in Iran was, for an extended period of time, a blind man. He scrutinized movies using the rest of his heightened senses, in search of any sign of “immorality”, and rarely asked his assistant for visual descriptions of the scenes. Perhaps this man called Mehdi Argani knew that what truly mattered from an image was that inaccessible through human sight. For a censor like Argani, images were just a Troyan horse concealing in its hidden compartment non-visual ideas full of power.

Considering this, calling Érik Bullot’s proposal for the Filmoteca de Catalunya —a film archive located in Catalonia, Spain— an exhibition would be inaccurate. We would actually be attending an interior movie, or even better, several interior movies, as many as attendees and set builders.


These paper movies (or movie) are arranged like a kaleidoscopic maze, focused on picture-taking rather than the pictures themselves. The spectators are encouraged to follow a free, poetic, meandering path through film-related aspects unperceivable when merely watching, as a result of the devisualization of everything that once was visual. A course with 42 collages, three worktables, and the possibility of a movie, following the extensive investigation of the possible forms of sight without vision, telepathic images, medium and hypnosis sessions, par-optic visions, the dream of extraretinal perception (why do sleepwalkers walk with such ease?), optophones, typewriters, kinetoscopes, praxinoscopes, celestographs…

As posed by the quote opening the exposition —the final quote of The Decameron (1971) directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, voiced by the director himself (who chose to appear solely in two of his movies) as the painter apprentice of Giotto—, we are entering the dream of a piece. The irony lies in the fact that in the original scene of this quote, the character is standing in front of his finished grand work wearing a paint-stained apron. Even in front of his completed work, real and visible, the artist chooses the dream, the internal image.

[Detail ] Scientific drawing by Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Neuroglia in Asta de Ammon of a man biopsied 3 hours after death (1913). 14,9 x 12,7 cm. Ramón y Cajal Legacy Collection – Ramón y Cajal Institute.

Selecting the created work would constitute just one of the branches of the tree of possibilities —quite similar to the neurons accompanying the exhibition drawn by Ramón y Cajal—. If, as Deleuze believed, cinema follows our mental and perceptive processes, the sketches by Ramón y Cajal can be seen as the instruction manual of our brain/projector engaged when imagining. Our brain (and eyes), also just a few of many images of the universe —movement we perceive as reality. And, in that sense, Bullot’s collages and Ramón y Cajal’s drawings share the same purpose: sketches, drafts, sense shields enabling the seizure of the other underground image where our thoughts, dreams, and fantasies are engraved: the filming and editing of our deepest imagination.

His film proposal Fragments pour un film imaginaire encourages image irradiation through the skin, in the shape of light waves, without any other form of mediation. Like the main character in Conte philosophic —quoted in the book Apunts de cinema, one of the possible paths to take— confining a ray of sunshine inside a shoebox; Bullot’s characters close their eyes to imagine the content of said box, like one imagines cosmogony, outer space like the caress of eyed-skin, the possibility of a visual theremin. The spectator is set as an equal to eye-closing images (eyes-images, just like ours) and thinks of a movie transferred exclusively telepathically.

The cinema dreamt by Bullot is a cinema finally free of technic censorship allowing us to make of our owned bodies, the unbound sky or our skin pores a grand obscure camera through which the image flow travels from body to body, from mind to mind, from experience to experience; always vibrant, always behind the protective border of our eyelids. A cinema that urges us to peacefully contemplate la danza de los fosfenos [the phosphene —those pulsing lights we see when closing our eyes— dance], the physical reminder that even with closed eyes, we are incapable of not seeing images.


[Detail] Roland Sabatier. Je veux faire ne pas faire un film, 1976. Ink on tracing paper mounted on paper, 21 x 29 cm. Érik Bullot Collection.

Érik Bullot’s kaleidoscope allows us to fantasize about the certainty by which all forms of vision (very well known by Mehdi Argani) lead to par-optic vision; by which all cinema becomes mental cinema; by which all movies become internal movies. Hence, every movie is unfinished, always just an attempt, half a suggestion yet to be completed, a cheat awaiting the final decision of the audience court. And, perhaps, we will choose to solely dream it, like Giotto/Pasolini’s apprentice.

[Photographs: Marta Azparren]

“Cinema Paper. Érik Bullot”
Filmoteca de Catalunya, Sala d’exposicions untill 28 January
Plaça Salvador Seguí, 1 – 9,  08001 Barcelona

Marta Azparren is a non-visual artist. She moves between experimental/expanded cinema, living arts and drawing (and between Barcelona and Madrid). Her work is usually concerned with artistic activity, attending to the connections between creator, spectator, work and the internal machinery of mediation, production and exhibition. Her gaze is also directed towards the non-visual in the visual, what is discarded, what does not happen. She has recently published the essay «Blind Cinema. Stop the flow of images» about monochrome cinema and images without images.

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