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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Archive as history : Godard, Géricault, Hirschhorn and the Costa Concordia O'Brien, Jeffrey Patrick


Opening to mixed reviews at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010, Jean-Luc Godard’s “Film Socialisme” explores the intertwined relationships between gold and late capitalism, nationhood and sovereignty, consolidation of wealth and austere economic policies. The 2007-2008 economic crisis and subsequent recession provoked a response from Godard and provided an imperative for the film. Employing the ocean as a metaphor for capitalism, Godard stages the first half of the film on a cruise ship. Overlooking a night-time sea of blackness and white-tipped choppy waves, the prescient narrator announces from the outer- deck, “What is opening up before us resembles an impossible story... we’re facing a sort of zero.” Portending the disaster that occurred on January 13, 2012, the ship Godard elected to film on was the doomed Costa Concordia. This thesis also resembles an impossible story, an archival collision of sorts. In considering art historian Carrie Lambert-Beatty’s notion of “parafiction”—an artistic space of examination where fiction blurs with non-fiction—the grounding of the Costa Concordia provides a metaphor for the possibility of doing history at a time of both economic crisis and catastrophe. By examining the relationship between temporality and fiction within the archive, this thesis considers how artists account for crisis through the construction of an archive that also forms the basis of a historical record. I argue that three otherwise discrete artists, Jean-Luc Godard, Thomas Hirschhorn and Théodore Géricault, provide a framework that constructs a history, one out of many possible histories, of both the Costa Concordia catastrophe of 2012 and the economic crisis—a crisis of liquidity—of 2007-2008. Through a breakdown between fact and fiction within the archive, these three artists provide a dramatic reformulation of the possibility of producing history at this moment of crisis. The archive is the point zero of history to which we must continually return.

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