A conversation with John Boskovich and others revisiting Céline's novel North (1960) and ideas of collaboration, resistance and critique


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Artistic legacies
  • Performance

Organizing Institutions



Aaron Levy, Catherine Liu

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


0% Formal - 100% Informal

Slought is pleased to announce a screening of John Boskovich's new film North to be held on October 26, 2002 at Slought. The film screening, which features Gary Indiana reading from Louis-Ferdinand Céline's 1960 novel North, will be followed by a public conversation with John Boskovich, Laurence Rickels, Catherine Liu and Gary Indiana.

"'When I asked Gary,' Boskovich writes in his director's notes, 'Why North?...He said you have to see Pierrot Le Fou to understand'... It was Godard's Pierrot Le Fou (1965) with its many references to Celine, that introduced Gary to this work. The two works, Celine's novel and Godard's film, are interrelated in many ways; Pierrot Le Fou's many references to Céline represent the revitalized interest in his work by the Left in France, who particularly, admired the later trilogy. To some extent these works also function to excuse Céline (who died in abjection in '61) for his notorious involvement in the Vichy Regime. North begins, to some extent, with the discourse that culminates in Marcel Ophul's The Sorrow and The Pity (1972), a film that collapses the popular notion held after the war and through much of the sixties that the French were a nation of resisters as opposed to collaborators during WWII.

However, the film North is not about obsolete politics; the language and political ideas in North are painfully current and have an uncanny timeliness as the film seems to anticipate and describe recent world events. Although finished in 2001 prior to September 11, it nevertheless references September 11 metaphorically. People were commenting on this at North's screening at the Silver Lake Film Festival on September 23, a little more than a week after the eleventh. Recently, Gary commented on how John Walker, "the American Taliban," can be related to Céline and to the notion of choosing the losing side.

The inter-cutting and rear screen projections throughout North are entirely taken from Pierrot Le Fou -- it's iconographic imagery attempts to recreate for the viewer the moment of reception of Celine's novel: Paris, early to mid sixties. This appropriated material offers a kind of ideological veneer. North is designed to orient the viewer to the movie screen as one would to a canvas of a painting. Therefore, when conceiving North, I envisioned two alternative ways of projection. One mode is standard, being a conventional movie theater. The other, which would constitute an installation, would be to project North in a large, flat, empty room via rear screen to exclude shadow incursion thus allowing the viewer to approach the film as one would a painting."

Download the Director's Note and Synopsis

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John S. Boskovich (1956 – 2006) was an artist, writer, filmmaker, and teacher. He received an undergraduate degree from USC, and went on to earn a MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. At CalArts, he was a student of conceptual artist John Baldessari, who became a mentor. Boskovich co-wrote and directed Without You I'm Nothing, a one-woman off-Broadway show, and also directed the subsequent 1990 film version.

As an artist, Boskovich was indebted to the Dadaists, and used found objects, photography, handwritten and typeset texts, as well as audio sources to create witty, sharp-edged, social commentary. From 1988 to 1999, he exhibited at the Rosamund Felsen Gallery in Santa Monica, CA. Boskovich originated a photographic technique that incorporated video, television and Polaroid cameras with the addition of textual elements in his mid-1990s "It" series. During the 1990s, he also taught at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles.

"I am fascinated by the film -- and find it, like the rest of your work, extremely intelligent, beautiful, enigmatic -- what I'm interested in is the particular choice of this politically compromised figure and the politically compromised scene that he describes -- you are once again hitting the right buttons in an age when notions of collaboration, resistance and critique are all highly COMPROMISED ideas, despite the best intentions of our peers to work with purity. Céline's contempt for his contemporaries' self-righteousness is something I have always admired -- and his insistence upon his contempt is ethical. All of this has to do with the way in which those of us who came of age in the eighties (you and me, etc.) have had a jaundiced view of the abuse and abandonment of the notion of the political in the art world...I think that the notions of collaboration and compromise are important to this work."
-- Catherine Liu on North (7/29/01)