Matthias Muller’s Home Stories


In Matthias Muller’s found-footage collage film, Home Stories, Lana Turner, Doris Day, Tippi Hedren and other Hollywood icons are isolated from the context of their films and choreographed into ‘a twitching dance of compulsive and ineffective gestures’. As in Douglas Gordon’s slow-motion looped footage of hysterical or shell-shocked gestures, the women’s movements are spectral; simultaneously frightening and pathetic.
Taken away from their original climactic, melodramatic contexts, the gestures’ veracity is undermined. The original context, however, is not entirely erased. Underneath Muller’s copy exist layers of older material, and each gesture is an allegory comprising its current self and its former, cinematic version. 
Like Benjamin’s ruin, found-footage film is a palimpsest; it ‘plays on a collective cinematic memory’. ‘What had appeared to be genuine signs of suffering and pain are revealed as merely the recognised gestures of a certain sort of Hollywood genre movie’ that depends on conventions of plot, music and continuity editing. 
'Traces of past lives are inscribed in the film material itself', as they would be in a ruined house with layers of wall paper and worn steps. The film’s faded Technicolour and scratched black and white surfaces are the marks of time, and so even although the images of Lana Turner and Doris Day are 'ageless, arrested', the film is 'a tissue of quotations’, to quote Barthes; a tissue of former and latter incarnations.
Barthes’ text 'The Death of the Author' is in some senses illustrated by Muller’s film. Barthes emphasises the role of the reader in bringing associations and subjective readings to the text. The author, on the other hand, becomes relegated to transmitter or assembler of language that already exists. Language comes before the author, and Barthes suggests that  texts be read mindful of their layered structures. The text is ‘this’ now (for example, Home Stories, as it is now) but was something else then (the original Doris Day or Lana Turner films). Without this kind of ‘open’ reading of a text or film, it becomes closed and limited. With it, on the other hand, not only is the reading of the text endless but also open to revision in an infinite number of future reincarnations. For artists, of course, this way of thinking is an open invitation to find, assemble and make anew. 




quotes from 
Reynolds, L (2002) Altered States: Thoughts on the Transformation of Meanings in Found Footage Film  
Barthes, R (1977) 'The Death of the Author' in Image, Music, Text