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Mnogo (extract)

Color video, silent, 26’, 1 screen, size 4/3, 2002.

One after another 785 peoples are stopped for a moment to drink. A film made in Rousse in Bulgaria in tribute of Elias Canetti.

extract "François Daireaux: Names and Things"by Patrick Beurard-Valdoye

There’s a man leaning over; bowing down, you might say; motionless. Broad daylight.
Just before this: nobody; only the set-up; a fountain, but not the usual idea of a fountain, more a basic cube out of a sketch by some Constructivist—or Brancusi maybe—a low-rise cube of three worn paving stones on a paving base, with a vertical spout in the middle for the water to come through.
So the man’s there, leaning forward, legs flexed just a fraction, body forming a right angle; bent over, downturned face parallel to the square of the fountain, forearms reaching into the void. Inclined to drink, taking no notice of the other part of the set-up, even though it’s visible enough from where he is, present enough for the park bench regulars to find these goings-on more than a little strange the first day, worrying by the second, disturbing by the third, and maybe even threatening by the fifth and last, a camera on a tripod to one side, someone watching, a hand, always the same watching, the same framing with much the same shadows, the same depth of field, always the same hand, same movement, same shutter click; and the guy bending over—paying no heed to whoever’s focusing on him—has his head over the block of stone for those few moments, mouth open, taking the gush of cold water right on the palate; then he moves out of shot—the daylight’s broad but the framing’s tight—and out of the story, walking off through the park, we’ll never know anything more about this man who was there, who had ceased to be an individual at that point, as the following image shows, a man bent over, motionless, repeating the scene, repeating the same movements. No: not the same movements; repeating the scene, putting himself at the heart of the same set-up.
The actual intention is the same—inclined to drink, and drink again—but the movements aren’t, the movements are different, the way he approaches the cube, the way he opens his eyes more or less wide (i.e. more or less narcissistically), the positioning of the hands, sometimes on the belly, sometimes on the thighs or the knees—or on the edge of the fountain (when they’re not holding a woman’s bag slung back as a counterweight, or a blouse that would otherwise get soaked); then there’s the placing of the feet, legs parallel, or one foot forward, or feet apart; and the way of bending the legs, or keeping them straight and taut; a posture attuned to the need to quench one’s thirst, inventing endless tricks for neutralizing the cantilever of the torso in a uniquely elegant choreography happening here, in this place, and all this individuation, everything that differentiates one drinker from another, and makes up the narrative of Mnogo, and demonstrates that above and beyond the repetition not only of an urge but also of the set-up that captures it, the 785 participants in the procession, in the theory of drinkers, are "785 people briefly frozen in the act of drinking."
Nor should we forget that everything that takes place between two such moments of need—that extended present of which nothing is shown here—is equally part of the narrative. 785 people caught up in the horizontal unreeling of a long roll, a slide show, all of them advancing towards a single goal: 785 travelers, in the final analysis.
But these 785 people in no way constitute a crowd.
And even less are they lost in a crowd.
Yet there’s a crowd here. After all, Mnogo means "many".

We’re given a clue, and Mnogo takes on another meaning. Above all it reveals one of the—implicit—emphases of the overall agenda: the principle of reversal.
For the fountain is in a precise locality. Mnogo might be possible in Szeged or Bad Cannstadt. But here we’re in Rustschuk in Bulgaria, the "little Vienna" on the Danube where Elias Canetti was born. Mnogo is a tribute to the writer-----------------------