‘Comme un désir d'éternité, le show’
[Like a desire for eternity, the show]
Now that we call exhibition ‘shows’, it seemed only natural to me to build my exhibition as a show. A show isn't only a series of songs accompanied on a piano, but a performance whose sophisticated arrangement is meant to provoke astonishment and emotion in the spectator.
Here, the songs have been replaced by photographs. The gallery turns into a venue as the gallery walls become the scenic space.
Far from being truthful, a show values artifice over emotion. ‘Comme un désir d'éternité, le show’ will act the same on the spectator.
The exhibition will feature the video Oh Oui! and a series of photographs entitled Comme un désir d’Eternité [Like a desire for eternity] which takes its roots in two early works : a self-portrait from 1976 in which I applied the aesthetic codes of the 70's theatrical avant-garde which used make-up without restraint, and my film Forget me not shot in 1979. However this project's initiatory event was a portrait of myself made in 1997 by the artist Pascal le Coq on which, thanks to digital retouching, I appear wearing a wig.
Comme un désir d’éternité is imbued with the image of the Hollywood stars of the great American movies era in the twilight of their life. When, in 1950 Gloria Swanson stars in Sunset Boulevard by Billy Wilder, she hadn’t appeared on screen since 1934 ; when in 1970 Mae West stars in Myra Breckinridge by Michael Same, she’d left the cinema studios 27 years earlier. One will have to wait 8 more years to see her in her last opus Sextett by Ken Hugues (1978) in which, at 85 years old, she marries Timothy Dalton, the future James Bond, who’s 53 years younger. When Marlene Dietrich appears for the last time on a screen in 1978 (Just a Gigolo - Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo) by David Hemming, she’s 77 and has been living for the past 4 years as a recluse in her apartment 12 rue de Montaigne in Paris.
What deeply affects me in these actresses' interpretations is that when they played their parts, they knew that the game was over for them. Nevertheless, they wanted to keep the illusion a little while longer, that nothing had changed. My interest for the characters of American playwrights such as Tennessee Wiliams, William Inge or Edward Albee and the Actors Studio technique helped me embody my various characters. I had conceived my film Forget me Not as an advertisement for myself. Despite the worry its title expresses, I consider it today as a happy film because it is linked to my youth. There's less happiness in Comme un désir d'éternité as it reveals the stupefaction provoked by the realization that time has passed and that nothing will ever be as it was before.
Once the photoshoot was over, I remembered pictures I had taken in a photo booth as I was barely a teenager. When I had to strike a pose, I mimicked that of a female movie star, as I was already fascinated by them. As you would dot an ‘i’ or put the finishing touch to the creation of a perfume, I decided to include in ‘Comme un desire d'éternité, le show’ an enlargement of that involuntarily inaugural photograph.
This work wouldn’t have been possible without the precious help of Agnes Tassel, movie make-up artist.The photographs were taken using flash on Fuji film. They haven’t been retouched and were printed on Cibachrome paper by Ilford.
The youth of the dancer in Oh Oui! will highlight the drama exposed on the photographs. The emotion provoked by this video is the result of the combination of several elements one of which is the voice of the woman off-screen, looking at the dancer and expressing out loud what she thinks about ver low.
Does she know she’ll never be able to ‘get’ that young man dancing before her eyes for two reasons : first of all, because he’s on stage, and second of all because of their age difference. Is she aware of that ? Maybe she will realize it once the curtain will close on him forever. Then the game will be over as it will be for the characters pictured under the gallery’s glass roof where the hanging will highlight the most poignant and desperate photograph of the exhibition, I mean the portrait with the straw-hat which is an abyss of bewilderment. A bewilderment sublimed by the original soundtrack composed by Fabrice Ravel-Chapuis especially for the show.
Unglee, February 12, 2018.