Paris, Institut finlandais

Video installation for 22 mobiles phones.
22 video editings from 2’57’’ to 21’36’’.

Forming a variant of the M-Helene piece, from which the images are borrowed, Irruptions is designed to work as a gallery of portraits in the form of video and stills. Bringing together a large number of images from the Tests of Time series, it unites three montage series taking inspiration from the same self-portraits by painter Helene Schjerfbeck and the same extracts from The Birds. Each series is shown across seven mobile phones hanging on wires. On the occasion of the installation’s first showing the pieces were assembled in the lobby and staircases of the Paris Institut finlandais.

Within each of the first two series, seven self-portraits convey, in the first instance, a fragmented vision of Helen Schjerfbeck’s life story. Little by little, the Alfred Hitchcock film infiltrates the piece’s very core. Through substitution effects in which the pictorial image disappears in favour of screenshots from The Birds, the film appears, sometimes in the form of flashes of increasing length (first series), sometimes as extracts of equal lengths, but alternating increasingly rapidly (second series). While the first series creates a traditional alternating system, the second holds back the process of images successively fusing together.

In the third series of montages, The Birds only continues to show through in the form of a few photograms. As if frozen in time, the film is reconciled with its pictorial origins. Schjerfbeck’s portraits appear as brief interruptions to the images, appearing hooked onto the inside of cages shared with birds. Pivoting on their own axes or brought to life by camera movements, they paradoxically appear far more mobile than the shots from the Alfred Hitchcock film with which they are associated.

Through its form, composed of a series of screens spread through the Institute’s lobby, Irruptions functions to create a re-enactment of The Birds, allowing visitors to appreciate the structuring effect provided by the various self-portraits of the Finnish artist. By inviting the sequences to communicate and respond to each other – especially in the first montage series, which uses longer extracts – the piece gains a polyphonic dimension that allows the sheer presence of Schjerfbeck’s art within the film to be felt by building up a host of echo effects.

The general scenography employed, setting out the devices in a helix stretching across several levels of the same building, recalls an hourglass or clock mechanism in which each of the telephones would constitute a cog driven to life by the movement of visitors in the staircases. Indeed, the organisation of the montages is dictated by a rhythmical logic. Running from the top downwards, the prevalence of the film extracts diminishes, whereas, in an effect reminiscent of a pair of connected vessels, Schjerfbeck’s portraits progressively become ever more violently animated. Running down the helix, Schjerfbeck’s works metamorphose from the detached images of the first series into a continuous fusion in the second, before resonating all the more in the company of the caged birds.

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Copyright © 2016 Laurent Fiévet