Lovely Memories


Vila do Conde, Solar Galeria de Arte cinemática

Interactive video installation for 1 TV set, 1 webcam, 1 computer screen with swing, potatoes, book and slipper.
12 video editings, from 5 sec to 31 mn 18 sec.

A generous mound of potatoes takes up a large portion of the exhibition room’s floor space. A lady’s slipper and prayer-book rest on top of the mound, in which an old, partially-buried television set can be seen. The screen displays a montage in which an extract from Frenzy shows the character of Brenda Blaney struggling to free herself from an armchair which continually sucks her in, refusing to let go.

A swing hangs from the ceiling of the room. It is positioned so as to face the television set. The visitor is invited to sit on it to watch the screen or swing over the mound of potatoes. As soon as someone swings high on the swing, Brenda’s image momentarily disappears from the screen, to be replaced by a different series of montages showing flashes of different extracts from Frenzy. A voice emerges from the television, repeating the word Lovely in different tones, often aggressive, with each repetition commenting upon, or introducing in its own way, the various extracts shown. There is also a webcam hidden among the potatoes, so as to film those swinging towards it from below. The images captured are directly relayed to a computer screen positioned in another section of the exhibition.

The piece’s key motif will strike a chord with anyone familiar with Hitchcock’s film. It quite explicitly draws from the sequence from Frenzy in which Rusk, the expert neck-tie strangler, tries to recover the tie pin that threatens to reveal his identity to the police in a lorry full of potatoes; it is found in the clutched fingers of Babs, whose corpse is hidden amongst the potatoes, leading to an unforgettable post mortem struggle between the murderer and his victim.

The piece is also formed around another important reference. The swing and lady’s slipper placed on top of the mound constitute a scarcely veiled reference to Fragonard’s The Swing (Les Hasards Heureux de l’escarpolette), a representation of which can clearly be seen hanging behind the desk where Brenda is trapped. Only the frame of the painting flashes up at the beginning of certain scenes featured in the montage, without being clearly identifiable as such.

By going to sit on the swing, the visitor becomes engaged in a process of identification. The visitor is simultaneously identified with Babs by virtue of being projected, like her, from a heap of potatoes, but also with Brenda, Rusk’s other victim, who is herself likened to Fragonard’s female figure in the film. The montage shown on the television screen also emphasises this analogy. Indeed, Brenda’s movements played around the armchair are orchestrated to mirror those she would make seating herself on the swing. Through this foreshadowing or prolonging of visitors swings over the potatoes, they cannot help but feel a sense of engagement, between the character and those experiencing the piece, thanks to a mirroring effect that reinforces their projection into the film and painting realm.

If the swing’s movements serve to recall those of the rocking-chair in June from the Tests of Time series, which already functioned to instill a sense of apprehension in visitors of their own mortality, they equally forcefully echo the highly accented travelling effects employed in Frenzy,

like the effect which precedes the corpse’s discovery in the Thames during the opening credits, or the one abandoning Babs to the mercy of her killer after she unexpectedly stumbles into his lair. In these multiple ways, the object and its suggested use within the piece transform themselves into the expression of an aggression or violence, which interact with the one introduced, in far more explicit fashion, by the generous mound of potatoes piled on the floor.

The swing also has the capacity to conjure further resemblances to films, such as the swing scene in Renoir’s A Day in the Country (Une Partie de campagne) or that in Monteiro’s Silvestre in which the young girls are subjected to acts of violence. Beyond the transformation and subsequent fall of Cinderella, the slipper may bring to visitorstxt_quote_single_close minds the memory of the dropped shoe in Marnie, which served to introduce another sexual aggression and another immersive effect.

The piece thus stages a suspended danger, a threat in which visitors can choose whether or not to imbricate themselves by running a physical risk at the very heart of the piece which creates the feeling that every cinema-goer experiences upon taking a seat in a film theatre. The ascending movement of bodies afforded by the swing also enters into direct resonance with the bubble machine used in Tide foam Portrait which expresses yet another precarious position within the series of olfactive portraits. The mound of potatoes on the floor also recalls the dispersion of bubbles into the open air occurring in the other exhibit, so as to highlight the analogy developed between the two pieces. In the case of the former portrait, the potatoes and slipper convey the idea of the fall and the inevitable disappearance that it induces, a petite mort constituting a return to the triviality of the real, reflecting the emotions that some spectators are likely to feel at the end of the film’s projection.

Like Babs corpse in the potato lorry, the body of the film itself is displayed partially swallowed up by the exhibit. The work thus emphasises the presence of a hidden dimension at the film’s heart, or indeed a tension between the seen and the unseen, which constitutes one of the principle driving force behind Fragonard’s painting.

In the scenography, the television set takes the place of the young girl’s partner, represented in front of the swing. This relationship is accentuated by the soundtrack which, through the words spoken over the montages, suggests a response to the expression of her desire as soon as the swing is set in motion. The television thus serves as a symbolic channel to the computer screen displaying the images captured by the camera. It also betrays the identity of those viewing the images to the aggressor, denouncing the voyeuristic relationship created with the other visitors. It is thus the absolute ambiguity of the spectator’s position which is denounced, one moment transfigured as a victim, the next as an accomplice to an act of violence.

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Copyright © 2016 Laurent Fiévet