Stop / Italian Stop


Stop! - video still

Video installation for 2 video-projectors or 2 TV sets.
2 video editings, 32 mn 32 each (Stop) or 16 mn 03 and 19 mn 05 (Italian Stop).

This piece employs two screens positioned face to face within the exhibition space to confront two montages based on extracts from Roberto Rossellini’s 1954 film Viaggio in Italia (Journey to Italy) and Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959). This positioning allows a variety of communication and contamination effects to be established between them. These relationships differ depending on which version of the piece is shown. The first such version, Stop, produces a strict relation of synchronisation between the two screens, thus rigorously pre-determining the exchange displayed. The second, Italian Stop, brings two montages of different lengths into confrontation, thus instigating a more randomised form of interaction.

The piece is built around two large missing figures. The first, Michaelangelo’s famous Pietà, appears in reconstituted and revised form through effects created by superimposing images within the two montages; a juxtaposition of scenes taken from the Hitchcock and Rossellini films allows the couple initially formed by Christ and the Virgin Mary to be recreated. The piece weaves this apparition into both films, before confronting each with the other, and intertwining their content

This embodying and modernisation of Michaelangelo’s figures allows visitors to distance themselves from the scene, thus enabling them to more effectively question its content and put it into perspective and yet, paradoxically, its fleeting nature constantly evades the spectator’s enquiring gaze.

The second referential object around which the arrangement is constructed is Hitchcock’s 1945 film Notorious, which provided the setting for the first on-screen meeting of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, the key players at the core of the piece. Through the face to face meeting between the actors figured during the montage’s first stage, in which they are shown around ten years after the production of Notorious, the exhibit provides a narrative prolonging of Hitchcock’s tale by referring to the themes evoked in Viaggio in Italia (Journey to Italy) and North by Northwest.

The passage of time has visibly taken its toll on the couple played by the two actors. From behind their masks emerge incommunicable grudges and frustrations, thus calling into question the 1945 film’s happy ending.

Sociological reflection predominates when carrying out a further-reaching investigation into what was to become of that couple. Indeed, the analogy of the figures used in each of the two montages functions to articulate two versions of the same story within the piece, each voiced by a different person (the purely feminine perspective being relayed by Ingrid Bergman and the masculine by Cary Grant). The lack of any indication of where spectators should position themselves within the arrangement forces them to continually turn their heads, to favour one screen over the other and thus to gain more of one version of the story than the other. Thenceforth spectators find themselves at a stalemate, as if caught up despite themselves in the middle of a marital quarrel in which they would never agree to take sides. Each version insists upon a style and narrative of its own, until each begins to merge into the other and the montages endlessly and fruitlessly struggle to reconstruct to narrative puzzle.

Stop and Italian Stop also make overt reference to the art of statue sculpture. Besides Michaelangelo’s Pietà, they allude to the myths of Medusa and Pygmalion via the intrusion of statues into the scenes (taken from Viaggio in Italia (Journey to Italy)) whose postures recall those adopted by Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman as figured in the montages. The glances they exchange, but also the times they look away, one moment recall the stone of the statues and the next appear to freeze their bodies in time. They implicitely create correspondences between the two media at hand – film and statue sculpture – and initiate a trajectory from a crystallisation of love, to a state of petrification.

The repeated insurgence of Michaelangelo’s Pietà invites spectators to mentally fix the figures appearing in the montage in time, which is the very thing that the montage evades by refusing to pause or slow the film at any point, however systemized its first stage may be. This flaw is brought to the fore through the recurring interruption of the soundtrack, repeating the word Stop in almost obsessive fashion. Mobility and fixity thus form the poles around which the entire piece and its figures are arranged.

Each of the films projected is an aesthetic model within its own genre, as well as a model within the entire cinematographic tradition. Through the reference to sculpture, the arrangement raises the actors up to the status of heroes of antiquity, rendering sacred the characters they embody. The spectator’s knowledge of the actors and films, and the emotions inspired by the works cited, set the actors bodies in stone, loading the encounter staged within the piece with significance, and creating an obstacle within the relationship at hand that inexorably condemns the couple’s future.
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Copyright © 2016 Laurent Fiévet