Péronne, Historial de la Grande Guerre

Video installation for a video projector, stand and glass beads.
1 video loop, 43 mn 51.

An extreme close-up of Gene Tierney’s face in When the Sidewalk Ends, in slow-motion and regularly interrupted by short cuts away from the image that seem like electric shocks, is projected on the ground of the exhibition space. The angle of the projector’s beam provokes a pronounced stretching of the image, distorting the actress head, shown with eyes closed for the entirety of the video. Glass beads are placed on the ground over the surface onto which the video is projected.

Gene Tierney’s face is not immediately recognizable to the public, but rather reveals itself as they follow a specific path into the exhibition. As the object of a progressive unveiling linked directly to the visitor’s movement, the image moves and transforms itself in relation to the point of view from which it is observed. This anamorphic (and, by consequence, polymorphic) quality and the importance of the visitor’s position relative to the perception of the video bring to the fore both an empathetic bond with the figure projected onto the ground (due to the variety of viewpoints from which it can be seen) and a certain difficulty in understanding that which lies behind its mask.

In this malleable form, Gene Tierney’s head is subject to optical distortions that can be interpreted as contortions related to the troubled emotions felt by the character or by the actress playing her. The installation highlights this sense of the physical and psychological implications of pain through the presence of the glass beads on the floor, appearing as tears of sorts.

As such, the installation frees itself from the model of Pablo Picasso’s Weeping Woman as it recuperates and recasts its subject. Obstructing the projection in the image of glasses and carafes in Xy³ – Nude at the Window, the glass beads on the floor volunteer references to the diamond tears of Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast and to those of Man Ray’s famous photograph Tears (1933) – allusions that enable the installation to reappropriate the legacy of surrealism.

It is equally possible to interpret the frequent interruption of the film by power blips – which introduce very brief burst of white and orchestrate jumping effects in the narrative’s continuity – as alluding to the electroshock therapy inflicted upon the actress over the course of her confinement in psychiatric hospitals and to the elimination of memories that this treatment performs on the tangle of her memories. This biographical reference creates a scission at the heart of the installation, between the artist’s public image (magnified in the filmic excerpt projected onto the floor) and her existence beyond the projector’s light.

In a sort of temporal superposition of an order comparable to that put into place by the double exposures from the excerpts of Laura in Rain/Pain and Split, the public and private spheres are squeezed against one another and brusquely confused. This interference (which recalls that of the Dragon’s Kiss installation) renders the title of Otto Preminger’s film When the Sidewalk Ends as a strange harbinger of both Gene Tierney’s later mental problems and the brutal interruption that her treatments imposed upon the career of this dazzling actress who was a sort of shooting star on Hollywood Boulevard (to which the glass beads placement on the floor makes reference, shining like stars from a far-off constellation).

The projection of her face onto the floor refers also to the suicide attempt, the story of which is related at the beginning of the actresstxt_quote_single_close memoirs. Gene Tierney tells of how she thought, between two psychiatric internments, of throwing herself from the fourteenth floor of a building in New York in which she lived at the time. The title of the chapter in which she writes of the incident, Bird’s Eye View, also plays a role in determining the installation’s scenography, materializing her intent with a certain sorrow.

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Copyright © 2016 Laurent Fiévet