In Hell


Marseille, Où - Lieu d’exposition pour l’art actuel

Installation for 46 glass beads or diamonds.

Around forty glass beads are laid out on the floor. They form two pieces of Braille text – leave her to / can wait – in reference to the titles of two important films in Gene Tierney’s career, John Stahl’s Leave her to Heaven and Ernst Lubitsch’s Heaven can wait. These works constitute the only concessions made in the Lora’s Tears series to the actress’s colour productions, although they persist as mere bleached out remnants within the installation, which, furthermore, most visitors will be unable to read. Should we see this as forming a material representation of the fleeting nature of the memories left behind by the works treated in this manner or, contrarily, as an indication of the persistence of the emotions felt, continuing engraved in spectators memories, liable to re-emerge unexpectedly at any moment?

The characters played by Gene Tierney in these two films appear diametrically opposed. The sweetness of Ernst Lubitsch’s Martha finds its counterpart in the coldness of John Stahl’s Ellen; similarly, the generous, accommodating nature of the former is counterbalanced by the selfishness and short-temperedness of the latter. The very frame of the installation thus seems to span distant poles, simultaneously representing the virtuosity of Gene Tierney’s performances and the complex depth of her personality.

The two titles also introduce apparently contradictory concepts. They leave the subject torn between Heaven (Leave her to Heaven) and Earth (Heaven can wait), between life and death. Thus a certain ambiguity regarding the status of the actress appears to be expressed, apprehending, in line with the different ways in which the pieces of text can be interpreted, Gene Tierney positioned in between her condition as mortal and the lasting nature of her image, between her private life and her public obligations, the peace she longs for and the prying eyes focused on her existence.

Significantly, the term Heaven, which provides a point of contact between the two titles, has disappeared, an absence which reinforces the effect created by the installation’s title, substituting that term for the evocation of a Hell symbolised by a sea of tears. It thus represents a kind of lost paradise, a dream never realised, as though, once reached, there were no exit from the dizzy heights of celebrity.

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Copyright © 2016 Laurent Fiévet