Propeller Portrait


Vendôme, Chapelle St Jacques

Olfactive video installation, in collaboration with the perfume designer Alexis Dadier for video-projector and 3 fans.
1 video loop, 36 mn 45, 1 perfume.

Propeller portrait is a variant on Portrait with a fly. It associates a large image of Eve Kendall (the character played by Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest) with one of Turner’s seascapes, entitled The Shipwreck, depicting boats caught in a storm. In this version of the installation, the still featuring the young woman is displayed on a screen hung at a slight angle within the exhibition space. The screen is positioned in front of three moving fans, which pivot on their axes. Some of them start up when visitors approach.

Extracted from the famous auction sequence, the portrait initially appears almost motionless, until Eve suddenly turns her head to look over her right shoulder. Later, the video is edited so that Turner’s painting emerges over the young woman’s features by means of a fade-in. The painting disappears after a few seconds and the face resumes its initial position.

The video installation clearly makes a connection between the air blown by the fans and the storm represented in Turner’s painting. The air fanned by the propellers rotation is presented as the principal element to disquiet the contrived calm of the portrait. When the young woman turns her face towards the direction of one of them, her hair, lifted by the swirl, produces the effect of ripples outwards. Spreading out from within the frame, it submerges the boats of The Shipwreck which simultaneously appear within the video sequence.

Propeller portrait is also a variation of Circulations, an installation conceived in 2003 for the Continuations of Hitchcock series. Eve Kendall was already /had already been associated with the same type of weather through the intervention of another of Turner’s compositions: Snowstorm.

In reference to this work, which uses five television screens to display different shots from North by Northwest, among which there are some shots of the famous dust-plane sequence at Prairie Stop, the fans which are used in the installation acquire a special meaning. They represent an evocation of the plane chasing after Roger (Cary Grant). In this sense, the fans recall the crime Roger has accused his mistress of committing. A few minutes later, he will openly denounce the methods employed by the young woman, reproaching her using sex like a flyswatter. This allusion provides an interpretation of the tension which is built into the installation. Comparing Eve to a femme fatale presents her as a danger to all potential suitors.

All the editing of Portrait with a fly plays with the idea of the cut. At its end, the sail of one of the ships represented in the painting simulates an axe ready to decapitate the young woman.

The arrangement invites reflection on the nature of how the spectator looks at the film, as if it were fragmented by the fans, working to relay the spectator’s eyes around the exhibition room, only to be reflected back by Eve Kendall’s own gaze. It also conveys an expression of the character’s anxieties through the representation of the storm, as though it were re-materialised beyond the screen, in the form of the whirlwind generated by the fans propellers.

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Copyright © 2016 Laurent Fiévet