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Cinéma mon amour 2

[…] Through imitation, mimicking and overturning, Kambalu creates a site-specific panorama of what it can mean to experience a territory; a panorama that is also rigorously cinema-specific.

[…] Imagination, reality, and reconstruction melt together under the powerful force of enacted cinema – or artistically expanded cinema.

The exhibition Cinéma mon amour, at the Aargauer Kunsthaus, is an excellent occasion to reflect on the relationship between art and cinema. In this second part of our detailed review, we underline how art and cinema can find a common form of dialogue and we highlight three artworks that exemplify this in the best way.

Since the very beginnings of cinema, the relationship between art and cinema has been an intimate one. Cinema was first thought of as a new instrument for making art, providing a naturally artistic approach to the production of cinematic films. Thus, each time the cinema has experienced an important technological transformation, art has provided a point of reference and helped to inspire new forms of making cinema with a necessary experimental approach. With the digital revolution involving the production of cinema, as well as its reception, the confrontation between the world of cinema and the art world should return as a crucial one. In such a confrontation, the artists try not only to reflect on cinema and the cinema world, but to also work with the cinematic forms and different aspects of the cinema world.

Having focused our attention on artworks that suggest a more distant relationship to cinema through a thematic and/or reflective approach, and also looking at artworks that are blatant attempts at creating cinema (in the first part of our review), I would like to focus particularly on those artworks in the exhibition at the Aargauer Kunsthaus that exemplify a “collaborative” attitude towards cinema. Here, cinema is not the object of analysis, but it actually becomes an essential tool for making art. To this respect, I would like to highlight three works that best exemplify how art and cinema can find a productive hybridization.

For this, we will have to put aside other interesting works that have an instrumental relationship to cinema, like Douglas Gordon’s Self portait you+me, where cinema is used to speak about the concepts of iconoclasm and identity; Mark Wallinger’s The End, where cinema end credits displaying the names in the Ancient Testament are used to achieve a secularization of textual religions with cinematic humour (Johann Strauss’ waltzes accompany the end credits); or Pierre Bismuth’s The Jungle Book Project, where the universally known Disney cartoon is used to create a Babel of languages that hint at a peaceful and harmonic complicity of differences, allowing us to experience the happy side of globalization.

Cinema as language for artistic experience: Samson Kambalu

For Six Days Only appears as a complex installation, comprised of a jungle of projections that create a new cinematographic geography in a dedicated room of the Aargauer Kunsthaus. Kambalu’s work is explicitly focused on geography, as the many different projections show his personal confrontation with the city of Aarau… “for six days only”. Playing with the codes and aesthetics of ancient ethnographic filmic material, the Malawian artist overturns the colonial asymmetry between Africa and Europe. His gaze on Aarau resembles the astonished and exotic gaze of the old ethnologist, which also references the style from the early days of cinema. This old-fashioned aesthetic creates a comic effect, which is incredibly coherent with the role of outsider that the artist – even the Swiss artist – has very often assumed in Switzerland. Through imitation, mimicking and overturning, Kambalu creates a site-specific panorama of what it can mean to experience a territory; a panorama that is also rigorously cinema-specific.

The force of the cinematic image: Candice Breitz

Six vertical screens with a six-channel projection and a series of Indian children showing off in rehearsal: The Reharseal appears as a study in Bollywood’s backstage and an impressive documentary on how Bollywood’s imagery can become a physical reality in the imagination of Indian children. Through their false innocence, they express the power of the commercial image and embody all of the clichés the cinema world has created. The high-quality images on the screens stress the worrying reality of cinematic fiction, that bring the kitsch aesthetics of Bollywood to life. The emphatic narcissism of the child actors has a hypnotic effect on us, and the difference between acting and being genuine begins to be impossible to track. In one compact world of delusions, even the difference between being a victim or a perpetrator of the cinematic illusions disappears. We snap back to the reality of the projection in the exhibition only when we realize that the camera’s eye is nothing but us ourselves. We are the accomplices in this puzzling puzzle of cinematic images.

Enactment of cinema world in architectural reality: collectif_fact

Alfred Hitchcock and Le Corbusier find an unexpected synthesis in Annelore Schneider & Claude Piguet’s installation Hitchcock Presents. With Hitchcock presenting his Psycho with a voice-over commentary, it is the cinema itself that is presenting Le Corbusier’s Maison Blanche in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The failure of the architectural project has delivered a house destined to become a ruin or a piece of museum… or the location of a cinematic crime scene. Through Psycho’s superposition on the architectural reality, we discover the imaginative potentiality of architecture and the important role of architecture in cinematic dramas. The specificity of collectif_fact’s artwork, however, is in its genial installation: the screen onto which a film about Maison Blanche is projected also functions as an element used to define the space of the room in the Aargauer Kunsthaus, whose carpeted walls create a continuity with the Maison Blanche. On screen, the house is seen from the outside, while in the gallery we experience the house as from within. This complex spatial experience also helps to put Hitchcock’s voice-over in the foreground, supporting its role as the main dramatic (and cinematic) element in the artwork. The rigorous black-and-white aesthetic accomplishes the coherence of the space in the Kunsthaus, that displays a third architecture after the architecture of Psycho in our cinematic memory, and the documented architecture of Le Corbusier’s Maison Blanche. Imagination, reality, and reconstruction melt together under the powerful force of enacted cinema – or artistically expanded cinema.

Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore
First published: March 07, 2017

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