Cinema, Ritual, and Laure Prouvost
Up to the 9th of April 2017, HangarBicocca (Milan) will host an exhibition of Turner Prize 2013 winner Laure Prouvost’s works. Curated by Roberta Tenconi, GDM – Grandad’s Visitor Center contains a plethora of installations and spectacular display techniques transforms
Up to the 9th of April 2017, HangarBicocca (Milan) will host an exhibition of Turner Prize 2013 winner Laure Prouvost’s works. Curated by Roberta Tenconi, GDM – Grandad’s Visitor Center contains a plethora of installations and spectacular display techniques transforms the space into an eccentric museum dedicated to the artist’s grandfather and a work of art itself.
Walter Benjamin stated that, in the past, the unique value of a work of art lay within its ritualistic nature and function. In this sense, cinema could be viewed as a ritual; a collective experience that intervenes in daily life, from the private to the public sphere, and that has specific conventions that in a way “filter” the vision of the movie (the seats, the spatial relationship between the screen and the spectator, the dimension of the image, the rhythm, etc.).
If we consider cinema in its physical dimension, therefore as a sensorial and mimetic experience (therefore thinking about what cinema does, rather than what it is), Prouvost questions and evokes – at the same time – some of its fundamental principles.
In GDM, Prouvost extends the screen’s surface and pushes the boundaries of cinema’s physicality, making it a place of production of objects. What appears on the screen materializes as installations and artifacts beside the public, as if the videos transmitted exploded within the actual place of fruition; from a ladder (Going Higher) to a hair salon, from “handmade” seats (Monolog’s look like they just came out of her studio) to a dark room. The installations that most affect and are affected by its environment are Wantee, a tea room where the cinematic experience merges with daily life, even if it’s a bizarre and uncomfortable one, and Karaoke, in which the visitor is even invited to sing on a small stage.
A second element that Prouvost displaces from the traditional imaginarium of cinema is the duration of the show: it is irrelevant. The only work in which there is an idea of time passing is Magic Electronics, in which the beginning and the end are marked – fictitiously – by the lights turning on and off. After they turn off, you hear the voice of the artist and a light game begins. At the end, they turn on, leaving the visitor confronted with the nude and empty space. However, this installation is both the only one evoking this element of cinematographic semiotics and the only one lacking a main object: the images in motion. In this way, Prouvost builds up an ironical allegory of the cinematographic ritual as entertainment, in which the author addresses the gaze of the spectator without proposing an actual image to him or her.
The disturbing intervention of the environment
In GDM, the same modality of fruition of the work intervenes directly on the physiological dimension of the visitor, who is forced to confront with his or her own body. Accordingly, Prouvost deconstructs the imaginarium of cinema as a neutral box of images by impeding a comfortable vision (therefore potentially passive) of the video work. The oddly non-functional seats (Monolog, Grandma’s Dream) and the audiovisual interference by the other works disrupt the classical static nature of the cinema space. In Going Higher the video is even installed on the top of a ladder and in We Know we are just pixels there aren’t even seats and the screens (in which the words seem to address the viewer) become something the body is forced to interact with.
What about the public?
Perhaps that is one of the most interesting aspects of the exhibition: by using these very techniques (creating there a total work of art) Prouvost considers the visitor as a biological being, made of flesh and blood, who can feel embarrassment, confusion or even pain while consuming the works. She/he is not only an eye that sees and a mind that interprets, as she/he is supposed to stand by the white cube.
If we consider the exhibition as a work of art in itself, the ritual of the cinematographic experience becomes an organic presence that seems to breathe and exist even without a public. If, instead, we consider the reception of each single work of art by the individual visitor, that is – in more abstract terms – considering the public as a heterogeneous ensemble of individualities, then the individual visitor does exist. In this sense, indeed, the cinema space activates physically the public, as it evokes a ritualistic structure while disrupting and exasperating ironically its basic principles.
Contribution by Lisa Barbieri and Veronica Franzoni