The End of the Night is a double exhibition project curated by Martha Kirszenbaum and developed in Los Angeles and Paris, which concept is ingrained in a reflection upon the cinematographic visual influence of two major experimental filmmakers: one Californian, Kenneth Anger, and one French, Henri-Georges Clouzot, especially in his failed 1964 film, L’Enfer. This transversal double group-show will be organized around notions of abstraction, kinetic art and optical illusions. The End of the Night at LACE in Los Angeles aims to confront a historical French artistic position with four young French artists, through the prism of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s relation to image and optic. The exhibition in Paris, to open at Palais de Tokyo in June 2013, will later feature young Los Angeles-based artists, in relation to Kenneth Anger’s aesthetics.
L’Enfer by Henri-Georges Clouzot (1963-64) is an unfinished, psychological drama depicting the obsessional jealousy of Marcel Prieur for his attractive wife. The movie conveys a binary, intricate structure: the couple’s everyday life in the hotel they manage is filmed in black and white with regular sound, but Marcel’s sudden jealousy crisis and madness attacks perturb his perceptions, and make him see and hear a distorted reality where the characters become vividly spotted in revolving acid colors, while the surrounding sound turns into a magma of screams, noises and accelerated whispers. Based on Clouzot’s obsession for technical experimentation, the film incorporates the resources of kinetic and optical art along with sound effects in order to express its main character’s jealousy, madness and nightmare.
For the exhibition at LACE, Martha Kirszenbaum has invited five artists whose works reflect on Henri-Georges Clouzot’s pictorial and sound experimentation and respond to his visual and sensorial imagination: a historical figure, Julio Le Parc, and four young artists, Florian & Michael Quistrebert, Isabelle Cornaro and Pierre-Laurent Cassière.
Julio Le Parc, (b. 1928 in Argentina, lives and works in Cachan), is the pioneer of French optical art and founder of the group GRAV (Research Group on Visual Art). His objects, sculptures, installations and paintings are labyrinthine experiments, distorting the senses and the vision. His practice relies on dematerialization, perceptive haze, formal reduction, artificial lights, environments, the audience’s implication, and varying levels of vision. He directly collaborated with Henri-Georges Clouzot on his last film, La Prisonnière (1968), and the director appropriated some of Le Parc’s experimentats in the visual techniques he used for L’Enfer. The works presented in the exhibition challenge perceptual abstraction while provoking a multiple distorted vision, such as Element Mouvement Surprise (1966) and Forme Virtuelle par Déplacement (1966), playful objects that engage the viewer’s multiplied distorted senses. His series of Continuels Mobiles (1959 onwards) are illuminated mirror-like plastic or metal squares suspended in vertical rows that move with the wind, capturing the fleeting images of the room. The light is therefore diffused in every direction of the obscured exhibition space, provoking a disrupted effect that propagates the continually changing reflections.
Working as a duo, Florian & Michael Quistrebert (b. 1982 and 1976 in France, live and work in Amsterdam and Paris) have grounded their practice in abstract painting, video, invoking incisive geometrical forms, architectural structures and experimental imagery. Their series of paintings Gradient comprises multi-layered pieces playing with atmospheric spray-paint and bleach technique, realized through a reversed photographic technique, where the bleach simultaneously illuminates and erodes the canvas. With images made of shadows, smoke, or light reflection, they create videos of art-deco aesthetics along with strong mystical references that recall early 1930s movies. The video-installation The Eighth Sphere is based on a double channel projection where the same sequence is shown on both sides of a chrome painted corner. While both projections are symmetrical in space, they are also desynchronized in time, creating a mirror effect that builds up through the viewer’s memory. Reminding of geometrical abstraction and early experimental cinema, such as Hans Richter or Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, the projected images actually come from edited captures of shadows.
Interested in the transposition of the real space into an abstract representation, Isabelle Cornaro (b. 1974 in France, lives and works in Paris) constructs objects and sculptures that often exist outside of their physicality, seen in perspective and low-angle shot, as in her films where she uses slow pans to set the objects like landscapes or in a static way like statues, and extreme close-up views to soften their silhouettes into abstract shapes, reminiscent of the images of experimental film. The subject of her films self-reflectively mirrors the cinematic process. Floues et colorées [Blurred and colored] (2010) frames the amorphous patches of color emanating from cans of spray paint. In De l’argent filmé de profil et de trois quarts [Money filmed from a side view and a three-quarter view] (2010), bills and coins are observed from a point of view that without metaphor or allusion corresponds to its title. In Du Cinématique (2011) and Reproduction, 2012, the viewer’s perception shifts facing large, almost pixelated panels of acrylic paint sprayed on paper or directly on the wall.
Oscillating between sound installations, expanded cinema and performance practice, Pierre-Laurent Cassière (b. 1982 in France, lives and works in Paris) interrogates vibrating fields and plays with the limits of the viewer’s perceptions. Influenced by the archeology of media, his systems turn audiovisual technologies into minimal and contemplative experiences. In his sound installation Pulse (2010-2012), low frequencies sound emissions are produced by elements installed in the exhibition space. Through cinema’s optical sound technique, a small and silent light mill called “Crookes radiometer” is transformed into a powerful noise generator. The disturbing light, coming from a slowly flicking bulb, generates the motion of the mill, which wings alternatively obstruct a laser ray pointed on a photo sensor. Once amplified, the signal is directly transmitted to the architecture through low frequency transducers, resulting in shaking the walls, reversing the senses and provoking a strong disoriented feeling within the vibrating exhibition space.