Les chasseurs. In the projection room: 'The Land was already occupied (the future)' and 'Kind of like a Mirror', both from 2012. "The subjects of her films present a tree-like structure, with multiple branches of stories and destinies." (C. Becanovic).
-Have you ever seen a giraffe run?
Your films, Marie, are remarkably singular insofar as they know how to entertain a certain distance with what is being filmed. You create this distance, but what is surprising is the step back that you manage to take, in the heart of action, when it's not only about using a text to comment on images but to cater to a craving for adventure. You act as a simple "transmitter" who watches, listens, adapts, joins the crowd and, in turn, is observed. There is no judgement, no empathy in your films, but a lot of space is offered to those who express themselves—the sensitive travellers in an extremely codified world—while simple, uncontrollable things are moving around. The subjects of your films present a tree-like structure, with multiple branches of stories and destinies. What strikes me the most is the way your work often crosses paths with the research of the ethnographer, when it questions the position of the film director and the part she plays in circulating in between opposing tendencies: a tradition that we strive to preserve and an individual situation from which we try to escape (a trial held behind closed doors vs. powerless media that are hungry for images, a scientific research vs. existentialist detours, a major scientific case vs. a possible prank)
- When the children go to sleep, they hear the lion roar.
The three films presented in the show add to the visible oppositions in your work, beyond the fiction vs. documentary contrast, which is often mentioned. I think again of The Mokele-Mbembe Hypothesis (2011), in which Michel Ballot, an amateur of cryptozoology (the study of unknown animals), acts on his desire to find a mysterious animal in a forest in Camroon. I can't help but consider it as a counterweight to the film you are now presenting in the gallery's ground floor space. Without The Mokele-Mbembe, I'm not sure how I would have regarded this retired hunting guide (Standing Still, 2013), whose voice we hear, and whose hands you film. They browse a book containing images of trophies and the anecdotal retelling of his memoirs, including some notes. It reminds me of a very different hunting, that of a lion with a bow, as was narrated by Jean Rouch's camera in 1967. The story takes place at the border between Niger and Mali and revolves around a founding situation: "Sometimes the lion goes too far, he breaks the pact made with the shepherd. He kills for pleasure. Then the shepherds fetch the last great bow hunters." Here, the question of who dominates whom is not asked. The lion is known: they know if it's married, if it has eaten, if it comes from the North or from the South. They call it by name.
- Lord Greystoke, son of the orangs.
In The Mokele-Mbembe, different negotiations come about. We can't help witnessing what Michel Ballot's presence—and that of a light filming crew—provoke. Despite the lightness and deep quietness of his quest, he crystallizes an entire colonial history. Tarzan, the son of British aristocrats, destined to be a king wherever he goes, is a persisting myth. In your film Standing Still, the myth of the white colonist finds its most destructive embodiment: the hunting guide. Hesitating in between a spontaneous violence and its religious imitations, he utters the most economical remarks about death images that assess the game of violence and culture. A (sacralized) game that is lost to a sacrificing vestige to unite women's and men's hearts in an arbitrary and violent resolution.
- I am a topographer.
In the projection room, the spectator will be able to discover The Land was already occupied (the future) and Kind of like a Mirror, both from 2012. The first film, the more Rohmerian of the two (the reference is made explicit) mixes up the different approaches of space, described by architecture and cinema. Like in most of your films, Marie, you let the subject come. The Land was already occupied (the future) consists in a series of viewpoints on bleak realities, which we would of course like to cover with a poetical veil. So we look at a vacant lot, this screen for all kinds of projections and then, there is also this nice man from the Montperrin hospital in Aix-en-Provence (Kind of like a Mirror), who can dispel the fake sparkle, thwart expectations for speed and return on investment, to leave his thoughts spin and unwind, like the cloud corridors left by planes in the sky.
- Who am I?
A few authors have already written it, Marie, your films reveal a series of intentions that mark your work with something quite elusive (for example, there is no biographical indication to specify the identity of the protagonists in your films). A flitting sensation that acts inside uncomplicated boundaries, which falls in with “Cinéma du Réel”: the film director let herself go with the flow and shows that she is the first spectator. The heart of the film remains hidden, one static shot after the other. As we, spectators, progress in the film, following the thread of narration, we realize that clues are scattered, bits by bits, and shifts in meaning become striking enough, so the long-awaited rest never happens (or very late): the one we can enjoy when, at the end of the movie, we finally perceive an obvious fact, a “subject”.
Marie Voignier was born in 1974 and lives in Paris. She was awarded the Prix des Médiathèques at Festival International du Documentaire (FID) in 2009 and the short-reel award at festival Cinéma du Réel at Centre Pompidou in 2007. She participated to the Triennale at Palais de Tokyo (cur. Okwui Enwezor), to the Biennale de Rennes (cur. Anne Bonnin) in 2012 and to the Berlin Biennial (cur. Kathrin Rhomberg) in 2010. She is invited in 2013 to the Apartés program at Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris, and by artists Lamarche-Ovize at La Galerie de Noisy-Le-Sec. Her films are now part of the following collections: Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Musée du Grand-Hornu, FNAC and FRAC PACA.
On Jan. 12, from 2:30 to 6pm at EHESS, Paris: «Vus de l'Etna: Les Derniers des Mohicans. Les cinémas anthropologiques de Edgar Morin et Werner Herzog». Organized by Pascale Cassagnau, with: Jean Epstein, Dziga Vertov and Marie Voignier. Inscriptions: email@example.com
Special thanks: Aurélien Mole, Camila Renz, Sonia Droulhiole, Thomas Fourel, Vassilis Salpisitis, castillo/corrales, Raphaël Zarka.
Image: Un peu comme un miroir, 2012. HD video 17 min Ed 5 + 1
Isabelle Alfonsi & Cécilia Becanovic
4 rue Jouye-Rouve, 75020 Paris
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