In many of his video installations, in which contemporary architecture and cityscapes serve as the setting for a fiction, Jordi Colomer studies the way in which the modern city influences human behaviour and explores the ubiquity and drawbacks of modernism in the urban environment. Surrealist muse Lee Miller was a model, a photographer's assistant and then a fully-fledged photographer; in addition to 130 prints, on display period magazines, three drawings, a painting and an excerpt from Jean Cocteau's film Blood of a Poet. Vasco Araujo explores the identity and complexity of personality by means of disguise, narrative and language, analysing the social dimension of seduction and eroticism and their power games.
In many of his video installations, in which contemporary architecture and cityscapes serve as the setting for a fiction, Jordi Colomer studies the way in which the modern city influences human behaviour and explores the ubiquity and drawbacks of modernism in the urban environment. Attentive to the sociological, psychological and philosophical dimensions of his subject, but also to the overlooked, weird or incongruous aspects of the everyday, Colomer speaks with great critical lucidity of life's small print, of the question of difference and the unease it engenders, and about the relations between the city and its architecture.
Colomer's installations will feature prominently in this exhibition, among them Simo (1997), or Anarchitekton (2002-2004). A number of works are being produced for the event : En la Pampa, Pozzo Almonte...
Jordi Colomer was born in Barcelona in 1962. He began his art studies in the early 1980s at the EINA school of art and design in Barcelona. There he attended several seminars, including one on the “scenography of festivals”. He continued his studies at the Faculty of History of Art, was one of the founders of the magazine Artics, in the capacity of graphic artist and editor, and subsequently entered the Barcelona School of Architecture. He developed an interest in town planning, but also in modern and contemporary drama. His artistic activities enabled him to reconcile his wide range of concerns.
In his first exhibition, staged in 1986 at the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona under the title Prototips Ideals, he showed sculptures made from denatured architectural scale models. His first period of residence in Paris was from 1991 to 1994 and was devoted to research. The exhibition Alta Comèdia, held in Tarragona in 1993, was the first in which he brought together sculpture, theatrical sets and full-scale architectural elements. At the same time he was designing sets for productions of plays by Samuel Beckett, Valère Novarina and Joan Brossa and an opera by Robert Ashley. In 1997 he presented his first video, Simo, in a specially designed screening room at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona. From then on video was to enable him to implement a variety of narrative regimes and establish connections between different types of spaces. More productions followed: Pianito (1999), Les Jumelles [The Twins, 2000] and finally Le Dortoir [The Dormitory, 2001], which concluded this period during which he worked on movie sets where the characters’ behaviour was entirely dominated by the scenery. In 2001 Colomer settled in Paris once more and his work entered a new phase marked by travel. This led to the production of Anarchitekton (2002–04), which is set in various cities (Barcelona, Bucharest, Brasilia and Osaka), Arabian Stars (2005), Cinecito (2006) and En la Pampa (2007–08). The last three were shot in the Yemen, Havana and the Atacama desert in Chile respectively.
Cinecito La Habana (Eddy)
In Cinecito La Habana (Eddy) [Little Havana Cinema (Eddy), 2006], which was filmed in Havana at the exit from a cinema, a new narrative starts up outside the screening room. A character called Eddy approaches the camera and starts telling a story of which only the gestures are perceptible to the audience. The still, silent pictures that follow on from one another express nothing but the wish to be seen and heard. This video, which greets the visitor at the top of the stairs at the Jeu de Paume, is a rudimentary form of cinema, far removed from naturalism. Colomer used this method again in several works.
The title of this installation is taken from the Dutch “babbelziek kamer” (literally “babble room”) and suggests a space in which discussions and narratives are in a perpetual flux. Two projection devices are present in the same room. On one side is a caravan, upholstered in red with seats facing one another. A film in black and white is playing on two small plasma screens inside it. The film is Sunrise, a cinematographic poem made by F. W. Murnau in 1927 which signalled the end of the great productions of the silent movie era and heralded the reign of the talkie. For three days this same caravan, set up in a shopping centre in Brussels, provided a meeting place for several pairs of deaf and dumb people and we witness the conversation between French-speaking Ingrid and Dutch-speaking Sophie on two large plasma screens located opposite the caravan. While their conversation was being filmed, subtitles in both languages were inserted by translators in real time. The whole installation gives rise to a superimposition of languages and mediums that is evocative of a mute Babel. By bringing to the fore the contrast between fiction and genuine emotion, it raises the possibility of translating feelings and the relationship between feelings and silence
Les Villes [The Cities, 2002] also takes the form of a double screening, thus evading traditional forms of narration. Deceptively similar sequences are shown on two screens. On one screen a young woman in pyjamas moves along a ledge and finally plunges into the void; on the other the same character manages to reach a window. In the background sets of cubes in constant motion represent the mutations of an abstract city, evoking Kazimir Malevich’ Architectons and Hans Richter’s animated films. Here Colomer re-enacts a situation characteristic of early comic movies in which the geometry and scale of a metropolis expose the individual to situations of everyday, impersonal danger (as, for instance, in the films of Harold Lloyd or the Mexican Cantinflas). Two denouements to the same situation are offered to us simultaneously.
En la Pampa
Strangeness is unquestionably one of the prime narrative mainsprings of En la Pampa (2007–08), a fiction divided into five self-contained episodes screened in an endless loop. In this work, fashioned after a road movie, a couple engage in enigmatically whimsical activities and discussions in the Atacama desert in northern Chile. On the basis of a quotation from Guy Debord “L’errance en rase campagne est évidemment déprimante” (wandering in open country is obviously depressing) En la Pampa operates as an accumulation of instants with no functional or narrative link to join them together. The conception of time, which is neither chronological nor logical, reflects the disjointed relationship between a man and a woman. The young couple’s presence turns the great empty landscape of the pampas into a vast stage.
Anarchitekton / Papamóvil / Père Coco
Anarchitekton (2002–04) arose out of a series of performances photographed in various large cities throughout the world. The term is an amalgam of architekton (a Greek word meaning an architect and city planner) and Anarchitecture, the group founded by the American artist Gordon Matta-Clark. It also alludes to Architectons, the name Kazimir Malevich gave to his plaster models of formal architecture devoid of any functional concern. A character called Idroj Sanicne (Jordi Encinas written back to front), the artist’s imaginary double, is staging a one-man demonstration. Instead of waving banners or shouting slogans, he brandishes small-scale models of buildings symbolizing modernist city planning in Barcelona, Brasilia, Bucharest and Osaka. Is he demanding something or taking a critical stance? Colomer leaves us in doubt, but the reversal of the size scales, reinforced by the exhibition of models used in different performances, invite us to reflect on our place in the city, and our relationship to architecture and monuments.
Papamóvil [Popemobile, 2005–08] also plays on a change of scale and exploits the effect of the instantly recognizable Popemobile. This vehicle, which was specially designed for the Pope’s popular tours, has become a curious contemporary icon. Here a small-scale model is shown, like a prototype with no anecdote surrounding it, in the midst of a Barcelona street. Colomer’s intermittent photographs of passers-by, some of whom show surprise, others indifference, compose a fragmentary, heterogeneous portrait of the city and its inhabitants.
The title Père Coco et quelques objets perdus en 2001 [Père Coco and a few items lost in 2001, 2002] refers to a hybrid personage reminiscent of both “Père Noël”, the French Father Christmas, and “El Coco”, the Spanish bogeyman. In this video, which takes the form of a sequence of stills, Père Coco wanders through the streets of Saint-Nazaire picking up objects that have been discarded and stuffing them into a sack. Colomer borrowed the items from the town’s lost property office. The process of reactivation gives them a new existence and endows the piece itself with the look of an urban fairytale.
2 Av / Escenita (Tocopilla) / Pozo Almonte
2 Av (2007) features a series of images taken from a long tracking shot of a working-class housing estate. The houses, all built on the same pattern, the strange conversions they have undergone, the unusual occupations of the inhabitants, and trivial events such as a band going past, make it possible to capture the everyday monotony while introducing variations into its continuity.
Jordi Colomer’s photographic work also adopts an approach akin to topographical investigation and classification. Escenita (Tocopilla) [Little Scene (Tocopilla), 2008] recalls his interest in exploring the limits between ephemeral architecture and “illusionistic” sets, between structures erected for festive purposes and their temporal nature.
In the series Pozo Almonte (2008), the constructions found in the cemetery of a mining town in the heart of the Chilean desert bear witness to an architecture without an architect. The variegated materials and typological diversity are the expression of a collective inventiveness which manifests itself despite a veritable shortage of resources, producing objects with an aesthetic all their own.
Simo (1997), Jordi Colomer’s first video installation, can be seen as a manifesto of his opposition to the notion of a single, universal model in architecture. Inevitably Le Corbusier’s Modulor springs to mind, the system of measurement based on the proportions of the human body which enabled him to determine the scale of his dwellings. The camera swings from the outside of the room to the inside and follows the main character, Simo, embodied by dwarf actress Pilar Rebollar. Simo transforms the empty space into a chaotic heap of articles (shoes, jam jars, scale models…), conjuring up a sort of festive orgy. The pendular movement of the camera highlights the contrast between private and social spaces. Her body, perpetually deprived, out of kilter, or driven to excess, conforms to no rules and seems to draw energy from refusing them.
Jordi Colomer: fuegogratis
Texts by François Piron, Bernard Marcadé, Marie-Ange Brayer, Mario Flecha, Jacinto Lageira, Christine Van Assche, Glòria Picazo, Martí Peran, José Luis Barrios; interview with Jordi Colomer by Marta Gili.
288 pages, 21x26,5 cm, hardcover, bilingual French/English, copublished by Le Point du Jour/Jeu de Paume
The Art of Lee Miller
Surrealist muse Lee Miller was a model, a photographer's assistant and then a fully-fledged photographer. In 1924 Condé Nast introduced her to the world of New York fashion, and the following year she became the star model of Vogue. Very soon, she was the favourite of photographers such as Steichen, Man Ray, Horst P. Horst and Hoyningen-Huene. In 1929 she moved to Paris, where she became the assistant and model of Man Ray. Encouraged by his success to open her own studio, she made fashion photographs and more Surrealist-type works in which she experimented with solarisation, the technique popularised by Man Ray.
In 1932, Lee Miller returned to New York, where she opened a new studio, enjoying success with her advertising photographs and portraits. In 1933, newly married to a rich Egyptian businessman, she moved to Cairo. There she began photographing the desert as well as the ruins and abandoned villages of Egypt. In 1937 she met Roland Penrose, who would become her second husband. She settled in London in 1939, only to move back to New York to escape the Blitz.
In 1944, Lee Miller became an accredited correspondent with the US Army, making her the only women in combat photojournalism in Europe during the Second World War. After the war, she continued to work for Vogue while contributing to Penrose's biographies of Picasso, Man Ray and Tàpies. During these few years she produced some of the finest portraits of artists of the age, before giving up photography altogether in 1948.
This exhibition was conceived by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. In addition to 130 prints, it includes period magazines, three drawings, a painting and an excerpt from Jean Cocteau's film Blood of a Poet.
With the support of Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago.
In partership with l'Ambassade des États-Unis d'Amérique,
A Nous Paris, Arte, Le Figaroscope, Vogue, vogue.com and FIP.
Scenography: jasmin Oezcebi / franck Vinsot.
Lee Miller is a legendary figure of the 20th century. Famed for her beauty and for the freedom with which she lived, she also left a bright mark on the art of her day. This exhibition sets out to focus on her artistic career, a career all too often overshadowed by the images of Miller’s striking presence in the works of other artists. For the reality is that this independent and determined woman soon became a dedicated photographer, exploring nearly all the aspects of the medium in the career that is showcased here, from Surrealist experiment to fashion, from images of her travels in Egypt to the photographs she took during the Second World War and the Liberation.
This exhibition of some 140 prints, the first on this scale in France, offers a comprehensive retrospective of the photography of this enigmatic figure who was by turns model, lover and assistant of Man Ray, Surrealist muse and war correspondent.
Born in 1907 in Poughkeepsie, New York, as a child Elisabeth Miller modelled for her father, an amateur photographer. In 1927 she moved to New York City, where, in front of the lenses of Horst P. Horst, George Hoyningen-Huene and Edward Steichen, she soon became a star model for Vogue.
In summer 1929 Lee Miller settled in Paris. There she met and immediately charmed Man Ray. She became his companion but also his student and model, and eventually a true artistic partner. She continued to pose while learning photographic technique. For some fashion shots, she worked on both sides of the lens. The influence of Surrealism led her to try out solarisation, a technique developed and popularized by Man Ray, as in the Solarised Portrait of Unknown Woman (1930). In 1931 she played the roles of the mouth, the sculpture and fate playing cards in Jean Cocteau’s film Le Sang d’un poète (The Blood of a Poet).
Lee Miller left Man Ray in 1932. On arriving in New York in October, she told a journalist, “I’d rather take a photograph than be one.” Photography, she said, was a practice she enjoyed and it was well suited “to the rhythm and spirit of the age.” In partnership with her younger brother, Erik, also a photographer, she set up the Lee Miller Studio at 8 East 48th Street. Their clients included Vogue, advertising agencies and also fashion houses and cosmetics firms.
Lee Miller also accepted portrait commissions from Warner Brothers and theatrical companies, and worked for Creative Art, where Alfred Stieglitz was on the editorial board. Part of a new generation of talented photographers, her reputation would soon grow thanks to gallerist Julien Levy, who in January 1933 put on her first solo exhibition in his space at 602 Madison Avenue.
Travels in the 1930 s
In June 1934 Lee Miller married a wealthy Egyptian civil servant, Aziz Eloui Bey, in New York, and the couple moved to Cairo. But while at first life in Egypt was a welcome opportunity to step back from photography, the creative urge gradually returned and she started photographing aspects of Egyptian life, both during everyday life and on the more adventurous excursions she organized. She also tried her hand at landscape photography, achieving a dream-like atmosphere in images of the desert such as her 1937 Portrait of Space.
But she was growing bored, and in early summer 1937 Lee Miller returned to Paris and to the world of the Parisian avant-garde. There, Man Ray, Dora Maar, Eileen Agar, Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning and Picasso helped revive her imagination and creativity. She also met the British Surrealist painter Roland Penrose. The following year they travelled to Romania together along with the musicologist Hari Brauner, and she took large numbers of photographs.
The Second World War
Lee Miller left her husband and Egypt and in June 1939 moved to London to live with Penrose. She now spent four years working for British Vogue, where she was officially hired in January 1940. In December 1942 she became Vogue’s accredited correspondent with the US Army and in September 1944 she did her first war report on the work of nurses during the Normandy landings. Then came photographs of liberated Paris, of Saint-Malo, where German forces had withdrawn into the citadel, and, in 1945, of the campaign in Alsace and the fall of the Third Reich. The photographs she took during the liberation of the Buchenwald and Dachau death camps made a huge impact when published in American Vogue in June 1945.
The famous image of Lee Miller in Hitler’s bath, taken by David E. Sherman, was seen alongside these deeply distressing images of the camps. As the only woman photojournalist in the theatre of war, Lee Miller had witnessed all the horrors of Nazism.
The postwar period
Lee Miller returned to London and Roland Penrose, whom she married in May 1947. Their son, Antony, was born later that year. Although she continued to work for British Vogue, she was now losing interest in fashion photography. She also contributed to the biographies her husband was writing about Picasso, Man Ray and Tàpies, and produced some of her finest portraits of artists made during this period.
In 1949 she and Penrose moved to Farley Farm in Sussex, where they received numerous friends and fellow artists. In 1953 Lee Miller concluded her career as a photographer with the publication in Vogue of a set of photographs showing the “Working Guests” at Farley Farm busy with chores around the house or in the garden.
The Lee Miller Archives
When Lee Miller died, in 1977, many of her photographs had been lost or were inaccessible. Art historians had all but forgotten the photographer in favour of the muse and model. However, her son Antony Penrose began piecing together the details of her extraordinary life and sifting through the negatives found in old trunks. In 1980 he set up the Lee Miller Archives. He published several books and organized exhibitions that in turn stimulated further research.
This new exhibition explores the different facets of Lee Miller’s remarkable body of work, one that she herself long kept hidden.
Vasco Araújo : Eco
Exhibition curated by: María Inés Rodríguez
Vasco Araújo (born Lisbon, 1975) — explores the identity and complexity of personality by means of disguise, narrative and language. The artist, who is also an opera singer, explores the social dimension of seduction and eroticism and their power games. Drawing frequently on literature ( Restif de la Bretonne, Shakespeare, etc.) and opera (Mozart, Puccini, Wagner), his work is above all a meditation on art as a critical reflection on society but also as a privilege locus for the relations between truth and artifice.
with the support of:
— the Fondation Nationale des Arts Graphiques
— the Direcção-Geral das Artes, Ministério da Cultura, Portugal
— the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Portugal
— the Fundação Luso-Americana para o Desenvolvimento, Portugal
— the Instituto Camões, Portugal
In collaboration with the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-arts de Paris.
and in partnership with Art Press, mouvement.net and Oui FM
The first part of the Satellite programme for the 2008–09 season might be described as a metaphor of the reflection of sound waves, the phenomenon whereby sound is reverberated, and heard again, once it has died out. But Eco, the work proposed on this occasion by the Portuguese artist Vasco Araújo, leaves the physical explanations aside and turns instead to literature in a bid to construct a personal realm of fancy where the echo is the reflection, not of sound, but of ourselves. Thus Araújo, drawing on Cesare Pavese’s Dialogues with Leucò (1947), has invented a new tale that is enacted by six enigmatical characters: a child, a woman, a young man, two men in their prime, and a mature man. In his rigorous mise en scène these six characters, who are gathered round a table, are in fact only one and that one is the reflection of our own image. In so doing Araújo creates a space for confrontation, a space where individual fears about life and destiny are expressed: “So you already know it!? (a smile) Your destiny, the limit...” Here, as in Pavese’s twenty-seven dialogues, at the heart of the conversation lie destiny and memory, solitude and Others, love, love’s passing, and death. But in Eco, unlike the Dialogues with Leucò, the discussion is no longer among gods: here we are in the world of mortals, fallen creatures who are highly sceptical of reality. Hence their admission: “Nothing is stable. Nothing is stable! Me neither, me neither!… Me neither.”
Yet these characters, who are so different from one another, have one thing in common: the voice with which they express themselves. This single voice remains unchanged as it passes from one to the other, leaving the spectator bewildered. It is up to the spectator to differentiate between them on the basis of snatches of conversation. In the artist’s view, “working on these distinctions amounts to judging traits of identity, judging the representation process and that of the construction and alteration of being and seeming”. As the discourse advances, each character can build up his or her identity and materialize. Once again, as in Araújo’s previous works, it is this voice that lends such force to the enunciation, bringing an unknown facet of the proposition to light. Like the nymph Echo deprived of her voice by Hera and permitted only to repeat the last words she heard , the characters repeat one question after the other. But they never find the answer, and never even expect to: “Perhaps! Perhaps! Perhaps!” The artist considers that, beyond whatever relationship the spectator establishes with these characters, “it is up to him or her to make the final distinction between fact and fiction, truth and falsehood, which do not necessary match one another or follow in the same order”. Perhaps we are “looking for a sound that will provide the answer to happiness;” but in order to pick up that sound, we will undoubtedly need to sharpen our hearing a little.
Image: Jordi Colomer
Jeu de Paume
Place de la Concorde 1 - Paris
Tuesday: 12:00 - 21:00
Wednesday - Friday: 12:00 - 19:00
Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 - 19:00