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April 19th, 2007
French Artist Marine Hugonnier Explores the "Politics of Vision" in Film Trilogy


This spring the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present Live Cinema/Marine Hugonnier: Trilogy, a series of super 16mm films transferred to DVD that explores the ways in which images of the landscape influence the observer’s experience of it, and conversely, how history or ideology can shape the perception of a landscape. Filmed on three continents over the past five years, Hugonnier’s films raise questions about the process of viewing and engage what the artist refers to as the “politics of vision.” On view from April 20 through July 22, Hugonnier's Trilogy is the third installment of Live Cinema, an exhibition series exploring the vast production of single-channel video and film work by a diverse group of local, national and international artists in the Museum's Film and Video Gallery (Gallery 179).

A French artist currently based in London, Hugonnier studied philosophy and anthropology before becoming a visual artist. Her work draws from a rich history of experimental film and video art as well as recent cultural theory. Like Jean-Luc Godard and Jean Rouch, Hugonnier explores the boundaries between fiction and truth and the conditions that shape perception. Through specific filmic strategies in Ariana (2003), The Last Tour (2004), and Travelling Amazonia (2006), Hugonnier captures the underlying structures of perception that both frame and affect the visual experience of the landscape.

In Ariana, which Hugonnier describes as “an essay about distances, space and scale,” the panoramic view of a landscape becomes an object of desire. The film follows the artist and her crew in their attempts to reach “television hill,” a high vantage point from which to capture a panorama of the historic Panjsher Valley in Afghanistan. The discovery that only Afghani government officials have access to this vista transforms the intangible view of a landscape into a politically charged subject. As Hugonnier writes, “We wanted to get to the best viewpoint, to see in a glance how this landscape made the history of the valley possible.” Although they ultimately succeed in reaching this perspective, Hugonnier declines to film from this location, transforming her film into a discussion of the panorama as a means of control and even propaganda.

The Last Tour is set in an imagined future world, in which tourist sites have been closed off or rendered inaccessible. A textual narration invites the viewer on a fictive expedition of the Matterhorn, including on-the-ground perspective as well as aerial views both of and within a hot-air balloon. By juxtaposing images of Disneyland’s Matterhorn roller coaster with images of the actual mountain, Hugonnier explores the ways in which tourism determines our experience of the landscape and reality, making each of us “an explorer on a ready-made expedition.”

In Travelling Amazonia, Hugonnier takes as her subject Brazil’s unfinished trans-Amazonian highway, initially constructed under a Brazilian dictatorship in the 1970s. After choosing a spot on the road to represent through a traveling shot, Hugonnier records the locals of a nearby village as they build the dolly and rails necessary to create the desired vanishing perspective. Hugonnier also films testimonials of the area’s inhabitants, revealing their impressions of the highway as an idea as well as a physical place. As one of the villagers interviewed in the film explains, “It exists on the map but not in reality.”

In conjunction with Live Cinema/Marine Hugonnier: Trilogy, Marine Hugonnier will give an artist talk at 6 p.m. on April 20, 2007 in the Museum’s Seminar Room. (The event is free with Museum admission).

Screenings

Hugonnier’s Trilogy will be screened in its entirety three times during the course of the exhibition. The screenings will take place in the Museum’s Van Pelt auditorium at 6 p.m. on May 18, June 15 and July 20.

Catalogue

Marine Hugonnier has produced an artist’s book to mark the occasion of the Trilogy's tour. The book presents color stills and narrative captions for each film in addition to an essay by the artist that details the artistic process behind each work and her conception of the films as a series. The publication may be purchased from the Museum Store for $34. For more information, call (215) 684-7960.

About Live Cinema

Live Cinema in the Film and Video Gallery of the Philadelphia Museum of Art explores the extensive production of single-channel video and film work in contemporary artistic practice. In the last decade an ever-increasing number of contemporary artists have appropriated these mediums as an artistic outlet, in a dialogue with the early video and Super 8 practices of the sixties and the tradition of experimental filmmaking. Each program of the Live Cinema series focuses on a specific aspect of this work, in order to both map and analyze this important facet of contemporary art production. Certain Live Cinema programs are accompanied by a brochure where guest writers discuss the works exhibited, and also by public lectures given by the participating artists.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is among the largest museums in the United States, with a collection of more than 227,000 works of art and more than 200 galleries presenting painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, decorative arts, textiles, and architectural settings from Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Its facilities include its landmark Main Building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Perelman Building, located nearby on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Rodin Museum on the 2200 block of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and two 18th-century houses in Fairmount Park, Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove. The Museum offers a wide variety of activities for public audiences, including special exhibitions, programs for children and families, lectures, concerts and films.

For additional information, contact the Communications Department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art phone at 215-684-7860, by fax at 215-235-0050, or by e-mail at pressroom@philamuseum.org. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. For general information, call (215) 763-8100.

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