“Moving through time and space” is the first museum survey of the works of the filmmaker and video artist Chantal Akerman; it will be on until August 2, at the Contemporary Art Museum of St Louis. Through a panel of videos and multi channel works, we pervade a unique creation, fluid and fine, where the camera movement connects perfectly to the beauty of the images and the emotions expressed.
Born in Brussels in 1950, Chantal Akerman is the most important feminine director in film history. Discovered by the critics through her first Black and White film “Saute ma ville” (Blow up My Town), she explores personal and professional lifes of women, but also turns towards diverse topics such as romance, art, storytelling, drama, food etc. Since 1995, she melds documentary filmmaking techniques with video installations.
The exhibition features five works including single- channel pieces Sud (South), 1999; and Là-bas (Down There), 2006; as well as multi-channel works, D’est: Au bord de la fiction (From the East: Bordering on Fiction), 1995; De l’autre côté (From the Other Side), 2002; and Femmes d’Anvers en Novembre (Women of Antwerp in November), 2007, a new work created especially for the exhibition.
Let’s turn toward “Sud” and “Femmes d’Anvers en Novembre”. The first was meant to be a “meditation on the American South”, since the artist was always attracted to William Faulkner and James Baldwin’s writings. But when she started shooting in June 1998, the racial murder of James Byrd, Jr. completely transformed the plan : This Afro-American was chained by three whites men to a truck and then dragged three miles through predominantly black parts of the country (Texas) until his arm came off and was decapitated. Therefore, the hole region was completely shattered, and Akerman left her camera be driven by the flow of the emotions : she thus captured the tumultuous aftermath of Byrd’s murder.
“Femmes d’Anvers en Novembre” is a multi channel work, which adapts to the video the comic book ‘s concept of the vignette : It explores the notion of time and space where vignettes alternating with black and white and colours images feature women smoking at the night with ambiguous settings. In the opposite wall of the wordless social interplay, a four minute loop film in black and white of a young woman lighting, smoking and extinguishing her cigarette is displayed. An uncertain feeling of melancholy comes to the viewer, and leaves him in an ambiguous position.
From Israel to France, passing by United States and Mexico, the videos chosen to represent Chantal Akerman’s work function very well with the concept of the exhibition “Moving Through Time and Space”, and give us a sense of the richness of the her personality, always renewing topics, and listening to her environment. Fundamentally, she stays on the women side and represent with strongness and intelligence women director of nowadays.
Chantal Akerman: Moving Through Time and Space is a collaborative effort of four institutions: Blaffer Gallery, the Art Museum of the University of Houston; the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge; Miami Art Museum (a MAC@MAM presentation); and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.
[Visual : Chantal Akerman, De l'autre côté, (From the Other Side) [still], 2002, Video installation, Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris]