The tenuous certainty of reality - Videoinstallations by Christine de la Garenne (2007)
Christine de la Garennes work contain a basic element of ambivalence, the contrast between an explosive component full of sensorial and emotional tension and a meditative aspect, at times fragile, captured in contemplation of the surrounding world and in the practice and development of the power of vision. The artist watches and interprets small portions of reality from different point of view, working on the time and space coordinates, magnifying, multiplying, dilating or simply showing us a different way of looking or an unusual way of things happening.
Born in 1973 in Karlsruhe, Germany, Christine de la Garenne studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Karlsruhe, later specializing in Media Arts at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe. She started exhibiting her work in 1998, taking part both in festivals and in exhibitions and organizing personal showings, which have taken place in Europe, America, China. The artists works occupy large spaces and take the form of loops, imposing on the spectator not only a considerable physical and sensorial impact, but also patient attention, the mental readiness to wait, to develop new thought for a new vision of reality.
The selection presented by the artist at INVIDEO is divided into three parts without any chronological order but linked by affinity of theme and representation. The first group is that of her monumental works, huge projections with overwhelming sound and video loops that at times convey a sense of extenuating repetition and relentless, infinite temporality. De la Garenne's attention focuses on portions of objects and environments, transmuting them, showing us one thing to make us think of something else, developing metaphorical references, bringing doubts to the mind of the spectator, who is required to participate mentally and activate his or her senses. Minimalist works, therefore, at times conceptual. In Repression a piece of red material billows, vast and symbolic. Perhaps a flag, for the spectator, but the artist chooses to make it a violently rippling fragment, aggressive like the sound accompaniment. Vision is split, the blowing of the wind is rough, magnified excessively to be disturbing. The proportions of reality alter, the artist transfigures a small aspect of it and obviously, by condensing it in the title, repression, hints at a possible interpretation. In ON-DIT projection becomes vertical and the object depicted - a string of prayer beads reminiscent of the rosary or the Islamic "Tesbih" undergoes a process similar to that previously described. Filmed in macro, this time the image is slowed down and the beads become gigantic shapes that bang against one another, making a full, exaggerated, discontinuous sound and suggesting the difficulty of religious meditation, immersing the spectator in the, perhaps analogous, difficulty of contemplating a work of art. In MIGRÄNE the subject is a part of the environment. The camera fixes the image of a building seen from outside the iron railings that surround it and scans along it from left to right until it fits exactly over the point of departure. This superimposing takes place to the rhythm of a stick clanging against the railings, apparently shaken by the wind, as though someone were running it along them whilst walking. The constant rhythm of superimposing images and sound produces a hypnotic effect, whilst the passage of time corresponds exactly to the visual experience, reminding us of visual experiments on the relationship between sound and space by pioneer of audiovisuals,for example Steina Vasulka and Gary Hill. In ANKERN we find underwater sounds and images. An anchor is flung into the water and hauled up again. The images are slowed down and made discontinuous which, together with the use of light, makes the incident almost surreal, whilst the space sinks into a cushioned, comforting, maternal dimension. The last work in the first series is BREAKBACK and here the focus is once again on the object and the micro-incident: Chinese chopsticks are taken out of their paper wrapping and then broken. Filmed in macro the objects are hugely magnified whilst the sound of the paper tearing andthe breaking of the wood makes an equally strong impact, a metaphor of centuries of culture - Chinese - that risk being destroyed forever by the pace of a ruinous form of progress.
In the second series we find works that the author defines as "focusing on an ideal image of nature, forced movements and digitally-produced errors." In these works, de la Garenne concentrates on perceptual glitches, suggesting sound/ image contrasts and repetitive alterations, playing with the anomalies or dissonances of reality, in a peaceful tone with a sense of expectation and the taste for a gentler sort of surprise. Subtle humour is to be found in BREEZER, where a voluminous woman sits beneath a beach umbrella and her four little fox terriers try to stay on the ground whilst a strong wind hits the beach. The camera oscillates, unstable, as though reproducing the same instability as the four animals and the image is clouded by the sand stirred up. An ironic, surreal little scene accompanied by the sound of the wind blowing and the cheerful rhythm of a song. The same absurd, grotesque element is to be found in SPEEDZONE, where a heap of mixed rubbish - bottles, cigarette ends, bags - is blown here and there by the wind, suggesting a dance 'for rubbish" to the notes of a piece of opera. In BOKKER, the artist observes the human body forcing its limits and its resistance. The work is part of a project, which the artist took to Beijing, promoted by Kulturstiftung des Bundes: in the gym a boy performs an exercise on the vaultinghorse and this is prolonged and rendered extenuating thanks to the use of the loop. The constant movement and sound capture the spectator's attention so that reflection on the metaphorical significance of the movement, on Chinese constancy and progress at all costs, comes spontaneously. A gentler and more reassuring dimension comes in DUST, where there is an immediate association to XVII century Dutch landscape painting. The fixed image -filmed from a bridge - of a river wrapped in fog dissolves slowly into whiteness and then returns to its normal light. The fading is accompanied by suppression of the background noise made by cars passing on the bridge. The spectator is trapped in an uncertain and artificial reality in which sound and image become one and the same thing. The artist also focuses on the connection with painting in another work, HEIMKEHR, in which the same detail of the Black Forest is shown in a dual form: both in shots by the camera and in an oil painting. Again we have perceptual uncertainty and the difficulty of grasping the extremely slow shift from one artistic form to the other, in a fixed dimension where, whilst remaining constant, not only the details, but also the inner life changes. A disorienting effect, although more evident, is at the core of BARBIZON: whilst a river flows in its natural direction, the clouds in the sky appear to be uprooted from their own, spontaneous space and time and made to move backwards and forwards. The sound of the water flowing is unaltered. Through the forced movement induced in part of the image the artists disorientates us, bringing us up against the tenuous certainty of reality. In ZEPHYR it is the elaboration of the sound that animates the image in an unusual way: the nets of a goal on a football field are blown about by the wind whilst in terms of the soundtrack the sound of the wind becomes the choir of a crowd of football supporters, then resuming the sound of wind blowing and afterwards changing to shouting, all this thanks to sound processing which makes it possible to contract and dilate the audio track. Instead, it is visual disorientation that occurs in GOODBYE MY LOVE GOODBYE, where an unidentifiable little green vehicle moves slowly along the burning asphalt, until another moving object appears, which seems to crash into it. However, there is no impact, everything dissolves and the green vehicle reappears in a deafening chirping of crickets and cicadas, leaving the spectator wondering whether he or she has witnessed a mirage, a trick of the eyes or perhaps an effect of animation.
The last four works presented by Christine de la Garenne consist of photographs which explore architectural spaces such as the inside of a castle in VERTIGE, the bell towers in MUSSOLINIS SIGHT or the panoramic composition of FAR. Particularly worthy of note is the video HAZEOVER, in which the facades of buildings are depicted at different times of day, producing a swift flow of days as artificial as the composition of the image, which only partially dissolves or emerges, thanks to a dense fog, which, after all, is perhaps only digital.