Photo: APPM, Louis Monier
[UPDATE] – Below signature, some lines on the exhibition NOW. See [4 Nov 2015]
December 1992. Paris. I had just finished a B&W photography course with Marc Weitzmann. I was packing: boxes to stay in Paris; two suitcases for my trains/boat’ journey – Paris / Le Havre / Newhaven / London! [Quand j'n'aurai plus le temps; De trouver tout l'temps du courage]
A mixed and intense emotion of “failure” and rejoicing was taking me by storm: I had resigned from my favourite magazine Les Inrocks, but I was going to be a voluntary refugee in London. A “country” I declared would be my definite / infinite home. For the first time in my life I would call a place, home. I made a last trip to Les Halles and visited religiously my favourite HQ: La Banque de L’image and the anarchist Parallèles bookshop. From the first, I came out with a few B&W postcards of Beatrice Dalle, Isabelle Pasco [Et ma vie, endormie, doucement; Et mon coeur sera froid]... From the second, a book: Hall de Nuit.
[Et mes amis fidèles; Auront disparu un à un; Trouvant que j'étais belle; Que j'aurais bien fait mon chemin; Alors j'aurai honte de mes mains; J'aurai honte de mes mains], the first play written by Chantal Akerman in… 1992.
There’s always been a sense of out of place in me, an identity quest and I wrote, back then, a mini-play “I’d rather be a foreigner abroad than in my birth country”[i]. I never felt 100% French! But the one thing I worshipped was the French language... the words... its musicality! So, I packed the essential: some clothes, perfume, K7, postcards and some books. The French words that shaped me into feminism and an esprit contestataire. Among Barbara, Boris Vian, and Bernard-Marie Koltès, Chantal Akerman found her niche... discrète. [Quand j'aurai mis vingt ans; A voir que tout était mirage; Je tire ma révérence; Ma révérence].
I was lucky last year to see and hear Chantal at the ICA organised by A Nos Amours’ Joanna Hogg and Adam Roberts. The duo is paying tribute to the filmmaker and writer in The Guardian and at the ICA: A screening is dedicated to the memory of Chantal Akerman, with gratitude for the gift of her film-making: Chantal Akerman June 6, 1950 - October 5, 2015
Chantal Akerman 25: La folie Almayer (Almayer’s Folly, 2011)
Chantal Akerman’s last narrative work The culmination of two years of screenings
A brilliant adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s tale of colonial ennui - Thursday 22nd October 2015, 8.15pm @ ICA Cinema - BOOKING
Also, do not miss: CHANTAL AKERMAN NOW
30 October — 6 December 2015
Ambika P3, 35 Marylebone Road, NW1 5LS
Opening hours: Tues–Fri, 11am–7pm, Sat–Sun, 12pm–6pm
Nearest Tube: Baker Street
Ambika P3, A Nos Amours and the highly respectable Marian Goodman Gallery are delighted to present a major exhibition of work by the internationally celebrated filmmaker and artist, Chantal Akerman, in the extraordinary underground space of Ambika P3.
Entitled NOW, this will be the first large scale exhibition in the English-speaking world of Akerman’s installation work and will coincide with the UK premiere of her new film, No Home Movie (2015), on Friday 30 October at Regent Street Cinema, London. None of the works in the exhibition has been previously exhibited in the UK.
More on Chantal Akerman:
Clip of Toute Une Nuit [song My révérence by Véronique Sanson]
Hommage [FR] à la réalisatrice Chantal Akerman with Romain Goupil, cinéaste ; Claire Denis, réalisatrice ; Antoine Guillot, critique à France Culture
Chantal Akerman interview 12 janvier 2012 [FR] on France Culture
Sybille Castelain for firstname.lastname@example.org
Writing archive (Film, music, exhibition, low-brow/street art, interviews, perf/danse/theatre, social issues, around London)
 In an interview with Algiers at the ICA, I referred to it when talking about displacement. In The Guardian, their friend Michael Salu (at the bottom) would recycle the phrase as well as cultural vacuum!
[4 Nov 2015]
Entering Ambika P3 immerses you in the Gargantua-esque entrails of an architect: Chantal Akerman NOW.
NOW is the pièce maitresse of the exhibition: an immense black cube “fallen from outer space”, like a monolith in the middle of an ocean of concrete, transmitting sonic waves...
Inside: a wide screens’ installation projecting videos filmed in the Middle East. Like Julie Brook's made unmade, the protagonist is the desert, its stones, dust, amplified noise. Unlike Julie, Chantal records the unseen but heard conflict, a land bruised by the current condition of violence in contested regions.
Originally commissioned for the Venice Biennale 2015, Chantal Akerman seems to have stepped out of her recurrent huis clos, confinement of the kitchen (a place she has often and at length seized), subtle domestic violence... With NOW, the film maker captures the landscape and its theatre of conflict on a faceless travelogue, a perfect ricochet to last year excellent Conflict, Time, Photography at Tate Modern.
... NOW is perhaps an emancipation from / un pied de nez to Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le Fou as the filming takes place from a car but outside of it... escaping... but incarcerated in a Breathless (A Bout de Souffle) and never-ending quest: the scars of wars...
In the meanders around the black cube, the “poorly” lit labyrinth and resonance NOW sonic trip lead us to Maniac Summer (2009) about the atom bomb and Hiroshima; the dichotomous relationship between presence and absence in Maniac Shadows (2013); nightfall on Shanghai in Tombée de nuit sur Shanghaï (2007).
Around the border of Mexico and America A Voice in the Desert (2002) was born out of an article Chantal Akerman had read about ranchers chasing Mexican with their guns as immigrants "bring dirt"... “mirroring” in her “the dirty Jew”, “the dirty Arab”. Instead of focusing on the border issue, she catches the broad open space. When Richard T. Walker in in defiance of being here offers a meditative exploration of an ambivalent relationship with its Californian landscape, Chantal Akerman evokes a contemporary confrontations on its Arizona horizon, projecting as well a more general tragedy about differences (cultures, religions etc.)... While her voice repeats in a loop the story of a Mexican woman who has disappeared... The dawn breaks and the light changes.
My piece of choice is D’Est, au bord de la fiction (1995), a precursor to Sergei Loznitsa’ Landscape (2002). Akerman travelled in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of Berlin wall (East Germany in spring, Poland and Ukraine in summer, and Moscow in winter).
The small room is filled with an eight triptych film/video installation interplaying between documentary and fiction where merry-go-round like travelling shots intertwine with static shots: a clinical, atmospheric and aesthetics study of time, duration, portraits of faces, portraits of landscapes on slow motion. A woman in her kitchen; a cello player, faces, group of people, cars, streets, stations, landscapes... daytime... night time... in wait. What do they wait? A bus? A train? Bread? A phone conversation? No more inventive conversation! No more phone operator! Did Chantal want to feel her polish roots, her origins? Of course... it would be obvious! But Chantal always escaped the obvious, was bored with the expected. She was attracted by the elsewhere land. She wanted to go while it was time... Before the invasion, the Western one. The Cold War in glacial season... the post cold war! What’s left today? Is utopia different? Do they queue at McDonald?
Before diving into the belly, In The Mirror (1971 / 2007) welcomes the visitor on the balcony where a woman in her panties surveys on a monotonous monologue the complexity of her body (neck is cou in French! Not “coul”. Not “could”). It seems to be echoing Je, Tu, Il, Elle, a 30 years older piece contemplating ennui and desolation.
I emerge back from the “Hall de Nuit” where this time the little lady aux yeux pétillants didn’t come to say good night. She has been a witness of our time for a few decades. Her abrupt departure is a sign of our time... Good night Chantal.
Sybille Castelain – email@example.comFor details of the exhibition, see above.