North Vancouver – Presentation House Gallery

66
Presentation House

Presentation House Gallery, North Vancouver, Jan. 31—Mar. 22, 2009

A heavy door slams behind as one enters a dark room. The crash of the door is mirrored in a projected image of a dilapidated porn theatre. A modest number of seats await an audience. The door opens again. Light floods into the room. The door slams behind. The door opens and closes in both the image on the screen and in the physical space of the gallery with such repetition that the lasting resonance of the experience is a veritable cacophony of doors opening and closing. Entrances and exits. Beginnings and endings.
Isabelle Pauwels’ new video B-----+-----+-----+-----E was shot in the Fox Cinema on Main Street, one of the last of its kind in Vancouver. The camera records two activities simultaneously: the circa 1980s porn film and the comings and goings of theatre patrons. There is no real plot, not unlike porn, just the repetition of form. Curiously open and propositional, Pauwels’ work is no straight read. It is rather a stuttering of form.
The idea of stuttering is evoked in a text by Gilles Deleuze who makes a distinction between writers who indicate affected speech by varying the dialogic markers—he cried, he whispered, he stuttered—and those who embed such affectations into the language itself. As he suggests, “it is no longer the character who stutters in speech; it is the writer who becomes a stutterer in language.” The writer makes language stutter, becoming intensely affective and in constant variation, sending the form of writing racing.
In a parallel tack, Pauwels makes the form of the video itself stutter. The multiple edits in quick succession, the unpredictability of sequences, and the sheer variation in form read as a visual stuttering. In this way, the form of the video works against mainstream media models that privilege resolution and clarity, high production values and visual simplicity.
B-----+-----+-----+-----E premiered with B&E, an installation documenting the artist’s grandparent’s house in rural Belgium. The video is a collage of sounds, objects, close-ups, and fragmented relationships negotiating the memories, objects and colonial legacies of a family as its estate is being divided. In the gallery visitors must ask staff to turn on the video, as one would ask permission before entering a house.
The two installations draw a perversely curious link between porn and family. Together Pauwels’ two new video installations reveal her ongoing interests in performance, fiction and the artifice of narrative. Pauwels herself is heard behind the camera in both, disrupting any suspension of cinematic disbelief. With strong parallels drawn to experimental cinema, and especially structuralist film, Pauwels makes viewers hyper-aware of the operations of perception and their positions as viewing subjects.

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