The old hags, the dykes, the frigid, the unfucked, the unfuckables, the neurotics, the psychos, all those girls that don’t get a look in the universal market of the consumable chick.” This is a description by the French filmmaker and writer Virginie Despentes describing her preferred readers. Similarly the personas in the work of Pauline Curnier Jardin in the exhibition at 1646 evoke the old daring and joyous godmothers, finally “out of market” – free, gratis.
This exhibition revolves around the background characters of a future feature length film of the artist, Sebastiano Blu. The focus is on the Menopaused. Curnier Jardin uses this opportunity to find them a body, a place, a space and a voice.
To the artist it seems that ever since she was a child there is a place where women could find a certain peace: in old age (if, in youth, one didn’t choose to be a nun). To be menopaused or virgin can be seen as a political gesture of removing oneself from the cycle of social reproduction, to not “feed the empire with a new generation of soldiers or a renewed tax base*. Her solo show is an apathetic, tragicomic mutiny of oldies.
There are ladies’ skins, flat and soft women. They could be rolled up and stored; heaped up; thrown onto tired old furniture to dress it up; slipped on like a suit; or attached to the wall like a pin-up.” There are crawling ladies, amorphous, with nice skin, dull of colour, shiny but not untouched. Women who never swear, that are hunting trophies, possibly conquered, consumed and exhibited. A life marked them, even gave them a look, big eyes, a gutted animal life. They are joined by a slapping zombie puppet and a sexy retired women’s choir.
Curnier Jardin relates to her practice through personas, through the embodiment and animation of concepts and feelings, through the Rabelaisian spectacle that lets myths come to life and facts melt to forms. She has the tendency to create a universe that blurs and confuses the seemingly logical divisions between human and nonhuman, rationality and emotion, sacred and profane, ally and enemy, masculine and feminine, showing instead how each part of these equations are capable of interacting and combining, how each has alternatives, possibilities, and the freedom to do wonderful things. In her previous film works she has revisited the stories of Joan of Arc, Bernadette Soubirou and the Goddess Demeter, the birth of Jesus and his saint Family, the Anatomic Theatre of the Renaissance, the dark side of that same Renaissance; the spectres of world wars, and, the exploitation and destruction that haunt the European past and present. Her so-called baroque, grotesque and at times dark aesthetics mix influences from B-movies, folklore, dance, anarchy and epic poetry, catholic and pagan ritual, and the realness of streets and village parties. It draws inspiration from earlier experimental and contemporary filmmakers but also from the countless, nameless creators of popular culture and nature itself.
Text from press release of 1646.
Pauline Curnier Jardin, I still send you a lot of affection and I kiss you through my dentures, installation view at 1646, The Hague, Mixed media installation, Courtesy of the artist
Photos by Jhoeko.