What might go unnoticed… / Pierre Wat
Dissatisfied with her own answers to questions about love, Pascale-Sophie Kaparis decided to ask other people. She asked teenagers, from France and Holland, to answer a few seemingly straight-forward questions. What do you feel when you love somebody? How do you know you are in love? How does love feel physically? What can happen during silent moments?
The artist made an audio-visual installation with the results of her enquiries which forms the core of her exhibition. The other essential element consists of drawings which are clearly not an attempt to illustrate the content of the films, just as the videos are not a commentary on the works on paper. So this is a disjointed exhibition which, as its very form suggests provokes the thought that it is through this divergence that the artist seeks her truth, rather than via a hypothesis composed of of words and images.
The fragment is king here and imposes its power of the incomplete on everything, resisting any temptation to define, or state the totality. The very title of the video Pièces sur l’amour (Pieces on love) surely says it all: what is left unsaid, what melts into the dark, what is literally incomprehensible, always has the upper hand over what is said, which is – after all – so ordinary. On two screens, two squares side by side separated by a black gap: a young woman and a young man put love into words, one in French and the other in Dutch. They often speak one after the other, sometimes simultaneously, their voices merging or echoing each other in a game of superimpositions and fadeouts. They are in close-up, nose to nose with the camera. It seems as though Pascale Kaparis sought to capture the skin of their pure faces in order to intensify through the image what the words, whether poetic or clumsy, were attempting to describe.
She films them and at times, the image, without us really knowing why, moves and breaks up the very pictorial flow of her shots. So during this brief interval where everything is played out, we no longer see portraits, but instants of confession. Meanwhile, the person behind the camera is led by her own emotions to start guessing.
What struck me after watching this was that I could barely remember what had been said. I have the vague impression that that wasn’t really important. What does remain intact in my memory are the faces that appealed to the artist. That, I am sure, is crucial. It does not imply that what they say is not interesting. Yet, because their words are also ours, words of love, words we share because we’ve said, heard, read or loved them, these words or clichés are never insincere. Their having been uttered before does not detract from the urgent need to speak these words. I knew these words, but the faces were unfamiliar to me: persons unique and particular, during this film, are delivering generalities when it comes to words. Maybe that’s what love is – the tension between familiarity and otherness.
These fragments function like a painted diptych, but an unusual one, as the two screens are not joined or hinged together like some painted panels, but separated by this black gap which occasionally replaces the image. Pictorial logic? No doubt, but who would grant pride of place to obliteration rather than revelation? An anti-documentary logic, since in Kaparis’ work the game of editing and installation deconstructs the realist illusion stage by stage. In a space where the documentary does not simply capture reality (what would that ‘simple’ operation involve), but has a scenario based on a story already written, where the edit is aimed at reconstituting the unfolding plot, moving from disjointed fragments towards a narrative, from chance towards logic, the artist wends her way against the current. It is as though the logic of discourse inherent in every attempt to put love into words and man’s irrepressible desire to formulate coherent, ordered, intelligible explanations of the irrational had to be shattered in order for truth to emerge. This is not a clear discourse, but overlapping voices; not a straight answer, but an intermingling of languages that merge to produce a chiaroscuro tongue, perhaps the only one which can, through its very form, tell us something about love. Beings of two different sexes, with two different languages, two different cultures, on two separate screens speak but not to each other. Love has no reciprocity and has to be fragmented if we want to render it visible.
What about the drawings? These labyrinths of blood, in which a life force seems to be struggling to emerge. What is their relationship to the videos? What is beautiful in this way of working and exhibiting is precisely the rejection of conventional logic, enabling us better to grasp the underlying links between things. What could be more disparate stylistically than the drawings and Pièces sur l’amour? So much so that we hesitate, imagining how we might hurl ourselves into a game of comparisons. Yet that is what makes this exhibition so powerful and, on a deeper level, Pascale Kaparis’ whole project to create tension between things that, a priori, have nothing in common. She draws, paints and films without worrying about the pseudo boundaries between disciplines but, on the contrary, has the conviction manifested through her work that in her quest she needs to use all the tools at her disposal. For this is a quest which obliges her incessantly to compare the incomparable: whether it is the comparison of drawings and videos or the experiences of French and Dutch teenagers in love. To compare - not so much in order to attempt to close the gap, but to take stock and lend it form. This is a quest for a path where an enigma serves as an unachievable goal, a quest in which not the destination but the journey is delectable.
What is appealing about Pascale Kaparis’ work is her embracing of the unexpected and her openness to what she encounters: what others say, the random line that suddenly takes shape. You have to have a rare degree of receptiveness to achieve this: you have to be prepared for it. This artist clearly is: when creating links where there are none, she reveals what might have gone unnoticed, what would not have been glimpsed otherwise in any simple comparison of the comparable.
I described her drawings as labyrinths, intimate labyrinths, certainly, brought to life by errant wanderings rather than a possible breakaway. There are so many tangents in these drawings, visible retouchings, half-hearted rubbings out, confessions sketched-out and then abandoned and so many coils and knots and so much blood circulating. It is life that irrigates it all. These are skinned alive drawings, in which dissection is an option for seeking after life. The paintbrush-scalpel, does not kill but digs deep, scrutinises, interrogating incessantly. If love exists, then where will it find itself a niche, in which vital organ? “How does love feel physically?” is the question she asks these young people in front of the camera. Pascale Kaparis longs to see and to know, and her works are admissions of her failure to do so. As we follow the lines she has drawn and interwoven, we often come up against these interrupted journeys and mismatches.
The drawings bear the mark of all this, of the awareness that only a work whose form incorporates the sense of fracture inherent in the feeling of love, can convey it. These drawings, like the space presiding between the two video screens, so often appear split either side of a horizontal line. Is this the water line between the emergent and the submerged? Between the visible and the hidden, the spoken and the unspoken? There is no shadow of a doubt.
It is surely a sad admission that no question or quest, regardless of the form it takes or the language it employs, could ever bridge the gap between what we ask for and what we are told. Love is to ask the other for something he does not have. Yet the admission is a fertile one, since by comparing the incomparable and confronting what cannot be united, the artist has found her form: this shattering is the only response art can offer to the enigma.
Art hitorian and professor
Pièces sur l'Amour / Pieces on Love
Exhibition and catalog