La femme de nulle part (The woman from nowhere) brings together the work of Anita Di Bianco, Sophie Macpherson and Rosalind Nashashibi. It maps connections between the fin de siecle malaise of the Viennese bourgeoisie and the warring, saccharine hostilities found in the theatrical stagings of such plays as Jean Genet’s Les Bonnes (The Maids). The exhibition’s title is taken from the French film director, Louis Delluc’s 1922 film, La femme de nulle, in which the main protagonist suffers from amnesiac, disruptive wanderings. There is also the added influence of anxious theatricality and mannered hysteria as found in the historical-mythological, famously gruelling, 1928 silent film The Passion Joan of Arc, by the Danish film maker Carl Dreyer.
One of Di Bianco’s two films, Disaffection and Disaffectation, is based on Les Bonnes, which dramatises the 1933 murder by the Papin sisters of their employer and her daughter. Alternating between exaggerated role-reversals and uncontrolled disclosures, the two actors in Di Bianco’s projection, volley the three roles between themselves within a claustrophobic boudoir, with the camera providing an unsettling sense of intimacy. In this interior, envious looks and ambiguous gestures, are made as lines of script are misappropriated. In this re-enactment, Genet’s often-revisited play unfolds and refolds back in to its own cluttered, suffocating space.
Les Bonnes is also a text that has fascinated Macpherson, with its layers of role-play, posturing and potential for criminality. Macpherson’s constructions suggest theatrical sets and conjurers’ apparatus, where the onlookers desire to interpret trickery as magic, when disbelief is suspended. Macpherson’s work has a complex relationship to performance, and to realities that flip to theatricality.
Rosalind Nashashibi’s series of four photographic works Untitled (Abbey) are inverted photographic plates taken from a book on 12th century Cistercian architecture. Previously lofty vaults and pointed arches are presented upside down and become tightened, restricted yet a floating organisation of spaces and arcs that in part resemble facial features.
Similarly, along this constructed narrative runs Di Bianco’s film Studies for J. A filmic study for a proposed film about Joan of Arc, it draws together excerpts of disparate textual sources such as Dreyer’s script for The Passion Joan of Arc and Bob Dylan’s Chronicles along with other found literary and historical texts.
Curated by Lucy Skaer.
Anita Di Bianco (born 1970) studied at Rutgers University, New Jersey, U.S. She is currently on a year long residency at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin.
Sophie Macpherson (born 1972) studied at Glasgow School of Art and lives and works in Glasgow.
Rosalind Nashashibi (born 1973) studied at Glasgow School of Art. She will have a solo show at Chisenhale, London in April and will be one of six artists representing Scotland at this year’s Venice Biennale.