I first met Pauline Beaudemont back in 2009. We were both living in Brooklyn and she was running Mary Smith & Friends gallery. She invited me over for a bonfire in the gallery’s backyard and the jacket I wore that night smelled of bonfire for the next year or so. Pauline included me in a show at the gallery later that year, and we went on to discover we had many mutual friends, from France to San Francisco. I also began following Pauline’s elegant documentary photo practice during this time. Born in Paris, educated in Switzerland, and living in Brooklyn, what she did with a point-and-shoot was just a bit more vivid and succinct than what everyone else was doing at the time. You can see her blog HERE. You can learn and look and train, but some people just have an eye for things. When I heard that Pauline was making a film, I knew it was going to be brilliant. The work premiered at Bold Tendencies last month, coinciding with Pauline’s relocation to London.
At Peckham Artists Moving Image Festival (PAMI) in London, you showed a video installation entitled “If You Put a Roof On…”, featuring the same work showing at different times on a series of almost architectural cinder blocks. The work featured a dancehall queen in a Le Corbusier house. Can you tell me a bit more about this project?
The project has started when the Villa Blanche’s association in La Chaux de Fonds in Switzerland decided to invite a bunch of young artists to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Le Corbusier’s first house that he built for his parents when he was 24. When I visited it I felt the extreme traditionalism in the overall style of the house and its total emptiness and desolation, but yet blended in some of the architect’s forthcoming shapes and visionary philosophy. I simply thought about bringing life and sensuality back into the space in revealing Le Corbusier’s well known fantasy of the woman’s body.
I then filmed a Dance Hall Queen performing repetitive suggestive movements in different locations in the house. It was an homage to his vision but also a tongue-in-cheek display of my opinion about his notorious misogyny, and his depreciation of women’s power. When Bold Tendencies invited me to show the piece for PAMI, I was excited by the opportunity of displaying the film in a non-white cube environment and challenge a real “concrete” space; concrete by its practical use as a car park, and concrete by the material of its construction. Le Corbusier has always been a reference, and he managed to spread this modernist vision of concrete as a beautiful and meaningful material both in the texture and the simplicity.
I’ve selected some pre-cast concrete forms that are normally used in road work and urbanism and combined them in order to create pedestals for the monitors that were showing each sequences of the film. There were 5 monitors displayed in the shape of an arrow and behind 2 projectors projecting life-size sequences on the concrete walls of the car park. It was very rough all this blocks and wires and plastic monitors, very present, but still so poetic in the dichotomy with what was shown in the moving images, these smooth sexual movements.
How do you think this video work relates to your photographic practice?
I come from a photography background, but I have done some videos which were more documentaries about artists or musicians. In my art practice, this project was my first film, and I took the term “moving-image” literally. Each sequence was shot as a “tableau vivant” with a lot of attention to the frame and the dancers’ movement. I didn’t want to make a dull illustration of the space by filming around and depicting the house. A certain dependency to the medium is an important aspect of my practice and the use of a hand-hold 16mm Bolex camera with 100 feet wheels made it clear: each sequence is going to be one wheel long and the dancer and I have to work the intensity and the performance on 3:30 minutes. The film is shown on several devices in separate sequence, uncut and not edited, like one would display analogic prints.
And off the back of this you have been awarded a grant from Le Corbusier Foundation?
After shooting the film, I applied with my partner. the musician Adam Bainbridge, to the grant for artistic creation provided by the Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris. We worked together on “If you put a Roof On…” as he developed the sound piece for it. It’s the continuation of the artistic journey started in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The intention is to expand on the pratice started, focus on personal readings of the architecture and combine these evocations in physical objects, film and music, and to make another personal approach to one of Le Corbusier’s most ambitious projects : Chandigarh in India.