Art, film and visual cultures, French, Humanities, trauma

Empty Gallery, HK: “Times Like These: Philippe Grandrieux in Hong Kong”

Screenshots from Philippe Grandrieux’s The Scream (4:3 Film). Copyright Philippe Grandrieux

Submission by: Prof. Greg Hainge

Running until 30th November, 2019, Empty Gallery in Hong Hong will host an exhibition of works by French film director, screenwriter, and artist Philippe Grandrieux called “The Bare Life“.  With a career spanning over forty years, Grandrieux’s work combines elements of the experimental and horror genres, providing the viewer an experience rich in sensory and psychological depth.

The curator notes that Grandrieux’s “The Bare Life” occupies “a liminal space between dream and nightmare, these works represent Grandrieux’s most distilled inquiry yet into a set of themes which have consistently haunted his cinematic research: the search for a pre-linguistic form of expression, the simultaneous primacy and unknowability of the human body, and the radically transpersonal nature of affect.”

Screenshots from Philippe Grandrieux’s The Scream (4:3 Film). Copyright Philippe Grandrieux

Writing for the online film magazine 4:3, Prof. Greg Hainge highlights the parallels that exist between Grandrieux’s work, and the current situation unfolding in Hong Kong. In Prof. Hainge’s article “Times Like These: Philippe Grandrieux in Hong Kong“. While Grandrieux’s work has historically avoided political commentary (with notable exceptions such as 1996’s Retour à Sarajevo [Return to Sarajevo] which “in spite of [it’s] politically-loaded subject matter, [is] concerned primarily with capturing the interactions of bodies with each other and the space around them”), the visceral depictions on-screen seem to channel the atmosphere brewing in nearby Harcourt Road.

Situated in close proximity to the violent clashes occurring between protestors and law enforcements officials, Hainge notes how Grandrieux’s “works resonate forcefully with the current events (born of a very particular constellation of historical and geopolitical contexts) in the Special Administrative Region where they are on display and help us to understand why, in times like these, we need art more than ever”.

Screenshots from Philippe Grandrieux’s The Scream (4:3 Film). Copyright Philippe Grandrieux

The Bare Life” showcases Grandrieux’s works over several levels of the gallery space. On the lower level are three single-channel video works which together form Grandrieux’s Unrest trilogy, while on the upper level, a new eleven-screen installation conceptualised and created specially for the exhibition called The Scream is being presented above. As the curator explains, Grandrieux’s “interest in the expressive potential of this specific bodily act has long been a salient feature of his practice, resonating with the concerns of historical artist-thinkers such as Bacon, Artaud, Deleuze, and Grotowski, all of whom noted the scream’s potential to disrupt categorical distinctions between inside/outside, mind/body, and self/other.”

Hainge notes that The Scream “has some obvious cultural reference points… [to figures such as] Edvard Munch, Antonin Artaud and the contorted figures in the paintings of Francis Bacon, his screaming popes in particular.” However given the location of the exhibition, and the current political situation in Hong Kong, Hainge asks “how could [this  piece] not also recall the daily stream of images broadcast from Hong Kong of bodies being beaten, hit, shot, teargassed, thrown to the ground, shackled and battered, of people shouting, crying, protesting, weeping and screaming?”

Read Greg Hainge’s full article in 4:3 here.

The Bare Life” runs until 30 November 2019, at the Empty Gallery, Hong Kong.



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