press release

This exhibition will be showing The Waves, 2003 (interactive installation, color, sound)

The effect may take its own sweet time but it is gripping. Viewers, facing a screen on which a wave is shown surging forward and breaking, enter a corridor and walk towards the image, irresistibly drawn towards the swelling sea. Yet the closer they approach, the clearer it becomes that their own movement affects both the speed of the wave and the volume of the sound for the swell slows until it freezes into a black-and-white image while the sound fades to silence. Backing away, viewers then create the opposite effect.

The change is gradual and follows the pace set by the viewers’ stride, and this merging generates a certain fascination tinged with joy before a wave that is about to wash over us but which we control. The device also gives rise to a feeling of anxiety, the kind we get in a nightmare. Slowing down the image, far from reassuring us, paradoxically creates an effect of powerlessness.

The paradox in this case articulates a certain relationship to knowledge and probably to the other in terms of desire and temptation. In a marvelously poetic and effective way, it puts in play that attraction sparked by knowledge that is elusive, ungraspable, fl eeting.

To suspend time. That tension between movement and stasis which is at work here lies at the heart of all of Thierry Kuntzel’s art. His installations and videos speak of obliteration, renewal, coming together, the inexpressible as the limit of images, disorder. They explore the mechanism of fi lm and motion pictures which the artist connects with the mechanism of the human psyche. Isabelle Aeby Papaloïzos

At the rear of a very deep room, an extremely large image along with the appropriate sound: the sea, or rather waves, to be precise. No beach, just a thin band of sky. Waves, in their staggered tiers: the nearly fl at distance, the formation of the fi rst swells, and then, in the foreground, the breaking wave. Movement and color, like an unstable monochrome, endlessly renewed, between black, blue, gray, green and gold (the sand dragged up by the passing rollers).

“Either the color green: of course yellow and blue can be seen, but if their perception vanishes from becoming small, they enter a differential relationship that determines the green. And nothing prevents yellow or blue, each on its own behalf, from being determined by the differential relationship of two colors that elude us, or two degrees of chiaroscuro… Or the sound of the sea: at least two waves must be perceived as nascent and different if they are to enter a relationship that is able to determine our perception of a third, which ‘excels’ the others and becomes conscious.” Gilles Deleuze, Le Pli

In the installation what happens to the image and the sound generates a troubling relationship with viewers: while they don’t determine this image and sound, which were recorded earlier, they are the ones who set, or upset the pace thanks to their position in the space. The waves slow down in keeping with one’s progression towards the screen until they are immobilized in a still photograph devoid of sound. No literal fusion with the waves but a link or complicity with them: renewal of the oceanic feeling (illumination of melancholy). Mechanism, perception, return of almost the same, wash and backwash, impossible time: The Waves is a homage to Virginia Woolf (to her book that bears the same name), her writing, her invention of time, her person—that life that was forever on the point of drowning (which was how it ended in fact), between terror and ecstasy.

(PS: oddity of an exercise in the written presentation of what will only resemble an absence of language when shown)

Thierry Kuntzel

THIERRY KUNTZEL Thierry Kuntzel was born in 1948 in Bergerac. He lives and works in Paris. University studies in philosophy, linguistics and semiology. Thesis on “Film Work, Dream Work” begun under the direction of Roland Barthes. Researcher at ORTF and at INA from 1972 to 1989. Teacher during the same years (fi lm semiology and textual analysis of fi lm) at University of Paris I, IDHEC, and the American Study Center for Film in Paris, as well as at a brace of American universities, the University of New York at Buffalo and the Center for Twentieth Century Studies in Milwaukee-Wisconsin. Since 1974, has created numerous monotapes and installations, which have been acquired by museums worldwide.

Thierry Kuntzel