Three films on Louise Bourgeois

2004 | 31mins total | Colour
By Mieke Bal

Genre: Documentary
Multi-lingual with English subtitles



The art of Louise Bourgeois from the viewers’ perspective

Three films on the work of Louise Bourgeois: simply, one film was never enough, one approach always displayed the absence of another, then another. In _Scuttling Around_, shot in a warehouse in San Francisco, where real spiders might turn up, Bourgeois’ Nest of spiders occasioned personal comments by a variety of people, from the taxi driver to the intern, the electrician, and people who just came by on an errand. I was interested in the public, not the expert nor the artist. Putting a group of people in a room with a single artwork and listen in as they talked to each other: that was the concept of a series of short films, ArtClips, which I made in 2002. They were meant to replace the voice of authority, of expertise, of the displacement of the work by an often sentimentalized artist, as is the standard format, on television.

After this series I began to worry about the absence in this concept of the space in and by means of which works are made public: the spatial aspect of exhibiting as a kind of speech act. This inspired the concept for _Favorite Spots_. I asked visitors to a Bourgeois exhibition in Warsaw to choose a spot in the show where they felt most at ease, challenged, happy, or disturbed – in short, most engaged with the work. Then I went around from person to person and asked them to explain their choice of spot.

This led to the film as a guided tour where the visitors are the guide – multiple, speaking in different voices. Even more than with the ArtClip, this meant relinquishing the authority of the filmmaker. But then, there was again something missing: precisely, my own subjective response to the work, for the filmmaker cannot help being inside the film, if only as editor, and that should be visible.

This realization produced _Eye Contact_. Here, no voices of the public but no other voice either. The push-and-pull between works approached, then left behind again, constituted the rhythm, the pulse, of this exercise in looking and showing the look, or gaze. And it is significant for the paradoxical nature of both art and filmmaking that this most subjective film was made by two, not one. Glued to the works, entrapped in the exhibition space, I looked with an unspoken commitment, almost solemn, to share my eye contact with viewers whom I would never know.

In “Eye contact” (9‘34”) the camera visits the exhibition, engaging the artworks closely and sensuously. The viewer, in this case, is behind the camera. (with Shahram Entekhabi)

In “Scuttling around” (6‘30”) five viewers discuss the means, effects, and surprises of a single work, a five-piece set of spider scultures.

In “Favourite spots” (15‘16”) visitors to an exhibition were invited to choose the spot they liked best and explain why.

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