rivane neuenschwander features in art unlimited, basel, 2015

15 June 2015
Rivane Neuenschwander will show her most recent film work 'Erotisme' at Art Basel Unlimited. This work was created for her major mid-career retrospective at the Museo de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, Brazil. 

The work is based on a hand signals chart that illustrated an entry on eroticism in 'Le memento universal Da Costa' (Paris, 1947), a review associated with the Acéphale wing of Surrealism. The film is sensitively soundtracked by Neuenschwander's regular contributor, the Brazilian audio-visual artist collective O Grivo.

This erotic hand signalling chart, the Surrealists' risque adaptation of the standard American Sign Language manual alphabet, was a provocative method used by the artists and poets of that school to break through conventional thought and behaviour to a deeper truth. In the film, Neuenschwander directs the protagonist to form the various gestures with their hand, animating and celebrating the Surrealists' intention.

Neuenschwander, filming the hands in black and white and using dramatic lighting, has created a stage for them to perform; the subject moves gracefully into the various positions as if performing a choreographed dance or ritual. The footage is imbued with a theatrical sensibility to form a delicate, subtle and powerfully appealing piece. The hand forms a clear shadow on the wall behind it which, upon closer inspection, appears to be that of a second hand mimicking the actions of the first.

What was intended by the surrealists as a singular practise has become a game for two, a form of mating ritual. This frisson increases the sensual atmosphere, introducing an encounter between two forms, which heightens the original intention for the alphabet.

The text descriptions for each gesture are interspersed throughout the footage, signalling which action has been completed. Each word, written in the French Surrealists native tongue, is primitively carved on various brightly coloured boards to create a strong tonal shift from the monochrome of the film footage. These scratched scrawls, aesthetically removed from the delicate hand gestures, imply a passionate haste or charged creativity. They are reminiscent of something found written in a seedy passage or cubicle after a sexual encounter, creating an indelible memento to each performance.

Art Unlimted runs from 15 - 21 June 2015