Marine Hugonnier

Marine Hugonnier

Kunsthalle Bern

Travelling Amazonia, 2006
Super 16mm film transferred onto DVD with sound
Duration 23.25 minutes
Courtesy the artist and Max Wigram Gallery London

October 21, 2007

Marine Hugonnier
27.10. – 09.12.2007

Kunsthalle Bern
Helvetiaplatz 1
CH-3005 Bern
T: +41 (0)31 350 00 40
F: +41 (0)31 350 00 41
info [​at​]
Opening hours:
Wednesday till Sunday 10 – 5 pm
Tuesday 10 – 7pm

The Kunsthalle Bern is pleased to announce the first solo-exhibition of French artist Marine Hugonnier. She previously participated in the group-exhibition Pre-Emptive (Kunsthalle Bern, 2006) with two photographs from the sequence Towards Tomorrow (International Date Line Alaska). These seascapes were the result of a trip to the Bering Strait in Alaska, USA, to photograph across the International Date Line into Siberia, and so, making pictures of a future moment. The solo-exhibition focuses on film and photographic works which result from the artist’s exploration of the entanglement between history, geography and its representation. Additionally, the exhibition will feature new pieces, including books, paper works and a slide show.

Hugonnier’s most recent film-production Travelling Amazonia, closes a trilogy formed by Ariana, 2003 and The Last Tour, 2004. In these films Hugonnier explores the relation between landscape and history, addressing the notion of a ‘viewpoint’ in various ways. Ariana reflects on the implications of the ‘panorama’ as a form of strategic overview — a cinematic move — and connects with its origins as pre-cinematic mass entertainment. At the same time, Ariana tells the story of an undertaking that was never completed. The film crew sets out to visit the Pandjshêr Valley in Northern Afghanistan. As the crew is unable to film the valley from a vantage point in the surrounding Hindu Kush Mountains, this failure becomes the film’s central theme. Ariana is contextualised with a selection of photographs from the series Mountains with No Names; a group of portraits picturing the mountains that surround the Pandjshêr Valley. Until today, these mountains remain unnamed and they exist solely as blank areas on the map — only their paths have been given names by local inhabitants. This anonymity runs counter to the Western tradition by which every mountain is named, a practice that coincided with European imperialism and the expansion of the colonies. The mountains surrounding the Pandjshêr Valley exist outside this history.

The Last Tour is a fiction set in the near future, showing the ‘last’ voyage in a balloon over the Matterhorn National Park, when tourist attractions are about to be closed to the public. The viewers embark on a ‘last tour’, a hot air balloon flight over the famous, iconic Matterhorn Mountain in the Swiss Alps. The film suggests the possibility of a blank space ‘re-appearing’ on the map, a reference to the world before the era of discovery, by introducing the moment that scenic outings will definitively belong to the past at “the end of the society of the spectacle”.

At the close of the film, Hugonnier’s crew releases some fireflies, a hint to the 1975 newspaper article by Pier Paolo Pasolini, who uses the disappearance of fireflies in Italy as a metaphor for the contemporaneous rebirth of Italian fascism and the extinction of political ideologies. In the wake of this film, Marine Hugonnier made two paper works called Lucioles (French for fireflies) consisting of phosphorescent prints of one frame of the film and printed onto an “Alpine Club Library” headed letter. When a timed light goes out one can see the picture appear. The release of the fireflies is a defining ‘gesture’ in the artist’s conception of cinema as a political category.

Travelling Amazonia was shot in the heart of the Amazon jungle. The film’s narrative is concentrated on the Trans-Amazonia highway, a massive project devised in the seventies by the Brazilian government to establish a route that would bisect the Amazon forest and connect the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts. The objective of Hugonnier and her team is to build a dolly and tracks using the same materials that were employed when building the highway. The construction of the Trans-Amazonia generated an industry around the extraction of natural resources like metal, wood and rubber. Hugonnier and her team make use of these materials to realise upon the very same road a ‘travelling shot’. The purpose is to film a linear travelling shot which re-enacts the linearity of the Trans-Amazonia highway and which recalls the pioneering ideals that this colonialist project embodied. Travelling Amazonia questions the idea of perspective and its consequences for Western systems of representation.

For the installation Wednesday (Monte Pascoal, Brazil) and Thursday (Monte Pascoal, Brazil) composed of 2 photographs, Hugonnier went back to the exact point where the Portuguese navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral came ashore on Wednesday April 22, 1500. Following the new route to the Indies, a hurricane drove Cabral to the coast, where he spotted Monte Pascoal thus discovering Brazil by chance. His first sighting being at dusk (Wednesday night), Cabral had to wait for the early hours of the next morning to confirm what he had seen. The two pictures recall these precise moments as well as the expectations of the Portuguese navigator during this waiting period. By presenting us with Cabral’s vision, Hugonnier alludes to those few hours in history when the ideals, beliefs and made-up imagery of “The New World” made their entry into the Western psyche.

Beach of the New World, a photograph made of the place where the first colonial footsteps hit Brazil is presented along with Untitled (Study for the Reality of Apparition), which is a painting that has been restored under the supervision of Hugonnier. This work underlines that the very process of restoration is anachronistic. The restoration pretends to operate onto the temporality of an art work and slightly changes the painting’s condition of visibility. The formal analogies between these two images force us to reconsider what we hold as exotic and foreign as well as our representation of paradise.

Other works complete the exhibition, broadening the context of Marine Hugonnier’s praxis which focuses rather on the thinking of images than on producing them. An Alcove, not considered as a work ‘per sé’ is a mirrored structure to the one (built) which receives the film projections. It is a place with an intimate feeling where 3 different slides are shown to map the work and extend its field of reference.

Leader, a photogram, which seems to be nothing more than a black picture at first, is in fact one frame of a nightly Super 16mm film shot in the mountains of Oukaimeden, Morocco. This picture is presented along Mallarme’s poem Un coup de Dés Jamais n’Aboliera le Hasard which the artist has folded, creasing the paper and so intervening in the gaps or interludes existing in the poems layout. This work is composed of eleven frames, which will be changed every hour. The book Travail Contre Productif is a collection of thoughts about art, economics, literature, cinema and friendship that Hugonnier started writing in 1996. This ‘work in progress’ in fact opens the exhibition. It operates like a central point of reference, since the notion of ‘counter production’ echoes the idea of failure or the restraining from the production of more images and objects, at stake in all of Hugonnier’s work. Four other folded book works called Ouvrage Géographique contain collections of images and references and function as ‘visual guides’ or mental maps to the countries the artist visited to make her films. Hugonnier’s work is clearly infused by the consciousness that image-making — in an age when images are often used as weapons — is precarious terrain. To quote Martin Herbert in his Artforum feature on Marine Hugonnier (September 2006), her “art is one of conscience and rectitude, drenched in the subjective real, carefully reflexive — and, in its refusal of a power that operates on multiple scales and in myriad registers, respectfully attentive to what should and what shouldn’t pass
through the lens.”

Marine Hugonnier (Paris, 1969) lives and works in London. In addition to the Kunsthalle show, she currently has a solo-exhibition at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (Turino), and she held exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and at the S.M.A.K. in Gent, Belgium. She featured at the latest Venice Biennial and participated in the group-exhibition Penseé Sauvage at the Frankfurter Kunstverein.

Beginning next year she will present a new film in the Mamco in Geneva. This film is shot in Niger with the prize money of the prestigious London Film Award.
The exhibition in the Kunsthalle Bern is curated by Philippe Pirotte

On the occasion of the exhibition, the Kunsthalle Bern publishes the book Marine Hugonnier -A Film Trilogy with texts by the artist, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo and Revolver Books Frankfurt.
ISBN 978-3-86588-393-3

Artist’s talk with Marine Hugonnier
26. 10., 2 pm
Special guided tour for teachers
29.10., 5.30 pm
Art meeting for senior visitors
31.10., 2 pm
Public guided tours
28.10., 11 am
13.11., 6 pm
2.12., 11 am
Special events will appear at

The exhibition is made possible with the generous support of:
The City and Kanton of Bern, the ongoing commitment of the donators of the Club 15, the Alliance Française and anonymous donators. The educational program benefits from the Cultural Price of the
Burgergemeinde Bern.

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October 21, 2007

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