From Saturday September 4th to October 2nd, Perrotin opens for the first time an exhibition of Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier.
The photographic works, titled ARTvonTRIER, which works incarnates the world premiere of the exhibition, are extracts from Lars von Trier’s award-winning filmography. Audiences will be able to recognise legendary and iconic scenes from Trier’s films. A new involvement and reflection await in the transformed works.
This exhibition is curated by Anna Lena Vaney and Malou Lykke Solfjeld.
Iconic filmmaker Lars von Trier has, for the past twenty-seven years, produced films pervaded by a form of radicalism, aesthetically and thematically. Steering self-sacrificing characters through harrowing situations and disconcerting spaces, he is a director who demands emotion1. Presenting viewers with a visceral experience rather than a conceptual one, his approach transcends the limits of ordinary affects2. From explicit naturalism to more elaborate stylistic bursts, Lars von Trier has consistently adapted his images to the complex subjects they convey.
From a succession of shots filmed with a handheld camera (notably for features made under the aegis of Dogma95) to more elaborate frames, Lars von Trier’s work confronts realism and artifice, edging as closely as possible to human passions.
The director is exhibiting a series of twenty-four photographs for the first time at Perrotin Paris, in collaboration with Jens-Otto Paludan and Malou Solfjeld. Twenty-four is the standard number of frames per second needed to capture realistic motion on video. The director’s series doesn’t highlight behind-the-scenes from shoots, nor is it a testimony to his creative process, which is often described as 'turbulent.' Rather, it unfolds like a memento of his work through photograms taken from the heart of the films, yielding a whole that transcends a simple retrospective. We circulate from The Element of Crime (1984) to The House That Jack Built (2018), by way of Breaking the Waves (1996), Dogville (2003), Antichrist (2009), Melancholia (2011) and Nymphomaniac (2013), with an irrefutable artistic coherence identifiable throughout. Above all, what emerges from this photographic ensemble is the pictorial intensity with which Lars von Trier’s work is imbued. In addition to sourcing from theatre and literature, here the reference to painting is magnified by a clear sense of framing and composition. The approach strengthens the foundation for a total art structure, one that the director has always aspired to. The work The Barque of Jack, for example, unequivocally alludes to La Barque de Dante (1822) by Eugène Delacroix, and The Most Sensitive Subject of All, taken from the same film, is meant to be a still life. The portrait of Kirsten Dunst in Justice of Ophelia is a direct reference to Ophelia (1852) by John Everett Millais, while Moonshower contends with the motif of Venus—the title Melancholia is itself a namesake reference to a 1514 engraving by Albrecht Dürer. In parallel, Caspar David Friedrich’s influence is evident in The Impossibility of Breaking a Wave, as Orlan and Duchamp are felt in A Mirror Is Like a Thought, and Antichrist provides a corrupt Eden as a backdrop. Less evident —perhaps more unconscious too—are other signposts of the same type, which emerge like a red thread through the chosen photograms. Stars may evoke Les yeux clos (1890) by Odilon Redon. Church conjures Jean-François Millet’s L’Église de Gréville (1874). What It Takes to Make a Man an Animal is connected to Jeune Homme nu assis au bord de la mer, figure d’étude (1835) by Hippolyte Flandrin.
Consequently, each photograph fixes Lars von Trier’s aesthetic inclinations—between the chaos of the naturalistic image to the more mannered aspect of plasticity—to bring forth a new unity. Just as his cinema revisits different genres by distorting or subverting them, his photo-graphs assiduously examine the question of pictorial genres. If some of these references are projected by the spectator, it matters little in the end, as the filmmaker’s goal remains the same: to get to the very heart of emotions, and question the 'why' of their subversive nature. It is no coincidence that the exhibition presents a significant number of portraits, aligning with the large number of close-ups in Lars von Trier’s films—because what could be more telling than a face to convey human affect?
By its very layout, this hanging adds fixity to the art of cinema, which is, in essence, an art of passage: of space, of time, of gazes and of bodies. As if to freeze in eternity the ever-elusive scrolling of images.
Text by André Balso - PhD in Film Studies. Courtesy Perrotin.