THE STUFFED SHIRT_PART_3: CARRELLO
16mm film transferred to digital, 3 channel video installation, colour/sound, loop, 2012
Anna Franceschini uses film as a symbolic and evocative device through which she defines a crystalline language of moving images. Her research moves towards “pure cinema” and relies on the structures and languages of art as a tribute to both early and experimental cinema in its main expressive and theoretical orientations: the art of image, abstract and conceptual visual writing, freedom from narrative constraints. In her works the artist almost entirely excludes the human figure to concentrate on places and objects that become the terrain for investigating the enigma of existence.
For her solo show at Peep-Hole, Franceschini has made a new film, The Stuffed Shirt. The work alludes to an idiomatic expression that is no longer used much and it stars a “dressman”, an automatic ironing system used by industrial laundries to eliminate creases from shirts and trousers. The “dressman” fills the shirts with life, almost making them explode; it pushes them to the limit, to a sort of cardiac arrest that makes the garment collapse. The artist uses the camera as a resuscitator, a sort of heart-lung device of the moving image. Through a machine – the 16mm camera – for short repeated seconds Franceschini gives a fleeting humanized image to another machine: the press.
The installation probes the dual nature of the “dressman”. An inert and inoffensive mechanical aid, almost pitiful because of its incomplete and slightly oversized body, the iron manikin then swells up suddenly, looming over people to become a monster that, escaping human control, can cause catastrophes. The non-human creatures of gothic and fantasy literature, but also of traditional and folk narrations, instantly come to mind. But it is above all cinema – the quintessential golem machine – that has paid tribute to them from the very beginning, with the likes of Frankenstein, zombies and robots, and on to Robocop and the affable Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, who in Ghostbusters panics the population with his immense white body as he goes around New York City.
The work is composed of filmed segments that are then digitalized, in which the audio – field recordings, to which the synthetic glissando of a harp has been added – works through superimposition to saturate the space hazily.
“If we try to conceive of the exhibition as a film idea that has been fragmented, scattered and then concentrated again, it is easy to see that the story never begins: the three projections can be viewed as reifications of three tragic acts and the monitor in the mezzanine as an angelic, interminable ‘The End’. The machines, celibate and a little innocent, enter the scene, from darkness into light, voilà. Curtains, footlights. They attempt to act, they play a part. Their movements are stiff, never relaxed, as if this were the first rehearsal of a piece. ‘The acting is so machine-like, mes chers amis!’ Never has a director’s complaint been more literal. The soundtrack is on a par: four notes of a theme we will never hear, the melodious sound of a harp, imitated by a computer, blends in with pistons and metallic clinking and clanging. It is the eternal Hitchcockian incipit, the mechanism of suspense thwarted by its continuous reprisal, always the same, for ever. It is an entrance – action! – that never changes, that has no end or purpose but to move about and move yet again, only to stop.” (A.F.)
Intending her artistic practice as animated – or re-animated – film, Anna Franceschini simply repeats what cinematography has considered its priority from the very beginning. The example of Edison, who considered the ensemble of his films as a sort of “animated photo album”, is enlightening. After a series of works devoted to automata and even a period spent revitalizing stuffed animals through film, in The Stuffed Shirt the artist – ever in search of the perfect non-human actor – takes on the task of directing a mechanical chorus at its debut.
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