Rebecca Bournigault

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Rebecca Bournigault is a contemporary portraitist who works mainly in video, but
also uses drawing, painting and photography. Her pieces alternate between realistic
depiction and the more fictive mode of the icon. Capturing moments of intensity or
tension, she reveals a complexity in identity that cannot be reduced to the stereotypical
discourse used in TV reality shows and talk shows. She positions the visitor in front
of a camera and screen where he or she sees an enlarged projection of themselves
(Portraits temps réel, 1994). Or she asks people to describe their own bodies, thus
rendering explicit our awareness of how others see us, with volunteers nearly always
describing only the parts that are visible (Portraits corps, 2001). She also highlights
the form of latent violence at work in this imperative of admission.
For Portraits je t’aime, the artist asked people (mostly friends and family, an actor in
particular, frequently figures from the underground) to say those three hallowed words,
‘I love you’, in front of the camera. ‘In a way – exorbitant paradox of language – to
sayI-love-you is to proceed as if there were not a theatre of speech, and this word is
always true (has no other referent than its utterance: it is a performative)’ (Roland
Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse, Fragments). Observing their reactions, our curiosity and
voyeurism aroused, we see and hear these individuals revealing their intimate selves
by their gestures, words and silences. Rebecca Bournigault raises questions relating
to these first-person responses. j.b.

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