Prière de tenir la main courante

(Please hold on to the handrail)

In this installation I confront and film persons in a situation of contemplation with passers-by. The sequence is shot inside a performance space where people gesticulate interestedly in front of an object that stays invisible – a confrontation of spaces and of the people who form them.

This video is shot in one of the locations of the Salzburg Festival, where you see spectators watching the stage and contemplating the score of the production of St. Francis of Assisi by Olivier Messiaen from beyond the orchestra pit. The camera is located at the bottom of the stage floor, invisible for the audience. The actual viewer of the video finds himself on stage, so to speak. The specific place of the theatre in Salzburg is not of substantial importance, the action could take place in any other location of a public event: a reading, a congress, a seminar, a museum, a waiting-room etc. The notion of public space is what is important, the game of representing and of playing roles that goes with it. And the flow of spectators with its temporality that functions inside its own logical structure.

A world of facades, a decoration, where the presence of an invisible, mysterious and inscrutable object – the score and in a deeper sense the art object in general – creates a moment of suspended time, a quasi-timelessness. The confrontation with something that does not explain itself, that remains self-sufficient, provokes a helplessness that disarms and confronts us with questions of the in/ability of explaining and digesting art rationally, and the feelings of irritation that art can stir in ourselves.

The relationship of watching and being watched, to catch oneself observing and silently judging. Understanding that we are part of this mass we think all other people but us belong to. The viewer finds him/herself in a space where only he/she belongs to when contemplating a work of art. An endless row of people watching other people, whilst themselves being watched.

The question of responsibility of the so-called passive observers, the ”just-watching” spectators, who remain in an uncommitted relationship, without consequences. Even when you are dragged into a voyeuristic situation where you don’t speak, you engage in an exchange, a dialog. How do we react when we are confronted with an object of acknowledged value, considered as a work of art? And what happens inside the spectators, what do they take home from this exchange?

Aufgehängter Raum, durchlässige Gegenwart.
Ein Moment von Zeitlosigkeit, ein Riß, eine Grenze.
Spuren davon.

16th Documentary film and video festival in Kassel, 1999