Filming – Painting – Embracing

Filming – Painting – Embracing
Portrait of the artist as a « filmer-gatherer »

As all of Rebecca Digne’s recent video works owe their title to an action verb [in 2011, Rassembler (Collecting), Fouiller (Searching), Creuser (Digging); in 2010, Cueillir (Gathering)], her practice itself could also be encapsulated in one single verb: filming. Filming as a gesture, as an action and as a relationship to the world – rather than doing Art, creating works. (Did she, in the end, record on film those men laying cobblestone rue Gabriel Laumain and of whom she was telling me about when preparing this exhibition? Whatever the answer, having noticed them did require, if not a film, at least the idea of a film. Frame thinking.)
In Creuser (Digging), her camera follows the gloved hands of a man grappling with the soil, their movements almost mingling. In Cueillir (Gathering), the film records two men picking, and on which a screen of leaves brings us closer while walling us off, where the film grain turns them simultaneously into presences, sensual, and already a souvenir. In the photographic sequence Vesuvio (2012), the multiple simultaneous screening of five slides on the Vesuvius area, for which the colours fade away after extended contact to light, also inscribes duration at the heart of the fixed frame. If Rebecca Digne does not create but films, she probably only thinks as a filmer.

The gestures filmed by Rebecca Digne are archaic gestures; they induce a primitive way of filming, at the heart of the action, without (great) depth of field and in real time, silently , with no editing, but on a loop. In the simplicity of a filmic display: a subject, a camera, a “filmer-gatherer”.
If filming is for Rebecca Digne a recent artistic gesture, she however imparts it with the looks of a “surviving gesture”, the ones that her ancestors could have done, that posterity will do. With her, the camera is not a technical object being confronted to the technological possibilities of our times; it is a tool, just like the almost paintbrush spade of Creuser (Digging), just like berries were used for painting the coloured contours of the cave bulls of the “hunter-gatherers”.

Rebecca Digne’s camera takes pleasure in entering the matter: the action becomes matter, the matter becomes film. In Creuser (Digging), the man’s hands– whose identity matters little– excavate, putting to the fore strata, lights and colours. We enter his hole, his grave, his memory, his palette. The camera, too, excavates, sifts. To the physical action of Digging (Creuser) and Gathering (Cueillir), mental actions superimpose: going at the very heart of the matter, in the thickness of the real or, on the contrary, letting oneself being guided by one’s own longing, by the attraction operated by such idea, such fruit of the mind.

Unveiling, covering, choosing, looking: simple but decisive gestures.

Since she started filming verbs, Rebecca Digne also became passionate for this one: installing. For each exhibition, the ‘showing’ display leaves nothing to chance: simultaneous screening of two films, blow-up or reduction of the screening surface, elaboration of specific mediums hosting and extending the moving image, transformation of other mediums as screens [a book in D’une maison à l’autre (From one house to the other), 2012].
A 2008 silent film is called Kino-Peinture (Kino-Painting).
Embracing (and hosting)
Like at Primo Piano’s, Rebecca Digne’s works often go as a pair. Films now do the same: the final sequence of Creuser (Digging) shows two buckets; the Gathering (Cueillir) strollers go by two. Although fundamentally autonomous – the exact way they are perceived by the artist–, Digging (Creuser) and Gathering (Cueillir) make a temporary couple of archaic gestures. Prior to that, Rebecca Digne had brought together Rassembler (Collecting) and Fouiller (Searching), two films shot almost at the same time, into one video installation where they were the front and back of a same action, where their social and relationship bond was expressed.

To embrace is to hold closely in your arms, putting your hands on someone. Hands are actually recurrent in the works of Rebecca Digne. Hands: the title of a 2010 work and of an exhibition in 2012 (Jeanine Hofland Contemporary Art, Amsterdam), the unique subject of the film Handcuffs in 2010. They are the ones that execute most of the gestures recorded by Rebecca Digne; they are the ones that hold the camera; they are the ones that teach the camera how to seize reality, dig into the matter, push back the frontiers of the impossible, circumscribe its territory, cut into the film, resist.

Rebecca Digne films a bit like a voyeur, she shows us what we would not be seeing, what we do not see. Very much as an ethnologist, sticking as much as possible to the gestures, to their repetition and their eternity. Always acting as a filmer, well aware that you do not drain the real but that you ceaselessly draw on it.

Clément Dirié
Clément Dirié
Editor for JRP|Ringier, the Swiss publishing company in contemporary art, Clément Dirié is art critic, exhibition curator and editor-in-chief of Code Magazine 2.0.
He met Rebecca Digne in 2009 at the Paris École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts.

In the catalogue going with the Dynasty exhibition (Paris Musées, Paris 2010), Sandra Cattini concludes her text as follows: “Her silent films are extremely loquacious. The absence of sound contributes to the abstraction imposed by the narrow framing of the image where the characters live like byzantine icons on their gold background.” It is true : Rebecca Digne’s moving miniatures rustle with sounds, noises and words – the words exchanged by the gatherers, the scraping of the spade in the bucket, the thoughts of the audience…