Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)
17 Feb 2010 to 26 Apr 2010
Sylvie Blocher is a leading French artist who who makes video portraits of people from diverse communities and geographic locations exploring social and political concerns. Collectively titled Living Pictures, these works reflect on themes including identity, migration, wealth, poverty, gender and privilege. Underlying all is an exploration of authority, as the artist and her camera mediate between the extremes of controlled social presentation and liberated individual expression.
Blocher creates her Living Pictures at the invitation of museums and commissioning institutions, which invite voluntary participants to come before the artist’s camera. Blocher works with whatever ‘raw material’ (in her words) she is presented with, asking each volunteer a wide range of questions and editing their responses into the finished video. We do not see the artist herself in the completed works, or hear her questions – instead we bear witness to diverse ‘public addresses’ which are in turn revealing, moving, humorous, disturbing and sometimes confronting.
Sylvie Blocher: What Is Missing? brought together six Living Pictures by the artist from 2003 to 2010 and a further video work in which the camera is ‘turned back’ upon the artist herself, making her its subject. The exhibition took its title from Blocher’s latest Living Picture which she filmed with nineteen residents of Penrith in Sydney’s outer west, asking them to reflect on what is lacking in our community today. This work was commissioned by the MCA as part of an artistic residency through C3West, an innovative collaboration between artists, cultural institutions and business in Western Sydney.
Other exhibited works included Men in Gold, which focused on the privileged lives of Silicon Valley’s millionaires and Je et Nous (I and Us), a quiet counterpoint made in collaboration with the large multi-ethnic community of Sevran, France. Also featured was Wo/Men in Uniform, focusing on the police force of Regina, Canada and Extase, featuring fifteen men in states of profound emotional release. Filmed in New Orleans, What Belongs to Them responded to themes of slavery, while the song work A More Perfect Day drew its title from Barack Obama’s March 2008 Philadelphia speech, ‘A More Perfect Union’, with its strong racial commentary.
Sylvie Blocher: What Is Missing? was presented concurrently at Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest where it featured work by Campement Urbain, a visionary Paris-based collective headed by Blocher and architect/urban planner François Daune, for the city of Penrith.
Sylvie Blocher: What Is Missing? was supported by Culturesfrance and The French Embassy in Australia.