contemporary artists and film noir

7 Nov 2009 - 10 Jan 2010

Bang! A gunshot!

A gangster wearing a Trilby hat, a femme fatale, a detective standing in the rain on a dimly lit streetcorner. The silhouette of a smoking gun. A gloomy voice-over reports...

The exhibition Suspect, curated by Nikkie Herberigs and Imke Ruigrok, takes its inspiration from the film noir of the 1940s. Based on detective novels from the 1930s, these were shot in black-and-white, conveying the dark mood and sharp contrasts of German expressionist cinematography. This is no theme exhibition, but an investigation into the way in which the medium of film, particularly this type of film from the 1940s, and its classical elements are used by three contemporary artists. The title Suspect refers not only to the obscure atmosphere that we know by way of this classic genre, but also to the issue as to 'who did it' in situations where the distinctions between good and evil seem to be blurred.

In its broader sense, the term 'film noir' refers not to a specific genre, but to a mood or a theme. Three contemporary artists - Rossella BiscottiKeren Cytter and Jesper Just - each represented with a video work, offer their interpretations of this theme and employ specific elements from the film industry in their own unique ways. In the work A Vicious Undertow (2007), which focuses on a triangular relationship between two women and a man, Jesper Just plays with the archetypal role division of man and woman, and he breaks with existing cinematographic conventions. The main character in Continuity (2005) by Keren Cytter becomes entangled in a story that he himself has fabricated. Cytter makes use of filmic elements, some of them from the film noir, in order to convey disorientation and tension. In The Undercover Man (2008) Rossella Biscotti plays on our awareness of reality and illusion and on the way in which historical facts are interpreted and communicated. In doing this she deconstructs the true story of undercover agent Joseph Pistone and his period with the Mafia, which became the Hollywood film Donnie Brasco during the 1990s.

In the strict sense, the term film noir refers to American films made during the Depression, in the 1930s, when people lost faith in government and other bodies of authority. Crime, the Mafia and rebellion are glorified by the media; and novels in which the intrigue revolves around the criminal, his girl and the detective enjoy wide popularity. It is within this context, in which the 'little guy' is the hero and the system is corrupt, that this 'shady' type of film evolves. The very recognizable high-contrast lighting and the alienating environments prove to be an endless source of inspiration for many generations of filmmakers. Present-day variations on this, such as Sin City, Black Dahlia and Public Enemies—now called the 'neo-noir'—are still being produced. These three contemporary artists attempt to lead us astray, asking questions about determining the truth and how tension is constructed. They seek their inspiration for this in the (classic) film industry.

A number of restored classic film noirs have been retrieved from the archives specially for this exhibition. A program running parallel to this will be held at the Filmfoyer Tilburg. Visitors to this special program will receive free admission to De Pont on showing the film ticket.