BEYOND THE MASK: MASQUERADE
Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, UK - February 2015
In February 2015, Sylvie Ungauer spent three weeks at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich, England, at a research and production residency. During it, she wrote, directed and choreographed an event titled Beyond The Mask: Masquerade , which took the form of a guided visit throughout Norman Foster’s building.
This event was thought up, planned and carried out based on elements borrowed from the historical, museographical, social and architectural context of the SCVA and the University of East Anglia. The relational dimension of your artistic approach, where the encounter is seen as an active principle, regularly plunges you into varied contexts which you rely on to produce forms. From this angle, how did you have the idea of using the guided visit format?
The residency proposal came from the Sainsbury Centre’s educational department, in connection with their programmes and the different kinds of museum public. Working in a collaborative manner is a way of placing art as close as possible to the public during all the stages of its production. What’s more, there’s no longer an art public but rather art “users”. A situation is also a place with its history and the histories of the people “living in” it, by which I mean the patterns of behaviour, the relation between body and space, and the relation of use, which all constitute the place’s identity. This building has a twofold function: museography and teaching. The guided visit is often the first way to discover a museum. Akin to performance, it also introduces movement or displacement as an experience of a place and a collective history.
I’ve created a text based on histories collected from users of the SCAV, to shed light not only on the history of this place, but also on how it is informed by what people say about it. Museography is developed in the “Living Area”, as with collectors. The exhibition is easy to have access to, but it gets rid of all the historical and political complexity of the ethnographical objects which are mixed in with the modern western artworks. It was a matter of getting a “non-practiced narrative” heard, and creating a circuit throughout the building, with breaks and pauses which I’ve called “stations”. In eight “tableaux”, the characters incarnated by dancers appear in costumes and masks. Invariably in a group, they take an autonomous itinerary and place themselves in space during the visit conducted by two guides. Strange, silent visitors, defying the public’s gaze, they embark on a dialogue with objects on view and with the furniture. I really did have the feeling of having composed a common world for 30 minutes in that magnificent venue of the Sainsbury Centre of Visual Arts, on 20 February 2015, at 7 pm.
It’s the first stage of a film project.
Antoine Huet & Sylvie Ungauer, April 2015 (excerpt for the English translation)
This residency program is organised by th Sainsbury Centre of Visuel Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, Angleterre.
As part of Time and Place (TAP) which has been selected within the INTERREG IV A France (Channel) – England cross-border European cooperation programme, part-financed by the ERDF.