The Museum of Modern Art’s summer Projects exhibition, a video installation titled Winter (The Death of Robert Halser) by French artist Thierry Kuntzel, explores time and memory and the impact of subliminal images on the viewer.
Winter is the second installation in Kuntzel’s series Quatre Saisons Moins Une (Four Seasons Less One), inspired by the early writings of Swiss author Robert Walser that foretold his death in the snow and Nicolas Poussin’s paintings of the four seasons. It consists of a large electronic triptych projected directly onto the gallery wall, with a central image of a motionless male figure (Robert Mapplethorpe model Ken Moody) lying on his back. A computer-controlled camera pans the entire body in the path of an infinity symbol. Slowly repeating the same movement four times, the camera progressively moves in closer to the figure, which gradually emerges from a sheer white veil. This relief-like image is flanked by two projections of identical color fields—a cobalt blue which fades in and out to gray and white and creates a tension with the image of the almost entombed body.
Ms. London writes in the brochure accompanying the exhibition, “Kuntzel is interested in the way simple patterns of light depicting ordinary representational images can have a deep, emotional impact on the viewer’s mind. He is preoccupied with time and memory, and with what happens below the surface of representation, beyond a narrative story line.”
A respected film theoretician and writer, Kuntzel taught film theory in the United States and France before turning to videomaking. In his videotapes and installations, Kuntzel addresses large questions through details. For example, in the videotapes Nostos I (1979), Time Smoking a Picture (1979), and Echolalia (1980), he uses light, minimal form, and simple gestures to examine emotionally charged situations.
Thierry Kuntzel was born in 1948 in Bergerac, France. He studied philosophy at the Sorbonne and linguistics and semiology with Christian Metz and Roland Barthes in Paris. His work has been shown throughout Europe and the United States. His installation Ete (Summer) is presently on view at the Wexner Center for the Arts, The Ohio State University, Columbus, as part of Passage de l’image, organized by the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
Projects: Thierry Kuntzel was organized by Barbara London, assistant curator, Video, Department of Film.