Ange Leccia

Conceived as an “artificial night,” Ange Leccia’s exhibition “Pacifique” was plunged into darkness and punctuated with stations formed of video images on large screens. One could argue that video projection is no longer simply a mode of representation, but has been transformed into a fluid and synthetic medium. In Leccia’s exhibition, it transported the viewer to a place where the world is no more than a trail of lights, a fleeting cartography of points and lines.

The turn to video in “Pacifique” marked a departure for Leccia, a central figure in the art world during the ’80s in France, known for working with readymade objects. This rupture is only superficial, however, as his work has always involved an escape into emotion and memory. In Leccia’s earlier compositions (which he called “arrangements”) of televisions, projectors, and vehicles of all types, including luxury cars, trucks, police motorcycles, boats, and planes, the flow of emotion was somehow disrupted. He frequently displayed pairs of these objects—side by side to convey attraction, or face to face to express conflict. Two automobiles, for example, might stare each other down with their headlights on. Leccia’s chaste installations were both perfect and enigmatic, signaling desire while marking its absence.

Now, at the end of the ’90s, Leccia is developing these same contemplative and relational themes by manipulating and opposing video images instead of objects. He uses all the properties and techniques of the medium—including light and color, loop editing, chromatic accident, and slow motion—to conjure dissolution, diffraction, and loss and return. The screens, which hover at the edge of abstraction, represent the commemorative and affective nature of Leccia’s language. The images have a fragile, vulnerable aspect, but they persist like an obsession, or a wound, ceaselessly disappearing and washing back. In Sabatina, 1997, the first video piece in the exhibition, one saw the face of a young girl continually plunging into water. Leccia notes, “We don’t know if she is drowning, if she is taking pleasure in hiding herself, or if she is refusing the world.” Next one encountered an image of military aircraft reproduced on three screens: a plane exploding during flight only to return looking even more menacing and absurd. Farther on, in Explosions, 1994, a piece consisting of war footage from Bosnia, Leccia’s image seemed to implode into immaterial energy, into pure plastic effects.

The exhibition closed with a looped excerpt from Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt, showing a scene with Brigitte Bardot in the backseat of a car saying: “Forget the things I have told you, Paul, act like I didn’t say anything.” Leccia, too, asks us to act as though he hasn’t said anything to us, as if nothing has happened, and as if it were possible not to retreat into nostalgia and anxiety.

Olivier Zahm

Translated from the French by Rachel Knecht.