A French artist currently based in London, Hugonnier studied philosophy and anthropology before becoming a visual artist. Her work draws from a rich history of experimental film and video art as well as recent cultural theory. Like Jean-Luc Godard and Jean Rouch, Hugonnier explores the boundaries between fiction and truth and the conditions that shape perception. Through specific filmic strategies in Ariana (2003), The Last Tour (2004), and Travelling Amazonia (2006), Hugonnier captures the underlying structures of perception that both frame and affect the visual experience of the landscape.
In Ariana, which Hugonnier describes as “an essay about distances, space and scale,” the panoramic view of a landscape becomes an object of desire. The film follows the artist and her crew in their attempts to reach “television hill,” a high vantage point from which to capture a panorama of the historic Panjsher Valley in Afghanistan. The discovery that only Afghani government officials have access to this vista transforms the intangible view of a landscape into a politically charged subject. As Hugonnier writes, “We wanted to get to the best viewpoint, to see in a glance how this landscape made the history of the valley possible.” Although they ultimately succeed in reaching this perspective, Hugonnier declines to film from this location, transforming her film into a discussion of the panorama as a means of control and even propaganda.
The Last Tour is set in an imagined future world, in which tourist sites have been closed off or rendered inaccessible. A textual narration invites the viewer on a fictive expedition of the Matterhorn, including on-the-ground perspective as well as aerial views both of and within a hot-air balloon. By juxtaposing images of Disneyland’s Matterhorn roller coaster with images of the actual mountain, Hugonnier explores the ways in which tourism determines our experience of the landscape and reality, making each of us “an explorer on a ready-made expedition.”
In Travelling Amazonia, Hugonnier takes as her subject Brazil’s unfinished trans-Amazonian highway, initially constructed under a Brazilian dictatorship in the 1970s. After choosing a spot on the road to represent through a traveling shot, Hugonnier records the locals of a nearby village as they build the dolly and rails necessary to create the desired vanishing perspective. Hugonnier also films testimonials of the area’s inhabitants, revealing their impressions of the highway as an idea as well as a physical place. As one of the villagers interviewed in the film explains, “It exists on the map but not in reality.”
In conjunction with Live Cinema/Marine Hugonnier: Trilogy, Marine Hugonnier will give an artist talk at 6 p.m. on April 20, 2007 in the Museum’s Seminar Room. (The event is free with Museum admission).
This spring the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present Live Cinema/Marine Hugonnier: Trilogy, a series of super 16mm films transferred to DVD that explores the ways in which images of the landscape influence the observer’s experience of it, and conversely, how history or ideology can shape the perception of a landscape. Filmed on three continents over the past five years, Hugonnier’s films raise questions about the process of viewing and engage what the artist refers to as the “politics of vision.” On view from April 20 through July 22, Hugonnier's Trilogy is the third installment of Live Cinema, an exhibition series exploring the vast production of single-channel video and film work by a diverse group of local, national and international artists in the Museum's Film and Video Gallery (Gallery 179).