Robert Cahen (France), Tombe (avec les mots), 2000
"Tombe (avec les mots)" varies the concept of "Tombe" by Robert Cahen,1997. The installation (1998 in Sélestat, Alsace) marked Cahen's transition from the video tape to video installation. In the tall format, circa 15-minute-long silent projection entitled "Tombe" Robert Cahen's wizardry rests on the creation of a decelerated series of 26 levitating and falling things, toys, objects-in a dreamlike state, as though enraptured in a blue underwater world. In the connecting spaces, one sees only a dimensionless blue void, and the visible raw material of the pixels from which Cahen created the encyclopedia of his last images. This projected alphabet of phantom objects in which even people are no more than fallen angels is both framed and larger than life. Because of the work's monumentality, the position of the viewer can only be directly in front of the work, rapt in awe, fixed-amazed. Casting a spell on the viewer's gaze, an essential stylistic element from the magic box of tricks, strengthens the slowness of the series.
In Tombe (avec les mots), 2000, again the work concerns the video projection of a framed, vertically-oriented image, in effect a painting. But instead of objects, what flows so slowly through the frame are words and expressions in French, letters of the alphabet drifting from the top to bottom of the picture frame, decelerated by the element of water as though laden with extra weight. Here too, like with other video works by Cahen, the work embraces the idea of passage and transience. Only this time the work is enriched by recalling a peculiar level of sensation, namely that of a tomb-already expressed by the title, even though, in French, the word "tombe" stands for "falling" as well as "tomb".
DVD 18 minutes (loop)
Tous les mots qui tombent - all the words that fall: are written in French.
Recognized as one of France's foremost video artists, Robert Cahen has since 1972 produced a distinguished body of work for cinema and television. In Cahen's uniquely nuanced world, fiction and document alike are presented as metaphoric voyages of the imaginary, exquisite reveries that describe passages of time, place, memory and perception. Genres such as narrative and performance are expanded and transformed as he explores visual, aural and temporal transformations of represented reality.
From the formal elegance of Cartes postales vidéo (Video Postcards) (1984-86) to the intricate musical and visual transitions of Boulez-Répons (1985), Cahen's work is characterized by a sophisticated application of electronic techniques that manipulate sound and image, space and temporality, resulting in subtle transmutations of the illusory and the real. Building on his extensive research in acoustics, music, and filmmaking, he plays with the textures of sound and image to restructure representational modes, from the optical to the sonic, from the "picturesque" photograph to the conventions of narrative cinema. Resonating with wit and charm, executed with technical precision, his works allude to both formal and thematic motifs of travel, movement, and transition. Cahen's dreamlike journeys depict fleeting glimpses of a transitory reality, transformed in time within the pictorial frame.
Robert Cahen was born in Valence, France in 1945. He studied "musique concrete" at Pierre Schaeffer, graduated from the Conservatoire National Superieur Musique de Paris, and was a member of the Groupe de Recherche Musicales de l'ORTF (the Office of French Radio and Television) from 1971-74. From 1973-76, he was director of Experimental Video for ORTF/INA. Many of his film and video works have been produced in conjunction with Institut National Audiovisuel (INA), the French television production facility. His videotapes have been broadcast and exhibited internationally, at institutions and festivals including the Paris Biennale; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; American Film Institute National Video Festival, Los Angeles; World Wide Video Festival, The Hague; International Center of Photography, New York; Documenta 8, Kassel, Germany; FestRio, Brazil; Tokyo Festival; and the Festival of Locarno, Italy.