Marielle Plaisir’s site-specific installation continues to explore the stereotypes and problematic representations of blackness and the notion of domination through the exoticism of opera and the black sexual body in the cinema. By modifying short portions of films starring Dorothy Dandridge, "A Jig in the Jungle", (1941) and "Carmen Jones”, (1954), Plaisir creates the new work ACTA EST FABULA (The piece is over). In the 1941 soundie “A Jig in the Jungle”, black actress Dorothy Dandridge wears a bikini, alluding to the title’s not-too-subtle euphemism for sex. "Carmen Jones", (1954), by Oscar Hammerstein uses words that take common cliches of the era’s discourse around people of color and equates Georges Bizet's sexually-liberated gypsy in Carmen with an African-American woman of inferior class. By mocking stereotypes, ACTA EST FABULA (The piece is over) celebrates nudity and cannibalism, reestablishing truth and empowering each film’s characters as existing for themselves, confronting the viewer rather than serving as passive entertainment for the watcher’s gaze.
The focal point of the space is Plaisir’s new single-channel video work, which uses segments of these films to confront examples of racial stereotyping, including some of the worst fears of certain white men about so-called “primitive” races or cultures (uninhibited sexuality, immorality, cannibalism). She denounces the notion of 'Primitivisme' and the sterile and distressing eroticism and sex with which early 1900s black cultures were associated in the public mind. The work forces the viewer to consider the stereotypes within each film and the lyrics of the titular song in “A Jig in the Jungle”:
When the tom-toms beat it out
All the cats jump up and shout
They all do the jig in the jungle
Boys with big rings in their nose
Gals with everything but clothes
They all do the jig in the jungle
Anyplace your ol’ face might be lookin’
You may see a missionary cookin’
That’s the land where love runs wild
You won’t be no angel, child
When you do the jig in the jungle
Surrounding the video work, Plaisir creates an immersive installation by extracting 'exotic' symbols included in the two films to create a laboratory of new objects, using fabrics to give them a fresh social dimension. Clothing featured in the video works become tangible stereotypes, physically manipulated and floating freely in the space. The clothes denounce their previous social connotations and become sculptural objects with new purpose. Enveloped in lace and embroidery and illuminated by soft light, the costumes used in the film become beautiful celebratory monuments, flipping the script of the films and allowing visitors to question their perceptions of the black body and how it is viewed through the cinema.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Marielle Plaisir is a french-caribbean multi-media artist who combines painting, drawing, monumental installations and performance to present highly-intense visual experiences. Plaisir's work blends life and fiction, using personal experiences and historic narratives from the caribbean that touch on universal themes like power, domination and prejudice. The common thread throughout her work is a critique of prejudice, according to which political power is supposedly “a natural fact." In context, she uses textiles, fibers, fabrics which carry social meanings to create exotic, dream-like worlds in which viewers can find moments of humor and beauty, as well as evidence of our humanity.
Plaisir earned a Master of Applied Arts (University of Bordeaux III, France) and a graduate degree in art and scenography (Honors Advanced School of Fine Arts and Decorative Arts of Bordeaux, France.) Plaisir has exhibited in Museums in Europe and USA, as well as biennials including in Sao Paulo, Dakar, Benin, Florence and Dublin. In 2018, Plaisir received a prestigious South Florida Cultural Consortium award.
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