"MARIE ANTOINETTE-THEATRICAL OBJECT"
Ljubljana City Hall
promo material: Rok Marinšek
technical support: Igor Remeta
photo: Peter Uhan
The first glimpse ofthe installation evokes a smile, with its Daliesque imagesscattered aboutdreamily- somebizarre, otherswitty - and of course the intentional play of Daliesquesymbols. But just like Dali, wherewe know that behind every image there is an encyclopaedia of knowledge andthelatest scientific discoveries, Matej Filipčič uses such pieces as well, throughwhich he is trying to capture the essence of the Frenchqueen by meticulouslyplacing the objects, manipulatingthem and erasing theirmeaning tocreate a new one in order to evoke in the visitor the author’sown mind process, so as totrigger new associations of yesterday, the day before yesterday, of today and tomorrow.
Each current moment carries with it a trace of the past and future. Two lovers that are destroying themselves must only remember how much they used to love one another. It is all still there; the time that we have fabricated in order to renderthings from happening at the same time. We count the minutes of Cleopatra-who set up our modern-day calendar together with her astronomers - without thinking that without her, time,as we understand it today, would pass differently. How would it pass without Antoinette?
Frilled, ruffled, tinselled, pink carpeted, a bundle of roses, a rose is a rose is a rose…We revisit “littleVersailles”, as one visitor gasped. And it really seems that Filipčič has recreated her private Versailles, or better, her PetiteTrianon, the manor in whichshe retreatedto inorder to hide from the public, from the eye of “big brother”. She draped herself in meters, kilometres of silk, into clouds of perfume, into sculptured wigs with birds, into card games. She hid herself among perfumed sheep with blue ribbons, among her hens... Where else to escape from a dissecting court if not back to nature? That is why the chirping of birds, the sounds of the wind andthunder are used in the exhibit to mark the contrast of glamour, pink carpets, frills and wigs.
The exhibit features fashion designer Alan Hranitelj’s pink dress displayed without a head - thehead that rolled in a dignified manner before the infuriated crowd, cravingfor blood on Revolution Square, saturatedwith her blue blood.A man soaked his handkerchief in it and realized that the blood wasas red as hisown. There is also the handkerchief stained with lipstick, marked by the lips that ate the “potica” cake. “If there is no bread, let them eat potica cake,”a statement ascribed to many hateful princesses before her, merely a promotional cliché, convenientlyused to ruin a public image. Let us neglect the fact that a dynast who was so involved with charity would never have said that. But nevertheless, the potica cake remained. It is there for us to re-examine the power of negative publicity of one single rumour, which triggers a storm of defamation, the overflowof yellow press that has marked our times to such a great extend. Potica cake is there, as is the infamous necklace she never wanted, which was used by means of courtly intrigues to tighten her neck. The instillation also examines voyeurism and the need to look under the surface -in this case under her dress to exposeher pantieswith their embroidered monogram - and into the private.
Just like all Filipčič’s exhibitions – installations that originate from the theatre - this particular one is also a theatrical performance of its own kind. It is a theatre of objects directed by the visitors’ look. Pink umbrellas turned upside-down that drip-feed with our tears, all of these tiny objects for which it seems that Marie Antoinette’s hand hastouched, when actually it was the hand of Slovene actor Marko Mandić, including thewrinkled handkerchief used to wipepotica cake that hashis lip-stains on it. But whose arethey really? Who cares. Each objectfrom the lipstick-stained handkerchief, to the chessmen,thedress and the cardsall serve to offera narrative of space and a scent of a time longgone. Butif we really wish to,we can smell this long-gone time and spaceon the streets of European cities today. It has the flavour of revolution. There have beenas many Antoinettes as there were witnesses to the time, and there currently exist as many Antoinettes, as dothose who speculate about her at that momentin time. One of them is sailing on a dreamy ship - a heart-shaped guitar – which is ascendingupstream. The waterfall is cascading upwards, the ship’s anchor is attached to the dome of the sky.
The gravestone wreath made of roses will wilt, it is slowly fading with each new visitor, it is fading right in front of our eyes, while the dresses of Marie Antoinette remain alive inportraits, in the movie, traced in our subconscious as a symbol of rococo, splendour and extravaganza.
Her post-mortal mask, envisioned by Filipčič as a chessboard, will continue to be used to play chess with black and white chessmen, wait a minute – was the revolution really red? Queens and kings will continue to sacrifice pawns in order to defend the rooks, and will continue to play their well thought-outgame onablack and white board... This installation is a desperate attempt to finally grasp that all we need to –whichis to just remember, just remember.
When objects, costumes and scenery from a theatrical performance are placed on exhibit, they actually enter into a new theatrical performance of their own, within a new space and under freshly-created dangerous liaisons. The adoptive setting reminds us of a crime scene from a detective story, one in which a murder has recently been committed. Time has been stopped in its tracks and the objects on display hold a newfound importance than they did in everyday life, namely they suddenly act to illuminate that which was once concealed. The key to solving the murder mystery seems hidden in the way the objects are placed, or perhaps in the absence of an object itself or in the excessive amount of objects placed within the new setting. In this new performance, there are no main characters, however each character that is missing, excessive or out of place becomes a potential suspect.
I came to this comparison between exhibits of theatrical performances and detective stories as a result of attending the exhibition of a performance entitled “Marie Antoinette”, whose director and art director Matej Filipcic asserts is actually a story of death. “This is a symbolic funeral of a great, mysterious and tragic queen,” concedes the author. The exhibition offers a metaphor of departure, a slice of frozen history, an exploration into the symmetry of authority, insight into the pathos of power, a display of chessmen, the leftovers of “potica” cake and a lipstick-stained handkerchief, umbrellas with drips which gold fish use for feeding, a post-mortal mask, a wreath of roses which shall erode by time, and his(her) image that will be preserved.
And then there is the centerpiece of the exhibit: Antoinettte’s magnificent dress and its horrifyingly missing head, replaced by a gentle fountain, which is lifting a ship upwards towards the clouds. Underneath the queen’s dress are a man's clothes sloppily scattered about, the costume of Marko Mandić, who appeared in Filipčič's performance of the same title. It becomes obvious that, just like in Virginia Woolf's Orlando, this missing figure has crossed over to the other side - not to the other side of life but of gender - and has begun a new life in another historical period under new circumstances. The past is now merely a memory of him.
The Marie Antoinette exhibition reminds us how closely death and memory are interlinked. But as various psychoanalysts have already established, memory is never a true reflection of what has come to pass. American neurologists David Eagleman says: “If we could compare our memories with real events, it would come as a great surprise to us to find out that we are fabricating our life all the time, and creating small myths to fit our idea of what we think we are.” The memory is an apparatus for myths, and the author of Marie Antoinette is well aware of that.
Marie Antoniette – a theatrical object
Whether we have, within the framework of the project Marie Antoniette in the form of a theatrical event, shown the life of the most famous French queen as a tense theatrical performance, the exhibition of theatrical objects or emotive elements from her life is but an attempt of capturing the fleeing memory of her destiny. It is about poeticizing the views of destiny whose unified starting-point, since her physical death two hundred years ago has still not been found. Her post mortem mask as a chess field offers a sea of interpretative possibilities. That is why the exhibition talks about the journey of Marie Antoniette who disappears from the stage and is replaced by a visitor, as well as of the memory. The passage wants to transform it into yet unknown landscapes, discovered by the visitor. The performance Marie Antoniettewas an event in space, while the exhibition gives central part to the space and its own story.
Imaginary landscapes which open way to visual richness of the period of time of this controversial ruler and her lifestyle, fantasy luxury, arts decor, daily rituals, hairstyles and art can, with the help of our own emotional memory, take us into phantasmagoria of the image of a time, at the moment when the lifeblood of memory is already expiring.
At the point of the departure we are awaited by a docked ship, the remains of the performance Marie Antoniette and a wide open map of the heart. This multiple symbolism of individual elements is decoded through the lens of the viewer in different ways. Theatrical object is the symbol of the game of life and the route we can travel while sensually immersing oneself into emotive elements of Marie Antoniette 's life. The boat as the symbol of journey guides us down the memory lane of the game of life, symbolized by the chessboard, and into mourning for the lost moment of joyful youth, which plays with pleasant nostalgia on umbrellas, the tear catchers. Everything is shrouded in ivy, which, from antiquity onwards, symbolizes eternity.
Our perspective is the present moment, which enables a vision of transcendence in a different future by merely looking into the past. The life and the moment we are living now are in bloodyneed of this perspective.