London Pays Homage to Chantal Akerman with Major Retrospective of Her Installation Work

The long-planned exhibition has become a posthumous tribute to the artist.

Chantal Akerman.Photo: via Film List
Chantal Akerman.
Photo: via Film List

This Friday, London’s Ambika P3 will open the first large-scale exhibition in the English speaking world of installation works by the celebrated Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman, who died earlier this month at the age of 65.

Entitled “NOW,” the exhibition focuses on the multiple screen works that Akerman—best known for her single screen films Saute ma ville (1968), Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), Je, Tu, Il, Elle (1976), and News from Home (1977)—conceived for museum and gallery contexts, starting in the mid 1990s.

A still from Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975).

A still from Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975).

The exhibition, 18 months in the making, was conceived by the curators Michael Maziere (from Ambika P3), and Joanna Hogg and Adam Roberts (from A Nous Amours) in close collaboration with Akerman herself. The exhibition is also supported by Marian Goodman Gallery, which represents Akerman’s gallery work.

“Akerman’s installation works have only been shown in the UK once or twice, so we really wanted to stage this major retrospective that includes her last piece NOW (2015), which premiered in Venice this summer,” Maziere told artnet News. “Her installation works have similar intention and issues to her single screen works, but they are manifested spatially, using multiple screens and layered sounds. So they are really addressing the language of visual arts, as opposed to the language of cinema,” he explained.

Installation view of Chantal Akerman’s NOW (2015).<br>Photo:© Marian Goodman Gallery Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery

Installation view of Chantal Akerman’s NOW (2015).
Photo: © Marian Goodman Gallery Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery

In that sense, Akerman certainly belongs to that fluid category of artists working across both fields—much like Steve McQueen, Sam Taylor-Johnson, or more recently, Omer Fast—whose recent outputs alternate between feature films and what are usually considered moving image artworks.

“More and more people have been working across both fields, between the black box of the cinema world and the white cube of the visual arts,” Maziere told artnet News. “Chantal began working in installations while continuing working on cinema films. She was addressing the two contexts differently, but in parallel. She was very confident about her installation works, I’d say.”

Film still of Chantal Akerman’s D’est (From the East) (1993).<br>Photo: Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery

Film still of Chantal Akerman’s D’est (1993).
Photo: Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery

Akerman—whose groundbreaking films are usually mentioned in the same breath as those by directors like Jean-Luc Godard and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, with whom she shared a keen interest in gender, identity, and political issues—presented her last single screen film No Home Movie in the Locarno film festival in August. The film, which premieres in London this Friday also, is a poignant essay documenting the last year in the life of Akerman’s mother, a Polish Holocaust survivor.

Film still of Chantal Akerman’s No Home Movie (2015).<br>Photo:© Chantal Akerman

Film still of Chantal Akerman’s No Home Movie (2015).
Photo: © Chantal Akerman

The artist was going through a prolific period, and she was also eagerly involved in preparations for her London retrospective, so nothing could have prepared the curators for her tragic and untimely death, which is thought to have been by suicide.

But for Maziere, the tragedy only made this exhibition all the more urgent. “Canceling the exhibition was never a possibility,” he stressed. “By the time [Akerman died] we had planned everything, both in terms of space and work. So, if anything, it made us even more convinced about putting on the exhibition, because we wanted to reveal this fascinating facet of her oeuvre.”

Installation view of Chantal Akerman’s Tombée de nuit sur Shanghai (2007-9).<br>Photo:© Marc Domage Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery

Installation view of Chantal Akerman’s Tombée de nuit sur Shanghai (2007-9).
Photo:© Marc Domage Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery

“The exhibition has become a tribute to her and work, and the important issues that she raised through it.” Maziere told artnet News. “She broke down a lot of barriers in terms of form and content, and cut across the personal and the political in a way very few artists have done.”

“NOW,” Chantal Akerman’s major retrospective of installation works will be on view from October 30-December 6, 2015, at Ambika P3, London.

 No Home Movie will be screened on October 30, 2015 at the Regent Street Cinema, London.


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