Introduced by Barbara Sirieix
HD video, color and b/w, 30'
Young Bernadette just saw an apparition, perhaps of the Immaculate Conception. Such troubling vision takes her into the majestic mountains where, exhausted, she falls asleep on a round stone. Semi-unconscious, she finds herself inside a cave, where an extravagant and exuberant cosmogony introduces the young visionary to the mysteries and origins of humanity.
Barbara Sirieix: To start off, I wanted to ask you about the origins ofGrotta Profunda. What came first, the cavern or the story of Bernadette Soubirous?
Pauline Curnier Jardin: First of all, it’s a regional project. It was funded by the Midi Pyrénées region in 2011 for Printemps de Septembre in Toulouse. The year before I had visited the Basel Art Fair for the first time. What struck me the most in this big fair was the project made about Basel by Aurélien Froment. It was moving to hear about the place where I actually happened to be. Subsequently, I thought it would be interesting to work locally for Printemps de Septembre. Bernadette Soubirous and the prehistoric caves came to mind. After scouting in Lourdes, I quickly made the connection, as Bernadette had her visions of the Virgin Mary in a grotto.
Then came the mind game of connecting everything together. I decided to invent the adjective “grotto.” Grotto is usually a common noun; I wanted to use it as an adjective and make a “grotto” film. This is something I’m still using, and many shapes I make are “grotto”. It’s a cozy, enveloping place hiding many things at the same time, a place where the walls are not straight, where nothing is rectilinear, where from bottom to top everything is reversible. This is what I’m looking for in my work in terms of meaning and shapes. It’s a space where I can project myself, where the walls are made of curves and devoid of angles.
BS: The main character in Grotta Profunda is the famous Saint Bernadette of Lourdes. It’s not the first time your work focuses on a feminine figurehead of the Christian faith. What interests you in these figures?
PCJ: I’m interested in charged religious figures like the Virgin Mary, Bernadette Soubirous, Joan of Arc, or more recently, the goddess Demeter from Greek mythology; their earthly dimension, but also their social status. Until very recently the few women who gained fame were aristocrats or religious women. Bernadette Soubirous or Joan of Arc were down-and-out children from the countryside. Bernadette Soubirous came from nothing, and this is significant in the political history of women. I’m interested in these women who attain political, military, or religious recognition. I never had any fascination with aristocratic women, which makes me think I’m interested in these characters not only because they are women but because they are social minorities. The whole question of feminism rests here; it’s not stated often enough that it’s a main issue. Also their social condition allows them to be comical as they elicit pity; this enables me to represent them as women more liberated in their body or their appearance.
BS: What did the making of Grotta Profunda signify for your working process? I have the impression it was the first time you involved so many people in a project. Is this a dynamic inherent to your practice or is it more determined by the scale of your projects?
PCJ: It’s true, Grotta Profunda kind of generated a troupe consisting of costume designers, visual artists, performers, dancers, musicians, etc. I would say it depends. When I have a budget, I bring along my troupe. No budget, no troupe. I always need help on my projects. I can’t do everything on my own and I never really did, actually. When you work in dance, cinema or theater you know the potential of involving other people. Visual artists work on their own and they rarely have a budget they can share with other people. So it’s also an economic issue.
As I was discussing recently with Simon Fravega (who plays Bernadette in the film), it’s not possible to do a Grotta Profunda every year. The film brings so many things together. It was a degree of energy in my work and research I never had before. I was also very lucky because I found a treasure, the grotto. The project allowed me to clarify a lot about my work: for instance, how to deal with accumulation, fragmentation, multiplicity, opacity, confusion, “trouble”, etc. The question of polysemy has interested me ever since my project on Joan of Arc: she is a gay icon, a fascist icon, a religious icon, a symbol of war and resistance, all at the same time; she is a woman, she is a man; there are thousands of rumors about her, she’s the king’s bastard daughter, a shepherdess… Everything can be projected on her; in the end she can be whatever she chooses.
1. Bernadette Soubirou (1844-1879) is a Christian Mystic known for the Marian apparitions she experienced in the cave-grotto of Massabielle in Lourdes, now a major site of pilgrimage. She was canonized as a Saint by Pope Pius XI in 1933.
Direction: Pauline Curnier Jardin
Image: Alexis Kavyrchine
Art direction: Rachel Garcia
Editing: Damien Oliveres
Music: Claire Vailler,Vincent Denieul, Déficits Des Années Antérieures, JADA, Olivier Lapert et J. Strauss.
Co-production: Le Printemps de Septembre, Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Caza d'oro, La Galerie de Noisy-le-Sec
Executive production: Dirty Business of Dreams
With: Simon Fravega d'Amore, Mickaël Phelippeau, Maeva Cunci, Viviana Moin, Aude Lachaise, Walkind Rodriguez et Tobias Haberkorn