La voisine de Victor Brauner, 1994

8 monitors, 8 videos, PAL, black and white,
silent, 5’, 2 wall texts (Fr.)
Produced by the New Media Department,
Centre Pompidou

Belgian artist Patrick Corillon created the installation Victor Brauner's Neighbour (1994) in response to a request from the Centre Georges Pompidou, and notably the Graphic Arts Gallery and New Media Department, to develop a work based on Victor Brauner's notebooks. Brauner, a contemporary of Constantin Brancusi, was a painter of Romanian origin associated with the Surrealist movement. After settling in France in the 1930s, he went on to develop an increasingly personal style of painting inspired by the primitive arts and a fascination with divination and magic.

Corillon's installation is to be placed in a darkened rectangular room, where even the ceiling should be painted black. The space is organised around two rows of four monitors each, disposed at different heights on either side of a single entrance. Two texts hung on the back wall of the room are lit by powerful spotlights. The videos shown on the monitors are in black and white, without any soundtrack.

The row of monitors to the right of the entrance is installed at a height of about 2 metres from the floor. Each monitor presents a close-up of a woman's face at different moments of her life: age 75, age 50, age 35 and age 20. The image of the oldest woman is closest to the entrance and that of the youngest is close to the text on the back wall.

The same type of monitors are installed to the left of the entrance but here they are placed at 50 cm above the floor. Each one shows hands leafing through notebooks, those of Brauner at different ages of his life corresponding to the ages of the woman on the opposite side.

Visitors are thus caught between the woman's gaze directed at the notebooks and the hands leafing through them. When they cross the room, they discover Corillon's two texts. The first relates an anecdote told by Brauner. One morning, he explained, he was sketching next to the window, where his laundry was drying outside. Sensing that someone was watching him, he discovered the fixed gaze of his neighbour, who could only see his hands drawing in his notebooks. Struck by this experience, Brauner repeated the process each week, letting the same laundry hang in the window so that his neighbour could continue her discrete observation.  And in so doing, he became aware of the pleasure he felt from showing his drawings.

The second text describes the same experience from the point of view of the neighbour, Madeleine Ivernol. She perceives her neighbour sketching at his window and notices that he is drying an aviator's shirt similar to that of her fiancé, recently killed in the war. Staring insistently at the shirt, she sees that her neighbour is aware of her attention and that he lets the shirt hang there from week to week. Little by little, the shirt becomes faded, thus confronting Madeleine with the image of her own inevitable decay.

In this installation, the visitor becomes the third character of the fiction, making the connection with the images on the monitors and confronting the viewpoints of each of the protagonists. On the basis of a common anecdote, which each one experiences as reality, the two characters arrive at completely different interpretations.

For Corillon, art is a fiction and the artist, an ethnologist. He makes use of fiction in his work to create characters who develop from one exhibition to another, such as Oskar Serti. “In the same way, Patrick Corillon uses his texts, and his objects, as means intended to compensate for a failure or lack of  narrative form. The fact of telling a story, in this respect, does not have to do with the pure pleasure of writing but rather, the simple need to use a kind of makeshift solution in order to fill the void created by a weak formal situation.”[1]


[1] . Bernard Marcadé, Art Press no. 160 (July-August 1991).