MEETING WITH JUSTINE PLUVINAGE
about her project Cuisine américaine
Wednesday 23 March 2016 at 7:30 pm
CAUE du Nord, 98 rue des Stations, Lille
A proposal made by the 2016 Saison Vidéo programme for the 2016 “Architectures filmées” Cycle programmed by the CAUE of the Nord Region, and the Goethe-Institut, Lille.
Justine Pluvinage took part in the Saison Vidéo for the first time in 2009 with two portraits, Eliane, 2007, and Catherine, 2008, which she described as “belonging to a series focusing on giving time and words back to the other”, with the wish not to claim to define a person, but to broach that person’s complexity.
Cuisine américaine, 2015, 17 mn 30
Mo Gourmelon: "Cuisine américaine" opens with your voice introducing the context. In 2013 you moved into a new public housing apartment experimenting with a project calling for community life and meetings with neighbours. Certain accommodation, including yours, is earmarked for artists. What is your status? (Are you an occupant or a specific resident, whose presence possibly depends on this project?)
Justine Pluvinage: In this apartment building with 53 units, three have been reserved for artists. We have exactly the same status as the other inhabitants renting in the public housing complex. Our lease is not limited in time. Needless to say, we have to be eligible in terms of social criteria in order to have a claim to live in the complex. Unlike other tenants, we have an extra room which is regarded as a studio. The rent for this room can be reimbursed to us, in exchange for artistic activities within the block. This film is part of those activities. But it is much more motivated by the desire to film my neighbours, going out to meet them, than by complying with the expectations of our “contract” with the landlord.
MG: After your initial choice, other voices pitched in, those of residents, and among them the architect’s voice, without wanting to introduce any hierarchy among them.
JP: In a voice-over, before the title, I point out that the accommodation being filmed is my public housing apartment, and that the people introduced on the screen are my neighbours. I think this is important in an approach, based on honesty, to situate who is speaking, and where the narrator is speaking from. This movement, which starts out from me and my experience, and goes towards the other and encounter, is at work in all my recent films, and it is probably a way of finding my accuracy—what I really want to say- in them. As far as the architect is concerned, I felt it was important to interview him, and get to know about his choices and motivations in this bold project, but I didn’t want to single him out from the residents and give what he says the value of an expert.
MG: You also adopt the interesting viewpoint of not getting the people to tally with the image and the recorded voices.
JP: Very early on I made that decision not to get images and voices to correspond. The interviews are made with a microphone, and no camera, deliberately, so as to make the arrangement less heavy, and free up the words. In addition this makes it possible to focus on the sound quality and be in a position to cut up a narrative and put it back together again. I only rarely interviewed and filmed the same people, some of them being more at ease with one or other of the systems. What’s more, this assumed disjunction with the editing makes it possible to slip a space between the narrative and the non-verbal language of the images. This spaces introduces anonymity, modesty perhaps, and gives rise to a certain de-personalization of the individual stories in favour of the story of the building. So what’s involved is seeing the architecture, no longer as a pile of materials, an arrangement of lines, but as an intermingling of lives which give it substance.
MG: Precisely through this intermingling of lives, what decisions did you take to depict this particular architecture?
JP: To answer your question, I’ll bring in the film’s 3D imagery, made by Philippe Cuxac. I made this choice for two reasons. Firstly, from a visual viewpoint, 3D helps to create the continuous stroll. With no pauses or cuts, the camera passes through the corridors and walls, gains height, and plunges into the apartments. The film is a phoney sequence shot. It adopts the viewpoint of a single camera. This sensation of a unique movement is made possible by the 3D images and the aerial shots filmed by drones. In this respect, the viewpoint on the architecture is akin to that of the way you look at a maquette. In an interview, the architect Rem Koolhaas alerted us to the fact that if we carry on constructing forms of architecture solely using the computer, without concerning ourselves with the utilization and the subsequent life of the building, according to him we would quickly be living in “constructed virtual spaces”. This brings me to the second point, the question of the architectural ideal. Architects aim at creating forms of architecture which have an effect on the daily round of the people using them, and which even transform the act of “living together”. The graphic nature of 3D images, in planes, in cross-sections and in colours, calls to mind the aesthetics of an architectural design software: Autocad. These images of layouts, which are spare and even sanitized, thus confront, in an endless to-and-fro, the private arrangement that each inhabitant has worked out in the private space allocated to him.