Fri Art Kunsthalle reopens with the long-awaited exhibition 'A Selene Blues' by Giulia Essyad

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Fri Art Kunsthalle reopens with the long-awaited exhibition 'A Selene Blues' by Giulia Essyad
Giulia Essyad, A Selene Blues, Exhibition view (second room), Fri Art Kunstalle, 2020. Photo: Guillaume Python.

FRIBOURG.- A Selene Blues is the first solo exhibition of Giulia Essyad (*1992, Geneva) in an institution. On this occasion, the artist transforms the first floor of Fri Art into an environment dedicated to the universe of a heroic fantasy saga of which she is the author, actress and director. In an abandoned museum of cinema or at the premiere of a film that does not exist, advertising sets, merchandising and relics break down the barriers between entertainment, ecofeminist science fiction and institutional criticism.

The exhibition of Giulia Essyad, winner of New Heads 2020, is organized together with HEAD – Genève, Haute école d’art et de design.

A heroic fantasy world
In a distant future in which men have disappeared, female characters have created an artificial intelligence on which they depend for reproduction and which they use for entertainment, to keep memories, to create emotional bonds. This technology, a kind of smartphone of the future, takes the form of a childlike blue doll, the Bluebot, which recalls as much a regressive toy as a cyber-feminist avatar.

The exhibition
The exhibition is presented as a series of three rooms that bring together the cinema, the shop and the museum. The tour, a round trip, is a reflexive journey that addresses our desire for cultural consumption, the ambiguity of their artificial character between alienation and utopia.

The first room recalls the lobby of a cinema multiplex, which we don’t know whether it has been abandoned or is still in operation. Visitors walk through a space that displays giant advertising boards depicting the heroines of an upcoming film. The images replay the visual codes of the promotion of a fantasy film. In baroque mises en scène, they reveal the attributes of the main characters and the key moments of the adventure. The popcorn and derived products invite us to make this world our own by consuming the space.The commercial device of cinema emerges in an inactual solitude, as in a dream.

Behind a curtain, we discover a second room entirely dedicated to the Bluebot doll. The doll is presented behind a window in various postures, at different stages of its realization, more or less articulated. The narrative thread in the window evokes an automaton to which one gives life. It also mimics an archeological presentation. Is it an artificial life or that of its creator, or is it our gaze bewitched by the uncanny?

In the last room, an outdated museum display uses the presentation modes of rooms dedicated to ancient civilizations, that of a private fan museum or a hard-rock café. Showcases and monumental frames present the film’s artifacts: the characters’ costumes, fetishized gadgets. Screens invite the vistors to read a diary and letters from the main character of the fiction, Naria. Her testimony is an introspective point of view on her adventure. The screens and music are reminiscent of video games and are arranged in an inclusive scenography inspired by educational rooms.

A Selene Blues
The place of contemplation and that of consumption are blurred. Film artifacts are used to stage an exhibition. These objects and characters are presented in various cultural devices. They designate them as so many techniques for arranging the linear time of history, the present of the future, which modulate, at least in the West, our beliefs and our affects.

Cinema always serves as a model here: when the premiere of a film that never takes place meets the ruined museum of a fiction that takes place in the future, what are we spectators of? The strength of Essyad’s exhibition is that it ultimately remains very open to interpretation.

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