“Nightlife”: dancing in the dark at the top of the trees

«Nightlife»: danse nocturne au sommet des arbres

Gladstone gallery
Cyprien Gaillard is keen to maintain a degree of opacity regarding its work and its processes.

Cyprien Gaillard has no workshop. It is the night, in the streets of the world, from Los Angeles to Berlin, he has drawn inspiration from the film in three dimensions, Nightlife, a work of both psychedelic and deeply rooted in history. Nightlife, that is presented for the first time in Canada at the Museum of contemporary art, opens in front of the art museum of Cleveland, on the three-dimensional images of the statue of the Thinker of Rodin, amputated his feet following a bomb attack carried out by the protest group Wheather Underground. This will be the only human representation of the duration of the film. In fact, Cyprien Gaillard has wanted to turn here, ” a ballet without humans “.

After, these are the trees that Cyprien Gaillard dancing, under the lights of his lights : of palm trees that have been planted in Los Angeles during the olympic Games of 1932, in an effort to beautify the city. These trees, we see them dance in the wind, brushing against the barbed wire, waving in the spots with a with fabulous, over land strewn with the rubbish or along fences binding. The artist deliberately chose to shoot street trees, and not trees, garden or park, like to turn our eyes on poetry daily that we miss.

None of these trees is native to the region. And Los Angeles itself is not an important gateway for immigration to the United States ? But for Cyprien Gaillard, who does not like to be quoted, but that was The Duty Thursday, politics and poetry merge in a single and same light. And in 2020, the trees become policies without their knowledge.

As in a dream or a psychedelic trip, the dance of the trees of Los Angeles moves in the middle of a contest pyrotechnics in a stadium in Berlin, built for the 1936 olympic Games. To place the viewer in the middle of a pyrotechnic explosion, Cyprien Gaillard has used a drone that flies across the sky and the lights that deploy them. The story, if we want that there should be one, plunges us at the heart of these Games of Berlin in 1932, where the sprinter Jessie Owens became the first black athlete of international reputation, having won four gold medals.

On the podium, he receives, as the other medallists, the young shoot of an oak German. Remember that Germany was in 1936 in full rise of national socialism. This oak, Owens crash at his return to the United States to his former school in Cleveland. And it is among the branches that Cyprien Gaillard brings us back. In the middle of the night, the play of shadows and light through the branches gives us a kind of dance of shadows.

It is at this exact moment that the soundtrack of the film changes.

Until then, this collage was on the soundtrack of the song Black Man’s Word, written in 1969 by Jamaican Alton Ellis, who returns to loop the chorus ” I was born a loser “. However, in 1971, Alton Ellis changed the name and the lyrics of this song to sing, in the Black Man’s Pride : “I was born a winner “. It is this refrain that we hear when we arrive at the oak of Jessie Owens in Cleveland.

Nightlife is shot in 3D and we look at it with special glasses. First, it is the sculptural dimension of the 3D that the artist has chosen to exploit.

It may take several viewings of the video, in the room papered in the MAC, in order to grasp all the keys. The artist wishes to retain a degree of opacity regarding its work and its processes. We will never know if the wind that stirs the trees of Los Angeles is real or manufactured. A nod to Hollywood ? For Cyprien Gaillard, Prix Marcel-Duchamp, 2010, each viewer their own experience of Nightlife, whether it is superficial or more deep, and draws its conclusions.

The Museum of contemporary art of Montreal is the only institution in North America to have a copy of a video of Nightlife. And this is the first time that the Museum gives the public access to it.


Cyprien Gaillard, Museum of contemporary art
From march 5 to may 3, 2020

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