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The dual role-play of Mireille Loup

Christian Gattinoni

Mireille Loup became known both for her videos where she plays, with a real talent for parody, various caricatured female roles, and for her photographs that depict a more dreamlike world. Since 2011 several series of 3D images have enriched her universe with a more poetic vision, dare one say more romantic? What connects these two fields of research? Are they as antagonistic as a cursory and classifying look, a very French critical attitude, would let us believe?

For a long time photographers have wanted to simulate depth optically. The principle of stereoscopy was described just before the invention of photography and photography gave it reality. In 1891, Louis Ducos du Hauron invented the anaglyph process where two separate images are compressed into one. Both techniques have the similar aim of giving depth and an almost physical presence to the objects and persons depicted.

It is no coincidence if one of the favorite subjects of stereoscopic images was erotic or pornographic pictures as the process gave the illusion of a more sensual presence.


From mother to son


The small, third generation, female even feminist theater that Mireille Loup stages in her films allow her to truly embody these clichéd characters, do we laugh so much because we identify their originals in everyday life? The first series of the artist's acting games need an authentic performance, the illusion relying on the interpretative talent of the author.


In her latest videos where she plays a tired, divorced, burnt out woman, she does not forget her role as a mother, at times almost unworthy, or so snobbish as to be deadly boring or simply abusive. Her son Côme plays himself, often almost silent, in these roles staged with the freshness of improvisation. Following the metaphor of video games, the boy appears as one of those friendly heroes that allow the player to carry on the fight or the spiritual quest, according to the nature of the game.


Dual personality


In the anaglyph series, where the boy is absent, various other characters are seen in these seemingly bucolic sceneries. The casting, starting with series 53.77 (2012), gives the principal role to a young woman who by the grace of her gestures, the fluidity of her silhouette, the ease of her movements in the center of the space she occupies is the total opposite of the roles embodied by Mireille Loup who knows how to make herself look extremely ugly.


In the photographic or video work of the artist we can only consider the issue of aging and its refusal as a device for moving forward. She grows from The 30 years old woman (1999-2003) through various housewives, all less than 50 years old, all more static than the other, to be reborn full of life, still young, under the features of her true avatar, the young woman in the 3D stories, herself played by various models. The logic of this retroactive series can be guessed by interpreting as a number of specific years its mysterious title 53.77.

In this quest, surrendering to a unique identity is not an option. The full catalogue of the facial masks that could complete the avatar can be found in the small format 91 images of the series Each one of my faces, started in 1992 that will remain an open project until the death of the creator. In this game about identity, the choice of body shapes - or the adventures of Mireille in body land - can be seen in the anaglyph series where playful situations are proposed as possible experiences.


Overlapping moments in time


Whereas the memory inside the images remains dead until it can be re-enacted via the use of the medium and within her artistic project by reinserting inside intimate fictions, the artist attempts to reduce an important temporal gap by reinterpreting the stereoscopic plates of Charles Commessy (1856-1941) in There (2013). They offer her as many human situations as could be played by a couple, as many stories of mum and dad as might be imagined and replayed in other urban games.
Their memory remains alive inside all these technical images where contemporary protagonists, as staged by the artist, outwit time in as many fantastical situations.


The allies


If this world has mostly been peopled by women in the recent works men are back, they become the fighters of other games that refer to more singular quests, such as the quest of scientific heralds, the well-named Fous du Rhône (2015- 2016). As assistants within the story they play a role similar to that of the son, in playful gravity. Their work as independent researchers, work exhibited in the permanent collections of the Musée de la Camargue, has the added merit of creating a new episode in the mechanics of the skies that the artist has been successively producing from Esquives (2004) to Carré des anges of the series MEM (2008-2009). By choosing a low horizon, she accentuates their location on earth and counters an opening on more celestial spaces.


Successive possibilities


In this suite of play acting, the backdrop of landscapes becomes all important to better explain the main characters, the associates and their relationships. Interior spaces, tightly framed, at most as vast as a cloister, surround the young heroine of 53.77 and define her privacy; she walks towards a circular fountain a little larger than a bath, its closeness to nature being recreated only when faced with the large dimensions of the Provencal river.

Meanwhile relational stories are welcomed "There" in the seedy part of the departmental Hotel in Beauvais where a reformed nature vies with bourgeois buildings and remains of factory buildings.

From series to series a fantasy is developed, it weaves links between the past and the present and alternates natural places conducive to dreams with built environments, this interchange matches that of the characters who are more or less close to the utopia of a life always reincarnated.


Christian Gattinoni Christian Gattinoni, in "Anaglyph Mireille Loup", art book, preface, edtions Images Plurielles, Marseille, 2016.

Christian Gattinoni is Art critic and curator, chief editor of www.lacritique.org.