Summoning elements such as light, liquid, wind and vegetal presence, Fanny Béguély uses them as creative forces to produce her film and photographic work. Some of them could be Acheiropoieta : images whose apparition isn’t the result of a human hand – whether miracle or natural phenomenon. Life itself runs through her work as a never-ending, shape-shifting process, generating forms and images, subject to transformations and disappearances. Conveying the metamorphosis of all things, her works are first and foremost revelations, weaving both the religious and photographic meaning of the word.
While Arba dâk Arba is the result of an alchemical ritual where the photographic papers becomes the recipient of evolving visions, her movie Pneuma weaves together various knowledges and stories. Personal childhood and origins of the world merge into a myth about mankind’s relationship to the cosmos and the vegetal origin of life. The powerful vitality of elements runs through both works, celebrating light and time as the fundamental forces behind all creation.
ARBA, DÂK ARBA
ARBA DÂK ARBA is a magmatic work, an alchemical explosion of matter and light, through which Fanny Béguély wishes us to summon our « own power of vision ». The series recalls the use of photography as a medium to capture surnatural presences in spiritualist movements in the 19st century. Borrowing its title from an aramean sentence, ancestor of the magical formula « Abracadabra », the work is putting us in touch with mysterious forces. « Doesn’t oracles like photography reflect what we want to believe? », she asks.
Fanny Béguély considers photographic paper as living organisms, entities with which she enters into dialogue ; « a body of paper containing a god (…), a divinity that doesn’t govern us but returns our own image. ». Comparing the apparition of shapes in her chemigrams to a volcanic eruption, the artist makes the paper reveal its secrets using no referent, no camera, no enlarger ; only silver salts on the photosensitive skin of the paper reacting to chemical fluids and light, a direct emanation of forces.
Through the process, ribbons of expired photographic paper are laying on the floor like a river. She likes to work with old papers, as they react more slowly, which gives her more control over the reactions and apparitions. With almost choregraphical gestures, the artist turns around the paper, applying oil, developer, fixer. Using the tools of the photographer like a painter applying her pigments, she capture forces embodied by light. The result is pure organicity captured on paper. Shapes appears, as if the world was revealing itself. « Photographic oracle with a silver tongue », the paper has now delivered its omen.
You are invited to play the mesmerizing soundscape for ARBA, DÂK ARBA composed by Frédéric D. Oberland & Irena Z. Tomažin. Listen to its mythological songs while browsing this page and looking at the images. Feel free to discover it entirely or by fragments.
The total duration of the composition is 43 min.
Film, 29 min, 2021
Fanny Béguély’s approach for her movie Pneuma embodies the rhizomatic approach of the vegetal, whose presence is central to the film. Interlacing various natures of images and tellings, she braids them all together into a narrative offering multiple points of view, underlining the link between christian heritage and deprivation of common botanical knowledge.
Once upon a time was childhood. Once upon a time, trees and humans shared common stories. Deleuze says a myth is « a story from the time when humans and animals were not yet distinct ». Long-time discarded by Western societies, myths, imagination and dreams are nevertheless powerful political tool to imagine new present – and future – ways of sharing a world. In Pneuma, the characters – the artist’s family – lie on a bed, sharing stories and visions in a polyphony of events and voices.
There are family memories, super 8 movies of the sibling’s childhood ; there are prayer trees in the North of France covered in rag hanging from the branches, entrusted with the power to heal ; there are herbarium of lethal plants, while a voice enumerate their deadly proprieties.
In between, microscopic views of cyanobacteria, ethereal algae floating across the screen. Enlarged to the dimensions of gods, these invisible beings become titans, giants makers of the world as we know it. They were indeed the first organism capable of photosynthesis, transforming solar energy into chemical energy and producing oxygen, allowing life on earth.
Their presence in the film reminds us that the origin of the world is not a distant and mythological event. « It is here and now » says the artist, an ever renewed and daily miracle ; Pneuma, the breath of Life. Through the synesthetic coexistence of these various narrative, Fanny Béguély replaces mankind into a cosmic relationship with the vegetal, enlightening its ability to give life, heal or bring death.
Production : Le Fresnoy – Studio national des arts contemporains
Extract from the poem I am Vertical, by Sylvia Plath