press release

Ariana investigates the relationship between landscape and history. It explores ideas of utopia and resistance, questioning the tools of cinema and western ideas of viewpoint and panorama.

In August and September 2002, Marine Hugonnier travelled to Afghanistan to research and record Ariana, a 3-part project consisting of a Super 16mm film, a series of photographs and a photographic album.

Ariana details a journey to the capital Kabul and to the Pandjshêr Valley, located in the north east of the country. Afghanistan has experienced 23 years of war, with the invasion and collapse of Soviet Communism in the 1980s and more recently the fundamentalism of the Taliban. The country now faces a new political ideology in the emerging democracy. Kabul bears testimony to the presence of all three political systems, seen in the traces of war inscribed in the demolished buildings and broken infrastructure, and in the current slow reconstruction of the city.

The Pandjshêr Valley however remains a symbol of independence and resistance, as it was invaded by neither Communism nor fundamentalism and even today remains a state within a state. This ability to resist invasion from the outside has been due to the protection of the Hindu Kush mountain range. Four to six thousand metre high mountains encircle the valley, providing it with constant fresh water for its lagoons and river and the fertility necessary to be self-sufficient. In 15th century poetry the valley is described as a paradise garden, one of the most beautiful and fertile places in the world, a land of emeralds where anything can grow.

Hugonnier’s film, showing at Chisenhale Gallery, charts the journey of a crew consisting of a director of photography, an anthropologist, a geographer, a sound engineer and a local guide. On arriving in the valley their intention is to investigate how the landscape has determined its history. To do so they attempt to find a high point up in the mountains to record a panorama of the entire valley. Panoramas are, traditionally, 360-degree depictions of a place that attempt to re-create the view from a vantage point. The first panorama of the City of London was made in 1787 by Robert Barker and exhibited in Leicester Square. Panoramas became favoured as a means of recreating either a cityscape, a battlefield or a faraway place during the colonialist expansion of the European empires.

Access to this high viewpoint is refused. The crew slowly realise that this is because of its strategic value. Attempting to capture a panorama of the valley landscape would in effect be a way of controlling it and they begin to understand why this is denied them.

The crew returns to Kabul to record the ruins and traffic of the city. All traces of past and present ideologies in the cityscape exist as disparate and discontinuous elements. As they shoot a ground level panorama they realise that the continuity of the shot is in opposition to the reality of the city. The seamless motion of the camera action tends to homogenise its subject.

The crew decide to attempt a final panorama and obtain permission to record the view from the ‘television hill’. The view allows them to gaze over Kabul and across to the Hindu Kush mountains. They realise that this spectacle gives them a feeling of euphoria and totality. They decide to stop filming.

The series of photographs, showing concurrently at MW projects, are large-scale portraits of individual mountains in the Hindu Kush range. These mountains remain unnamed. The local pandjshêris have never needed to label them because they do not form part of their daily activities. They have only named the paths in and out of the valley. The mountains appear on maps only as an ensemble, either as Pandjshêr Mountains or the Hindu Kush Range. The presence of these mountains both as instigators of the course of history and as witnesses to the successful resistance against the failed political utopias that have elsewhere ruined the country is recalled in these images.

The photographic album, also showing at MW projects, is a collection of thirty six small-scale 35mm images taken by Hugonnier throughout the trip. It brings together images of the crew’s journey. The set functions simultaneously as a storyboard to the project and also as a personal reflection of the trip. The images explore ideas of tourism, of the outsider recording and responding to a foreign place.

Chisenhale Gallery's six week screening of Hugonnier's film is her first solo show in a public gallery in the UK. Ariana tours to Spacex Gallery, Exeter from 24 May – 12 July 2003 and will be included in Utopia Station, curated by Molly Nesbitt, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Rikrit Tiravanija, at the 50th Venice Biennale in June 2003.

Ariana is commissioned by MW projects and Film and Video Umbrella in association with Chisenhale Gallery. It is supported by the National Touring Programme of Arts Council England and is sponsored by Marion and Guy Naggar and Alan Djanogly. Ariana is part of a season of French photography and video: Made in Paris: Photo/Video taking place in London in May-June 2003, co-ordinated by the French Embassy-Institut Français du Royaume-Uni.

Marine Hugonnier’s previous solo shows include "Anna Hanusova. 27.06.01, 5:40" at Trans Space, New York; Towards Tomorrow, MW projects, London; Fig 1, London; and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris. She has been included in numerous international group shows and screenings including Spiritus, Magasin 3 Stockholm, Sweden; Traverees, l’ARC, Musee d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Presentness Is Grace, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol; Squatters, Fundacao de Serralves, Porto, Portugal; My Generation, Atlantis Gallery, London. Hugonnier lives and works in London and is represented by Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris and MW projects, London. Pressetext

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Marine Hugonnier - Ariana