MA Audiovisual Arts & film (Sint-Lukas Brussels)
Storyteller and (audio-)visual artist Helena Lemonnier often uses video, photography, soundscapes and objects to create narrative installations. During her residency at Gouvernement, she aims to thrive on that same impetus and wishes to elaborate the narrative aspect even more. Lemonnier is currently working on a video-installation, in which existing stories of creation, a genesis, will be taken as the starting point for a newly created text – as if it were a new, familiar genesis, a story between the earth and humanity. Her visual footage is recorded in Cambodia earlier this year.
For this specific project called APHAR, she collaborates with sound wizard Inne Eysermans in order to connect once again the soundscapes, video images and narrative into one experience.
Helena Lemonnier will not publicly present her project in the end. Due to several circumstances, both the artist and Gouvernement have decided to cancel the event. However, there are some plans already to present her project next Spring.
More information about the artists can be found on her website.
intake interview 1.10.2018
How would you describe your work in terms of themes, style, techniques…?
When I was graduating my MA in Photography (specialisation film) at Sint-Lukas, Brussels, I quickly realised how deeply I wanted to tell stories and create narratives using different media. At one point, the medium I use just depends on the narrative experience I wish to present. I oftentimes apply the structure of a letter as the framework for my story. For example, A Story That Wasn’t is a fictive farewell letter from my grandfather to my grandmother during the Algerian war of independence. The letter was of course written by me. It expresses deep emotions about separation, war and love and the idea of saying goodbye – forever. It’s a fictive narrative parallel to the narrative that really happened. Having read Joseph Campbell’s A Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), I figured I wanted to work more with myths and primordial stories. I frankly consider myself a storyteller instead of an artist.
Which (art) disciplines other than the ones you’re familiar with, draw your attention or would you like to immerse yourself into?
Mythology of course, but also philosophy, politics, ecology… I guess I can add admiration for the mundane too. I’ve always been interested in everyday life: a certain ray of light which casts a shadow, a sun set… Basically the moments that catch you by surprise. I suppose, the longer the more I let go of control – in life and in my work.
In which circumstances or environment would you consider yourself at your most creative?
Probably at the most unexpected moments, like in Cambodia. Creativity doesn’t happen somewhere between 9 and 5. It can’t be forced.
How does “INTERNEN” appeal to you specifically?
Back in Cambodia, I knew I was going to do something with the footage and storytelling. So I need an environment in which I can work and develop my ideas at my own pace, while surrounded by people who support me on many levels. I accidentally saw something about Gouvernement and just mailed them regarding a residency. Now I’m here, supported by Gouvernement’s team and by Inne Eysermans. The intake conversation with its artistic director Nele was also very helpful. She helps you during the creative process and thinks with you. That’s how I got in touch with Inne, because of her directions and propositions. It means a lot to surround yourself with people who help you framing your project.
interview and chat about APHAR by Helena Lemonnier 1.10.2018
By Helena Lemonnier, with Inne Eysermans
APHAR (phonetically pronounced as ‘aw-far’) derives from the Old Hebrew language and the Old Testament. In ancient languages, one word usually has several meanings. Depending on the context and structure of the sentence, the meaning changes. Aphar can be translated as dust or ash as well as atoms, particles or matter. It’s also used within the context of a curse word, such as serpent’s food, punishment or humiliation.
APHAR, a word rich in substance, is my self-composed genesis and a rather classical story of creation. I’ve combined over 20 stories or myths of creation from different cultures around the world. The basic principles of my genesis are based on a story of creation originated in Maori culture. Despite the collection being so multicultural and diverse in origin, every primordial myth carries the same principles: starting from nothing and going to something, evolving from absolute chaos to pristine order. APHAR doesn’t deviate from that illusionistic one-way path. At a certain point, when the world seems to be in balance, a dialogue (or rather a monologue) commences by Mother Earth. She wants to use her fertility to create an inhabited world. And so mankind is born.
But the existence of mankind causes a lot of problems, raises many questions and triggers Mother Earth’s emotions. Betrayed by her own offspring, she confronts us with our actions while asking us the big ‘Why?’. Yet she can’t hear us. We already know the answers and the issues. We feel the guilt, in a way. Do we need to say it out loud again? In many myths there’s a constant cycle of demise and rebirth. She knows that she must let go off the current situation in order to transform into something new, something reborn without mankind. This genesis is applicable to both our world and a human life. During a crisis we sometimes need to let go off ourselves in order to overcome our problem. We change after a crisis.
Chaos, harmony and transformation are the key to all primordial myths. They’re shaped by multiple stories and narratives and are essentially multi-layered. The installation fit for APHAR implements those characteristics of chaos, harmony and cycles. Visual footage shot in Cambodia and Iran are connected to sounds recorded in Cambodia and voices of Mother Earth. The result is a multi-layered, sensory experience for the public. Big speakers scattered around the room provide the voice of the narrator, while other speakers produce different sounds. A canon and cycle of sounds try to reconnect with the images and each other. It’s a similar search for balance and order, going from darkness and disorder to harmony, letting images and sounds collide and create their own universe.
Storytelling can be done via images and writing, but also via sounds. That’s the part where I rely on Inne Eysermans – she was an Intern once at Gouvernement. I wasn’t very familiar with her work, but Nele (Keukelier, artistic director at Gouvernement) and Wouter (Vanhaelemeesch, programmer of music at Kunstencentrum Vooruit) strongly advised me to get in touch with her. After having witnessed her work, I noticed how composing music and sounds is similar to composing stories. The narrative aspect is then told from an auditive perspective. Her sounds intertwine with my visual footage and simultaneously enhance each other. Her methods or work ethic respond to my methods, which makes working together very fruitful. For the voice-over of Mother Earth, I am still searching for the right person to work with.
Filming in Cambodia and Iran were both kind of coincidences, something which happened on the right time and on the right spot. I spent several months in Cambodia for an internship, I was studying at LUCA School of Arts, Ghent, back then and wanted to become a teacher. I hadn’t been making art for a long time and wished to merely shoot images for myself, not for a goal nor for a specific project. I took my camera with me, just in case. Cambodia was very overwhelming, especially the confrontation with pure nature, raw natural forces and, sadly, heavily polluted nature. Intuitively I started filming again, without any purpose. I enjoyed looking through the frame of my camera, seeing everything from a different perspective and just coincidentally recording strange and wonderful things. With my archive of images and sounds I began to write. I sensed a deep connection with the earth while I was there, so it felt natural to write a conversation with Mother Earth from her perspective. Shots of Iran weren’t planned either. I wasn’t searching for it, but sometimes I just recorded constantly and stumbled upon beautiful sightings.