Confetti, waxes and lace, blood, masks, processions: Fat to Ashes becomes the container of a series of cultural expressions that move around the border between belief and transgression. The French artist Pauline Curnier Jardin puts together three events that seem to have nothing in common: the procession of Sant’Agata in Catania, the carnival in Cologne and the slaughter of a pig.

 The images, recorded in super 8, move and interact as in a dance: with obvious conceptual and visual leaps from one culture to another, from a moment of joy to a bloody action. The narration created by the artist, in some respects mythological, transports us to a dimension in which different traditions come together, also creating a certain disorientation in the observer, who sees the face of a young altar boy in procession, people dressed in carnival and a butcher cleaning the dead body of a pig. However, everything seems to fall within a logic, contained in the title of the work itself: Fat to Ashes in fact refers to the consequentiality of two central events in Catholic culture, Shrove Thursday and Ash Wednesday.

Playing with the sacred and the profane images and their schizophrenic succession, they create a very nostalgic representation of a Dionysian excess: men are shown in their most carnal attitudes, but without any contempt, indeed, this seems to be a way to be able to reconnect to a tradition, a rituality and a sociality that technological advancement and the pandemic crisis seem to lead more and more towards a rarefaction.

 The degree of freedom perceivable in these expressions and movements speaks of a need to return to a beauty of living in the present that does not reject violence, inherent in the human character, but incorporates it to build a celebration of life itself. In the images of Pauline Curnier Jardin, the representation of phenomena of aggregation is sought that present the performative exhibition of a culture and its history. The mood at the limit of the nostalgic built with the use of the super 8 increases the shift from the level of reality to that of an almost mythological fiction of moments and rituals that belong to the past: the representation of rituality seems to be, within the images of Fat to ashes, a distant memory that the artist somehow would like to bring back to the present. Excess as a song to life and to the community.

Fat to ashes was presented at the Hamburger Banhof in the spring of 2021 on the occasion of the award ceremony for the work of Pauline Curnier Jardin chosen as the winner by the Nationalgalerie. In this dimension, the video found a new exposure within an installation: a foam rubber colosseum housed the video projection inside, framed by a series of drapes and fabrics.



Pauline Curnier Jardin
Fat to Ashes, 2021
HD video (transferred from 16mm – and super 8-film), colour , 5.1 surround sound, 20:55 min. Film Still. Courtesy of the artist and Ellen de Bruijne projects.