Anu Pennanen

La ruine du regard

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Medium/DimensionsFive channel video installation, 22’31”
CreditsCourtesy of the artist

La ruine du regard (The ruins of the gaze) is set in Les Halles, one of Europe’s largest transportation and shopping hubs. Each day over 800,000 people pass through this complex which connects the city centre of Paris with its outlying suburbs. In the early 1980s, the soaring iron and glass arcades of the old marketplace were controversially replaced with a multi-storey underground shopping mall and metro interchange nicknamed ‘Le Flipper’. A conduit for conveying poor immigrants to their low paid employment in the city centre, the brutal intensity of such precarious existence is plainly articulated in the station’s name: Le Flipper means pinball. For its human subjects, winning is not an option. The best outcome that can be hoped for is to stay in the game for as long as possible.

La ruine du regard was produced over a three-year period in collaboration with local residents and young film students from the suburb of Aubervilliers. It is structured around a series of vignettes which pick out individuals from amongst the throng, dwelling upon scenes from their everyday lives. Since the 12th century the site of Les Halles has been used for commerce and the film brilliantly captures the sense of relentless circulation and exchange. As they work, sleep, wait, sell and wander, the relationship between the protagonists and their environment is presented as intensely corporeal. Despite this, they appear detached from the incessant – yet highly controlled – flow. Like the viewers of this five-screen installation, they are afforded a moment of reflection just beyond the net of passing gazes.