Brest, Querelle 34” x 34” x 5” 2016
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The novel Querelle, by Jean Genet was set in the city of Brest “The fetid stinking Port of Brest” according to Genet. Genet was an illegitimate child and was raised in foster care. He spent much of his life as a wandering prostitute, with significant time spent in prison. Genet’s novels tend to reflect and mirror this experience, the characters inhabiting an altered and artificial universe born from restraint and sensory deprivation. The novels present a distorted mirror image of the society in which he was raised. The characters in a Genet novel are typically stylized and two dimensional, rather like the fantasy creations in a comic book novel, able to be killed off and dispensed with on a whim. The film by Rainer Fassbinder creates a stylized film set revolving around the sailor’s ship The Vengeur and the brothel of Madam Lysiane. The lighting is garish and lurid with an apocalyptic end of the world feel permeating the entire scene. The doomed characters are trapped forever in the artifice of the stage set, no one leaves no one arrives, it forms a closed hermetic world in which the characters seem to inhabit one of the lower rungs of Dante’s inferno. The set is of the brothel and the ship spinning in destructive and self destructive orbits around Madam Lysiane the owner.
“After committing his first murder Querelle experienced a feeling of being dead, that is to say, of existing somewhere in the depths – more exactly, at the bottom of a coffin..” in this his experience mirrors that of the prison community in the Russian camps where the language of the tattoos tells us that thieves regard themselves as characters from the world beyond. In a sense the characters in the novel Querelle much like the real life inhabitants of the Russian prison system are freed from the constraints of existing as a human in the moral order of the world.
Querelle the beautiful young sailor, described by Genet as “The Angel of the Apocalypse”, was in some ways the personification of hell in Genet’s inverted world, hell being seen as the only true pure place . The further the descent into hell he travels the more ennobled and heroic he becomes, achieving a sort of sainthood through repeated murders. “Querelle finds salvation in further degradation by which he negates the real world to create a world of his own” “It seemed unnecessary to him to exert his charms, as he had an inkling that his true power was of another kind. It rose from the depths of hell where the bodies and the faces are beautiful. Querelle felt the coal dust on his body…it was a make up that did not interfere with his nakedness, that turned him into a god”
The sculptures is comprised of a cut through poster created for the film by Andy Warhol, film stills from the film line the walls of each layer and selected texts taken from the novel follow the circumference.