L'image intérieure

L'image intérieure

L'image intérieure is a writing project by Maryse Larivière that looks at the interiority of image making, irredecence and the female visionary. Questioning what we consider to be an image, this writing residency explores histories of non-material image making through fictional interviews and speculative texts. 

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Part 1: Smoking to the Point of Something    Part 2: The Unseen Film

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The Unseen Film

From a conversation with Ulla von Brandenburg, a discrete performance at The Little Shop, a presentation at the Power Plant, and afterward, a brief exchange with David Dorenbaum.

Ulla von Brandenburg’s The Little Shop is a film that I will only ever feel gazing inward; a film composed of flickering images emerging from all senses, an internal illumination. The enumeration of all the different collections contained in The Little Shop anchors this intimate projection of the store and home, an authentic place, a very special space. An antique store located in Park Extension, Montreal, The Little Shop was first established nearly fifty years ago by Ann Silverstone, an art dealer in Montreal in the 1930s, and her life-long friend Phyliss Lewis. The utterances detailing the invisible images inside me are ignited by the warmth of the Alsatian porcelain cup, white, translucent, delicate, a flowery lace motif around the rim, slowly coming to my lips with a sip of hot tea. Each morning, the cup I was given years ago by Ulla brings back contemplation, a moment here and then, afar and now, a remembrance in search of a lost thing. Holding on to the cup, without thinking, an intuition persists, and magic is revived at the instant of taste. The febrile circumstances of art occur; texture, light, and ambiance are beaming outward, in secret, sugary images of the sensible unfolding in a film loop to conjure the face of a woman, the heart of a space, her parted lips.

Ashtrays
Bouquet of silk flowers
Eiffel tower models
Statue of Liberty miniatures
Black feather dusters
Quilts
Dresden porcelain figurines
Jewelry boxes
Children tea sets
Flags
Architect triangular scale rulers
Beaded vanity bags
Blown glass balls
Film cameras
Ship models
Pipes
Salt and pepper shakers
Wedding cake toppers
Harmonicas
Cassette players
Scissors
Fedora hats
Bowler hats
Styrofoam heads
French berets
Casques
Headbands
Turbans
Fascinators
Fur collars
Cocktail dresses
Sequin dresses
Bracelets
Watches
Alarm clocks
Pearl hatpins
Costume jewelry
Small carpets
Dress gloves
Leather goods
Silk scarves
Broaches
Souvenir thimbles
Snowing globes
Sea captain wood statues
Nutcrackers
Russian dolls
Raggedy Ann dolls
Mickey Mouse dolls
Beanie Babies
Barbie dolls
Miniature chairs
Teddy bears
Bedraggled blankets
Christening gowns
Christian crosses
Cabbage Patch Kids dolls
First communion capes
Crocheted lace blankets
Handkerchiefs
Vests
Ties
Belts
Scarfs
Pullovers
Nightgowns
Pajamas
Pillows
Corette bra boxes
Nighties
Reels of thread
Wedding dresses
Terry robes
Fleece sheets
Stuffed puppet hands
Seashells
Tupperware containers
Wicker baskets
Wool combs
Straw hats
Decorative parrots
Perfume bottles
Candles holders
Vintage panoramic photographs
Niagara Falls

In 2005, Ulla was awarded a residency stipend by the city of Hamburg, allowing her to travel to create new works. She could have chosen any city, but Montreal intrigued her. First introduced to The Little Shop by her cousin, Ulla would go hang out there around teatime, at the end of the afternoon, and would spend time with the shopkeepers. She didn’t have many friends beyond a few acquaintances from the local art scene and her cousin’s family, so her time with the women at the store - most of them still very active although in their late seventies and early eighties - was an opportunity to socialize. The conversations amongst them were a host of simplicity and pleasure that would incite Ulla to fix perfume on to the image. During one of her visits, Ulla documented the shop, extracted the tender features of each objects in the house with her Bolex 8mm film camera, and at its center, the women drinking tea together - a film set out to be the expression of an intimate world, a community of women. The deliberate sincerity of these interiors, in reality and on film, is crystalized in the quiet assemblage of the many disparate things the space brings together. This remarkable setting creates a discreet political space through which to deploy the profuse imagination this community shares, with each other, with the objects, a diffuse resistance. Objects are organized in a specific order, in categories, each rooms dedicated to a unique collection. The quilts, a whole wall of vintage quilts, folded and piled on a table, all the way up to the ceiling. This wall, a point of convergence in the front room; some quilts are especially old and humorous, some date all the way back to the 1900s. Affective tissues, collection of collections, the lace room, each room is organized thematically with a collection of objects that relates to its original function, and the camera embracing all of the things displayed in each room, filming these different collections, caressing the whole place with its cyclopean eye, an invisible oeuvre Ulla returns to incessantly, the space behind the curtain that opens onto poetic praxis.

Portraits
Handbags
Suitcases
Weekenders
Make-up cases
Jeans
Dress pants
Booties
Rubber overshoes
Fur vest
Fur coats
Canes
Backpacks
Baskets
Hatboxes
Day dresses
Sundresses
Long-sleeve dresses
Polka dot dresses
Skirts
Shorts
Stripped shirts
Charmeuse dresses
Hard hats
Gift boxes
Motorcycle jackets
Leather jackets
Sandals
Running shoes
Getas
Blazers
Trench coats
Raincoats
Dust coats
Bowling shoes
Ski boots
Snowshoes
Kitten heels
Grand boubous
Stilettos
Garbage bags
Slippers
Moccasins
Knee high boots
Ankle boots
Riding boots
Ponchos
Jean jackets
Vests
Babouches
Soccer shoes
Clothes hangers
Mink stoles with head
Cigar boxes

In the main room, on the first floor, the site of their reunion consists of two armchairs, a pouf, a side table with a telephone, porcelain teacups and saucers, a kettle, a tin box, pens, receipts, and a notebook. Ann, in her eighties, probably late eighties, recorded all the transactions from the store in a notebook. She wanted to remember, taking notes of everyone that would come through, and of everything they would purchase and maybe there would be some notes about their discussions or noteworthy anecdotes guests would share with her. She wanted to remember, account for this community that was created, all these objects, her collections, all the people passing through The Little Shop. She recorded everything in these notebooks, noting the daily history of the life of her shop. Opened nearly fifty years ago, the store presented an outlet for Ann and her friends to be together, a space for women to be together, sitting around, sitting together, talking together, weaving their personal narratives into the lives of these inanimate objects. Since Ann passed away, her daughter Jill runs the store; she keeps it all alive. She is also in the film. She is in the film and in the store, with all the objects her mother garnered throughout the years and the dust, unsettled with every shuffle of things and unfolding of the quilts. Recently, Ulla was looking to include the film The Little Shop in an exhibition of all of her twenty-four films. All of Ulla’s films have no cut; they are all seamlessly edited in camera, and presented as is, in a loop. The soundtrack to all of her black and white films is a voice-over of the artist singing hypnotic songs she wrote herself, or simply silence. Except for The Little Shop, which has a recording to match the moving images. But the cassette with these women’s voices that she wanted to use for the soundtrack could not be found. It was lost; it is still missing. I cannot show the film without the voices. Without the recording of the women’s voices, their discussions, the film cannot be shown, Ulla will not show it, or it would feel incomplete, devoid of emotions. Loosing something, and never finding it again; what opens up is a negative space, what is left is an enigmatic thing, almost. A place recessed behind the scene of imagination, loosing something and finding it right there, the lost voices of the women, the conversations that the women were having that day documented using a tape recorder simply put on a table while they were having tea. Maybe the cassette is in a box somewhere in Ulla’s studio, maybe we will hear the voices again, see the lively faces again, amidst the discrete murmurs of the objects. Maybe the slowness of its apparition in words, its silence, both amplify this invisible oeuvre. Loosing something, and finding it right here. Nearness is palpable.

Maps
Mixing bowls
Gravy boats
Tureens
Salad bowls
Punch bowls
Fish bowls
Sugar bowls
Creamers
Coffee pots
Lids
Serving plates
Dinner plates
Chargers
Cake plates
Saucers
Teacups
Mugs
Water glasses
Wine glasses
Flower vases
Flowerpots
Tumblers
Shooter glasses
Eyeglasses
Washbasins and pitchers
Tomato-shaped jars
Bonbon trays
Vinyl records
Tape cassettes
VHS tapes
Tea towels
Dish clothes
Aprons
Curtains
Mannequins
Wool blankets
Umbrellas
Picnic baskets
Lamps
Cushions
Books
Bookends
Rolls of fabric
Fabric swatches
Cocktail shakers
Juicers
Spatulas
Turners
Tongues
Fry pans
Saucepots
Cocottes
Roasters
Griddles
Cake plates and domes
Wallpaper rolls
Paper bags
Busts
Marble sculptures
Magazines
Tableaus
Frames
Art books
Paintings
Woven wall hangings
Photographs
Winter jackets
Seashells
Birdcages
Banjos
Bongos
Mirrors
Clothing irons
Girl with watering can

The film Ulla made that day is an oddity within her filmography. A documentary film, The Little Shop very much stands out from her other works. This film yields the inexhaustible metaphorical potential of the quilts, the unconscious image behind all of her films, an appetite for fleeting images, for buoyant pieces of felt. Ulla holds on to the pursuit, to all the quilts she ever bought there, as many quilts as she could afford, in fact she might have spent a small fortune on them. Those quilts, you may have seen them in her films, in her exhibitions, they are probably quilts she acquired from The Little Shop. She showed her whole collection of quilts in an exhibition once. She always uses the same quilts over and over in different iterations of her work. The quilts often reincarnate in hand-made clothes, a piece of felt, a curtain, a shawl, a blanket, a flag, in a kaleidoscope of presences, hiding the darkness behind, and the question of who is standing behind, holding them up, remains. The quilt, an ongoing conversation of colors, echoing her thinking of what it feels to experience what it means to be there, the atmosphere, within the shop, within herself, a foundational space in her artistic trajectory. Returning after ten years, Ulla found the store almost intact, barely changed, much the same, over time, an intimate space, an objective world of sensations that is inside, a place of vulnerability, of experimentation that she wish she could keep to herself, but that she could show in its entirety, the whole place. The store is a bit of a museum, or even a work of art, and sometimes, a character. She wants to purchase the whole thing if it ever was to be dismantled, she would like to keep it together, and I leave the space, the space that is inhabited, that is turned into an exhibition, it is already an exhibition, a collection of obsessions, a fictive museum, desire operating through loosing something and never finding it again, the difficult return, a film you will never see because she cannot find it there, because it is inside of her here. I think we hear her singing. It is her voice, yes, I hear them talking.

Ropes
Ladders
Vests
Tin boxes
Cutting boards
Calipers
Umbrellas
Ties
Ribbons
Quilts
Bracelets
Sticks
Masks
Cylinders
Capes
Steps
Eyeballs
Propellers
Origami birds
Floor tiles
Tarpaulins
Magnifying mirrors
Silk scarves
Velvet curtains
Drum mallets
Elastics
Stools
Sea conches