The MEP Studio, dedicated to emerging artists, presents It's Alive, an exhibition by the French photographer Estelle Hanania, devoted to the work of the director and choreographer Gisèle Vienne, particularly around puppets and ventriloquism.
Estelle Hanania’s work has previously explored folklore and focused on motifs drawn from vernacular ritual, costume and masks, which she uses to investigate the broader issue of the mechanisms of identity. In her practice she is interested in what makes the human body unique and the many transformations it can undergo, in particular via costume and disguise. Her photographic series are the result of projects and research carried out over long periods during which she creates a genuine bond with the people and communities she photographs. Her interest in ancestral traditions and cultural practices has led her to travel to Indonesia, Japan and mountainous regions of Europe. Her art is neither documentary nor anthropological, however: she does not seek to prove a point or demonstrate a theory; on the contrary, she shrouds her subjects in mystery.
The starting point for the exhibition, It’s Alive! is Hanania’s latest book of the same title, published by Shelter Press, which looks back at a ten-year collaboration between the photographer and the director, choreographer and artist, Gisèle Vienne.
Based on performances staged by Gisèle Vienne, often using puppetry and ventriloquism, Estelle Hanania has created an unsettling series of works that lie somewhere between reality and fiction, the perceptible and the invisible. Her photographs are not documentary records, but highlight things that are less visible to the viewer. They are not merely photographs taken during performances or rehearsals: the artist shows nothing that might provide obvious, clearly legible information. Contrary to the usual perspective of theatre, she is interested in details occurring offstage, outside the frame. Here, fragments and clues allow the viewer to reconstruct a story. The human figure plays an essential role in the work of both Estelle Hanania and Gisèle Vienne, and both play with the confusion between animate and inanimate figures in order to create a sense of uncertainty in the spectator’s mind.
Image : Estelle Hanania, Sans titre (I Apologize), 2016 © Estelle Hanania
Estelle Hanania (born 1980 in Paris, where she still lives and works), is a graduate of the École des Beaux- Arts in Paris and winner of the Hyères Festival Photography Prize.
In 2008 she began working with the director, choreographer and artist Gisèle Vienne, a collaboration that resulted in the book It’s Alive! – À travers l’œuvre de Gisèle Vienne published by Shelter Press, which presents a large number of photographs taken over a period of about ten years.
She realizes with the artist Christophe Brunnquell a long-term photographic collaboration entitled La Guerre du Feu, which will be published in book form in 2021 and presented in a series of exhibitions.
Estelle Hanania’s work has been exhibited around the world and published in magazines including M le magazine du Monde, Another magazine, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Mémoire Universelle. She has published several books including Happy Purim and Glacial Jubilé (Shelter Press).
In addition to her personal projects, Estelle Hanania works regularly with fashion brands including Dior, Nina Ricci and Lemaire.