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IMAGE GALLERY


ALPHONSO'S JAW

(Installation)
Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival,
Crown Buildings, Hawick,
Scotland, 4-17 April 2016


In 2016 we created an immersive, multi-format installation for Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, called Alphonso's Jaw. The installation, and our subsequent short film, were inspired by our fascination for two objects we discovered amongst Edinburgh University's Anatomy Collection: (1) the cast of a disfigured face; (2) a prosthetic jaw constructed on an early nineteenth century battlefield.

Through some research we unearthed the story of Alphonse Luis, a young French gunner struck by shrapnel at the Siege of Antwerp, 1832. Having suffered horrific facial injuries, losing his lower face, Alphonse's quality of life was eventually improved when the Surgeon-Major and a local Belgian artist collaborated on the construction of a silver prosthetic jaw, painted in flesh tones and adorned with whiskers.

We uncovered historical accounts of Alphonse Luis' injury, surgery, recuperation and rehabilitation in medical journals of the day, and drew on these for an exploration of identity, disfigurement and reconstruction.

In Alphonso's Jaw we imagine that Alphonse Luis has become dislocated from history to exist outside of any specific time or place, trapped in eternal convalescence, soothed by the dreams of his Battlefield Muse, who is equal parts Night Nurse, Scheherazade and Beauty from Beauty and the Beast. Luis' Battlefield Muse is, in turn, both horrified and fascinated by her patient.

As well as multiple video projections, music and sculptural elements - which included dislocated white hands thrusting from walls clutching crimson rose buds; numerous handcrafted prosthetic legs; and an American army stretcher haunted by WWI shell-shock victims - our installation included the poem, Beauty and the Silver Mask:


 

Beauty and the Silver Mask
poem by Avant Kinema

 

My name is Beauty.

My name is Scheherazade.

I gorge on words, feverishly

in the privacy of my cell cot.

Words nourish my soul.

Each twilight I whisper words of freedom and captivity.

 

I am the sadness of lost women

and the wild boys

who forgot the fluidity of youth

who forgot that skin and bones

will crystalize,

shatter into smithereens

like the Citadel of Antwerp

under the monster

mortar fire of the ticking clock.

Your name is Beast.

My favourite enemy, you invade

my dreams.

You are the Beast who imprisons me.

The shock of your devastated jaw holds me captive until morning.

They have allowed me one mirror.

In its shimmering skin, I see your face. Broken.

 

Your face has misbehaved.

It has smashed its shell open

with a spoon.

Form has fractured,

symmetry ripped in two pieces.

Did I smash the glass?

Did I smash it over and over?

Did I splinter your face to shards?

 

Your tongue is blind.

It falls, fat and undulating,

from the hungry centre

of your lost jaw,

craving nourishment,

searching all of the black space between stars for meaning.

 

I ache to have known your lips.

 

Through the haze of an

enchanted glass I see the dark forest,

your calloused hand tending to the wild flowers.

Your jaw is a ghost.

In the negative space

above your throat

I see the trace of your mouth's memory

sucked like smoke into the Vortex.

 

The Void whispers to me.

 

Restless, fidgeting, I turn

a pawn shop ring round my finger, thrice

and watch your face fall apart in silhouette.

 

Dragged by my heels

through the dark forest,

beyond the scratching branches,

and twisting roots,

mauled by wild talons

and the jaws of monstrous entities,

I see the green shimmer of a clearing,

breathe the rose's wild perfume,

witness the spilled blood of its petals, burgundy against the grass.

Your mouth has vanished into the mist, banished.

You have no words.

To hear your words I must first

enter your eyes, as green and deep and tempestuous as the ocean,

and become engulfed.

I must allow myself to succumb

to the brutal metamorphosis,

to allow myself to become you,

to become my favourite monster.

 

I fix my silver mask in place.

 

I will inhabit your skin and steal
the words from your mouth.


 

La Belle et le masque d'argent

poem by Avant Kinema
(translation by Raymond Meyer)

 

Je m’appelle La Belle.
Je m’appelle Scheherazade.
Fiévreusement, je me gave de mots
dans l’intimité de mon lit de prison.
Les mots nourrissent mon âme.
A chaque crépuscule je murmure
des mots de la liberté et de la captivité.

 

Je suis la tristesse des femmes perdues.
Je suis la tristesse des femmes perdues.
Je suis la tristesse des femmes perdues.

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