Irene Solà is an artist and a poet. She was born in 1990 in a farmhouse in Malla and graduated in Fine Arts from Barcelona University, after an Erasmus exchange at the Listaháskóli Íslands University in Reykjavik. She went on to take a master’s degree in Literature, Film and Visual Culture at the University of Sussex in Brighton.
She is working on interdisciplinary research that brings together artistic and literary creation, and a keen interest in film and moving image. Her work explores language, narrative construction, representation, communication, collaboration, and the nature and complexities of relations between people.
Solà was awarded the Art Jove 2015 and Ciutat de Vic grants for Artistic Creation 2013. She took part in the Catalan Contemporary Art Biennial and the Biennial of Young European Artists JCE. She is co-founder of a fanzine, VOLS RUSSOS, and organizer of the expository project La Ghetto. She won the Amadeu Oller poetry prize and has published Bèstia (Editorial Galerada, 2012). She is an active participant on the Catalan literary scene and has been involved in festivals such as Tocats de Lletra and the Sant Cugat International Poetry Festival.
She is currently resident in London, where she works at the Whitechapel Gallery, has been selected for the ReCreative Film School at the London Gallery, contributes to the poetry and translation magazine Alba London, and is developing various projects.
When I think about the French Nouvelle Vague, I’m immediately reminded of seductive young men, smoking cigarette after cigarette, capable of acting both silent, moody scenes and dense intellectual debates with the same irresistible elegance and existentialism. They are capable of blowing their own brains out on a whim without breaking a sweat or ruffling their clean, well-ironed clothes. Nor do they ever leave the urban interiors where they apparently live, wanting for nothing, in spectacular settings for the person who finds their lifeless bodies. Without dropping their slick, discreet style, they seem to tumble from scene to scene, moving through the spaces of the comfortable classes of post-war France. To a soundtrack of easy listening, more silences, more cigarettes, and the odd amorous entanglement that seems to leave them untouched, as though they end up there by inertia, as though they slip from relationship to relationship by means of some logic that neither heightens nor lessens the apparent indifference to everything that characterizes them. These characters, erudite by nature, bored to death, embody a totally romantic representation of love and life. Because things are all too much for them, and everyday life is so easy and so tragic… And, for some reason, we are drawn by these attitudes of victimism and desolation. Perhaps because it seems as though they’ve seen it all, and they’re still young and handsome, and always will be. Perhaps because in their lives, everything is so easy that all they have to do is read, or smoke, or think, or wander around with their hands in their pockets, or destroy themselves. And that’s all right.
I remember studying in the Art Faculty, back in 2010. We were asked to take in something that defined us or that intensely influenced our life goals. A classmate brought in an excerpt of some black-and-white French film in which a young man and a young woman drank wine and smoked while they mused on revealing questions about the meaning of life or something like that. My classmate said she’d like to find someone like those two characters to share her life with and have endless conversations of this kind. That girl wasn’t Irene Solà, though her video Louis Garrel (2015) might suggest otherwise. It was also 2010 when this artist and poet from Malla went to see the film La frontière de l’aube, by Philippe Garrel, a Cannes 2008 award-winner starring the director’s son, Louis Garrel, alongside the actress Laura Smet, about a couple who end up separating, badly. Later, Solà met Carles, a guy who reminded her of the young Garrel. She started a relationship with him that lasted some time; a few years after it ended, Solà asked him whether he would act, for her and her camera, some scenes she had in mind. Carles agreed and found himself acting Louis Garrel, doing re-enactments of scenes from the French actor’s films, in which he appeared alone, with no dialogues—scenes selected by Solà, for Carles to act out. By accepting, Carles ceased to be himself and multiplied, like a chameleon that can adapt, change appearance and disappear in a chosen setting.
On the subject of representing this multiplicity of identities, this transformation from one character to another, like an appearance trapped in a process of constant metamorphosis, Solà’s text about the different performances of Carles—or perhaps Louis—is to the point:
Frédéric smokes, in a petrol station; it’s summer, and it’s very hot. Françoise calls Carole. Carole doesn’t reply. The living take flowers to the dead. Françoise takes a stone to Carole. Clément smokes and rocks. He caresses the photo of his mother at L’Escala. Nemours hammers at a door but no one answers. Jonathan wanders past a bookshop window and pretends it’s winter. Pierre prays by a lamp. Frédéric cries and Françoise lies in the street, her head cut open. Glistening tar oozes, dirtying the paving stones. A lady takes fright off camera. Carles says: “Don’t worry, madam.” Ismaël wakes up in Martí’s bed and, when he sees the camera, he laughs and says: “Paparazzi!” Françoise talks to the cat. The cat walks off. The cat is called Henry. The cat is angry. Theo fries some eggs. Pascal rolls a joint. Another François takes a bath. This one’s face is charcoal-blackened from doing a barbacue.[i]
Then the video ends and, again, that’s all right. An everyday nothing like the one represented by the generation of young directors of the Nouvelle Vague, who, thanks to the popularization of filmmaking tools, were able to film the surroundings and the moods of a post-war generation, establishing new languages of audiovisual narrative that shrugged off the conventionalisms followed by the more commercial films of the time. Almost simultaneously, also in France in the late 1950s, video cameras were ideal for anthropologists and ethnologists, among others, who were curious about the form, the image, the appearance, of that thing we call reality. This led to films like Chronique d’un été (1961), by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin, considered a central work not only of the Nouvelle Vague but also of the movement that Morin called Cinéma vérité. The film opens with a discussion between the two directors about whether it is possible for a subject not to act when in front of the camera. We could interpret the curiosity that prompts Solà to make Louis Garrel as a step further in Rouch and Morin’s dilemma. Not only does she explore the issue as to whether Carles is acting or not when the camera is pointing at him, she also—and most of all—seems to be searching for the interest she felt in him at one point. Or perhaps in Louis. Or was it in Françoise? From behind the camera comes a voice asking the evanescent, phantasmagorical character that occupies the screen: are you the person I saw? And he seems to play with her, laughing, looking at the camera, smoking and shifting, blurring and tumbling from one scene to another in the trap that the artist herself has set.
And even then, it’s all right.
Anna Dot (artist and art critic)
[i] Article written by Solà for the Sala d’Art Jove.