The artist's work often creates layered, atmospheric tableaux, querying the genesis of images and the latent relationships between cinematographic, acoustic and architectonic space. Originally commissioned for the second part of Siegel's double solo exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart in 2016, Backstory is the inaugural presentation of this body of work in London.
Siegel's series of framed works on paper, Body Scripts (2015) consists of pages from the English translation of Alberto Moravia's novel Il disprezzo (A Ghost at Noon), the basis for Jean-Luc Godard's film Le Mépris (Contempt) (1963). Selecting only the novel's pages focused on the female protagonist, the artist further highlights these passages by painting over the surrounding sentences with 'the average colour' of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The resultant geometry of the monochrome blocks recalls architectural floor plans, the pages forming 'scripts' for the gestures and movements in the exhibition's related work, The Noon Complex(2016).
For the multi-channel video installation The Noon Complex (2016) Siegel reverses her approach, digitally removing the female protagonist played by Brigitte Bardot from key corresponding scenes in Godard's film. As a result, the space portrayed in the film - the Villa Malaparte on the Italian island of Capri - is underscored, lending the sequences of tracking shots, directed at a now absent actress, an uncanny quality. Doubling this feeling, Siegel poses a surrogate actress as Bardot on an adjacent screen, in a neutral environment, emphasizing her physical, yet ghostly, presence. The traced movements of the actress are experienced twice, against the film's two different soundtracks - French and Italian - the scenes thus oscillating from melancholy drama to burlesque.
Genealogies (2016) suggests the artist's associative thinking by combining novels, films, images, advertising and soundtrack recordings from multiple sources into a baroque invocation of image and artwork provenance, remake and copy. Extending from the choreography of Brigitte Bardot, infamously sunning her backside on the Villa Malaparte's roof terrace, Siegel's video traces an acute iconography of economies of architecture and the female body, suggesting how these are visualised in cinema, and harnessed by advertising and media. From Wilhem Jensen's novella Gradiva, to Freud, de Chirico, Rossellini, Curzio Malaparte, Moravia, Resnais, Robbe-Grillet, Godard, Pink Floyd and the Beastie Boys to images by brands Hugo Boss and Persol, Genealogies maps a broadly layered trajectory of ideas shared and reprised, speculating on homage, influence and originality and, ultimately, drawing together a genealogical lineage of adaptation, appropriation and recurrence stripped from hierarchical order.
Together the works in the exhibition bring into high relief the sculptural, soundtracked backstory of gendered cinematic forms. Noon is the time of day when objects lose their shadow, but also the cinematic notion of a final, decisive confrontation.