The title of the exhibition, Q M .15 , stands for French 19th century actress Sarah Bernhardt’s motto “Quand Même”, which might be translated as “even so” or “nevertheless.” It can be understood as a reference to the high price the drive to create may exert on an artist, as Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster has noted about the three characters which appear in QM.15: Sarah Bernhardt, Marilyn Monroe and Maria Callas, “they can’t stop, and art is their vehicle; their very lives must become works of art, no matter the cost. The supreme excitement is the artistic experience.”
For Q M .15, Gonzalez-Foerster chose these three real-life figures in their late oeuvre, inhabiting them in a process the artist has compared to a séance: “a prepared trance, allowing intense artistic moments to appear and re-appear.” The triple apparition took place on stage at the Centre Pompidou in January 2016 but was first filmed in November 2015 to produce Teatro (QM.15), Cinema (QM.15) and Opera (QM.15). Premiered in the Hayward Gallery’s exhibition The Infinite Mix: Contemporary Sound and Image this September, Opera (QM.15) transforms a recording of Gonzalez-Foerster’s live apparition as Maria Callas into a holographic illusion that creates a ghostly operatic presence in a very large dark and empty space. Teatro (QM.15) is a curtain ghost. The life-sized image of L’Aiglon by Sarah Bernhardt by DGF appears and disappears on a dark velvet curtain. Condensing multiple layers of historical and fictional associations, the actress is seen in one of her signature “trouser roles,” the part of L’Aiglon, in a play about the life of the young Duke of Reichstadt, son of Napoleon, written especially for Bernhardt by Edmond Rostand.
The third apparition, Cinema (QM.15) is a danced moment from Marilyn Monroe’s last film, The Misfits (1961), written by Arthur Miller and directed by John Huston. The actress has appeared in DGF’s work before: A monologue from The Misfits also can be heard in her film Atomic Park (2003) and Marilyn Monroe played an important part in her solo exhibition Temporama at the MAM in Rio de Janeiro, 2015. Beginning in 2012 Gonzalez-Foerster has presented M.2062: composed of sixteen apparitions of 19th and 20th century figures, both historical and fictional, M.2062 imagines a 21th century opera. The characters—among them, Bob Dylan, Emily Brontë, Véra Nabokov, Lola Montez, Fitzcarraldo, Edgar Allan Poe, Scarlett O’Hara, and King Ludwig II—have often been mediated by their cinematic depiction by iconic and/or brilliantly eccentric actors. Thus the artist noted that her Gone with the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara, was “really Vivien Leigh performing Scarlett O’Hara,” just as her apparition as crazed tropical impresario Fitzcarraldo was informed by Klaus Kinski’s portrayal.
Parallel to the exhibition at Esther Schipper, DGF is presenting Costumes and Wishes for the 21st Century together with BLESS and Manuel Raeder at the Schinkel Pavillon (October 30, 2016 – January 22, 2017). This exhibition will present the three costumes from Q M .15 together with others from M.2062.