35mm film transferred on Betanum, 5'20''
© Camille Henrot
Courtesy the artist and kamel mennour, Paris
Coupé/Décalé is an experimental film that alludes to an ethnological style, but which has been cut manually – literally and figuratively – in order to create a slight distance. Through this manipulation, a continuous line appears, separating the image into two parts, one second out of sync. The creation of this film led the artist on a veritable antipodean odyssey to Pentecost Island in the Vanuatu archipelago; the artist undertook this journey in order to witness firsthand a ritual presumed to be a rite of passage into adulthood, which had been organised for tourists. The young natives jump into the void, held by nothing but liana vines tied around their feet. This festive and spectacular event inspired the sport of bungee jumping, which originated in New Zealand. The staging of ritual reveals the movement of ideas and the mimesis inherent in any culture; the artist’s manipulation of the film attempts, in turn, to highlight the deconstruction of the original tradition and its reconstruction in the contemporary staging. The work is also a commentary on how we modify our own cultural representations to make them more appealing to outsiders. The ritual itself and the way it is staged are typical of the Cargo Cults of Melanesia and their religious rituals that mimic a fantasy Western culture. Coupé/Décalé is about the mechanic of mimicry where that which is copied is not a proper cultural form, but the outsider's conception of it - on this occasion, the reversal in which Western culture has imitated an Eastern tradition that has since been modified to agree with the Western perception of it.