Passion to Be

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Artist Statement:

Passion to Be is a multi-layered piece of art.

On one level, it is an investigation of the concept/ontology of the collage and its temporality. According to the OED, “collage” defines “an abstract form of art in which photographs, pieces of paper, newspaper cuttings, string, etc. are placed in juxtaposition and glued to the pictorial surface; such a work of art”. The etymological root of the term is the Greek “kolla”, meaning “glue”. This art piece aims to stretch the boundaries of the concept of the collage. It asks: Can a collage be a process rather than a product? What happens if the “pictorial surface” is an inherently changeable bodily part and if what gets “glued” is essentially immaterial (affect)? Can the temporality of a collage be determined by the logic of succession rather than by that of simultaneity?

On another level, Passion to Be is an examination of the construction of identity through the face as socially codifiable and readable representational system. In the words of Deleuze and Guattari, “the face has a great future, but only if it is destroyed, dismantled” (1987: 190). To dismantle the face means to move towards the asubjective, towards making the face “imperceptible”, “clandestine” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 171). Passion to Be proposes a dialectical move between exposing the performer/author’s face (in close-up) in order to render the face “imperceptible” and focusing attention on the performer/author’s face in order to accentuate the distinct facial traits that ground her identity. It shows the production of the face – more specifically, of the face that undergoes a series of emotions – through different apparatuses and software applications (Photo Booth included). In this way, it plays with the idea of the face as screen, in the double sense of this term: as that which reveals and as that which conceals. Finally, the piece explores the potential of the face to escape representation in the interplay between revealing and concealing, as a surface for the inscription of time. 

On yet a third level, it is a study of four primary emotions – fear, anger, sorrow, and joy – as they unfold in slow motion and in real time on the face of the author (of the piece). As such, it is in fact an appropriation and recontextualization – as well as a remediation – of Bill Viola’s 2000 artwork, Anima. “Anima is a study of four primary emotions, joy, sorrow, anger, and fear, as they unfold in extreme slow motions on the faces of three individuals. Photographic-style portraits showing two women and one man are presented as individually framed pictures mounted in row on the wall. Recorded in a single trait, each performer moves through the four emotions in a continuous gradation of expression” (Perov and Viola, 2003: 80). At play in this piece is also the interrelation between the ephemeral and the enduring in relation to the passing of emotion on a face become screen. Being an appropriation and recontextualization of Viola’s Anima, it is also an appropriation and recontextualization of painter and art theorist Charles Le Brun’s study, Passions. LeBrun purportedly provided “a method to learn to design the passions” (as the study is entitled). One key idea underlying LeBrun’s study is that the face is the site for the expression of affect and, thus, for the expression of a person’s character. At the same time, however, it is also the site for deceptions regarding a person’s character: “A piece cannot be perfect without expression: it is what stamps the true characters of every thing: it is by This we distinguish the nature of Bodies; that figures seem to have motion; and that whatever is feigned appears to be real” (LeBrun, 1980: 12).

On a fourth level, Passion to Be is an exploration of the question of authorship – and, relatedly, of ownership – through a focus on affect and its (primarily bodily) experience and expression. Some questions the art piece asks in this sense are: Are the emotions that “I” feel/express through the movements of the face mine? Can the “passions” be appropriated? Is the purposeful embodiment of the passions (through/on the face, according to LeBrun’s method) ultimately an appropriation? 

Description of Process:

* Watch Bill Viola’s Anima

* Look at Charles LeBrun’s descriptions of and designs for the four passions re-enacted in Viola’s Anima (joy, sorrow, anger, fear)

LeBrun Fear.pdf

LeBrun Anger.pdf

LeBrun Sorrow.pdf

LeBrun Joy.pdf

* The performer/author records LeBrun’s descriptions of each passion using Audacity

* The performer/author takes photos of her face re-enacting the passions as described by LeBrun and as re-enacted in Viola’s Anima using Photo Booth

* A collage is created with the four photos of the four passions re-enacted through/on the face of the performer/author. The image resulted from the collage is imported into “Photo Booth Effects” and will serve as background for the performance (of the face)

* The final performance consists of re-enactments of the four passions in “real time” while the face (as site for the re-enactments) is captured through Photo Booth and projected on a large screen. The re-enactments occur in the accompaniment of the recorded descriptions of the pieces (by LeBrun). At the end of each description, a photo is taken of the performer/author’s face using Photo Booth.


* Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

* LeBrun, Charles. A Method To Learn to Design the Passions. Trans. John Williams. University of California, LA: The Augustan Reprint Society, 1980.

* Perov, Kira and Bill Viola. “Passions and Angeles, 2000-2002.” In Bill Viola: The Passions. Ed. John Walsh. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum in association with the National Gallery, London, 2003.

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