Review: Nuit Blanche

On Saturday night, I went along to the one night only Nuit Blanche (White Night, to those who aren’t familiar with those two French words) – a celebration of French video art.

Screens had been placed in the windows of various galleries around central London, and the evening began with complementary champagne at Jack Bell Gallery in Masons Yard. After drinks, we picked one of three groups to join, and were assigned a curator as a tour guide. Maïa Morgensztern led the group I was part of, and took us to see eight of the 18 videos exhibited. In tour order, we saw the videos of Philippe Durand, Pierre Huyghe, Franck Scurti, Sophie Calle, Ivan Argote, Cyprien Gaillard, Djamel Koken and Francois Curlet.

Morgensztern was visibly excited about the project, saying ‘we work on it for a year, so you can enjoy it for a night’. She was incredibly proud of the French artists involved, and wanted London to be introduced to the talent. Four of the eight pieces stood out for me – Sophie Calle’s ‘Brenda’ (in which a parrot is confronted with a break-up letter), Ivan Argotte’s ‘Retouch’ (in which two Piet Mondrian paintings are vandalised), Francois Curlet’s Harold and Maude-inspired video of an undertaker’s road trip, and most of all, Cyprien Gaillard’s ‘Palms Won’t Grow Here and Other Myths (Part II)’ which shows palm trees being removed from their natural habitat, to be placed in ‘expensive and fake new landscapes’ (Morgensztern’s words).

Morgensztern went on to say that the trees were being ‘taken to a place they don’t belong’ and that the work was perhaps about ‘remembering your origins, where you’re from’.

It was a wonderful night, and if you’d like to go next year, it’ll be in Paris! If you want to see some French video art before that, however, Cyprien Gaillard’s show From Wings to Fins is on at Sprüth Magers Gallery in London until the 16th November.

Words: Zoë Bryant