‘Close’ in the CAM Collection
This video installation was created by Julião Sarmento and director Atom Egoyan and opened at the 2001 Venice Biennale at the invitation of Harald Szeemann. Close comprises detailed shots of a woman clipping her toenails into a man’s mouth. There are occasional medium long shots of the woman’s legs as she sits on a chair, and the head of the man, who is lying in front of her.
This is a large-scale in-stallation, projected onto an area of at least 4.6 x 6 metres in a dark, narrow corridor about 60 centimetres wide, which means that the viewer is unable to see the image in its en-tirety. Over the course of the film, the woman gives a monologue that starts off with her childhood memories of a rabbit’s foot amulet, digressing into the reasons why this is considered a lucky charm, before recounting a rambling tale about her beloved pet rabbit and the way it screamed like a child when she once wounded it while trimming its nails.
The tale culminates in a kind of Cinderella version for adults, in which the stepmother trimms her daughter’s feet so that they fit into the crystal slipper, before finally facing the viewer in silence.
The script for Close tackles a number of recurring themes in Sarmento’s work, including the ideas of human-ani-mal metamorphosis, memory, the ways in which we assign meaning and the cutting of excerpts from films or narratives. In this piece, the voyeurism associated with much of this artist’s work and Egoyan’s films is exacerbated.
Close performs a double movement of convergence (towards the camera and the viewer) and expansion (of the screen), both aimed at disrupting the act of perception itself. This is something that Julião Sarmento had already rehearsed in previous pieces due to the expansion of time, the use of close-up and the retrogradation of the film.
* Text published in Julião Sarmento – The Complete Film Works, Porto Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Escola das Artes; Lisboa: Documenta, 2021, p. 217.