Paradise Fallen

Paradise Fallen

an installation

Paradise Fallen is a cycle of work that includes photographic, paper-based, performative and video components.

Zen Marie’s Paradise Fallen: Blaxis explores the art of landscape cinematography. Through an immersive video installation, the work critically thinks through the camera, and how it alternatively allows or denies the artist to capture the dynamic energy of the land as it changes and evolves.

This exhibition forms the third iteration of Marie’s Paradise Fallen series, which spans more than ten years. The work has been in process since 2010 where it took shape over the course of numerous visits, residencies and appointments at the RAW Material Company in Dakar, Senegal and through residencies and teaching appointments on ‘île de la Réunion.

Importantly this work owes its existence to the people, stories, spirits and memories of these spaces.

The first two iterations focused on footage developed in and around the islands off the peninsula of Dakar. This iteration; Paradise Fallen: Blaxis, is located across the landscapes around the Karoo’s Valley of Desolation and the Maloti-UKhahlambaDrakensberg Mountain range.

Within Marie’s work, the landscape is proposed as a character that drives narrative, rather than merely just a setting for narratives to occur. The work seeks to challenge prevailing concepts of time, seeking to pay homage to the expansive timelessness of landscapes that have formed over millions of years, while being restricted to cameras that operate within the limitations of linear time and physicality.

The exhibition Paradise Fallen: Blaxis is a meditation on landscapes, using a lens that not only highlights their beauty, but also acknowledges how landscapes are bookmarks or memorials to the history and forgotten narratives that have taken place within them.  

The exhibition forms part of the artist’s submission towards a practice-based PhD at the Wits School of Arts.

Blaxis inlcuded collaborations with The Wretched and BLKJKS, who performed improvised sonic interventions or live scores to the installation

Zen Marie, “Valley of Desolation”, 2020, film still, Artist’s collection.

Initiated in 2016 on a residency at Cité des Arts on ‘île de la Réunion, Paradise Fallen continued while working through the residency and Academy programs at the RAW Material Company on the peninsula city of Dakar, Senegal in 2017 and 2018.

Paradise Fallen explores conceptual and geographic ambiguities of islands, as they offer much imaginative potential for dreams, desires, fantasies, fears and anxieties to be rehearsed through them.

The work plays with narratives that float on the Indian and Atlantic Oceans as personal, emotive, historical and political registers that are courted, teased and provoked.

Ile Aux Serpents , film still , 2018

The body of work includes:
• 3 x videos – one large scale projection, one sculptural 6 channel work and one single channel monitor piece
• 2 x large scale drawings (140 x 140 and 140 x 5m)
• 1 x printed stack of photo litho plates.

The work was initially screened in an abbreviated form in Dakar, Senegal, and thereafter it was installed much more elaborately once in Johannesburg at fem of colour, a multi-discipline platform for engagement
in Newtown, and most recently at the Serendipity Arts festival in Goa, India.

In this cycle of work the land, the city, the landscape and the ocean become more than geographic features, they exceed the limits of location or even the specificity of site. In many ways the landscape – or oceanscape in this particular instance – become characters driving a narrative rather than simply the setting or mise-en-scene for narrative to occur.

The ocean in may ways exists outside of technology and could even be thought of as device for metaphysical contemplation. The ocean can be linked not only to conceptions of the sublime following Kant and Burke but also as an incredibly powerful force of historical and political weight in the work of Paul Gilroy, Isabel Hofmeyr, Pamila Gupta and others.

Certainly the concepts of the middle passage and of the Indian Ocean spark important scholarship that situates the ocean as integral to negotiating symbolic and economic forces of colonialism. Certainly, black radical thought and critical theory from especially the Caribbean cannot do without it. The ocean becomes a crucially important, because ambivalent, space from which to viscerally and poetically leveraging more analytical critical work. And it is no wonder that it figures prominently in literary work as well.

The ocean suggests a figure, device, character and narrative that has fixated poets and novelists, from Homer to Conrad to Césaire. It is a figure vast, undefinable and provides the first material substance for linking continents and people across the globe.

In this scholarship of the ocean, the Island emerges as a figure crucial to consider. From Daniel Defoe, to Robert Louise Stevenson’s Treasure Island, to William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and even Aldous Huxley’s The Island, the geographic form of the Island has provided more than a mise-en-scène, it has instead functioned as a character or narrative device that provokes a fundamental disorder, break down or even obliteration of western society. Following Pamila Gupta, the Island is marked more by its connections with the outside than by an insularity.

Ile Aux Serpents , film still , 2018

The island is important as it connects and lays the ground for the exorcism of dreams, desires and fantasies.

Paradise Fallen explores these ideas in a way that pushes the island into a critical proximity with a kind of terrifying beauty, a horror and form that is present in the work of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. While the film picks up on these literary and theoretical cues, it insists on an aesthetic and poetic register that is integral to its cinematic logic.

difference repetition 2, 2019 charcoal on Fabriano, 1,40m x 1,40m