Peter Greenaway

Article excerpt

"I have been interested in a certain melodramatic curve of flight through the air for a long time. It is the trajectory of a thrown stone. It follows the hump of a humpbacked whale from nose to tail. It's bounded like a smooth, sheep-cropped, grassy hill." In his introduction to the catalogue for "Le bruit des nuages" (Flying out of this world), Peter Greenaway goes on to explain the way he approached this project, which consisted of choosing a number of works from the drawings collection of the Louvre and exhibiting them in a way that mirrored the trajectory of the thrown stone. Like his films, this exhibition took a circular route, leading the spectator through a labyrinth of visual information that served, ultimately, to fuse the beginning and end points.

Greenaway divided the exhibition into nine parts, each one illustrated by a series of related drawings. Thus, for instance, in a section entitled "Les Cieux" (The skies), the viewer encountered a series of watercolors displayed together in a grid, including works by Boudin, Constable, Delacroix and Whistler. The last section, "Volant en Enfer" (Flying in hell,) consisted of darker, more sinister works, such as Prud'hon's La Justice divine poursuivant le Crime (Divine Justice pursuing crime, 1808) or Victor Hugo's Le Pendu (The hanged man, 1854). Yet, despite the almost inevitable richness of the individual works, what one was conscious of, above all, was the presence of the curator/director. In this case, it was clearly the imposition of a distinctly cinematic structure that set the exhibition apart from other, more traditional installations.

To begin with, there was the narrative that Greenaway imposed as the justification for his choices. …