A new commission by Animate Projects and the BFI, this work focuses on Kubrick’s unfinished project Aryan Papers, a film about the Holocaust based on Wartime Lies, the 1991 book by Louis Begley. Prior to telling the story of a Polish Jewish woman and her nephew, who pretend to be Catholic in order to avoid persecution during the Nazi occupation of their country, Kubrick researched the project for many years and got as far as choosing the actors and the locations, but unfortunately the film was never made.
Researching the material available, Jane & Louise Wilson have focused on wardrobe research stills as well as period stills from the pre-production phase of Aryan Papers. The Gallery installation concentrates on newly-shot footage of Johanna ter Steege, the actress featured in the photographs originally taken by Stanley Kubrick and chosen by him as the female lead of the film. In a statement on this project, they commented on the ‘enigmatic quality’ of having only fragments of Aryan Papers available, something which they consider ‘profoundly cinematic’. It is precisely the fragmentary nature of Aryan Papers which allowed the artists to work freely with the available material, without the constraints of competing with an already existing film. Despite not having been able to appear in the film, the female figure in the Wilsons’ work is granted a visibility which was denied to her by the final course of events.
Jane & Louise Wilson are considered to be among the best artists of their generation in using the moving image. They have worked collaboratively for over 20 years on projects which are frequently research-based. Whether dealing with the Bosnian-Herzegovinian refugee community of Derby, decaying World War II bunkers or the dilapidated former Stasi headquarters in Berlin, the artists’ sensibility for difficult subjects is expressed by carefully presenting their photographs and technically challenging moving image installations. The controlled nature of their works and the importance of meticulous research provide an interesting link between Kubrick and the Wilsons, which makes this project particularly fascinating. The exhibition also coincides with an extensive Stanley Kubrick season at BFI Southbank, providing an entrancing new context for the artists’ work.
A commission by Animate Projects and the BFI with The Stanley Kubrick Archives, University of the Arts London.
The exhibition is accompanied by a series of films selected by Jane & Louise Wilson and the artists will be in conversation with Andrew Graham-Dixon on Wed 18 Feb.