Chantal Akerman, film director, artist, actress, writer and screenwriter, was one of the most important directors of her generation. A leading figure in European experimental cinema from the early 1970s onwards, she played a crucial part in the gradual breakdown, so emblematic of the last twenty years, of the boundaries between the world of cinema and that of art. It was in 1995 that she started to use, often but not always, her full-length films as a starting point in the process of a reconfiguration of space and time.
The daughter of Polish Jews who had survived Auschwitz and taken refuge in Belgium, Akerman right from the outset had had an obsession with the space of the home, just as she had always sought a sense of ‘belonging’, even though she often said that she did not belong anywhere. Her emotional map had always entailed a tension between abstract evocation and the concrete elements of daily life and the home constituted a central focus of her practice. An ancestral and yet extremely modern concept that, in many of her films, became a theatre of solitude par excellence. STANZE. Sul custodire e il perdere (‘ROOMS: On Keeping and Losing’) is given voice and substance in a listed historic building, which was originally used for domestic purpose, and interacts with the non-standardized nature of the space, which already has its own story to tell. In keeping with its exhibition and cultural policy, on this occasion too Casa Masaccio is insisting on the idea of a semantic contiguity between the exhibition layout and its architectural setting with a show that explores the potentialities of cinema as three-dimensional space and as spatial as well as temporal experience. The stanze, physical places filled with metaphorical significance, are as much semantic traits of living as they are inner spaces and metric units of poetry.
The layout of the exhibition, making the visitor a participant in the dynamics and movement of the images, is articulated between sense of belonging and feeling of loss, thresholds and boundaries, between interiority and exteriority. The exhibition is introduced by Marcher à coté de ses lacets dans un frigidaire vide (2004), a sound installation that implies the idea of the traversal of a transparent labyrinth in search of a notebook written in Polish in 1920 that belonged to the artist’s grandmother. The only thing of hers to have survived, it is not much and at the same time a whole world. Also in the exhibition, My Mother Laughs Prelude (2012), Femmes d’Anvers en Novembre (2008), a multiple channel video installation in which the tale of feminine geographies that breathe in unison and the repetitive gesture of the woman smoking are related to the everyday rituality of Jeanne Dielman (1975), the film with which Akerman first caught the attention of the critics. From the urban sounds and shifting images, devoid of any narrative, of Tombée de Nuit sur Shanghai (2007) – harbours, water, ships, chance passers-by, huge illuminated signs and the line of the horizon of Shanghai and the night that in real time falls on the city – to La Chambre (1972-2007). Here, Akerman, director and at the same time silent actor, investigates reality by multiplying domestic space. The location of the aesthetic and conceptual inquiry into the passage of time is the interior of a room that is expanded through the hypnotic and circular movement of the camera.
On Keeping and Losing alludes to what is indestructible, what remains and resists all corrosion, but also to the process of editing required by montage, the true crucial act in the making of a film.