Interview with Noëlle Pujol
on Le Préparateur
Journal du FID Marseille, 8 july 2006
Interview by Nicolas Feodoroff
How did the film come about ?
In 2004, I was invited to create an installation for the French Pavillon for the Universal exhibition in Aïchi,
Japan (2005). The project consisted of making a series of video portraits of people whose daily lives were
intimately linked with the Saint Aubin Island, an aquatic landscape near Angers. The ISA (Saint Aubin Island)
sound and video installation is comprised of five films projected into screens of identical size.
The central screen shows a 16 minutes sequence/tracking shot restricted to the landscape.
The four other screens are for the portraits, which are placed laterally. Theses portraits are of farmers,
a biologist/insect « huntress », fishermen and a taxidermist representing the bird « protector ».
The process of stuffing a swan was followed from the moment the taxidermist received the bird’s dead body
to its installation in the rooms of the Natural History Museum in Angers. Only the final images have been used for
this video, 4 minutes of images devoted to setting in the eye, the special moment when the animal seems to come back to life.
With Le Préparateur, the idea was to follow the process, the work in actually, from the moment the swan’s body was taken out
of the freezer to the dismantling (separating the body/skin) and then the re-assembly.
For me the taxidermist is a working figure ; he takes the swan to pieces to put it back together again.
I found some quotations, which I noted down, which played a part in the editing of the film.
The first in particular, by Vilèm Flusser, prompted me to call the film le préparateur : «The latin word « apparatus » come from the verb
« apparar » which means « to prepare ». In addition, the Latin includes the verb « praeparare », which also means « to prepare ».
If one wants to understand the difference in French between the prefixe « ad » and « prae » perhaps one could translate « aparrare »
by « to get ready » Therefore an « appliance » would be something ready which is lying in wait for something and a « preparation »
something ready which is waiting patiently for something. A camera – (in French, « a photographic appliance » - is lying in wait to take
photographic appliance ») – is lying in wait to take photographs and it’s with this in mind that it sharpens its teeth »
(Vilèm Flusser, towards a philosophy of photography).
The other one is by Nietzsche and comes from the gai science : « The privilege of the dead is to never die again ».
So it was no coincidence that, out of the four characters, you chose to continue the work with the taxidermist.
Do you also consider this job to be a metaphor for the documentary cinema ?
When you go into a taxidermist's laboratory you're agreeing to live in camera, to manoeuvre in a restricted space
with a dead swan an a laboratory assistant. I arrived in this underground research workshop the way you come into a
"film noir", the mystery being a dead swanbeing subjected to dissection. Two dead swans, in fact, to increase the fictional aspect
of my experience, because we had to have a double in order to shoot the firts sequence of the body being removed.
The remains of "Swan1" was waiting to be defrosted. The aim of taxidermy is to reconstruct the body of a dead animal and to make it
look alive. The aim is fictional, but the "work in actually" (transforming a motionless dead body, emptying it and keeping nothing but the skin)
corresponds with a documentary format. The beauty of a documentary resides in its capacity to tackle a process head on, to get inside it and
find the site of an aesthetic shift, a figure of deconstruction, where the fragment can becomea backup to the reality.
In this film we follow the evolution of an animal and its development throught the practise of traditional crafts.
But we're also dealing with a film that's in the process of being made, a film that plays on the way the arts slide into one another.
How, starting from a dead body, can photography turn into drawing and sculpture into theater ?
During the film you appear, furtively, on screen. Why ? And, more precisely, why at that moment ?
I appear at the moment in which the image becomes bare, empties and becomes more abstract in order to turn into a stage set,
in deep blackness. I felt, as in a painting, as if I was bringing everything behind the painting into the frame. It was a moment when
I felt it was my turn to become the model for the reconsctruction of the swan.