The last days of Watteau is a fotonovela for slide projectors with synchronized sound made in collaboration between Kasper Akhøj and Tamar Guimaraes. The work was initially produced for the Jeu De Paume Satellite Program.
The reference to Watteau arises from an anecdote about the site of the Maison d’Art Bernard Anthonioz in Nogent-sur-Marne, France, where the project was originally installed. While researching the context of the Maison, the artist’s attention was drawn to the fact that the house had been listed as a historical monument, in the last century, because of a dossier of false evidence produced by its former owners, claiming that Antoine Watteau – the creator of the “fête galantes” genre – had spent his last days and died there. This factoid with historical repercussions was the starting point for the work.
Guimarães and Akhøj staged a party where the guests included their hosts – the team of the Maison d’Art and the Jeu de Paume, as well as artists, curators and friends from Paris and beyond. The project entailed a scenic experiment where the party guests interacted with a small cast of actors in improvised as well as pre-rehearsed acts. The slide fotonovela is the result of this theatrical experiment.
The work is not a reconstruction of historical facts but rather a reflection on the historical residuum of these facts. Besides the reference to Watteau, the artists allude to other rumors that surround the Maison, such as the original transcript of Joan of Arc’s trial, which had perhaps belonged to the collection of rare manuscripts of the house and which was supposedly taken away during the war and never returned, as well as to a collection of false African masks left as a legacy by a former resident of the Maison after it had become a home for elderly artists. These three references (Watteau’s death bed, Joan of Arc’s trial transcript, and a collection of fake masks) make up the backdrop for the fotonovela over which the party guests and actors interact.
Kasper Akhøj and Tamar Guimarães, The Last Days of Watteau, 2012.
photo-novella for slide projectors with synched sound and silk screen print.
25 minutes, Colour, Sound.
French and English with English and Portuguese subtitles.
Produced by Anna Lena Films, Paris.