Conversation: Robert Cahen & Ewa Hess
Recognized as one of France's foremost video artists, Robert Cahen has since 1972 produced a distinguished body of work for cinema and television. In Cahen's uniquely nuanced world, fiction and document alike are presented as metaphoric voyages of the imaginary, exquisite reveries that describe passages of time, place, memory and perception. Genres such as narrative and performance are expanded and transformed as he explores visual, aural and temporal transformations of represented reality.
From the formal elegance of Cartes postales vidéo (Video Postcards) (1984-86) to the intricate musical and visual transitions of Boulez-Répons (1985), Cahen's work is characterized by a sophisticated application of electronic techniques that manipulate sound and image, space and temporality, resulting in subtle transmutations of the illusory and the real. Building on his extensive research in acoustics, music, and filmmaking, he plays with the textures of sound and image to restructure representational modes, from the optical to the sonic, from the "picturesque" photograph to the conventions of narrative cinema. Resonating with wit and charm, executed with technical precision, his works allude to both formal and thematic motifs of travel, movement, and transition. Cahen's dreamlike journeys depict fleeting glimpses of a transitory reality, transformed in time within the pictorial frame.
Robert Cahen was born in Valence, France in 1945. He graduated from the Conservatoire National Superieur Musique de Paris, and was a member of the Groupe de Recherche Musicales de l'ORTF (the Office of French Radio and Television) from 1971-74. From 1973-76, he was director of Experimental Video for ORTF/INA. Many of his film and video works have been produced in conjunction with Institut National Audiovisuel (INA), the French television production facility. His videotapes have been broadcast and exhibited internationally, at institutions and festivals including the Paris Biennale; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; American Film Institute National Video Festival, Los Angeles; World Wide Video Festival, The Hague; International Center of Photography, New York; Documenta 8, Kassel, Germany; FestRio, Brazil; Tokyo Festival; and the Festival of Locarno, Italy. A complete retrospective of his work was exhibited at Galerie Nationale Jeu de Paume, Paris in 2010.