The Escape, 2019
9min, HD video with sound

Palazzo San Giuseppe, in via Mulini 2  — Polignano a Mare, Italy
January 5 – March 15 – 2020

The depiction of the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots in 1895 is the first known example of special effects being used in film. It utilises the filmic device known as the 'substitution shot' and with its introduction came the conjuring and vanishing of the female form in film. For the Queen’s
beheading, the film-cut and the slicing of the queen’s head merge literally and instantaneously: at the moment the guillotine appears to make contact, a switch is made while all else in the background remains in place.

A year later illusionist and film director, George Mélies, produces the same effect in the The Vanishing Lady, in which he vanishes and conjures his female assistant. He even turns her into a skeleton midway through his feat of wander. Mélies’ assistant was also his wife Jeanne d’Alcy who had left the theatre to pursue a career in film.

The Escape follows a disjointed eclipsed conversation between two friends, as they discuss love, work, daydreams, resistance, misgivings and deceitfulness, amongst other things. In the image we see a woman assisting with (what appears to be) a magic trick. In fact, it transpires, she is setting up a substitution shot for the camera. She persists, to obsession, revealing the illusion time and again with care despite the banality and boredom. At times, the ‘trick’ is interrupted: by an animation of the George Mélies ‘vanishing lady’; by details from the Märchenbrunnen (Fountain of Fairy Tales) in Berlin; by a mobile phone; a kaleidoscope.

Quoted texts in order of appearance: (adapted from original)
Anne Carson, The Beauty of the Husband
Penn Jillette, Women in Boxes
Craig Conley, Magic Archetypes
R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience
Jacques Rivette, Celine and Julie Go Boating Thérese of Lisieux,
The Story of a Soul Virginia Woolf, The Mark on the Wall
Marguerite Duras, The Malady of Death
Sigmund Freud, Creative Writers and Day-dreaming
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse