Stephen Brandes
La Place des Grands Abysses
La Place des Grands Abysses (2020) is both a sequel to Parc du Souvenir (2016) and the conclusion of a project that has occupied the artist for the past ten years, across a variety of media. Central to this project is an hour-long video work and the story of a fictional character, Albert Sitzfleisch; an employee of the cultural section of the Council of Europe, who has spent his life traveling and has just been made redundant. He is now traveling again with his severance money, writing a book on optimism, and also looking for work. The year is 2069. The tragi-comic non-linear narrative takes us through his final months, starting in Kinsale, on the South coast of Ireland, where he has taken a sabbatical from his job to start writing his book, to his after-life as a ghost and an unwitting tour-guide of the ruins of the Place de Vosges a century later. The narrative is also broken by the insertion of tangential episodes – including the history of the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s death mask and a damning TripAdvisor review of an Athenian restaurant. In parallel with literary fiction, the work is a result of research, observation and invention. The imagery, both in the video work and the accompanying monumental drawing and digital collages, also supports the narrative but digresses, to allow for multiple readings. La Place des Grands Abysses offers both a meditation on the legacy of the Enlightenment and a speculative portrait of Europe in the near distant future. It also attempts to consider our shared histories and destinies with a balance of dark humour and poignance.

The full video can be viewed here.

The exhibition, "La Place des Grands Abysses" will be shown at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, from 18th September until 30th October 2020, travelling to Uillinn, West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen in March/April 2021.
"La Place des Grands Abysses", ink and acrylic on lino, 212 x 271cm, 2018-20.
© Stephen Brandes 2020