For his first solo show, Stanislas Paruzel presents an installation consisting of sculptures and the first three films of a series he will later continue. Without respecting any pre-established order or chronology, each episode is an adaptation of a chapter from the text of Tristan & Iseult, based on the modern French versions by Joseph Bédier (1) and René Louis (2). Within this self-imposed framework, each episode and each chapter has its own unity of time and place, action and characters, as well as its own production techniques and methods, visual codes and unique set-up.

This adventure began in 2021, as part of the exhibition Le Juste Prix at the Pernod Ricard Foundation, at the invitation of Bertrand Dezoteux, where he adapted for video the chapter VI of the story of Tristan & Iseult, L’attaque du dragon d’Irlande (The Attack of the Dragon from Ireland). He then decided to pursue this work as a long-term project. In 2021-2022, as part of the GENERATOR training program, he produced an adaptation of Chapter XV, Marc juché dans le grand pin (Marc perched in the tall pine tree). For his exhibition Non Complete Story at 40mcube in 2023, he realizes the introduction, the chapters I and II that allow him to set the context for the story itself. Stanislas Paruzel combines the presentation of his videos with sculptures that are also elements of his films sets, and works produced afterwards. The scenography thus extends the universe of his films. Different scales coexist, from set elements enlarged for filming purposes to small-scale scenes anticipating a possible future episode made with puppets.

Assuming a dreamlike, unreal dimension, but also one of bricolage, of Do It Yourself and special effects that show all the tricks, in the manner of sweding (3), Stanislas Paruzel practices a kind of metanarrative not exempt from humor that questions the notion of storytelling and the construction of images by digital means. Having begun by making small films mixing digital tech- niques such as green screen overlay, 3D filmed in 16 mm, or the using of a GoPro camera with elements that belong to sculpture, he develops a working method for each project, inventing a set-up. For example, he seeks to deconstruct the immersion effect of genre films through mise en abyme that he uses to deconstruct fiction by questioning the technique of representation.

Hybridity certainly best describes the practice of Stanislas Paruzel, who says he constructs his images from disparate elements, «like Dr. Frankenstein assembles the body of his monster». Each of his projects is the result of a long research process, which takes the form of a collection of images and texts from painting, comics, video games and literature. He then works these images as a moving collage, composed of elements from different sources, in which bodies try to cohabit. His films also include shooting with actors and actresses. The latter are either his friends or the artists in residence with him, as in the case of GENERATOR. They embody the strange characters of this medieval era, re-enacted and interpreted on the basis of many different cinematographic references.

Hollywood films from the 50s such as Richard Thorpe’s Ivanhoe or The Knights of the Round Table, or Sergei Eisenstein and Dmitri Vassiliev’s Alexander Nevsky are part of these references. Later, video games such as the Final Fantasy series and The Legend of Zelda allowed him to immerse himself in the medieval imaginary. These two fields – cinema and video games – form the particular aesthetic of his films. His reading of Michel Pastoureau’s writings about the black colour and his approach as a historian specialized in the Middle Ages have also led him to the great tales of this period, such as Perceval the Story of the Grail, or Chrétien de Troye’s Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart and, of course, Tristan & Iseult.

While revealing a childhood fascination with the Middle Ages and their aesthetics, re-enacting this classic love story that is Tristan & Iseult appears from a contemporary, critical and political angle. Stanislas Paruzel belongs to a trend shared by many artists and theorists, who see the Middle Ages as an «emancipatory period», as Thomas Golsenne and Clovis Maillet call them. This Middle Ages that are both documented and fantasized, allowing to stage a claimed ambiguity of individuals, an integration of the paganism, a pre-capitalism area – in short, to go back to the foundations of our society. While this temporal distance allows us to question established patterns through stereotypes and caricature, it also allows us to go back and reinterrogate the sources, revealing that these same questions are not so recent (4).

1. Joseph Bédier, Le roman de Tristan et Iseut, Paris : Gallimard, 1981.
2. Béroul, Tristan et Iseult, édition établie par René Louis, Paris : Le Livre de Poche, 1972.
3. Sweding is the remake of a film using rudimentary, hand-crafted conditions.
4. Thomas Golsenne et Clovis Maillet, Un Moyen Âge émancipateur, Romainville : Même pas l’hiver publishing, 2022.