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“All the world is a theatre, and all men and women are but actors in it.” To this famous line by William Shakespeare,1 we are tempted to add an existential question that many philosophers and artists have taken up: who are we beyond the role we play and beyond our appearance?

Jérémie Cosimi
Métamorphose IV, 2021
Huile sur toile, 230 x 170 cm
Arielle Bobb Willis
New Orleans, 2016
Impression jet d’encre, 61 x 76 cm

The complexity of this question can be seen in the etymology of the word “person,” persona, which means “mask” in Latin, and which has led to the strange assimilation of the accessory (the mask) to its wearer (knowing that the actors of the ancient theatre played with masks).

This disturbing derivation is illustrated by the inaugural exhibition of the new space of the Galerie des Filles du Calvaire, whose title, with its explicit reference to this double-meaning etymology, inevitably evokes Ingmar Bergman’s film of the same name and its exploration of burial and doubling.

It also seems strangely to illustrate the observation made by Victor Hugo around 1830: “The theatre is not the land of reality: there are cardboard trees, palaces of canvas, a sky of rags, diamonds of glass, gold of glitter […] It is the land of the real: there are human hearts in the wings, […] human hearts on the stage.”2

Helena Almeida
Desenho, 2012
Silver print, 114 x 90 cm
Nelli Palomäki
On the Day of the Holy Innocents, 2021
Selenium toned gelatin silver print 78 x 73 cm

We can guess them, we can feel them beating here, these human hearts under the masks: Thus, the sequined costumes of masquerades photographed by Charles Fréger and the sequin embroideries of Frances Goodman, too clicky not to let the hidden face of reality show through… Thus, also the truncated PVC mask of Kenny Duncan’s dislocated Solid Boi. Or Jérémie Cosimi’s Metamorphoses, which transforms bodies wrapped in “second skin” suits into ghostly statues with a brush.

No less virtuoso is Katinka Lampe’s brushstroke, which manages to make us feel the skin hidden under lace veils or hair, as well as Thomas Lévy-Lasne’s pencil line, which gives life to faces seen through a webcam (Distanciel Cyrielle, charcoal on paper, 2022).  

Thomas Lévy-Lasne
Distanciel Cyrielle, 2022

Fusain sur papier, 40 x 60 cm

Even more disturbing is Juul Kraijer’s video, borrowing its title from a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, Wenn du der Träumer bist, bin ich dein Traum (When you are the dreamer, I am your dream): The impassive face of a young red-haired woman, standing out against a black background, is a mask of timeless Botticellian beauty, while the eyes and mouth, opening and closing to swallow and spit out drones in a loop, come to life… A mise en abyme of dreams and trompe-l’oeil, pushing the contemporary portrait to its furthest limits, until it becomes an “intimate exploration of the living.” 

1 As You Like It, 1599

2 Pile of Stones III 


Opening exhibition 

Until the 8th – IV

Gallery Les Filles du Calvaire 

New space: 21, rue Chapon, Paris III

Stéphanie Dulout