Sandwiched next to the Metropolitan Bakery on Walnut, the Slought Foundation Gallery looks like a building under renovation. The shut door and screened–off windows create a less than welcoming appearance, leaving no indication of the world–renowned artist exhibitions that the gallery so modestly hosts.
The Foundation prides itself on its support of relatively nontraditional projects, promoting artists that may maintain popularity in Europe or East Asia but continue to struggle in the American art realm. Unlike many of the trendy Old City galleries that open their doors to an eager wine–thirsty public every First Friday, Slought’s exhibitions don’t display any works for sale, but purely seek to advance the names of practicing artists and support the concept of art that instigates change.
French artist Tania Mouraud is no exception; her three–part video installation is set to occupy a majority of the gallery space until April 20th. Upon her request, the entire space was painted black and the windows closed to any sunlight that may threaten to peek through Philadelphia's perpetual smog.
Thus, severed from the bustle of University City, Mouraud’s “I Keep Hearing the Trains Forever” explores a personal yet unexpectedly relatable memoir of World War II. Interestingly enough, the artist began the piece upon a request by a hunting magazine for a nature–inspired work, a fact that unveils the initial inspiration for the ?rst installation titled Roaming.
This video draws the viewer into a frantically paced journey through a forest. Its haunting imagery links it to the second portion of the installation. Here, Mouraud juxtaposes a close up of an elderly woman's lips murmuring against her palm with the same frantic scrambling pictured in the previous installation. However, this time, the unseen filmmaker stumbles through a graveyard containing the buried remains of Mouraud’s ancestors.
The final portion of the installation causes the viewer to contemplate the outskirts of a concentration camp as seen through the foggy windows of a train. Hauntingly limiting, the video leaves viewers with the same images that World War II contemporaries were most likely confronted with. Accompanied by the piercing sounds of the artist’s own clarinet composition, it explores the perspectives of passing travelers, unexposed to the horrors behind the thick trees.
A site specific piece, Mouraud’s work creates a unique environment, allowing each of the three installations to bleed into the others. The powerful audios subtly blend together and the glaring images that repeatedly light up the darkened walls of the space constantly lurk at the edge of the viewer’s range of vision.
As a result, Mouraud is able to initiate a lingering experience, piecing together an evocative commentary on the guilt–ridden torment that, for many a World War II witness, characterizes memory.
Tania Mouraud: I Keep Hearing the Trains Forever Now–April 20th Slought Foundation Gallery 4017 Walnut St.