Tell No One
‘Sensual’ and ‘rich’ are the words that are often used to describe the Renaissance painter, Titian. Hailed as one of the most influential and salient painters of his time, the National Gallery in London is celebrating their current “Metamorphosis: Titian 2012” exhibition with a commissioned short from the British video artist duo, Tell No One.
After a long and costly strife in attaining permission to display Titian’s pieces, the National Gallery’s commercial sponsor, Credit Suisse, approached the filmmakers to re-create the myth behind the three paintings. The gallery wanted to honor this event by depicting the paintings within a more modern medium, especially because this is the first time that these paintings have been seen together since the 18th century.
Tell No One’s, ‘Metamophosis’ reiterates the story of Titian’s “Diana and Actaeon” painting that was originally based from Ovid’s poem for King Philip II of Spain. The film divulges a tale of a young huntsman, Actaeon, who accidentally stumbles upon a nude and bathing Diana, goddess of the hunt. In quick retaliation for seeing her at her most vulnerable state, she casts a spell upon Actaeon which transforms the young man into a hound, only to be eaten by his fellow huntsmen. The video is absolutely visually stunning that in certain still moments it could fool the viewer into believing that it is a painting. Titian was most renowned for his use of color and texture, of which Tell No One has done a fabulous job in reincarnating his characteristics with their use of cinematography.
What’s even more interesting is that an institution, like the National Gallery, have asked video-makers to celebrate and spread awareness of their exhibitions, instead of only using previous forms of marketing platforms such as the internet and/or print magazines. Not only is this an example of an age of visceral, visual and digital communication, this event also shows how film and video are morphing into contemporary high-brow art. If film and video are being used to translate the meaning and message of Titian to a younger and digitized audience, then it appears as though our current filmmakers and video artists could be our own modern skillful Renaissance painters.
Aside from the masterful cinematography, the most pronounced essence of the myth, film and painting is the question of feminism. I can understand how the story at first can appear to be feminist- a young woman punishes a young man for objectifying her. However, if the story and painting were made by men then how can it be feminist? Isn’t it then a story of the male view of women? Or is the gender of the author completely irrelevant and we should just be looking at the moral of the story?
But then, if we were to look at the moral of the story- Diana appears to be a highly masculine young woman, who’s volatile actions come from the masculine side of her. So is the character of Diana supposed to be a symbol for how all genders are both masculine and feminine and that the female’s who are aware of their masculine strengths, as much as their feminine, are in some way a threat/ danger to the masculine male ego?
With that said, I believe that the character of Diana is feminist and that the story of Diana and Actaeon is a tale of the male fear for encroaching upon femininity- which in a roundabout way is feminist. However, regardless of what my belief is, I would love to hear your thoughts on whether the story of Diana and Actaeon (a.k.a. Artemis and Actaeon) is feminist or not?