Isabelle Dupuy Chavanat #1

The Beauty of Future Life
in Life Now

A flat line that seems to have existed unchanged since the dawn of history. Suddenly, a fleeting trace is left by migratory birds, drawing a line like a brushstroke. This film conveying the world view of “D.W.M.” was created by Isabelle Dupuy Chavanat, a visual artist based in Arles, southern France. Following is a dialogue about beauty with an artist who possesses the very ‘art’ of making the beautiful.

©Isabelle Dupuy Chavanat


J’avais toujours entendu parler de cet endroit mais je n’y croyais pas.
Des marins m’affirmaient qu’en prenant la mer,
l’horizon se déchirait et l’on pouvait se perdre dans les marais.
Certains jours, le ciel se confondait à l’eau.
D’autres me disaient que lorsqu’ils avaient plongé, ils avaient vu
des sirènes allongées, entièrement nues, comme figées.
Certaines attendaient assises que quelqu’un vienne les chercher,
elles étaient là depuis si longtemps.
Pourtant, des hommes avaient été ensorcelés par leur beauté.
L’une d’entre elles s’était même aventurée sur la rive de l’autre côté,
mais n’est jamais revenue.
Seul l’oiseau a su ce qu’il s’était passé …

A short film featuring endless flat lines, migratory flocks of birds, and the classical image of marble female nudes all shot on 8mm film. How did this work come about?

The footage was shot in the Camargue, a wetland area facing the Mediterranean Sea, in southern France. I tried to capture the water that has been there since ancient times, as well as the endless sky, yesterday, today, tomorrow, the connected world and the existence of timeless beauty. The Camargue is located near Arles where I spend half the year. It is a region where untouched nature links ancient Rome with the present age, and where you can sense human activities that have remained unchanged and a certain natural DNA.

The Camargue itself has been there since prehistory, yet at the same time, the sun and moon continue to revolve daily. September is a special month in the Camargue wetlands, unlike any other, as the whole region is bathed in a reddish hue given off from the abundant micro-organisms active in the water. It’s a time to be aware of changing natural beauty which is unavoidable no matter how much you want to preserve it as it is. While looking at the waterline seen in the Camargue every day, you can feel the existence of water as an element connecting both eternal and changing time.

In the film, something that is particularly impressive is when a series of real-world scenes unexpectedly becomes the classical image of marble female nudes. What is the story behind this?

Together with my partner, photographer François Halard, we visited the former atelier of the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova who was active in the latter half of the 18th century. There, the cold, large yet motionless human sculptures exuded a mysterious aura in the light that filtered in through the window and we felt an inexplicable sense of beauty. It didn’t take long for me to decide that I wanted to express this same beauty on my own. Soon, I headed to the Louvre Museum in Paris, using my camera’s lens to trace the details of the skin of the Greek sculptures housed in the ancient Greek and Rome gallery, in the same way that Canova had done in his own lifetime. By inserting fiction into the reality of the Camargue, I felt that fiction would, in turn, capture its timeless reality.

In the pursuit of fiction, there are also figures in the film that appear to be mermaids. Why did you create such a fantasy world?

I felt that “D.W.M.” was based around the keywords of minerals, beauty, and eternity. By introducing elements of fantasy, I thought I could separate these keywords from reality and make them into a more timeless concept.

“D.W.M.” products are totally absent in the video. Isabelle, you have been involved in making numerous documentaries, in which the film’s subject is the main character and we learn about that main character through the film itself. What kind of approach did you take this time?

I could have done some research in advance, such as checking out the brand’s website, but that’s not really in my personality, so I decided to look at nothing beforehand and just created it using my camera and own intuition. After shooting and editing, I went through the brand’s press release. To my surprise, the imagery used such as the ocean, water, seaweed, nature, cells, timeless journeys, and memories of life almost perfectly overlapped with what I was trying to capture on film. The film was made without any prior knowledge of the brand yet the fact that the language used in both the brand and the film was so similar shows that we probably are on the same wavelength, right?

Actually, can you give us your initial impression of the “D.W.M.” product range when you first saw it?

I got the impression that the basis of the product lies in the idea that future life exists in each individual life now; huge expanses of land, the blessings of nature, DNA, and future life itself. The idea that another life lies dormant in each of us is truly beautiful. When talking about a brand, it’s important to think about the current generation, but it’s equally as important to think about future generations too. I sensed this was inherently built into the brand. Also, I am drawn to the idea of putting nature at the very centre of the process. It’s easy to think of beauty as a way of facing yourself, however, what the brand is trying to express may not be an action concerned with beauty but may well be a political statement.

What is the essence of beauty for you, Isabelle?

Beauty is a complex concept. There is physical beauty and beauty can also be ephemeral yet at the same time eternal. Beauty maybe gazing at another person. It could be looking upon beautiful scenery or at life itself. I also believe the act of sharing and having that mindset is beautiful. When your thoughts resonate with others, and when you mutually share those feelings, you are emotionally moved.

So, beauty may be something that can be transmitted.

Isabelle Dupuy Chavanat

A photographer and filmmaker based in Arles, France who has traveled to India, Vietnam, and South Korea where she made documentary films of her visits to local craftworkers and creatives, recording their way of life and daily routines. This docuseries follows these dedicated and devoted craftsmen who are employed by Hermès, conducting in-depth interviews with them to learn of their skills and attitude to work.