In her work, The Noon Complex, Godard’s characters have been digitally removed, while on an adjacent monitor, an actor poses as Bridget Bardot’s character, Camille. Godard’s camera comes to rest behind the curved, freestanding wall on the roof terrace, while on the other screen Siegel’s actress is lying naked with a mystery novel covering her behind, ‘sunbathing’. Mentally overlay the two and hallucinate an apparition. Stick around for long enough and be visited by the noonday demon.
Siegel allows us to examine the act of looking. More specifically, the juxtaposition of the two screens crystallises and dismantles the sexualised politics of the male gaze. In her essay, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, Laura Mulvey describes how ‘the determining male gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure’. On film, women are ‘coded for strong visual and erotic impact’, a ’to-be-looked-at-ness’. In Siegel’s The Noon Complex, Godard’s roaming camera feels all the more erotically charged due to the conspicuous absence of the desired object (Bridget Bardot). With the camera moving like a bee giddy on midday sun, we sweep over the Faraglioni rocks (sea stacks fit for a Siren). And we watch no-one gaze at them from inside the Villa. No-one taking a seat on a plush blue sofa. Uncertain of what we ‘should’ be focusing on, we find the act of looking pleasurable in and of itself. In contrast, on the other monitor, the actor playing Bardot is conspicuously de-eroticised, surrounded by the neutral and neutering environment of the white cube. There’s nothing sexy about opening a gallery’s store cupboard.