The name of the story tends to suggest some connection to Picasso’s 1967 painting ‘Femme nue à l`oiseau et joueur de flute’. After all, there’s not that many paintings that juxtapose nudes and birds in their titles. But it is a rather a sense of the 1920’s or 1930’s that comes through in the imagery; in one image the model clasps a first edition copy of Faulkner’s 1929 novel Sartoris.
Bortoletti’s shoot, though profiling fashion from the likes of Viktor & Rolf, Dries Van Noten, Acne, Rochas and Charles Anastase and jewellery by Chanel, has an archival quality to it. The grainy textured surface of the photos suggests documents of another era. It’s a carefully controlled exercise that draws us into the world of Weimar-era erotica. Perhaps we are in interbellum Berlin, backstage at some risqué nightclub. Or perhaps we are spying through the keyhole at the private antics of a decadent Bohemian Paris in the 1920’s; the lush colours of the peacock feathers reduced to a monochrome reproduction, the pungent fumes of incense and opium almost tangible. But then again, just maybe, we are looking on at some imagined studio posing from the 1960’s; voyeuristically observing the making of Picasso’s painting.
It’s so precisely realised that it manages to retain all of the ambiguity of original documentary material. There is almost something wrong about a ‘fashion’ story that avoids Liza Minelli’s Sally Bowles in favour of evoking the far more grim realities of the period. As in the archival images of homemade glamour and erotica of the 1920’s and 1930’s, the prosaic furnishings of an apartment might jar as some hopeful starlet aims to offer the camera the epic sexual power of Cleopatra or an imagined Mata Hari.
In ‘Nue à L`oiseau’, we are presented with a series of enigmatic images that are far more about the staged documentary than contemporary approaches to offering us seamless images of glamour in which Photoshop can readily stretch a model to inhuman proportions or the right filter remove the more matter-of-fact indicators of human life. Here, Bortoletti creates something of beauty by, ironically, denying glamourisation.
Cécile Bortoletti lives and works in Paris. In the 1990’s she began working with designers such as Bless, Maison Martin Margiela, Charles Anastase and Marjan Pejoski and presented her work at the Festival International des Arts de la Mode at Hyères in 1997. For three years running she worked on Issey Miyake’s campaigns for both men’s and women’s collections. Her work has been published in some of the most creative fashion titles of the last decade and she continues to work on numerous photography and film projects, including a video work for an upcoming exhibition on Christian Lacroix.