REVIEWED: The Marionette Maker

By Martin Macdonald

The Marionette Maker by Canadian artists Janet Cardiff (b. Brussels, Ontario, 1957) ) and George Bures Miller (b. Vegreville, Alberta, 1960) is a multi-sensorial site-specific installation at the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid's Retiro Park (19 November 2014 - 16 March 2015).

Appealing to society's voyeuristic tendencies, viewers peer into a caravan whose loudspeakers play a variety of sounds including female voices. These alluring tones envelope the visitor much like the sirens in Greek mythology tried to lure Odysseus and his crew. Like an old Sleeping Beauty, a realistic-looking woman who appears to be asleep, in a hypnotic state or perhaps even dead, can be seen inside the vehicle. Marionettes in the process of being created accompany her and an old draughtsman - a puppet himself - seems to be pondering how to give life to the nearby figures.

The scene is somewhat bizarre as the odd caravan not only looks out of place within the magnificent glass building but the many visitors approaching the installation end up turning the atmosphere into a circus-like spectacle. It is, however, the trees, birds and sky visible through the large glass panes of the Palacio de Cristal that echo Canada's renowned natural environment. As such, the fantastical and theatrical aspects of the work are in dialogue with nature.  

Comprising a wide range of narrative, audio and visual elements, The Marionette Maker explores how viewers' perceptions of reality are constructed. Brimming with metaphors, the work reflects upon the passing of time, ageing, the power of imagination and the intricacies of the creative impulse.

ArtworldNow visits The Marionette Maker at Palacio de Cristal, Madrid from ArtworldNow on Vimeo.