‘2 Dimensional Life of Her,’ Revisited


Since its Tuesday premiere as part of the RADAR L.A. festival, Fleur Elise Noble’s enigmatic and captivating hybrid experience 2 Dimensional Life of Her — part film, part theater, and all art installation — has generated a lot of “you’ve got to see this!” conversation.

Fleur Elise Noble in "2 Dimensional Life of Her" Photo, courtesy the artist

A once grand, but long disused ballroom in downtown L.A.’s Hotel Alexandria provides the perfect venue.  At the start, everything we see is black and white and still. A life-size cutout of the artist dominates a floor cluttered with torn paper. In the background, settings are projected on huge paper sheets. Almost imperceptibly, the artist’s photo avatar begins to move, and we realize that this is not a still picture, but a video. The moving image of the woman separates from her cutout, like Peter Pan becoming unstuck from his shadow.

That’s just the start of the transformations. The artist figure moves through her bizarre two-dimensional mindscape of drawings and shapes that are revealed and then torn away, wiped away, scribbled over or blacked out. New layers alternatively expose and hide scribbled portraits and parts of the film environment. Animated cutout puppets become real puppets, except they’re not three-dimensional at all; they’re projections. Then the cute, apparently benign puppets start pulling the strings. The deep shadow of a foreground set-piece cast on the back screen, an unavoidable side effect of a projection-intensive show, contributes to the hint of stark German Expressionist contrasts.

The filmed versions of Noble desperately imagine, re-imagine and destroy the figures, furnishings and spaces of this two-dimensional world. It’s as if by continually creating and erasing, she can escape her prison.  For the artist, this has been a compulsion. For the viewer the experience is dreamlike, slightly foreboding and weirdly comic. Noble engages us in some wild, sometimes menacing, turns, to the point that an arts-terrain GPS would be useful.

Cornered after the show Tuesday night, the Australian artist — who’s in the midst of a world tour — acknowledged that people will read their own meanings into it.  She’s “making things grow out of nothing,” and there is no single correct viewpoint. The idea, she said, is to let people “experience what art-making is to me.” Whatever that is, it’s wickedly clever.

2 Dimensional Life of Her. RADAR L.A. Wed-Sun, June 15-19. 213-237-2800. http://www.redcat.org/radar-la/fleur-elise-noble

Kathryn Osenlund

Kathryn Osenlund is an NEA Arts Journalism Institute fellow with USC's engine28 in L.A. in June 2011. She is the Philadelphia theater critic for CurtainUp.com, an online theater magazine based in New York, and a professor of arts & communications at Holy Family University in Philadelphia.

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  1. Reading your words has me wishing I could see this, even if I needed an “arts-terrain GPS.” thanks for describing what must be difficult to capture. Maybe a video of the performance could be made so all could see?