Shot with a fixed camera position, Illuminer shows a man lying in the dark (the artist himself) whose black silhouette stands out from the white bed sheets. The scene is dimly lit by an off-camera television broadcasting a report on American special forces. The commentary, which is the only completely perceptible element, refers to the training of GI’s the day before their departure for Afghanistan. 

Steve McQueen
Illuminer, 2001
Video projection colour, sound
15 min 13 s
Collection Mudam Luxembourg
Acquisition 2002
© Video stills: galerie Marian Goodman

The piece is bathed in light and shadow which accentuates contrasts and disturbs the automatic focusing system of the digital camera: contours are clarified and dissipated depending on the fluctuations of light. The blurred passages, the flashes of light followed by darkening blur the image to the point of abstraction and enhance the pictorial qualities of the video medium.

Steve McQueen (1969), winner of the Turner Prize in 1999, likes associating the video image with painting in order to highlight formal similarities, as well as exploring cinematic language. In Illuminer, the British artist pursues his research into framing, focusing and the composition of the image. In a visually minimal environment, the continuous flow of words, the narration situated off-camera and the passivity of the body underline the tension between the isolation of a man in a hotel room and the raw reality of the outside world.