Isabelle Pauwels: Triple Bill

Produced in conjunction with the 2008 exhibition Triple Bill

48 pages, softcover, full colour, 16.5cm x 21.5cm
ISBN 978-0-921394-57-0


cover of Triple Bill catalogue

Triple Bill is the catalogue for the 2008 exhibition by the same title, curated by Séamus Kealy. The catalogue was produced in collaboration with Artspeak, Vancouver, and includes texts by Séamus Kealy, Jessie Caryl, Isabelle Pauwels, and Melanie O'Brian, as well as stills from the exhibition


All stories are cons. –Isabelle Pauwels

Interested in the representation of contemporary narratives and subjective experience, Isabelle Pauwels’ work centres on language and social relations. Pauwels engages with language in order to define and present personal intent. Within this determined structure, she presents possibilities for self-inscription. Her three-part video work Triple Bill—the result of Pauwels’ visits to porn theatres in Vancouver—is part documentary and part fiction. As a storyteller, the artist narrates her experience of the theatres’ architecture, the social behaviours made possible within this space, and the theatre’s films. Incorporating static and urgent running texts as well as recorded and edited conversation, Pauwels’ work forces the viewer to participate in the construction of the story and to be aware that subjectivity is contingent and inflected by desire.

Triple Bill relies on a dramaturgical structure designed to elicit an audience response. Personal, self-conscious experience—both on the part of the artist and the audience—drives the work and its reception. In three parts, the work describes the artist’s experiences at various porn theatres. In the first, Pauwels adopts a first person voice to locate the audience within her subjectivity, referencing past history, memories, and anti-social behaviour. The running narrative bounces between describing the theatre and the artist’s own response to it.  The second part continues in a descriptive mode, focusing largely on the architecture and history of the theatre, while maintaining the slipperiness between interior monologue and chronicling. Part three is a surreptiously recorded conversation between Pauwels and “M” that begins with the latter asking: “Can I sit here?” Pauwels: “Sure, but you can’t touch me.” This stolen conversation is carried out without visuals, aside from subtitles provided to clarify the conversation. It appears to represent the “real” experience of the theatre as opposed to pure description. However, Pauwels stresses the importance of storytelling even in her conversation with M, implying that she enjoys the older films because the storylines are more convincing and the sex doesn’t matter as much.

Being convinced of the story is part of the desired experience; audiences want to be transported. Yet Pauwels’ works reveals a vital skepticism around fakery. M observes: “The tits feel like a lie…The big ones, I don’t feel them too much.” The artist uses pornography to investigate what an audience wants and perhaps the ways in which they want to be conned. Transported by the films to a place of physical experience, viewers allow themselves to be tricked into the fulfillment of desire. While her textual representation of the experience of visiting the theatres thwarts the psychic economy of porn, the issue of desire remains central.

–excerpted from the Introduction by Melanie O’Brian

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements  p. 2

Preface p. 3
Melanie O’Brian and Séamus Kealy

Introduction  p. 7
Melanie O’Brian

Sex at Work  p. 11
Jessie Caryl

Convictive Confession  p. 19
Séamus Kealy

Notes on the Contributors  p. 26

Similar Pages  p. 33
Isabelle Pauwels

Triple Bill Stills  p. 40
Isabelle Pauwels

Artists & Writers

Jessie Caryl
Séamus Kealy
Melanie O’Brian
Isabelle Pauwels


Editor: Paloma Campbell
Design: Hodgkinson Design
Printing and Binding: Hemlock Printers, Canada

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Related Projects

thumbnail for exhibitions Triple Bill and Cineplastic Campus

Triple Bill and Cineplastic Campus:
Isabelle Pauwels and Stéphane Gilot
April 7 - June 1, 2008
Curated by Séamus Kealy