When French multidisciplinary artist Prune Nourry in 2016 was identified with breast most cancers at age 31, she requested herself the common query, “Why me?”
It’s exhausting to think about the prolific and peripatetic Nourry, whose initiatives embrace monumental sculptures and performances on 4 continents, retreating into herself.
“Last June, I got a phone call,” Nourry says in “Serendipity,” the movie she directed, which opens Friday at New York’s Quad Theater and L.A.’s Laemmle Royal. “It was my doctor, and she told me I had breast cancer. The first thing everyone told me was, ‘You’re going to go to chemo, so you’d better freeze your eggs because when you go to chemo, it’s poison and you may not be able to have kids one day.’”
Nourry’s good friend, the Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, reminded her that as an artist, she will flip something occurring in her life into fodder for her work, so she reluctantly turned the digital camera on herself.
“In search of a complicity, I couldn’t have expected how much it helped me,” says Nourry. “And, lastly, I reworked the film right into a sort of catharsis to perhaps assist different girls. If not for Darren, I wouldn’t have executed it. It was going in opposition to my means of working.
“I was introduced to [Angelina Jolie] by friends who are more on the health level, and put me in touch with with her,” Nourry says. “I wanted to meet her because at first, I thought I wanted to be treated in the U.S. She gave me the contacts for her doctors, who were great, but I decided to be treated in France. As two women artists and filmmakers we bonded.”
Before her sickness, Nourry’s initiatives probed the mysteries of the human physique, her curiosity fed by analysis and conversations with anthropologists and sociologists, and scientists. She methodically and objectively approached matters such because the bioethics of designer infants, intercourse preselection and gender imbalance.
“Little by little, I realized [the cancer] had so many links to my past projects,” Nourry says within the movie. “For example, I’ve been working for years on fertility with my 2009 ‘Procreative Dinner,’ a collaboration with a biologist, psychiatrist, geneticist and well known chef. I started seeing all these strange links between my past artwork and what I was going through.”
“The Procreative Dinner” was a set piece, mimicking the levels of in-vitro fertilization. The severe effectivity of waiters wearing scrubs and wheeling every plated course to company carrying hospital robes was virtually farcical. Beginning with le cocktail for in-vitro, company flipped squirted components into drinks with a turkey baster. L’entree’s frozen custard-like embryos introduced the probably intercourse with a observe. Guests used syringes to extract liquid ostrich-size eggs for the amniocentesis course. The finale was chopping the umbilical chord from small cheese infants.
The picture of a uncooked egg in a large, flat white bowl haunted Nourry following her analysis. “I finished with that one day not knowing I would lose my nipple,” she says.
For “Holy Daughter,” in regards to the difficulty of gender choice and sex-selection in Asia, Nourry immersed a statue of a cow within the Ganges River as is the customized of a vacation when cows are honored.
“Coincidentally, that’s the day with the most violence against women,” Nourry says. “I did it with powdered milk in my version. Did you know that the day a cow doesn’t give milk anymore she’s abandoned in the street [in India]?”
Nourry in 2016 was getting ready a film about “Terracotta Daughters,” her life-size military of 108 sculptures that’s a model of the traditional X’ian military. She had simply buried the troopers in China when she received the information of her most cancers. “My world fell apart,” she says.
Coincidences and parallels ensued in Nourry’s life. Belgian filmmaker Agnès Varda, a detailed good friend of the artist, is seen in “Serendipity” at Nourry’s facet when she cuts her lengthy hair in preparation for chemotherapy. “It was a big complicity,” Nourry says of Varda, who obtained an honorary Academy Award and Golden Lion, for her influential French New Age movies. “At the time, she didn’t know that she would have the same thing. Less than a year later, she got breast cancer.”
Nourry isn’t positive she believes in pure luck, therefore, “Serendipity.” “It’s finding something you weren’t searching for,” she says. “At some point you need to have wished in that direction, and it can happen only if you catch it. There’s luck, if life brings something along your way. If you catch it, maybe….I believe in serendipity.”