The WIDOW SERIES (2013-2020), created and performed by Jil Guyon, is an ongoing, open-ended, collection of solo, movement-based works made for stage, screen, and print. In each creation, the Widow character explores the contours of grief and transcendence through ritualized gesture. Her defining black dress, heels, and unfurling belt combine to form a visual leitmotiv that sets the stylistic and emotional tone throughout the series. Archetypal subtexts—the movie star; the femme fatale; the survivor; the lonely wanderer—arise and dissolve, creating a symbolic arena for the investigation of female agency in the wake of loss.
In the live performances the character executes a suspenseful walk in radically slow time. Her extreme stillness initiates a highly concentrated energetic exchange with the audience as she stops to reveal objects hidden beneath her costume. Layers of fabric begin to unravel, and her movement becomes increasingly repetitive in an effort to liberate her mind and body from the forces that bind her. Theatrical, interventionist, durational, and site-specific; the performances are a meditative procession of impeccably controlled movement from which an austere series of stage pictures emerge.
In the aesthetically diverse cinematic short videos the character re-performs the choreography of the live performances. Driven by unconscious forces into unexpected environments, the desolation of her interior world is both reflected in, and witnessed by, the shifting typographies she is compelled to traverse. These environments function as characters with which the protagonist must contend. Their historical, symbolic, and emotional energies reverberate through image, sound, and movement—each video offering a distinct perspective on a set of themes and abstractions ranging from grief to identity.
The photographs extend the series beyond time-based media. Shot on location alongside the videos, the camera acts as witness to the character's performance actions. The strength of her manipulation of the unfurling belt forms a gestural calligraphy that gives further voice to the darker regions of the female psyche.
Throughout the series, deep presence merges with autobiography, strangeness, poetry, and catharsis to create a non-linear visual narrative free of singular intent—inviting viewers to make intuitive connections between personal history, images, and ideas.
WIDOW’S END (split screen & 2 channel)
2020, 4:42 min., color, sound, HD video
Set against the backdrop of a volcanic red rock quarry in southern Iceland, Widow’s End depicts a lone woman caught in an extreme, inhospitable landscape. Enveloped in a swath of black fabric, her inner and outer realities collide, eliciting a visual tableaux that is both beautiful and horrific in its invocation of loss.
2020, 5:32 min., color, sound, HD video
In Postlude a mysteriously shrouded woman finds herself at the edge of the Atlantic ocean. Faced with the choice of land or sea, she enacts a sequence of improvisatory gestures before continuing her sojourn.
2019, 3:44 min., color, sound, HD video
Vigil features a nameless woman slowly crossing an undefined, stark landscape. Extending from her dress, a trail of cloth symbolic of her mourning blows in the wind as she moves through a deserted space offering no markers of time or place. Her stillness combines with a haunting electronic sound score—inviting the spectator to drift with her through a quasi-apocalyptic world.
2019, 6:31 min., color, sound, HD video
Shot in southern Iceland, Widow’s Walk portrays the Widow character as fated with the Sisyphean task of walking up and down a desolate hill in an effort to conquer her grief. Her existential dilemma is further destabilized by troubling memories and a precarious future.
WIDOW | GHOSTS
2017, 3:09 min., color, sound, HD video
In WIDOW | GHOSTS a woman reminiscent of classic Hollywood cinema walks through the crowds of present day Times Square. As she seductively approaches the camera, past and present merge in an eerie meditation on displacement, identity, and the transience of life.
2017, 7:25 min., color, sound, HD video
WW is a psychedelic, sci-fi voyage into the darker recesses of consciousness. With its surrealist use of artifice and doubling, the video combines abstracted imagery with footage of a woman performing a sequence of precisely choreographed movements. This juxtaposition between the abstract and symbolic merges with a pulsating electronic score to create an unsettling investigation of the cataclysmic forces that underlie birth and death.
2014, 10:48 min., color, sound, HD video
Desert Widow is part performance documentation, part photographic cinematography. It features a woman driven into a vast landscape by forces beyond her control. As she traverses the shifting desert topography she performs a sequence of ritualized actions. Day and night converge, as do land and water, creating a subtle yet dramatic interplay between light, movement, music, silence, and stillness. Through this melding of the pictorial with the performative, Desert Widow is a mediation on loss and renewal.
2016, 6:59 min., color, sound, HD video
WIDOW_remix is a re-make of the original work in this series. Exploring the intersection of domesticity and femininity, remix traces the actions of a woman absorbed within a claustrophobic space as she confronts past trauma. With its cut-up, chaotic edit, the video abandons the choreographic structure of the original performance-video, inviting viewers to merge with the protagonist’s unrestrained, emotive experience hovering on the edge of pleasure and pain.
2013, 11:55 min., color, sound, HD video
Widow is a video-performance based on a site-specific work created for the iconic, futuristic hallway at 3LD Center for Art and Technology in New York City. The narrow, runway-like structure of the architecture not only dictates the trajectory of the protagonist's movement, but further encapsulates her within her confined universe. Suspenseful stillness, sharp gestures, and emotional extremes arise and dissolve, giving voice to the dark regions of the female psyche.