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Translated by Anna Knight

Cénozoé, An Installation by Marie Dechavanne

by Pauline Lisowski

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The encounter with a site, sometimes in transition, between city and nature, guides Marie Dechavanne in her creative process. She sees the discovery of materials and her interest in the history of places as sources of experience. She is careful to measure the space, to understand it physically, and ascribes great importance to time spent in nature and to travel.

Her travels in Australia led to her interest in fire and to ashen landscapes. For the artist, sculpture is considered an architecture. On the floor, paving and columns, created from materials relating to calcination (lime, ash), echo the architecture of the venue. Residues from terracotta bear witness to a transition, an event, a flow of materials that have left deposits, reminiscent of a pictorial gesture. These traces compose a landscape seen from above, a site laid bare. Is there already a ruin here, comprised of the fragments of a deconstruction? Are foundations announcing a future construction? A landscape between decline and edification is presented here.

Marie Dechavanne strives to explore the most artisanal techniques possible, to find durable materials, or ones that will become modified over time and eventually disperse and merge into a milieu. The use of lime reflects the origins of the earliest constructions. The artist assumes the stance of an archaeologist or geologist and leaves part of the creation up to chance. Cracks and irregularities allude to nature, to phenomena that arise and embrittle the land.

If Cénozoé forms a whole, it is one composed of several entities, each with its own unique quirk. This installation involves a relationship to the ground that recalls our position as observers confronting details present in the environment. When seen from further back, this installation gives rise to a geological map, an aerial view. On the columns, the layers of powder create a miniature topography. Different territories are thus revealed as we move around.

The artist designed a bronze saucer based on a process of imprints taken from different rocks sourced from various locations. Placed on the paving stones, this emerges as an object derived from a former epoch. Inside, bays from a dog rose bush – a mythical plant – bring back sudden memories of this shrub, with its colour that resists winter. A performance, a convivial ritual, are found in embryonic form in this in situ artwork.

This installation also calls for a potential presence of living elements to come. Fragility interests the artist, as do the ways in which an artwork can evolve. We may become aware of the precious nature of the elements we find, harvest, or collect sometimes, as does Marie Dechavanne.

The artwork therefore condenses multiple territories and memories of former sites. It calls on a distant era or a future yet to come as though these were pre-existing territories. We become researchers or revive our inner children by observing the many graphic qualities of the elements that constitute the work.

The void that this installation emphasises invites us to become more aware of the environment around us. By strolling around the exhibition space, we take the measure of it. This artwork creates a territory in and of itself. It redefines and restructures a room of the former Usine du May, responding to the environment characterised by the Durolle that flows below. The charred elements enter paradoxically into conversation with the water, producing a very powerful sound. Two physical phenomena are at play here, those of water and fire, which are confronted and opposed between exterior and interior.

Cénozoé evokes the process of transformation of matter, the flow and metamorphosis of elements as well as a space-time in limbo. Particularly through its title, this in-situ installation convokes the landscape of a contemporary geological period. It offers two experiences that define our relationship to the landscape, a view at once from afar and from above, as well as a pathway that allows us to observe the pictoriality of the whole.

Born in 1991 in Annonay, Marie Dechavanne lives and works in Thorrenc (Ardèche, France). She obtained her DNSEP at the ESAD de Valence (École Supérieure d’Art et de Design), in 2015. She has participated in various collective exhibitions such as Vient de sortir [Just Released] at the Bourse du Travail de Valence (2015); De passage, Matière à rêver [Passing Through: What Dreams Are Made Of] at the Château des Adhémar, Centre d’art contemporain, Chapelle Saint-Pierre, Montélimar (2016); or Hantise [Haunted] at the Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière, Saint-Étienne (2018). Marie Dechavanne has also been invited within the framework of festivals such as the Oohlal’art Festival with the Maison de la Poésie de la Drôme, Mirmande, in 2015, and Thorrenc in-situ, a contemporary art festival held in Thorrenc, in 2017.

Marie Dechavanne
Le Creux de l’enfer at the Usine du May
1 November 2020 – 21 February 2021

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