"Réparer à l’endroit de l’accroc le tissu du temps" (Identify the fabric of time at the place where it snags) is a collective exhibition whose title must first be unravelled, and that allows us to surmise that it cannot be the kind of exhibition born out of disinterest, chance, or as a fall-back option. Too evocative not to have any incidence on our gaze, it will go so far as to stir, through the almost plastic assemblage of its words, the buried memory of Florence Delay’s deep voice and of the passage in Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (1983) from which it was borrowed – “pinched” specifies the author of the misdeed, mischievously. In a cat cemetery of the Tokyo suburbs, a couple installs a wooden slat bearing an inscription with the name of their cat, Tara. By performing this rite for Tara in anticipation (although the cat has certainly disappeared, she is not dead), they ensure that during this catastrophic time prayers are indeed invoked in her name. They soften the afterlife with one final protective gesture, thus restoring the final consequences of her previous escape. And the narrator of Sans Soleil continues: “I would have spent my life pondering the function of memory, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather, its flip-side. We don’t remember; we rewrite memory in the same way that we rewrite history.”
At the Tôlerie, in this exhibition that assembles artworks by Blanca Casas Brullet, Laurence De Leersnyder, Agnès Geoffray, Nina Lundström, Loreto Martínez Troncoso and Arnaud Vasseux, the question of loss is inherently present – not necessarily that of Tara, but “of the self, the other, or anything” – of the moment when “something gives way”, and the exploration that can be made of it through language, “whether it be actions or words”. For the curator, Marie Cantos, it is the first deployment of a diptych entitled “Figures of absence”, the coda to which will be shown next spring. It is also an essential milestone in her research, which focuses on problematics that are incontestably complex, but always strongly interconnected. The current explorations of the theme of remains in contemporary artistic practices constitutes a central axis of this research, as do the infinitely rich and complex intellectual and plastic concerns directly evoked by these, raised by questions relating to contact, form, counter-form, and “their infinite reversibility”.
Some of the artworks presented seem to embody the rewriting of a personal or collective memoir, its reproduction by a gestural or spoken language. Nina Lundström’s works (Sweden, 1971), for example, form a series based on grieving for her grandmother. An experience of loss stemming from a questioning of her surroundings, of the objects that outlive loved ones, relics that become preciously guarded and cherished for the memories that they bear of a lost life. After learning from her mother that the only embroidery works produced by her ancestor were created during a pregnancy out of wedlock, at a time when social disapproval must have been very suffocating, the resilient work of Lundström was namely materialised by the swaddling of embroidered towels: presented under glass, the four resulting embryonic forms are knots of pain pulled into tight bundles; sculptures that recall some of Judith Scott’s small secret objects, by providing visibility for what is taboo, just like the unutterable element we feel at the sight of them.
The work of Blanca Casas Brullet (Spain, 1973) assembled at the entrance to the exhibition – including Reprises économiques (2008-2015) sewn onto various account books, Rapiéçages (2007) and Esdeveniments (2015) – or those of Agnès Geoffray (France, 1973), also pertain to the notion of “reproduction”. Sutures 1, 2 and 3 by Geoffray particularly draw the eye, with their three mute slide shows in black and white projecting a series of photographs. Collated, often modified, sometimes directly taken by the artist, their layout, consisting of selections, cuts and juxtapositions –- in short, of a critical approach to editing – evokes the spirit of the writings of Georges Didi-Huberman regarding the Warburgian method. The visitor is plunged here into the power of images showing time, composing stories and revealing remanence – through the ability that forms have of recurring via subconscious reminiscences.
It is not possible to experience loss without considering it in relation to time. It is a material that operates and gives rise to forms: one that informs them – Creux (empreinte-durée) (2015) or Marqueur (2015-2015) by Arnaud Vasseux (France, 1969) – or threatens them – Untitled (Cassable) 2015, Clermont-Ferrand (2015) by the same artist, adjoins two picture rails with non-reinforced plaster. Artworks that are derived, along with those of Laurence de Leersnyder (France, 1979), from moulding or imprint practices that we recognise as materialising both presence and absence – once again, evoking Georges Didi-Huberman.
In the booklet designed for visitors to the exhibition, the curator introduced her message by citing the words pronounced by a patient of Pierre Fédida (1934-2002): “I feel, through my silence, the hollow in my mouth.1” The French psychoanalyst – to whom we owe a body of work of rare complexity – produced a theory of relationships between the body, speech, breath and image, based on his notion on absence2. Convinced of the allegiance of the mental and corporeal, he conceptualised the operation of the psychoanalytical session based on the body and its memory, envisioning his discipline as “an archaeology of the body3”. However, although not very figurative – with the major exception of the artworks of Agnès Geoffray – the body is ever-present throughout the exhibition, through the imprint of its gestures. Hence the Volumes en creux (2012) by Laurence de Leersnyder, Bleu de maçon (2005-2015) by Blanca Casas Brullet, or La Llamada (Contigo y Sint Ti) (2013) by Loreto Martínez Troncoso (Spain, 1978). The latter’s work, while it relies mainly on language, also seems to be one of the most “embodied” works in the exhibition through the corporeality of its voice, which we can hear by donning the headphones of Puls(at)ions (2014), a sound work for a single spectator. As the artist specifies in an interview with Julie Pellegrin: “the voice enters the other’s head, the other’s ears. It enters the inside of a mind. [...] The mouth is no longer simply a loudspeaker, it is also a cavity.4”
While a minority of artworks, the least robust of them, may suffer from the industrial space of La Tôlerie, “Identify the fabric of time at the place where it snags” constitutes a collective thematic exhibition in which they are always far more than anecdotal – the main pitfall that this kind of presentation can fall into. The exhibition as a whole is underpinned by a theoretical basis whose complexity does not detract from its relevancy, and which seems to have been constructed and honed in relation to the works, without overlooking their polysemy. Narrative and intimate, or abstract and process-based, most of the works also share a certain formal beauty. Now it’s the visitor’s turn to take the time to see them.
- Pierre Fédida, L’Absence (1978), Paris, Gallimard, “Folios Essais” coll, 2005.
- As Georges Didi-Huberman describes it, in a tribute to Fédida’s work in Gestes d’air et de pierre. Corps, paroles, souffle, image, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, “Paradoxe” coll, 2005.
- Pierre Fédida, Corps du vide et espace de séance, Paris, Delarge, “Corps et culture” coll, 1977.
- Journal of Loreto Martínez Troncoso’s solo exhibition at the Ferme du Buisson, “Ent(r)e ”, 2012.