Artseen:Boris Achour by Jennifer K. Dick
Entering Boris Achour’s show “Conatus: celui dans la grotte” at the gallery Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois (http://www.galerie-vallois.com/fr/artiste.html), one is struck by a series of contrasts—carnivalesque rainbow paper lines the walls, coats a series of spiked stalactites descending from the ceiling. Along the wood floor, which creates a path (almost a “natural habitat”) through which the spectator walks, there are on occasion pyramidal pyres of fluorescent tubes which recall campfires (are we tempted to huddle there, tell stories?). Then, lining the walls, paintings are spaced out from one another as if windows looking out of this interior, though not opening the gaze to an exterior but rather enclosing it in a confrontation with this series of back and white, Jean Dubuffet-style paintings of masked women peeing. Spaced along these red, yellow, blue, green walls, it is as if the color has been drained from them, and yet they are almost creepy in their unexpected affront of us, their overt use of figuration, of the face hidden (masked) but the body exposed to us in this private act. Are we in an artificial universe, exploring elements of earth, fire, water? Are we being mocked? Are we turned upside down as in a funny house at a summer fair? Are we to recall embarrassing moments of needing to duck into the woods to relieve ourselves as children at camp? The show evokes narratives, invites the spectator to invent connections.
In fact, as Achour explains, this expo is one in a “series”, and thus can be seen as a moment or “episode” in a potential movement of “autonomous exhibitions” which all, like the elements presented within this one scene, interrelate, dialogue, evoke narratives and reactions. The elements within each are, he says “articulations”, connected and disconnected, but which are held in the same space, that of the gallery. Over the past 7-8 years he has come to think of his exhibitions as “landscapes in which the spectator meanders”; within which “each work is autonomous” so that it is “a landscape of an assemblage of elements which combine,” so as to allow one “to wander” seeing (or not) “a discrete line [or lines] between them”. The exhibitions fill the space, take it over, but within them “the works are like the characters in a series, an accessory to the landscape”. The exhibition becomes the form of the show, its filmic aspect, what contains it.
This uncommon method of imagining the work he is doing as an artist takes its cue in part from film and TV. Cinema, he explains, is an art which has managed to cross borders, touch everyday, popular culture as well as specialized art viewers. It has come into contact with the real world. In fact, he feels that cinema “is touched and nourished by things which are exterior to the field of contemporary art. Cinema has succeeded in creating a very strange synthesis of the avant-garde and the common [or everyday, it is] a medium which permits gaps” in ways that he, too, seeks. He makes casual note of David Lynch or Lars Von Trier, of the American series “Friends” whose episode title style his own show’s title takes its form. Yet he also maintains a relationship with artists like DuBuffet whoses famous black and white grotto sitting just over the river in the Centre Pompidou one cannot forget as one looks at these paintings, stands in this brightly-colored “grotto”. For Achour, leaving the floor exposed also maintains the rapport one has with painting, it’s the idea of something missed, flawed, distanced. Returning to the figuration, the women peeing are making a painting-stain. Something about this is, explains Achour, both artistically charged and an erotic game.
However, despite the lines one might draw to film, this work is neither a police tale, nor something to be decoded. Achour believes he is tapping into “a ritualistic aspect at work here which is not explicit”, perhaps it’s a modern-mythic, both masked for ceremonial reasons and for some theatrical-imaginary one. Interiors and exteriors come into play. As in much of his earlier work, potential links to the way literature or writing functions exist. The tale is there and yet remains to be told. It remains masked even in its affront of us, as it surrounds us. Regardless of how one feels, we step into his wonderland, it swirls round us. Yet Achour’s work, for me, retains a peculiar mystery, exploring at once the still objects, works, and the space he has created to hold it (and me). This is even more accentuated in works where he makes and uses videos, such as his video and object piece currently showing in the Grand Palais “La Force de l’art” show. Stop by before 1 June (Le Grand Palais, Avenue Winston Churchill 75008 Paris. Closed Tues. (http://www.grandpalais.fr/fr/Accueil/p-93-Accueil.htm). Also check out his new website: Boris Achour: http://www.borisachour.net/ which contains “actions peu” written about last month, as well as some videos and many recent works.
Jennifer K Dick is an author (of Fluorescence, Retina, & Enclosures) and teacher (currently at EHESS and Ecole Polytechnique). She co-organizes the bilingual IVY reading series with Michelle Noteboom in Paris which began in a gallery thanks to curator Susie Hollands. Jennifer is now completing her PhD at Paris III on visual uses of the page in poetry: text and image in works by Anne marie Albiach, Myung Mi Kim and Susan Howe.
I am pleased as punch to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I will personally be leading. The Eye Prefer Paris Tour includes many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes & food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks, and much more.
I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you my insiders Paris.
Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com