A wide-angled introduction
Now picture yourself in a scene, in which objects are arranged (displayed, collected, recorded), for your eyes (your lens, your pen) so that each facet is isolated, as though their depth was constructed through a series of flat planes. Transparent and functional, unemotional and seemingly impersonal, they point out into the world (sometimes the past, a particular history) and finds kinship in the kind of artworks that are uninterested in autobiography. The object’s relationship to her is not important, she says. You might also hear her say words like categorical or empirical, by which you understand that she is making relationships between “things” that are deceivingly formal, to say that they are, in fact, linguistic, or semiotic, and you might hear her say that these categories are recognizable such as “naturalism, stylization and abstraction.” You might hear him say that her “sensibility seems to be of an archaeological and even curatorial persuasion.”1
Which gives her more responsibility than she may have signed up for. From which your mind inevitably goes to thinking about power, power and responsibility, and the malleable form they take. And how autobiography is a transposition through which some chose to read a work, and how a woman (anyone) contending with a vast social and cultural history as well as a personal experience, might opt to depict something larger than ones self, for art’s sake. That is, to return the conversation to the object at hand.
Autobiography or lack thereof
Now picture yourself in a situation which is deceivingly personal. The objects that surround you imply ownership and private history. Your tendency is to create a relationship to what is on display for you, to build narrative, to construct pasts. It is a fact that the original jewelry from her early work was her parents, but most objects are now found, foraged in flea markets by a sober hand. They contain traces of (someone’s) personal history but without an anecdote as evidence, that quickly becomes an abstract idea, and without a character and a sense of narrative, it is difficult to conjure empathy. However, it is by being void of empathy, that these objects become copies, doubles for a larger collective biography—paradigms of personal, social and art historical experiences.
Research & Display
Now picture yourself in front of a landscape, and by landscape I mean nature, or maybe bodies or faces or paintings or objects. A pool of like-minded images, a carefully collected set of references. Afew characters remerge: Nicolas Poussin, Oskar Fischinger, Edward Kienholz and Walt Disney. Each man for a different reason.
Their ideas are restaged in new media, loosened from their original intent to create a new form, a mirror form, through material alterations. From Poussin, she extracts the study of perspective from paintings into sculpture, the relativity of objects to each other in a landscape and the unreliability of the witness. From Disney she appropriates images that are consumable like objects or propaganda, she takes the breath-giving attribute of animation and spikes it with the scale-bending quality of early film. From Fischinger she takes the metaphysical likeness of abstraction to spirituality; and from Kienholtz, who once planned but never executed a piece he woudl have titled “God Boxes”, she takes a title, a un-accomplished work, a starting point from beyond the grave and in that, a bit of mortality and immortality.
And so it becomes clear to you that her “quoting” is self-aware. It situates her historically in a chain of instances and reoccurring thoughts. It take the stance that each artwork might just be the beginning of the next, empowered by it’s own un-inhibited segue.
Time is not linear in this world, objects are as reusable as images and shift from being subject to matter, in a range of materials (plaster, steel, light… to name a few). You remind yourself, that research is a mix of search and reconfiguration. That information has no fixed form, it is reliant on the hand that molds it for presentation…
Forensics & Evidence
Now picture yourself at a vantage point which is ideal, albeit subjective and deceiving. What you are looking over is tautological, in more than one way: You are seeing objects that themselves are made for viewing. But also “things” that are characters, that illustrate their function, “things” that are literal and figurative. “Things” that are articulating ideas; telling you stories of their own production, consumption, and behavior. They are witnesses and she reminds you that “the literary sensibility of the title pointed to the act of reading objects.”2
This kind of reading, however, has an agenda.
The nature of evidence is that it is “truth”, but truth based on consensus, driven by subjectivity. Forensics takes it root from “forum” or, “on trial before the public.”
You look back at the objects which are actually on film, and you begin to question scale, “lipsticks become obelisks”3 he points out. This is an antic inherent to the medium of film who’s early adopters and viewers, you might remember, feel under the spell of its ability to shift scale. Much of early cinema is about the play with perspective afforded by a lens.
Everything is possible when objects are translated to light.
Now picture yourself between tongues, when she turns to you to say: “What is first striking about Flaubert is his contempt for sentimentality and his fervor for le mot juste.”4 It is in translation that you best understand your own language, your own time, earnestly.
Her sculptures are casts of life, uncomposed piles, collections made through questionably subjective categories. They are a pile of inanimate things, slipcast, made solid and made “one.” Alone, the objects are simply functional, as a collection they have agency, as a solid mass they have meaning, if not voice.
And he turns to you to say “when I asked where her compulsion to arrange came from, she said she saw it as being linked to language — she perceives her objects as syntactical units that add up into sentences — and a leeriness of self-expression.”5
You might hear her say that it is important that the plaster of which they are made is liquid then made solid. That all the parts are made into a single form; the groupings she makes creating categories, a kind of vocabulary, a new language.
Symbols & Death
Now, finally, picture yourself in a time, where language is replaced by symbols and symbols quickly become monuments. “Their ornamental arrangement suggests a message written in code, like the in-decipherable hieroglyphics of some alien civilization emerging from the wreckage of our own. Thus arises the paradox that the obelisk seems to speak both a common contemporary parlance and a lost tongue.”6
Which reminds you that art, like fiction, is a contract between the artist and his witness. One which similarly involves a kind of new vocabulary, position and frame. A fascimile, in this picture, is an imperfect attempt at mirroring something live, its success and its failure is measured by the liminal space that turns a witness into a viewer.
And death… is a whole other kind of miscommunication. “Everything indeed is at least double” says La Prisonnière 7