Fauves by Ethel Gutmann

Page 1

FAUVES



SITE-SPECIFIC INSTALLATION - MFA BEZALEL GRADUATE SHOW

ETHEL GUTMANN, TEL AVIV 2014





Fauves being a site-specific project, its thematic axis was strongly anticipated months before receiving the space. Both the visit of two major exhibitions in Paris and a research on the concepts of Walter Benjamin in contemporary art set the ground for Fauves . Benjamin defines the storyteller (historian) as the one who collects experiences, clusters the events in constellations and activates the moments of knowledge. The object-relation in constellation is, for the philosopher, a “dialectical image” representing history not by reproducing a true past, but by joining past and present in an eruptive momentary flash.1 Similarly, Philippe Parreno and Pierre Huyghe both raise the question of experiencing, or rather witnessing art; by choreographing shows via scripts and suggesting possible scenarios, the exhibition becomes a living organism where states of its presence are activated by the artists. They belong, according to Nicolas Bourriaud, to this major movement of artists in today’s art scene, which he calls the “semionauts” (from semios, sign and nautos, navigation) as they explore the world via a navigation through signs and are concerned by the necessity of intensifying the present. 2

1 Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project (1927-1940), Ed. Rolf Tiedemann. Trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin, (New York: Belknap Press, 2002) 2 Nicolas Bourriaud, The problematic of Time in Contemporary Art, conference held at the MFA program of Bezalel Academy of Arts in December 2012


In relation to this approach, choosing the location for Fauves was very obvious as the space showed clear potential for speculation, hesitation and navigation. Along with the many unknowns generated by working in situ, according to the site’s inner rhythm, the two months lived in the space were crucial to take step by step the decisions while writing its script. Conscious that the building had a story of its own, it was important to detect the different layers of the place, reminiscent of its prior life as an industrial building. The last occupant, a cosmetic laboratory, had divided it into small cubic office units; since the company left, the whole floor has remained abandoned. As a result, the outside life naturally started to penetrate in. Many pigeons had managed to enter through the windows and nest on the dusty vacated furniture, leaving the many traces of their presence. Therefore and above all, the task was to understand the structure of those layers (vestiges, ghosts) and to work with, on, and around the symptoms of the space. The first action consisted in tearing down the office-like floating panels obstructing the original waffle concrete ceiling. This led to an interesting discovery: when the suspended white grid structure was bared and dismissed from its mission of supporting the cheap panels, it showed the premises of an insitu sculpture, an inverted stage whose contour was later defined by partially cutting the walls surrounding it. From this initial stage, it was clear that some architectural modifications were necessary to create fluidity and circulation, such as merging the three small units together in a single U-shaped room. As earlier with the ceiling, those structural moves considerably changed the setting and perspectives, allowing room for certain



elements to exist independently. Once freed from the narrow cubes that cluttered them, the original industrial lift ( Esther Crane) and its carriage (Jane Cage) appeared as major potential pieces. The new space, unwrapped, reconfigured and uniformly painted white, became a theatrical stage where the found ready-made objects could be dressed up and choreographed. The heavy crane and cage were then separated from each other, while their cast-iron skin was cleaned, polished, and given a total face-lift. Applying pale colours to these heavy elements was a deliberate choice to mark the construction environment with subtleness and silence. The pastel palette suggests the feminine (make-up, infant environment), at the same time stopping the machines from being operational, turning them into absurd objects. The baby-pink gigantic crane looses its original function, unable to move nor to catch, while the minty-green cage gets a new set of wheels but it doesn’t roll. Indeed, the painting gesture isn’t only an aesthetic mask or make-up tool; it blurs the traditional categories by playing with the gaps between the real things and their representation. The name Fauves evokes Fauvism as the time when painters separated the colour from its reference to the object. The chosen palette for the massive masculine objects loses its softness and innocence, producing a rather uncanny ambience. The naturally changing light through the building windows emphasises this strange impression, especially when the room’s atmosphere and colours gradually change at sunset. In the twilight, the crane looks as if it were coming from a dark tunnel, its pink colour slightly fading away, revealing


Esther Crane, detail

the white contained, while the cage’s minty tones merge with the subdued clinical light above. One could see there a child’s dream as well as a child’s nightmare. To quote Nicolas Bourriaud again, The subject of modern art is not that far from the subject of psychoanalysis – the unconscious which contains what is expelled from consciousness in order to maintain order, as the topic of the “undervalued” . 3 The big machines, distorted from their initial purpose, become wild animals to tame and to take care of. The term Fauves , then, also makes reference to its meaning in French (wild cats). 3 Nicolas Bourriaud: What is the exform? Culture, history and rejection in the Google era - RA Schools Autumn Lecture, 8 November 2013



Esther Crane The ready-made industrial lift hanging from the concrete ceiling was left on power, even though its newly painted light pink coat had blocked the movement of the machine, limiting its operational function



Jane Cage The ready-made industrial carriage was separated from the lift in order to occupy alone its part of the room Floor The tiles were painted light grey with a hint of baby-blue, belonging to the same pastel palette as the other elements



The last object to be installed was the projection Lucie Loop . This piece was created in the studio before entering the space, emerging as the link between the mental research and the physical production. Although the film was ready to be projected on the wall in its original state, the challenge was to find a way to embed it in situ in an intelligible and coherent manner. The solution came from the content of the video itself - the image of a light which is also the light of an image; this was followed by choosing its appropriate support and installation. The discovery on site of an extra window belonging to the building made it clear that the projection should go though the same process as the other pieces, being integrated onto a ready-made support. Replacing the original window glass with milky-white plexiglas enabled for a rear-projection, revealing a double-image (front and back) and evolving with natural light. At daytime, the screened image is hardly perceptible, merely revealing a pale apparition; at night, it stands out in contrast with the dark surroundings. Lucie Loop is, in a way, the phantom storing the energy of the space, while activating signs of its presence.

Lucie Loop, projection on suspended white plexiglas mounted on a window. The image is almost invisible at day time and becomes clear at night


Lucie Loop and Esther Crane




Jane Cage, detail Minty-green paint on iron carriage, new set of wheels



Installation view at night time


works, texts and lay-out: Ethel Gutmann photo credits: MTG

+972 054 5864682, ethelgutmann@gmail.com, www.ethelgutmann.com Š 2014


special thanks to J.B and M.M for inspiration and support