Célia Houdart, "The Scribe is a sphinx"

Page 1

The Scribe is a Sphinx CeĚ lia Houdart

After studies in literature and philosophy followed by ten years as a stage director, Célia Houdart turned to writing. Since 2008 she and Sébastien Roux have been composing works in the form of sound installations and itineraries. She was the «Villa Médicis hors-les-murs» laureate in 1999, and went on to win the French Academy’s Henri de Régnier Prize for her first novel Les merveilles du monde (P.O.L) in 2008, the Françoise Sagan Prize for Carrare (P.O.L, 2012) and the City of Deauville’s Books and Music Prize for Gil (P.O.L) in 2015.

When Sophie Kaplan suggested I should write a futuristic short story in place of an introductory text for the While I was also listening […] cycle at La Criée, I wondered how I would manage to imagine a series of exhibitions – and especially artworks – which I hadn’t (yet) seen and which would be described to me. How was I to think about something, and write about it as well, without having experienced it? The situation was totally new. Extreme. Weird. Risky. I got moving. I began by reading the initial media material and the reports of the meetings between Felicia Atkinson, Julien Bismuth and Yann Sérandour. I met Felicia, Julien and Yann of course, and put questions to them. We talked about their personal work and what they saw themselves creating for the planned cycle at La Criée. Then I let all this sink in, without ever seeing anything (= blind man’s buff), since by definition (these were the rules of the game) nothing was ready yet and at this point in the project just about everything still remained to be done. I found that the cycle’s title, While I was also listening […], resonated strangely – almost ironically – with the situation I was in and the slight confusion it was causing me «while I was also listening» – and all that. So I came to terms with the situation: I was dealing not with artworks but with living beings and speech. Voices. «Vocal emissions» (flatus vocis), as the great Nominalists put it in the Middle Ages. And texts, lots of texts, all extraordinarily interesting, either written by the artists themselves or things they had read and come to consider authoritative: by Jerome Rothenberg, Chesterton, David Antin and others. I could have gone to a library or a bookshop and set about reading them all. I would never have the time to read the whole lot, but at least I would have got a glimpse of what they were thinking as they talked to me. Instead of which I followed my intuition. I thought back to everything I’d read and heard since this adventure began and I had an idea. I went to consult someone who had long been important to me and who I felt would maybe help me get my bearings. To see things more clearly. Then meditate on these questions. I decided to consult somebody. A trained listener with a writing background, and at the same time a seer. Not just anybody and not just anywhere. Where, then? At the Louvre. Yes, at the Louvre, so as to try and dream better at La Criée in Rennes. Why not? Following an impulse which, it was true, seemed to be going somewhat counter to what was being asked of me (projection into a near future). But as it happened, something was telling me that a futuristic short story was maybe going to spring from an archaeological daydream and a journey through time.


October 27th 2017. Early in the day. There are people, but not too many. Security checkpoint, escalators, lobby, turnstile, corridors, stairs. I zip through the Louvre almost as fast as the characters in Jean-Luc Godard’s Band of Outsiders. Not actually running, but wasting no time, so as to reach the Scribe as quickly as I can. Room 22. He’s there. An icon showing headphones framing a hearing aid, with the reference number 1070 just next to it. A hieroglyph for beginners that anyone vaguely acquainted with exhibition signage can easily decode. A few centimetres further along two silhouetted hands, one above the other, look decidedly more enigmatic. With a bit of perseverance on the museum’s Internet site I learn that they offer the sightimpaired the chance to follow guided tours for which the visitor is provided with a series of three-dimensional objects. I imagine a man or woman, eyes closed, handling a plaster miniature of the Seated Scribe or selected fragments of his body – a copy of his face, a close-up of his smile – and commenting in a low voice on what he or she is touching. Everything you don’t see. I think of all the labels scattered through museums, and of the code-breakers we become when we stop to look at an amulet, royal cartouches, a Poliakoff, a Mondrian or a work in a contemporary art centre. The Scribe lives among these signs: names of kings, queens and sacred animals, some of whose secrets still remain beyond our ken. It’s him I’m going to for advice. The Scribe’s chest and stomach are slightly flabby. His face is candid. High cheekbones and arched, clearly defined eyebrows. His features are pleasant and his hands delicately modelled. He’s been placed on a light-coloured, matt material that looks like a sheet of off-white Japanese washi, with its fibres visible. The Scribe is looking at me, with his affable air and sloping shoulders. All of a sudden I have the impression of a Japanese monk. Sometimes museum scenography triggers disturbing connections between different cultures and eras. In this case between the cemetery in Memphis and temples in Kyoto. The fibres of papyrus and mulberry bark soaked in the same vat of water. The water of the Nile mingled with that of the River Kamo. Does the Scribe know that the Vilaine flows through Rennes? To be more precise, the Seated Scribe is sitting cross-legged. And he’s not writing, but listening. Perhaps he’s taking dictation, which would explain why he doesn’t write continuously. Whatever the case, he seems to have been caught in a moment of concentration, listening attentively to somebody or something. A


string of accounting entries? A complicated contract? Maybe he’s memorising a very long list, or trying to find the best way of noting things down. I too could copy the list of works planned for the La Criée cycle. Note down everything the artists tell me. And see what the result is. It took Stendhal fifty-two days to dictate The Charterhouse of Parma to his secretary at 4 Rue Caumartin in Paris, during the winter of 1838. And how did Tiron and Sphintharus, Cicero’s two freed slaves, go about transcribing every seven-part speech delivered – always in the right order – by the Roman orator. An edifice of words and ideas through which you could move, it is said, as if through a palace. The secretaries of ancient times wrote without notepads or dictaphones. I remember the days when the Pigier Method was all the rage and France’s cities were covered with posters vaunting the merits of its shorthand teaching and the golden age of speedwriting. Isn’t Julien Bismuth also planning to write «live» in the actual exhibition space. With an image as his starting point? I look for somewhere to sit. The Scribe is listening. Although you mustn’t be able to hear much in this tomb in the middle of the desert. A few creakings at most, or the wind whistling through the gaps between the heavy blocks of stone. Or rock crumbling, the buzz of some obstinate insect, the imperceptible nibbling of termites. Now he lives in a glass case in the Sully Wing, once the abode of kings. He’s been set among other excavated objects, many of them stripped of a coating of sand, sometimes damaged but on the whole in an astonishing state of preservation. Bright colours (that hypnotic Egyptian blue), strikingly clear contours, smooth surfaces. Even so, I note a few scratches on the Scribe: on the right index finger and the base of the left eyebrow and thumb. I think of the Clairefontaine brand exercise book Yann Sérandour gave me when we saw each other, its lines drawn in shaky freehand by the kids in a primary school in Croissy-sur-Seine. The earliest forms of writing were etched into clay or stone tablets. History began in Sumer, in a country crossed by two rivers, with scribes sitting cross‑legged on clayey ground. The bench facing the Scribe is occupied by an American tourist. How old might the Scribe be? He’s not young. He’s not an old man either. With the ancient Egyptian lunar calendar you get lost doing the math. Anyway, for a


man some forty-five centuries old he’s doing pretty well, and you could even say he doesn’t look his age. I can see myself again as a kid, drawing the Scribe. I was ten or eleven. I was enrolled at the «under-13s workshop» set up by Pierre Belvès at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, which I loved and which left an abiding mark on me. We drew directly from the works we had gone to see, or from slides. Attentive, patient art students showed us different media: pastel, wash, colour pencil. Not guiding our hands, but helping and encouraging us. We went to see the Scribe with them and I remember drawing him on a 50 x 65 centimetre sheet of Canson paper. We were sitting cross-legged on the wooden floor. I can’t remember exactly when, but I did another, smaller drawing of it in my exercise book on the blank page set aside for pictures. That must have been during a history lesson in fourth or fifth grade. I think again of Yann Sérandour’s Clairefontaine exercise books and the schoolkids in Croissy-sur-Seine. The Scribe is holding his head up. He’s immobile and watchful. I imagine him polyglot, understanding Danish, Persian, Mandarin, Yiddish, Chinook, Quechua, Walloon and Picard, Bung and Beezen. Languages he effortlessly translates into ideograms and phonograms. But maybe these sounds have no actual meaning for him. And what about Pirahã, that tonal, almost sung language Julien Bismuth has a passion for and talked to me about at length – will it be heard at La Criée? In sentences whistled or hummed? Just beside Room 22 is the King’s Ceremonial Bedchamber, where the Sun King received after getting up; there must surely have been harpsichord recitals. And right then I hear Yann Sérandour again, telling me how fond he is of this instrument. I prick up my ears, I catch strange echoes. I think of the Scribe when I’m looking at certain works of contemporary art, and especially when I’m asked to write about them. I kind of imagine myself in his shoes. I try to adopt his way of listening and his immobility, his affability and his concentration. Sometimes nothing happens. It doesn’t work. Without exception he remains silent. The Scribe is a sphinx. And facing him we’re all in the same situation as Œdipus. I look at him again. The whites of his eyes are made of pieces of red-veined white magnetite set into copper clips. The pupils are pieces of rock crystal whose back face has been frosted and slightly hollowed out to create the illusion of a gaze. So that his eyes never leave us.


Some visitors, caught in the trap of their own reflection in the vitrine, freeze. Or take a selfie. In both cases they’re surprised and instantly hooked and seem to want more. Group portraits,. Compositions with two people, then three, behind the Scribe. So they can read over his shoulder? In less than a minute dozens of mobile phone and digital camera viewfinders (or rather their reverse images) are visible in miniature on the old Egyptian’s retina. I take a brief stroll around the room. Then the bench is free, and I sit down, a certain distance from the exhibit. I check our the ceiling and the panelling. Have they been fireproofed? I’m lacking focus. I’ve completely lost sight of the Scribe and La Criée. A limestone body in a glass cage. Bulletproof, fireproof, theftproof. On a clear day – like now, with a ray of sunshine striking through – the big clock and the caryatids in the opposite wing are reflected in it, as if in a prism. «Contour scribes»: that’s what painters and drawers are called in the Egyptian texts. Felicia, Yann, Julien – among your guest artists who, in your opinion, would be a contour scribe? Zin Taylor, maybe? I try to imagine how big the Scribe would be standing up. Not tall. And how much does his head weigh? I move close to him again. His body has been repainted. Touches of ochre here and there. I think of Those Vermillion Sands, an album by Felicia Atkinson, its title doubtless borrowed from J.G. Ballard’s collection of short stories Vermilion Sands of 1971. The Scribe’s face (like every work of art?) is a geology. The Egyptian hieroglyph for «scribe» is a single image summing up the scholar’s equipment: the brush case, the palette with two pellets of paint and the jar of water for diluting. I myself have a Pilot G–1 (0.5) pen. And a sketchbook. Black gel ink. Can you manage to decipher my fly specks? We’re face to face, but with a slight distance between us. I check him out. Little round nipples like buttons. Cropped hair. An incredible look in the eyes. Hands with tapering fingers. I’m motionless. Gradual loss of bearings. Each movement seems internalised. Statue-like temptation. A cramp wrenches me abruptly out of my reverie. I bend my leg so I can lean on my knee, like a copyist. A scribe who doesn’t last long with her legs crossed. Memories of a trip to Japan and of pins and needles in my legs in a soba noodle restaurant. I come to, back in the real world. I think of the exhibition cycle in Rennes. I draw in my sketchbook. My balance is shaky and my writing is all crooked lines.


A man stops by the Scribe, but without looking at him. He lifts his cap, wipes his brow and continues on his way. An indistinct murmur reaches me from the next room. A group of Koreans arrives, men and women with audioguides hanging around their necks and maps in their hands. Two women sit down at the same time on the same bench. Slim. Ageless. A mutual understanding. A mix of the awkward and the harmonious. Bouvard and Pécuchet. A young woman, a little lost. A young man reading a label out loud. Talk poem. I notice the ink-coloured base under the Scribe’s crossed legs. Its rounded edges. Base-track-potter’s wheel. Okay, time to go home. A man and a woman advance towards the Scribe. Right up against the vitrine. Static movement. Feet flat on the floor. Arms by their sides. His hand reaching forward in a strange pose. A couple of pharaohs with Eastpak backpacks. When Auguste Mariette discovered him in Saqqara on November 19th 1850, the Scribe was with five other statues, hidden in a sealed niche amid the rubble of a plundered tomb. There are a number of theories about his identity: he might be Kai, a field scribe, or Pehernefer or Sekhemka. But then again he might be someone else. We don’t know. In ancient Egypt each estate had its own scribes, who organised and supervised farming and the trades. There was the field scribe, the warehouse scribe, the cereals scribe, and the scribe for large and small livestock. I think about the artworks sealed away. Invisible. Addressed to the «people of the dead», to quote Jean Genet on Giacometti’s sculptures. But I’m also thinking of Mark Geffriaud’s object Cyrus, still wrapped in paper, which the curators and artists are passing from hand to hand without ever taking it out of its package. A man in a wheelchair. He’s heading towards the Scribe. His approach is slow. He goes by without stopping. Struck by something else. Throughout the period when they were still illegible, hieroglyphs were considered sacred, reserved for rituals. Bee, cobra, jackal, lion, lioness, goose, long-eared cat. A bestiary in its own right. Only afterwards did we find out that these signs were also for accounts, official deeds, litigation between spouses, neighbours and property owners. These are the same stylised animals that we find in the Book of the Dead, which teaches the deceased, after they have crossed the river and drunk its water, detailed techniques for respiration in the hereafter, for learning to breathe again after breathing one’s last.


I hear the texture and breath of Felicia’s and Julien’s and Yann’s voices telling me about their projects in a café, on the phone or on Skype. Flatus vocis. The first sensory reality. Their bodies and that which (in them) (then between their lips) is already taking physical form. I can’t bring myself to leave. I find it fascinating to observe all these visitors dressed for hiking face to face with this man with only a piece of cloth wrapped around his waist. I think we could try to be a tad more elegant. But there’s something touching about addressing the wonders of the world got up as if for a mountain trek. A museum or an art centre = Kilimanjaro or Mount Fuji. Apropos of which, there will be big fake rocks at La Criée, made by Virginie Yassef. In ancient times offerings were laid at the feet of the statues in dignitaries’ tombs. Why not think up rites for museums and contemporary art centres? At the foot of works that move us we could arrange flowers, or a few stones, or tea in a little cup, or fruit and other simple, carefully chosen things. Deposits of ex-votos. At La Criée there will be deposits (I’m not sure exactly where) of stones and shells accumulated by octopuses and co-opted by the Japanese artist Shimabuku. All these reminiscences. A child tugs at his mother’s sleeve. Hey, it’s him! he says. He obviously knows more about the Scribe than she does. Doubtless a lesson on Egypt has made a lasting impression on him. The curious magnetism exerted by this sculpture. You’d like to touch it, but that’s physically impossible. Even when there’s no glass case those nasty alarms keep us away from the exhibits. Everyone’s on the go. The Scribe does nothing. He emanates a real selfconfidence based on something fragile. The papyrus he’s holding on his knees is unrolled. White-beige. A sandbank. The child is rapt, but his mother is bored. The child doesn’t even notice how little impact the Scribe has on her. The child and the Scribe communicate wordlessly. Something is taking shape between them that transcends speech. Don’t the Pirahã Indians communicate starting out with their visions? Suddenly scraps of my discussion with Julien Bismuth come back to me clearly. I get up and take a few steps to the left. In spite of myself I’m listening to the conversation of the person behind me. There’s no way I can leave. I lean on a slightly curved, uncomfortable rail made of wood and imitation leather. The Scribe’s skin is ochre-coloured and matt. The child’s skin gleams. No question, it’s hot for October.


A man goes by; his gaze sweeps the space and settles nowhere. Unseeing eyes, total indifference – as if for him the rooms are empty. Is he looking for some otherworld? Pharaoh crosses the desert. And (in a silent film she described to me) Felicia Atkinson plays for the giant cacti of the Saguaro desert. Overlaid impressions. Slight vertigo. Three girls go by, seemingly in a hurry. White skin. Clothes, hair, eyeliner and black tattoos, fabulously elegant. As if sprung from the 2000s – or the future. My vision turns cloudy. Images of a half-destroyed museum, vitrines shattered, floorboards torn up. Rubble. White dust powdering everything. Amid the debris I can make out visitors helping people. Some of them are freeing bodies, others sculptures or fragments of sculptures. Where is this? Aleppo, Kobanî, Raqqa, Ankara? I’m having a nightmare. Then my head clears. The wind outside. Night is falling, darkening the caryatids and the cobblestones. I’m on my way. Behind a door decorated with wood panelling and hiding a second door of painted plywood, a man is freshening up, bent over a small washbasin reserved for the staff, his hands cupped conch-like to his face.

— Célia Houdart, December 2016


useful information

La Criée is open Tuesday to Friday, from 12 noon to 7:00 pm. On Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays it will open later, at 2:00 pm, and close at 7:00 pm. La Criée is always closed on January 1st, May 1st and Christmas Day.

The La Criée team comprises Sophie Kaplan (director), Marion Sarrazin (communication) and Norbert Orhant and Patricia Bagot (administration); Benoît Mauras (registrar), assisted by Anthony Glais and Pascal Moreul; Carole Brulard and Amandine Braud (visitor services), accompanied by Vincent Raoul; and liaison staff Catherine Aloche, Mégane Aguilé, Typhaine Rouillard and Romane Verrière.

La Criée centre d’art contemporain place Honoré Commeurec F-35000 Rennes +332 23 62 25 10 la-criee@ville-rennes.fr www.criee.org Facebook : @la.criee.art.contemporain Twitter : @la_criee Instagram : lacrieecentredart typographie : Lc Miedinger vs Licko © Jocelyn Cottencin / Atelier Lieux Communs, Rennes

La Criée is a City of Rennes cultural facility and enjoys the financial support of the Ministry of Culture and Communication (Brittany Region Cultural Affairs Office), the Brittany Region and the Ille-et-Vilaine Département. La Criée is a member of the networks a.c.b. (Contemporary Art in Brittany) and d.c.a. (French Association for the Development of Art Centres).



ALSH Marcel Pagnol, Rennes ; An Eye for an eye, Paris ; Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Paris ; centre Coallia Foyer Guy Houist, Rennes ; centre hospitalier Guillaume Régnier, Rennes et Fougères ; Centre Pompidou, Paris ; Clair obscur, Rennes ; Comptoir du Doc, Rennes ; DDEC 35 – Enseignement catholique, Rennes ; DSAA Lycée Bréquigny, Rennes ; école de Siem Reip, Cambodge ; école élémentaire torigné, Rennes ; école maternelle Volga, Rennes ; école Saint-Michel, Pléchâtel ; éducation nationale, DSDEN 35 et DAAC, Rennes ; école européenne supérieure d’art de Bretagne (EESAB) ; Elektronmusikstudion, Stockholm ; festival Autres mesures, Rennes ; Frac Bourgogne, Dijon ; galerie Air de Paris, Paris ; galerie Barbara Wien, Berlin ; galerie Chert, Berlin ; galerie Emanuel Layr, Vienne ; galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois, Paris ; galerie Loevenbruck, Paris ; galerie Louis Adelantado, Valence ; galerie Neugerriemschneider, Berlin ; galerie Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc., New York ; galerie Simone Subal, New York ; galerie Supportico Lopez, Berlin ; gb agency, Paris ; hôtel Pasteur, Rennes ; Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles ; Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives (Inrap) ; ISFEC Bretagne ; Kostar ; Laboratoire médiation culturelle, Rennes métropole ; Langue et communication, Rennes ; Ligue de l’enseignement, Rennes ; Loisirs Pluriel, Rennes ; maison de quartier Nord- Saint-Martin, Rennes ; Maison des squares, Rennes ; Pôle Art. Santé, Rennes ; Pôle artistique et culturel, Saint-Brice-en-Coglès ; Pôle enfance centre social Villejean, Rennes ; Pôle Ressources éducation artistique Bretagne ; Réseau d’éducation à l’Environnement en Bretagne (REEB) ; Rencontres photographiques d’Arles ; Réseau Canopé (réseau de création et d’accompagnement pédagogiques) ; Shelter Press, Rennes ; SoRtIR !, Rennes ; Star, Rennes ; théâtre Lillico, Rennes ; université du temps libre, Rennes ; université Rennes 1 ; université Rennes 2 ; Union Régionale des Associations de Parents d’Enfants Déficients Auditifs (uRAPEDA), Zéro Deux, etc.



While I was also listening to the Kandinsky Library Jean-Baptiste André, Felicia Atkinson, François Bonnet, Yann Sérandour, Gérard Wajcman, Julien Bismuth and Virginie Yassef

– 2017 sees the Centre Pompidou celebrating its 40th anniversary. As a contribution to the festivities, La Criée is inviting an acrobat, a psychoanalyst, a musicologist and four artists to take an adventurous, curious look at the Kandinsky Library collection. – Debriefings are scheduled at the Kandinsky Library in autumn 2017, then at La Criée early in 2018.

* publications and research projects



Remise en jeu (Starting Over) Clémence Estève

– exhibition following the artist’s residency at Torigné primary school in Rennes, in partnership with the National Institute for Preventive Archaeology (INRAP) – 6 April – 23 April 2017 opening: Thursday 6th April at 5:30 pm 2nd floor, Hôtel Pasteur, 2 Place Pasteur, Rennes

Le Monde à l’envers (A Upside Down World) Estelle Chaigne

– public debriefing on the workshops run by the artist at the Saint Michel de Pléchâtel primary school in parallel with photographer Régis Binard at the school in Siem Reip, Cambodia – opening: Friday 24th March 2017 Saint Michel primary school, Allée Saint-Michel, 35470 Pléchâtel

Fonds de la pensée (Deep Down)

Département du plaisir (Department of Pleasure) Camille Bondon

– exhibition following the artist’s residency with day care patients at the Guillaume Régnier hospital complex 12 May – 30 June 2017 opening: Thursday 11th May 2017 at 3:00 pm Section G04, 108 Avenue du Général Leclerc, Rennes part of the Printemps Art & Santé (Springtime Art & Health) programme

Follow these activities on visitor services’ blog: correspondances-lacriee.fr

* creative and educational activities on- and off-site



While I was also listening to David, Eleanor, Mariana, Delia, Genk, Jean, Mark, Pierre, Shima, Simon, Zin and Virginie David Antin, Eleanor Antin, Mariana Castillo Deball, Delia Derbyshire, Jean Dupuy, Mark Geffriaud, gerlach en koop, David Horvitz, Pierre Paulin, Shimabuku, Simon Starling, Zin Taylor, Virginie Yassef – from 13th January to 5th March 2017 opening Thursday 12th of January at 6:30 pm

Spoken Word Felicia Atkinson

– from 1st April to 28th May 2017 opening Friday 31st March at 6:30 pm

Sibyl Sybil Julien Bismuth

– from 24th June 20th August 2017 opening Friday 23th June at 6:30 pm

Harpsichord Pieces Yann Sérandour

– from 16th September 19th November 2017 opening Friday 15th September at 6:30 pm

While I was also listening to Mariana, Simon, Virginie, etc. collective show – from16th December to the 18th of February 2018 opening Friday 15th December at 6:30 pm

Throughout the cycle we will be inviting other storytellers for concerts, discussions, talks, exhibition tours, etc. For further information check out the La Criée website and the social networks.

* on-site exhibitions and events



Felicia Atkinson, Julien Bismuth and Yann Sérandour are the associate artists for the exhibition Alors que j’écoutais moi aussi […] / While I was also listening […], from January 2017 to February 2018. Yann’s a long-time Rennes resident, Felicia moved here a year ago, and Julien’s from New York. All three of them travel a lot. Julien and Yann were born in the 1970s and Felicia a little later. Felicia, Julien and Yann enjoy being told stories and enjoy telling them too. Felicia’s solo shows in 2016 included Sustain / Musique Possible at the Resort Gallery in Copenhagen and And A Forest (Petrifies) at 820 Plaza in Montreal. Among her concert venues were Plateau Frac île-de-France in Paris, Lisa Cooley Gallery in New York and the Maison de France in Rio de Janeiro.

Felicia, Julien and Yann are inventors, activators and remixers of stories. Julien had three solo shows in 2016: one in his Paris gallery, one at Lyra in Rome, and the third at the Guggenheim in New York. He has also contributed to group events including The Language of Things – Material Hi/Stories from the Collection at the 21er Haus in Vienna; I will go where I don’t belong on the island of Stromboli; and Impromptu, at The Box in Los Angeles. Felicia, Julien and Yann are going to set up an office at La Criée as their workshop within the exhibitions. In 2016 Yann took part in the group shows Ballads of the Beasts: Voices of the Animal World at the CNEAI in Chatou, When the Snow Melts Where Does the White Go at Palazzo Fortuny in Venice and Xerox Exhibition at Société in Brussels. In 2015 he presented the solo exhibition A Figure Four Trap at his Spanish gallery in Valencia, and another one is scheduled for next spring at his Paris gallery.


While I was also listening to Felicia Atkinson, Julien Bismuth and Yann Sérandour telling stories about artworks and exhibitions, I wanted to invite them to come and share at La Criée. We started out discussing narrative, orality, rumour, multiple points of view, exhibitions we hadn’t seen but had been told about. One of us mentioned Paul Ricoeur and his open-ended definition of narrative, which ties it not to a fixed form but to a relationship with time1. Somebody else found the title of the series. It comes from American poet and performer David Antin, from one of his talk poems and their blend of improvisation and narrative, anecdote and philosophy, poetry and action2. So we opted for constructing a subjective, polyphonic narrative, one addressing the questions of our relationship with books, statements and enunciation. We wanted to write a shared story, invented by some people then related by others, listened to by others still and then transformed by some of them. We wanted to develop narratives of real or imaginary exhibitions, using deliberately multiple, experimental temporal and spatial frameworks, ranging from publication to concert performance, from fable to essay. We decided that Felicia, Julien and Yann would each have a solo show and that there would also be two group shows to bookend the cycle. Among the artists featuring in these exhibitions are David Antin, Eleanor Antin, Mariana Castillo Deball, Delia Derbyshire, gerlach en koop, Jean Dupuy, Mark Geffriaud, Pierre Paulin, Shimabuku, Simon Starling, Zin Taylor and Virginie Yassef. In addition to the exhibitions we’ll invite other storytellers for concerts, talks, discussions and off-site projects. The list so far includes Camille Bondon, Grégory Buchert, Clémence Estève, Élise Ladoué and Hanne Lippard. And we’ll be celebrating a birthday: the Centre Pompidou is turning forty, and we’ll be running experiments in the Kandinsky Library there. Things will wind up (and continue) with a book we’ll be publishing through Shelter Press. Lastly – or rather firstly – as a way of telling the story straight off and everywhere, we’ve decided to replace the usual season programme with a futuristic short story commissioned from Célia Houdart.

— Sophie Kaplan, December 2016

1 — Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, Volume 2: The Configuration of Time in Fictional Narrative (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985). 2 — David Antin, «The Structuralist», what it means to be avant-garde (New York: New Directions, 1993).


While I was also listening […]

2017 - 2018

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.