Si­mon Fu­ji­wa­ra Running the Film Ba­ck­wards

Art Press - - DIFFRACTIONS -

The Ga­le­ries La­fayette Foun­da­tion re­cent­ly fea­tu­red Si­mon Fu­ji­wa­ra, a Bri­ton of Ja­pa­nese ori­gin, as part of their La­fayette An­ti­ci­pa­tion pro­gram. Du­ring the six-week re­si­den­cy he wor­ked at a for­mer in­dus­trial pro­per­ty on Rue du Plâtre in Pa­ris, a buil­ding about to be en­ti­re­ly re­no­va­ted by OMA, Rem Kool­haas’s ar­chi­tec­tu­ral part­ner­ship. The re­sults: a per­for­mance, sculp­ture, lec­ture and film pro­du­ced by the Fon­da­tion d’En­tre­prise Ga­le­ries La­fayette on the oc­ca­sion of the fifth edi­tion of the Nou­veau Fes­ti­val at the Pom­pi­dou Cen­ter.


His fa­ther was an ar­chi­tect, and Si­mon Fu­ji­wa­ra trai­ned as an ar­chi­tect be­fore be­co­ming an artist. His work has been des­cri­bed as sexual architecture.(1) He pre­fers the term au­to­bio­gra­phi­cal architecture. At any rate, it is cer­tain­ly mu­tant architecture. “Architecture is a de­mon I love and hate. I’ve al­ways played at it while kno­wing full well that I didn’t want to be­come an ar­chi­tect.” Yet he uses its re­sources: the com­bi­na­tion of art and science, ma­te­ria­li­ty and nar­ra­tive. And when as­ked to talk about his work he des­cribes aban­do­ned buil­dings in Spain and Greece with rui­ned co­lumns and concrete rein­for­ce­ment rods sti­cking out, va­cant spaces that could be filled with dreams by a whole so­cie­ty.


Fu­ji­wa­ra lives off conver­sa­tions, his­to­ry and le­gends. He weaves the th­read of his nar­ra­tives with rea­li­ty and fan­ta­sies, gui­ded by di­gres­sion af­ter di­gres­sion. This prac­tice brings to mind Wa­lid Raad and more re­cent­ly Alexandre Singh. The walls of the room where he wor­ked du­ring his Fon­da­tion des Ga­le­ries La­fayette re­si­dence re­call the plates in Aby War­burg’s Mne­mo­syne At­las, but his references re­side in the mean­ders of Ins­ta­gram. New Pom­pi­dou is a my­thi­cal his­to­ry whose form will conti­nue to evolve as long as the artist lives. This pro­ject is ba­sed on the sto­ry of an old love and ano­ther about the birth of an artist, and es­pe­cial­ly the ru­mor spread by Ber­nard Blis­tène ac­cor­ding to which its one-time di­rec­tor Pon­tus Hul­ten plan­ned to make a mys­te­rious re­pli­ca of the Pom­pi­dou Cen­ter. Where, when and in what form re­main unk­nown. The scene takes place in the pri­mor­dial marsh of

the Ma­rais [the name means marsh], in­fes­ted with rab­bits. Their fur is used to make felt— for ins­tance, the felt that Jo­seph Beuys’s Plight (1985) at the Pom­pi­dou Cen­ter is made of. Fu­ji­wa­ra set out to make a double of that other, fan­tas­ti­cal Pom­pi­dou Cen­ter, a re­pli­ca of a re­pli­ca.


Con­cre­te­ly, this came down to ma­king a plas­ter re­pro­duc­tion of a giant me­tal part of the kind that holds the struc­ture of the buil­ding to­ge­ther. It is a ger­be­rette (beam han­ger), he ex­plains, dead­pan, na­med af­ter a Ger­man en­gi­neer (Hein­rich Ger­ber) who wor­ked on Neu­sch­wan­stein castle. While the sound of this word might sug­gest so­me­thing light, in architecture it de­si­gnates so­me­thing not at all ai­ry, a mas­ter joint, which makes it one of the crys­tal­li­zing ele­ments in Fu­ji­wa­ra’s nar­ra­tive. Here it is a fic­tio­nal dis­co­ve­ry made in some fu­ture ar­cheo­lo­gi­cal dig. The sculp­ture is co­ve­red with plas­ter se­di­men­ta­tion, ar­ti­fi­cial moss and rose pe­tals. It looks like a pre­ci­pi­tant of some strange al­che­my. Fu­ji­wa­ra does not hie­rar­chize the va­rious forms he uses. “Eve­ry­thing I do is per­for­mance art,” he says. Ap­pro­pria­te­ly, at the end of six weeks of work, to present New Pom­pi­dou to the pu­blic he sta­ged a per­for­mance whose sub­ject was the sto­ry of the sculp­ture he had just made. Like a rite of pas­sage it en­ded with a pro­ces­sion, al­most on Mar­di Gras, an in­fer­nal sa­ra­band led by a new Har­le­quin. On the wall was a danse ma­cabre image, along with pho­tos of me­die­val gar­goyles, ni­ne­teenth- cen­tu­ry en­gra­vings and a Pa­leo­li­thic ivo­ry sculp­ture, half-man/half-lion. Ac­com­pa­nied by the trum­pets playing Wa­gner’s Par­si­fal, the new piece was car­ried to the Nou­veau Fes­ti­val ve­nue. In Fu­ji­wa­ra’s work, just as du­ring car­ni­val, all in­ver­sions are per­mit­ted, the truth is ne­ver cer­tain, and yet, he de­clares, “I love the truth be­cause we need it. It’s an idea and a construc­tion, like a lot of things.” A few days la­ter he gave a talk at the Pom­pi­dou Cen­ter that was so­mew­hat dif­ferent than the per­for­mance. His prac­tice, he says, “is the op­po­site of how a film is writ­ten.” First he conceives the images and then he writes the sce­na­rio. The vi­deo New Pom­pi­dou fol­lows the same nar­ra­tive arc as the per­for­mance, but it is more el­lip­ti­cal and onei­ric, nar­ra­ted by Nou­veau Fes­ti­val di­rec­tor Ber­nard Blis­tène in an Ir­cam re­cor­ding studio. For Fu­ji­wa­ra, this is a way to once again confront the Pom­pi­dou Cen­ter as an ins­ti­tu­tion, and in­fil­trate it. “I am wea­ring a mask, but since I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know what I’m trying to hide.”


So­mew­hat si­mi­lar to New Pom­pi­dou, though ob­vious­ly in a ve­ry dif­ferent context, the vi­deo Re­hear­sal for a reu­nion (2012) al­so shows its own ma­king. It de­picts Fu­ji­wa­ra’s reu­nion with his fa­ther whom he had not seen for twen­ty years. The artist plays him­self and re­crui­ted an ac­tor for the role of his fa­ther. He asks the ac­tor to make a ce­ra­mic tea ser­vice using, as the mo­del, one made by the Bri­tish pot­ter Ber­nard Leach whose work sym­bo­lizes the re­con­ci­lia­tion bet­ween the East and West, and then break the ori­gi­nal so that the co­py is all that re­mains. Lit­tle by lit­tle the ac­tor comes to un­ders­tand what’s being as­ked of him. The au­dio and vi­sual tracks are so­me­times out of sync. “You’re being told that you’re being told a sto­ry. This em­pha­sizes the fai­ry-tale di­men­sion and this be­comes a ques­tion of be­lief.” Fu­ji­wa­ra of­ten says that he is his work, its em­bo­di­ment. In Studio Pie­tà (King-Kong Com­plex) (2013), for example, he plays the role of a mo­vie di­rec­tor to re­cons­ti­tute a lost pho­to of his mo­ther in the arms of a man at the beach, at a time when she was a dan­cer in a Bei­rut ca­ba­ret. He dis­cusses the pro­duc­tion of the image with an in­ter­lo­cu­tor who is none other than him­self. The dia­logue in­cludes re­flec­tions on ra­cism, sexual iden­ti­ty, exo­ti­cism and ter­ro­rism. Li­ke­wise, in the vi­deo The Mir­ror Stage (2012), re­coun­ting the young Si­mon Fu­ji­wa­ra’s dis­co­ve­ry of art, his cha­rac­ter is split bet­ween the adult artist and a child who is sup­po­sed to play the role of Si­mon age 11. The tel­ling of the sto­ry by se­ve­ral voices ex­plores the idea of a dif­frac­ted iden­ti­ty.


Among the images in Fu­ji­wa­ra’s work is that of the mu­seum, New Pom­pi­dou ob­vious­ly, and Mu­seum of In­cest (2008), a per­for­mance about a fic­tio­nal mu­seum that exa­mines hu­ma­ni­ty’s ero­tic ori­gins. “My work in­volves a stu­dy of mu­seums, of their abi­li­ty to make pro­ducts for mu­seums. The world would be bet­ter off wi­thout them but there’s no present wi­thout a past and so far no one has come up with a bet­ter idea.” The images are of­ten tin­ged with a dis­creet but sharp hu­mor. The sub­ject of ruins reoc­curs in the vi­deo Phal­lu­sies (2010), the sto­ry of the di­sap­pea­rance of a mys­te­rious stone frag­ment that was found in the Ara­bian de­sert and pro­vo­ked a pa­nic there be­cause of its phal­lic shape. In 2010, for Fro­zen Ci­ty at the Frieze Art Fair in Lon­don, Fu­ji­wa­ra made fake an­cient ruins. Fi­nal­ly, in a new ro­man­ti­cism vein, so­mew­hat like Hu­bert Ro­bert’s Vue ima­gi­naire de la ga­le­rie du Louvre en ruines (1796), New Pom­pi­dou shows the ruins of a mu­seum: “The buil­ding had to be clea­ned eve­ry day, and today it’s fal­ling apart. It’s a world af­ter life,” says Fu­ji­wa­ra. But even this me­lan­cho­ly is tin­ged with eroticism, as he em­pha­sizes. Du­ring the per­for­mance the mu­seum is pai­red with a “high­ly sen­sual” rab­bit pelt, as he puts it. The mu­seum is a bo­dy whose skin seems to have been tur­ned in­side out to ex­hi­bit the muscles, and the beam joint is one of the buil­ding’s or­gans brought to light.

Trans­la­tion, L-S Tor­goff

(1) Fran­ces­ca Boen­zi, ”Sexual architecture,” Mousse, no. 20.

« The Mir­ror Stage ». 2009. Vi­déo. 27’ 41” « The Boy Who Cried Wolf ». HAU1, Ber­lin 2011 (Court. Tate ; Ph. M. Lie­be­renz). Mixed me­dia, di­men­sions va­riable

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