The Immersed Life with Laure Prouvost
Winner of the 2013 Turner Prize, Laure Prouvost takes us by surprise. What exactly is this world? Confused and intrigued, the spectator tries to gain a foothold in dense video installations where fiction and reality, past and present, are sides of the same swing door and chaos but the lining of order. Or vice versa. Galerie Nathalie Obadia is holding the artist’s first French solo show in September this year.
Do you want some tea? is the verbal leitmotiv of the video installation Wantee (get it?) with which London-based French artist Laure Prouvost won the 2013 Turner Prize. The piece has now been remounted at Extra City in Antwerp, which has been completely reconfigured for the occasion.(1) The installation figures forth a rather tired and strange interior made up of potted plants, various objects including an old radio, a square of cinema seats and busted packets of potato chips (food is a feature of many Prouvost performances, improvised or otherwise). Because one of the four rows of seats faces the video projection, visitors must decide whether to focus their attention more on the screen or on the installation, even though it’s obvious that the two are inseparable. The sound track is indeed particularly pervasive, with the artist’s voice offering those constant cups of tea and telling all kinds of shaggy dog stories about her grandfather, purportedly a close friend of Kurt Schwitters, creator of that ur-installation/accumulation the Merzbau. Schwitters was also a possible influence on John Latham (d. 2006), the English conceptual artist for whom Prouvost once worked as an assistant. As for the grandmother, she seems to have spent her life serving tea in cups with post- constructivist decoration, coming and going in her room, and sometimes opening a trapdoor hidden under the carpet that opens onto a tunnel through which the couple hopes to escape to other continents, to a new life. (The camera eagerly follows.) Carried away by the whirl of sounds and images, we succumb to the charm of this weird fiction typical of Prouvost’s films.
“Where are we? In what world? What is its substance?” Such are the questions inevitably prompted by Prouvost’s work. In fact she even offers us the chance to reflect on such matters: another small space built inside the main projection chamber is almost like an individual screening room, physically uncomfortable but visually and acoustically welcoming. Like a kind of footnote, it compounds our confusion, marvelously illustrating the artist’s skill at leading us on. She excels at immersing us in her world, a place where we bump into clues that clunk and connect in intriguing fashion from one installation or video to another. Prouvost herself recognizes the non-sequitur logic of her work, its basis in contradiction: “My work is fairly organic,” she explains. “It is based in popular culture. For me, a film like Polpomotorino shot in Naples, is a kind of video poem. I take what I see, what appears on the surface. Similarly, as a ‘foreigner’ [ in London] I see things that locals no longer notice.”(2)
Shown when I heard her speak in Brussels, her latest video, How to Make Money Religiously, is typical of her work, notably in its use of sampling, its perfectly maste- red yet frenetic collaging of images and sounds, sometimes interlarded with written or printed quotations offering a different conceptual slant on the contents. This combination of images and language—she is very much an artist of the Instagram generation—is Prouvost’s hallmark. Seductive and captivating, disconcerting and disturbing, her scenarios, installations and environments explore the subtle but vertiginous gaps between fiction and reality. One exception to this rule is Swallow (2013), a film showing a kind of return to nature which has a slower rhythm, its aesthetic echoing genre paintings and Italian landscapes in an alternation of flights of birds and young women bathing in lakes and waterfalls. Once again, the artist leads us to other places, but with the utmost naturalness. The objects used by Prouvost in her installations belong in the same register: their anachronism dilutes the contemporariness of the films in the space-time of another age. What is behind the scenes is in the scenes, and vice versa, as in her big installation Farfromworlds (3) in which painted
Pantheo-Vortex qui s’ouvre en 2011, Texier s’est nourri d’une longue méditation sur la correspondance intime – presque amoureuse – du cosmique et du pictural. Il n’a eu de cesse, selon ses propres termes, d’« enlacer l’énergie universelle ». Sans esquive, sans recours ni béquilles, il s’est comme dépeuplé au profit de ses tableaux et de ses sculptures. Il porte la célébration au coeur, mais il ne saurait célébrer le cosmos sans se réjouir du chaos, sans se tenir à l’écoute de sa créativité intarissable, de son insondable esthétique – de son ivresse inconcevable. Comme les poètes des T’ang revêtaient de leur sceau leurs pierres de rêve ou de longévité, Richard Texier signe dans ses toiles chaosmiques des frissons d’espace-temps, des battues interstellaires. Il fait, défait et refait un univers en vibration constante. À l’instar de ces chercheurs américains qui, en mars 2014, ont observé pour la première fois les traces des « ondes gravitationnelles » émises dans la résonance du Big Bang, il cherche à faire entrer dans sa peinture la plus ancienne lumière du monde, celle qui recouvre toujours notre ciel de ses dernières lueurs. Que voit-on alors dans Chaosmos ? Un monde ordonné et désordonné qui toujours se dilate, un présent en devenir continu, un océan de possibles. Autant de métaphores tourbillonnantes de notre destin, à l’orée du sens et du non-sens. Zéno Bianu est l'auteur d'une oeuvre qui interroge la poésie, le théâtre, les arts plastiques et l'Orient, et qui est publiée notamment chez Gallimard et Fata Morgana.
« Chaosmos ». 2013. Peinture et verre sur toile. 185 x 185 cm.