The Im­mer­sed Life with Laure Prou­vost

Art Press - - TEA TIME -

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.

Paint and glass on can­vas

« Chaos­mos ». 2013. Pein­ture et verre sur toile. 185 x 185 cm.

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