Art Press - - SALON DU DESSIN -

Gaëlle Hip­po­lyte and Li­na Hent­gen tea­med up to form Hip­po­lyte Hent­gen in 2008 ba­sed on their com­mon en­thu­siasm for dra­wing. Does the four-han­ded ma­king of art­works mean the death of the au­thor? Here is a prac­tice whose ma­ny sub­ter­fuges skill­ful­ly work around this di­lem­ma. .

The duo for­med by Gaëlle Hip­po­lyte and Li­na Hent­gen has de­ve­lo­ped an ap­proach that al­lows them to pe­ne­trate and ap­pro­priate a va­rie­ty of com­ple­men­ta­ry fields of creation with a high de­gree of in­ter­dis­ci­pli­na­ry po­ro­si­ty: silent per­for­mances, sculp­tures, installations, en­vi­ron­ments and col­la­bo­ra­tions with the com­po­ser Pier­reYves Ma­cé. Yet dra­wing, broad­ly de­fi­ned, is at the core of the great ma­jo­ri­ty of these prac­tices and consti­tutes the aes­the­tic keys­tone of this duo’s work. That came about na­tu­ral­ly from the start, conso­li­da­ting the col­la­bo­ra­tive dy­na­mic that gra­dual­ly de­ve­lo­ped. This bon­ding ba­sed on dra­wing led to ma­ny ex­pe­ri­ments. Du­ring their ini­tial pe­riod, which re­tros­pec­ti­ve­ly seems to have been ve­ry sti­mu­la­ting, dra­wing was a flexible way to car­ry out a dia­logue that be­came more ro­bust as it went along. Th­rough trial and er­ror, dead ends, doubts, sa­cri­fices, exal­ta­tions, lear­ning, un­lear­ning, adap­ta­tions and (con)fu­sions, they built the scaf­fol­ding for an ap­proach whose aim was to pro­duce a single personality by means of a double de­per­so­na­li­za­tion. Opening up to the other in this kind of contra­dic­to­ry pro­cess, of course, im­plies a loss. What one gains from this ex­change is pro­por­tio­nal to the loss en­tai­led by the conta­mi­na­tion of the other, an al­ter ego who, in a re­ci­pro­cal mo­ve­ment, is Page de gauche / page left: « Les Fonds ». 2012 Acry­lique et encre sur bois. 220 x 200 cm (Tous les vi­suels, court. Se­miose ga­le­rie, Pa­ris Ph. A. Mole). “Back­grounds.” Acyr­lic, ink on wood Ci-des­sous / be­low: « Do­cu­ments 1 ». 2013 En­semble de 32 col­lages et des­sins sur do­cu­ments 194 x 183 cm. Col­lages and dra­wings on do­cu­ments

au­tho­ri­zed to in­fringe upon one’s most in­ti­mate spaces of ins­crip­tion. En­croach upon, but al­so repeat, dis­tort, per­fect and al­ter, with construction in­evi­ta­bly a sy­no­nym for des­truc­tion.


Hip­po­lyte Hent­gen—and here we must note the de­gree of sym­bo­lic trans­sexua­li­za­tion im­plied in this (de)construction of iden­ti­ty— is a fic­tion, and “dou­bly fic­ti­tious” at that. Gaëlle and Li­na gra­dual­ly de­ve­lo­ped it, buil­ding on the ba­sis of a sha­red culture that to some de­gree mar­ked each of them be­fore they star­ted wor­king to­ge­ther. “Be­fore we met,” Gaëlle ex­plains, “we had a sort of com­mon re­per­toire roo­ted in mo­der­nist pain­ting, the pos­ter art of the 1920s and 30s, and frin­gy mu­sic. Ano­ther com­mon point in our res­pec­tive work was that we were both ve­ry ci­ta­tio­nal and ten­ded to draw on the same ele­ments in ma­king pieces where the sub­ject seems unim­por­tant, such as ano­ny­mous pho­tos, press clip­pings and ama­teur hand­made items, where the clear­ly re­co­gni­zable de­tails were trea­ted with the same sys­te­ma­tic neu­tra­li­ty, the same in­ex­pres­sive in­dif­fe­rence. We were both du­bious about the role of the au­thor in the crea­tive pro­cess and the pos­si­bi­li­ty of being able to say so­me­thing new and im­por­tant, or being able to convey emo­tion, af­ter a cen­tu­ry of end­less­ly re­pro­du­ced images.” Among the ar­tists with whom they feel some af­fi­ni­ty are, in no par­ti­cu­lar or­der, Phi­lip Gus­ton, George Her­ri­man, Ri­chard Art­sch­wa­ger, Gior­gio De Chi­ri­co, Paul Thek, Jim Shaw, Matt Mul­li­can, Mike Kel­ley, Öy­vind Fahl­ström and Re­né Da­niëls. “We tend to be in­ter­es­ted in ar­tists who are good at fin­ding ma­ny ways to blur dis­tinc­tions, ar­tists for whom traces, ci­ta­tions, ca­ri­ca­ture and pas­tiche com­prise a pe­ri­me­ter of ac­tions to be de­co­ded, thus ex­ci­ting the in­tel­li­gence and of­fe­ring va­rious non-au­tho­ri­ta­rian de­grees of vi­sion and com­pre­hen­sion.”


In some cases their dra­wings are “ca­re­ful­ly done” and “ela­bo­rate,” in others they are dri­ven by an urgency that de­mands a few ra­pid­ly sket­ched lines. In confor­mi­ty with this duo’s hos­ti­li­ty to hie­rar­chy, they do not consi­der the one ca­te­go­ry su­pe­rior to the other. Dra­wings emerge from a state of mind, a mood, the context they are made in and their re­fe­ren­tial sources. When the for­mat is pro­pi­tious, Gaëlle and Li­na work on the same piece si­mul­ta­neous­ly. Other­wise they “ex­change roles” with the ob­jec­tive of in­ter­ro­ga­ting, if not chal­len­ging, the sta­tus of the au­thor in the her­me­ti­cal­ly clo­sed sense of the term. Mul­tiple au­thor­ship ne­ces­sa­ri­ly means lit­tle or no­thing in Hip­po­lyte Hent­gen’s pro­duc­tion, es­pe­cial­ly since they ne­ver reveal who did what and where, de­li­be­ra­te­ly concea­ling the pro­cesses, pro­to­cols, stages and ti­me­frames th­rough which their dra­wings are made. In this their work goes against the in­sis­tence on art­works whose uni­que­ness is im­me­dia­te­ly ap­pa­rent that we have in­he­ri­ted from the mo­der­nist tra­di­tion and its mi­ni­ma­list ex­ten­sion. This sta­tus is even fur­ther sus­pen­ded in­so­far as Gaëlle and Li­na re­gu­lar­ly adhere to ap­pro­pria­tio­nist stra­te­gies th­rough which Hip­po­lyte Hent­gen ne­go­tiates se­cond-hand sources for their un­pre­ce­den­ted aims, along with re­cur­rent re­fe­rences and mo­dels. They re­gu­lar­ly speak of images as do­cu­ments, “whe­ther ar­chi­val ma­te­rial, a frag­ment or a ci­ta­tion.” In­va­ria­bly these images are trans­la­tions of an ex­ter­nal rea­li­ty, contra­ry to the concep­tion of an “ori­gi­nal” dra­wing sup­po­sed­ly concei­ved ex ni

hi­lo. Con­se­quent­ly, the ex­changes, rites and games the two per­form are jux­ta­po­sed to ano­ther field of ten­sions, bet­ween an “ori­gi­nal” dra­wing and the image as do­cu­ment. With its re­mi­nis­cences of the in­dus­trial past, fa­mi­liar mo­tifs, ico­no­gra­phic constants and tips of the hat to in­fluen­tial fi­gures, Hip­po­lyte Hent­gen’s world re­flects an im­pres­sive he­te­ro­ge­nei­ty and open­ness on both the ico­no­gra­phic and sty­lis­tic le­vels. Yet their work is mar­ked by a cer­tain au­thor­ship, no mat­ter how fic­tio­nal it may be. Pa­ra­doxi­cal­ly, we can see it in the re­cur­rence and in­cor­po­ra­tion of exo­ge­nous ef­fects and leit­mo­tifs. That is pre­ci­se­ly what makes their work so in­ter­es­ting. In see­king, th­rough de­per­so­na­li­za­tion, to bu­ry the prac­tice of ma­king ori­gi­nal dra­wings in a no-man’s land whose bor­ders can­not be de­fi­ned, Hip­po­lyte Hent­gen ne­ver­the­less suc­ceed in in­ves­ting their work with an au­thor­ship that af­firms its iden­ti­ty by means of its contact with other reap­pro­pria­ted and re­vi­ta­li­zed ter­ri­to­ries. It is as if this af­fir­ma­tion, like the dia­logue bet­ween two people ta­ken up in or­der to pro­duce a third, fic­tio­nal other, could on­ly be come about th­rough the in­ter­ven­tion of other rea­li­ties.

Trans­la­tion, L-S Tor­goff Erik Ve­rha­gen teaches con­tem­po­ra­ry art his­to­ry at the Uni­ver­si­té de Va­len­ciennes. Hip­po­lyte Hent­gen Gaëlle Hip­po­lyte et Li­na Hent­gen Nées en/ born 1977 et 1980. Vivent à / live in Pa­ris Ex­po­si­tions ré­centes / Recent shows: 2013 Mam­co, Ge­nève; Cha­pelle du Ge­nê­teil 40mcubes, Rennes 2014 et 2015 Ga­le­rie Sé­miose, Pa­ris

Erik Ve­rha­gen en­seigne l’his­toire de l’art contem­po­rain à l’uni­ver­si­té de Va­len­ciennes.

« Les En­fants de Sep­tembre (Tri­bute to Mi­chael Gra­ter) ». 2012. Gra­phite sur pa­pier. (Coll. pri­vée et MAC­VAL). Vue de l’ex­po­si­tion « Chambre grise, chambre rose, Se­miose ga­le­rie ; (Ph. A. Mole). “Chil­dren of Sep­tem­ber.” Gra­phite/pa­per

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