Within an eclectic body of work, one can underline Mark Geffriaud’s interest for monuments dedicated to non events. Questions of disappearance and emptiness appear regularly in his work, which plays repeatedly with key elements such as books or light. Focusing on images and forms’ apparition (circulation) and disappearance (oblivion), Mark Geffriaud’s works draw a fragmented archaeology in which misunderstanding as a cognitive process plays a great part.
Free associations, formal comparisons and false fictions allow the artist to share a kind of subtle and shifted perception of the world. From missing data in the different forms of the series Renseignements Généraux (2006-2008) — named after the French secret service, literally meaning “global information”, that the artist has developed around an archival process of images from various sources organized on formal and often loose associations meant to back up an absent text dedicated to a book which is never intended to be finished or published — to the realization of a (non-)monument dedicated to the memory of a disappeared city (Pride, 2007) or to the materialization of an imaginary road in the US desert (Milky Ways, 2007), Mark Geffriaud’s works suggest an absence and tends to create a fragmentary universe in which the viewer is invited to project his own representations and personal narratives. Roche, 2008, consists for instance on a slide projection of blue, red and orange monochromes onto a copy of the polyphonic novel Compact by Maurice Roche, in which each voice is written in a different colour, precisely erasing or intensifying some parts of the book.
However, if the use of books or pages torn from books is recurrent in his practice, this is not so much to highlight specific references but rather to question the physical qualities that books as objects and sources of knowledge and transmission represent. Indeed, in the series Mires, 2008, pages of books from various origins are framed between transparent plates of Plexiglas allowing the viewer to look at the recto and at the verso of each page in the same time. A single glimpse thus not only allows for example to discover Witold Gombrowicz with his dog on one side or playing chess on the other but also to look at Gombrowicz playing chess with his dog due to the transparency of the paper. This is also the case in the series Herbarium in which the light of slide projectors (moving according to the slide shows) goes through the holes in the wall behind framed book pages revealing different parts of them on the other side.
Creating visual and semantic shortcuts, these works suggest that accidents and arbitrary decisions can be productive and create knowledge. This switch from arbitrary gestures to scientific and rational decisions is particularly obvious in the pieces Greetings from an easy world, 2007 in which a diagram thoroughly conceived by an origamist allows the reproduction of the same paper ball crushed by the artist or in Alpabeth, 2007, a wallpaper in which the letters of all the alphabets in use on earth today are mixed up together and reclassified according to their shape, designing in this way an evolving wallpaper pattern.
The installation Polka Dot exhibited in the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, in 2008 is in this sense also quite representative of Geffriaud’s artistic practice. Projected from a slide projector animated by a circular movement, the first photographic image ever taken of the sun briefly lights various posters (pages from magazines, photographs, etc) hung at different heights on the walls of an almost totally dark room. At the end of each rotation, the light remains for a while during which it is reflected by a mirror onto the centre pages of a book standing upright on a shelf. Tiny holes in the pages let the light go through the other side, engaging the photos in a back to back conversation. One can only slowly discover each image that is part of the installation and in a second time try to connect them to build up a possible and ever to be sought and repeated meaning or narrative. A low-tech video installation — a fixed image animates other fixed images — or a book in the scale of a room, Polka Dot questions the way we look at things with notions of theatricality, (deceived) entertainment and short-term memory.
The light piece Present Perfect, 2007, is remarkable in that sense. By intervening on the lighting of the exhibition space to illuminate empty white walls, Mark Geffriaud suggests the location of works hung in the past and their current absence but also points out the possible location of the works to come. He creates this way a mental picture between remembrance and projection which, through an invisible electronic device, flickers almost imperceptibly during the blink of an eye. Repeated every 20 or 50 seconds, this disturbance of vision is based on the pace of the putamen, a central part of the brain linked to temporary memory and by extension to our perception of immediate present. Endlessly reiterated, this interruption of the luminous flux appears as the sign of a perfect loop of the present time or of the awareness that we have of it. Present Perfect or the allegory of our times.
Installation, performance, sculpture, mixed media