Charlotte Moth — Villa Surprise
Past: September 13 → November 3, 2012
Since 2003, Charlotte Moth has been called a photographer, this label should be used tentatively. Of course photography is at the core of this composite, complex and multi-layered work. The collection of images entitled Travelogue, which the artist has been developing for years, forms a whole that continues to grow, without any order or hierarchy. Moth’s camera investigates exemplary Modernist architectural projects, such as Robert Mallet-Stevens’s realizations, as well as more generic buildings. She also spends time studying archives before visiting particular sites. For example, she immersed herself in Raoul Hausmann’s writings in Rochechouart and then went to Ibiza, to have a closer look at the cubic structures of ancient houses that the Dada artist had noticed in the 30’s and related to the Modernist movement, at a time when the island remained a land forgotten by the exterior world and by progress.
The exhibition Villa Surprise gathers different works made from similar principles of connections and juxtapositions. They pursue a discussion about the complex relations in-between photography and sculpture. The works in the exhibition contribute to tighten those bonds and to define the parts played by the different media that the artist uses, as film has become more and more present in the last few years.
In Study for a 16mm film, Moth’s camera scrutinizes tables of coloured surfaces and cloth, onto which different objects, parts of the artist’s personal collection, are presented. The film almost reveals the activity of a sculptress, when Moth patiently deals with the objects to shape new visibilities in space. Scales constantly merge and Moth’s sculpture can often be seen as an object that takes the shape of a model, capable of gathering an energy that we might call living.
It’s also the case in In Unexpected Places, in Unexpected Lights and Colours (a Sculpture Made to be Filmed), a film produced in Marfa, Texas during the Fieldwork residency, featuring a light-sculpture made by the artist and installed not far from Donald Judd’s famous “boxes”. Through the animated reflection of a low-fi technical sharpness, this “machine”, conceived after Raoul Hausmann’s principles, unveils a relation to its environment that is not only that of a motif to its background. Everything can move, come closer or leave the image.
Willa Niespodzianka stages the photograph of a Modernist house taken in Otwock, Poland, and installed on-site to be photographed again, in front of the actual building. Unpredictably, the villa was destroyed in the mean time and the project was therefore modified, as it became a tribute to a type of architecture bound to disappear. If the motif of the disappearance seems to be recurrent in the exhibition, while the photo of the big poster of the Polish house stands near an empty plinth photographed in the Buttes-Chaumont park, there is no feeling of vacuity involved. On the contrary, the idea is to make these architectures, their internal and symbolic relationships, more permanent and objective.
Charlotte Moth’s work betrays a great aptitude to opening up, and a fascination for repeating and differentiating surfaces. In the recent years, the artist has developed a principle which cancels the fundamental opposition between photography and sculpture, and preferred to create possible bridges between these media, just like Brancusi had imagined them, when he admitted the necessity to photograph volumes, to highlight a sculpted surface. Moth considers the visual effects of volume through the photographic act, to depict paradoxical situations. Like Brancusi, she interlocks operations of sculpture and photography. But unlike him, the combination of volumes appears through photography and small objects or immaterial things, such as the use of colour, screened by light through transparent surfaces.
Her capacity to translate into one movement a conceptual tradition, a fundamental question on art’s means, and a very precise vision of the goals that she assigns to herself, is what we admire in Charlotte Moth. What’s essential to her approach is an inexhaustible thirst to make and render things visible. She is constantly asking us what we want from art. And our answer always seems to be the same: a responsible endoctic, a possibility to remodel an aesthetic tradition on a personal and topical mode, without a hint of nostalgia or reactionary movement. An artistic position that gives us the means to read inside ourselves.