Gilles Saussier, Sinea
Gilles Saussier, Sinea
Past: October 27, 2012 → January 5, 2013
In this exhibition, Gilles Saussier displays different series comprising a project in progress, centered on an exploration of Tirgu Jiu in the foothills of the Carpathians, the native area of Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), and the site of his only monumental ensemble, including the 29.33 m Endless Column, in iron, which was inaugurated on 27 October 1938. The Romanian word “sine” means “self” and combines the sense of both an “overt self” and a “covert self” which Brancusi called “lady self”, an “essence subject to becoming” 1.
With Sinea, Saussier is pursuing a cross-cutting investigation of contemporary Romanian history and that of modern sculpture, from Brancusi to minimalism. As in Studio Shakhari bazar, 2006, or Le Tableau de chasse, 2010, he starts out with real (but buried) facts, and fieldwork, in particular his discovery of a clone of the Endless Column, produced in 2001 by the company that took over the factory in the industrial and mining town of Petrosani where the original piece was made in 19372, along with previous series of images that he used in his historical reconstruction, and his creation of new monuments in the manner of ancient “spolia”.
This new “documentary spolia” constitutes a meditation on Art and Revolution, the culture of materials (“faktura”) that was dear to the Constructivists, and the erosion of working-class and peasant history. Saussier also seeks to reintroduce a certain mobility and porosity to the way Brancusi’s work is perceived, detaching it from the context of his Parisian studio in Impasse Ronsin and connecting it to a large, ramified area of Romania which has not been staked out by art history, but which embodies an inventory of the elementary sculptural forms — natural or industrial — that are to be found between Petrosani and Tirgu Jiu.
The Jiu river, which runs between these two towns, through a high ravine with endless meanders, is the central axis of Brancusi’s hinterland. A number of entities stand out:
• the world of metal, and Petrosani’s mechanical workshops, where, in 1937, the Endless Column was produced, and in 2001 its clone;
• the world of coal, in the neighboring town of Petrila, whose mine goes down almost a kilometer into the earth as a sort of mirror image of the Endless Column;
• the world of river stones in the Jiu valley, whose spanning by the railway in 1948 was the great patriotic project of communist Romania3;
• the world of wood and vernacular architecture in the countryside close to Brancusi’s home village, where a house is now dedicated to his memory.
Gilles Saussier transforms his journey through each of these entities into a visit to the studio of a sculptor whose activity is similar to that of the Jiu itself, rolling flotsam and stones through the mountains. But the entities are also monads from which to observe the extrapolations of the Romanian revolution: the 1991 Mineriada, when the Jiu miners marched on Bucharest to attack the forces of democracy and youth; massive deindustrialization and mine closures; the decline of the mythical figures of popular culture and the aristocracy of the working class (miners, railway workers, etc.).
Given the artificial separation of the world into reality and what goes beyond it, namely fiction, Saussier proposes the secret, stubborn presence of something short of reality, which the eye unveils and liberates through a direct incising of documentary material: Sinea, the quiddity of things.
1 See Martine Braun-Stanesco, Emergences-effacements: Errances du regard sur les pierres, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2006.
2 See “Atelier Petrosani”, in Etudes photographiques, No. 28, novembre 2011.
3 Like the USSR’s Volga canal.