Matthieu Clainchard & Nicolas Milhé — Énorme changement de dernière minute


Installation, sculpture, mixed media

Matthieu Clainchard & Nicolas Milhé
Énorme changement de dernière minute

Past: April 25 → June 15, 2013

No one would ever think about the word “fiance” when confronted to the enclosed, brownish monolith Mathieu Clainchard has built out of anti-squat cladding plates. No one would ever think about “fiance” either when wandering around Clainchard’s “bruit-vert” diffuser so as to catch a glimpse of the strange reality noise it produces. Similarly, no one would ever “engage” into trusting any of the six Presidents Nicolas Milhé has called back from the 5th French Republic and whose pictures are hanging on the walls. As they stare into the viewer’s eyes the six of them all seem to whisper “fiance”, “fiance”, “fiance”. The posters representing them, all covered up with multiple coats of shellac, a process known as the “french polishing”, look like fossilized remnants from previous electoral campaigns. They come along with an association of various paintings displaying different shades of green and blue, which echo the more or less positive outcomes of their presidential terms. When facing Jacques Chirac and the blue monochrome whose colour slightly turns into brown, one cannot but wonder what to feel. Could it be trust? Certainly not.

So what is it then? Where does that “fiance” word come from? While the artists were finalizing their art piece, I indulged in reading a bit of poetry. I proceeded to read Verlaine’s Art Poétique (1874), vaguely remembering the ‘Nuance’ it featured, and a line caught my eye: “Oh ! la nuance seule fiance” ! “La nuance, seule fiance”, there it was, there was my title at last. At that very moment, I did not yet know that I had read the line too fast and had misunderstood it. “Nuance brings” had sounded like “droppings” (“fiance” as “fiente”). I must confess by then I still dwelled in the overall brownish atmosphere of the exhibition, quite a prominent colour I might say, although tainted by some red and blue tinges here and there. But the epiphany was to vanish soon. I quickly discovered the rest of the line. “Oh ! la nuance seule fiance le rêve au rêve et la flûte au cor !” Of course, “nuance fiance”, nuance brings together, only Nuance can bring about engagement. Now my article was about to bear the name of an uncertain marriage promise. What a shame. How could I persist fooling myself? That was the word “fiance”’s fault. It existed — in Ancient French — and could be independent from any allusion to the verb “fiancer”. But at the same time, it had a connection to it, and as remote and uncommon as it was, it nonetheless disclosed the very meaning I expected it to have. It referred to faithfulness, it suggested absolute trust, it looked like a pledge of allegiance, an oath to fidelity. But the line I had awkwardly shortened somehow still shed light on the exhibition. By associating unrestrained confidence with the idea of a nuance as a form of alteration or corruption, whether of a colour or of a political party, it embodied the whole paradox of the art pieces. The same paradox we, people, seem to acknowledge as we are willing to embrace the power of language even when spoken out by our contemporary politicians in the most perverted or “nuanced” way. Still, it pleased me to consider the “fiance” word in its ability to evoke the dip-shit civil ceremony we know as “fiançailles” (engagement ceremony) which, to me, always consisted of eventually choosing the colour of some depressing garden furniture. Anyway, by reading that line the way I intended to, I wanted to question the following postulate: should nuance be trusted? In any case, I decided to choose another title for my article, to avoid any further confusion.

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute is a collection of short stories by American writer and activist Grace Paley (1922-2007), and the title of one short story in particular. In theory, it does not have much to do with our subject, except for its political commitment. To sum up the plot, it is about a woman whose life completely changes after she is erotically aroused by the contemplation of the neck of a taxi driver. The author says about it: “Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life.” That is particularly interesting regarding the self-contradictory nature of the whole exhibition. At first sight indeed, all the works seem enclosed, clogged, impassive and hermetical but they are also able to represent, to some extent, a way out of themselves, a possibility of overcoming their physical and practical limits through self-annihilation and self-cancellation. Antimatière, avenue Thiers, Matthieu Clainchard’s self-contained block of anti-squat cladding plates, is a construction which, despite its shape and colour, is deprived of the original repulsive function of its material. It can only repel nothingness into infinity and the whole point of it precisely lies in this reversed capacity. Clainchard’s Bruit vert, less imposing in its dimensions but as pervasive as Antimatière, deals with the same issue. Submitted to a system of identical sound frequencies meeting each other, Bruit vert synthesizes the noise of reality and pushes it out back into reality, making it disappear. What’s going on in this huge inverted repoussoir? What does the diffusion of reality into reality achieve? What do our presidential candidates hope for, a promise of election through universal suffrage and the benefit from a democratic process which nonetheless confers them an almost omnipotent power? Does it consist in turning up the volume of reality? Shall we expect a sign from…

“Hello? Yes? Nicolas (…) Oh alright, ok (…) so that’s what we set our minds on? (…) Alright, but tell me, what is it going to look like in the end, because I’ve almost finished the text you know? (…) You’re going to stick a gold patch on their foreheads, is that it? (…) No? Not a patch? (…) Ah sorry, a full circle gilded in fine gold, ok (…) Gold, the icon, the pineal gland, the third eye (…) you toy their face… wait, what is “toying”? (…) Oh got it, “scribbling over a graffiti to condemn it and make it obsolete” (…) it’s going to be fine, I was just about to go for it (…) Alright deal, see you then (…) I will, I’ll let you know, talk soon!”

I was about to say: shall we expect a nuance? Nicolas Milhé answered my question when he announced he slightly changed the direction of his work. That was it, a nuance could also be anchored in an esoteric mark on a forehead, in the infinite wisdom of knowing oneself; it could amount to a childish joke, the mark of a bullet hole exactly where the soul supposedly dwells. For Clainchard, nuance can be found in reality escaping its own sound. In any case, all these nuances and variations do offer a way out, a chance for alternative, a reversal of situations, and are the ones to broaden horizons. For as Grace Paley said, “Everyone — and even more so, a work of art, a text, an exhibition —  real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life.”

Laetitia Paviani — Translated by Chloé Labaye
  • Opening Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 5 PM
Samy Abraham Gallery Gallery
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75020 Paris

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Opening hours

Wednesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 7 PM
Other times by appointment

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The artists