Révolte Logique, part II — Slave to Art
Révolte Logique, part II
Slave to Art
Past: November 21, 2013 → January 18, 2014
At one point during our conversation, he had said jokingly, “Ah, but I have power over you?” Without thinking, I had answered, “No, you don’t, because I would never show you my work.”
Adrian Piper, Pontus Hulten’s Slave to Art, 1982.
“So, we’ve travelled a long way since the first part of Révolte Logique, as we were trying to give Renée Levi and Rosalind Nashahibi’s dialog a conceptual extension, a new space that we could investigate, in order to consider that project as a first episode. What determines the narration here will have to be found somewhere else than in the narration itself: rather in the balance of power between people, in the incarnation of the word, in the passionate quest of neatly organized objects, in the vocation to confusion and discontinuity. The trails we follow are now multiple, we are surrounded by mystery. Only now do we realize, when the time has come to write about it, that the time of the exhibition is almost that of a performance. Something is conceived at once, through the disordered movements of passion, something that comes close to things of the mind, but continues to engage in things of the body. To occupy and to be occupied are the same.
Just to make sure that I would understand all the details of this story of desire, I’ve read several times a text from 1982 in which American artist Adrian Piper was mentioning the former director of Musée d’Art Moderne, Pontus Hulten. This text is not particularly long, nor does it contain many twists and turns, but the sheer density of what she analyzes allows for a second reading. I remember that I was smiling when reading those lines, partly out of admiration towards such an honest and sharp position, and partly because I was wondering: how does she get along so well with desire, in a situation where she not without a certain humour describes herself as a pipsqueak black woman artist facing an august white male museum director? What is at stake in this text is beyond the framework of an encounter where desire finds its place; where fantasy is released, only to mingle with the art world’s usual power relations. Piper’s speech is sustained by its own strength and carried out of the surrounding languages, as it affirms its right to exist despite its intimate character. She says to the man facing her: I’m not imprisoned by this desire between us, I will use it to create a situation, a work, a utopia which prevents the coming of solitude, something that is always brought about by the mechanisms of power.
We were concerned, in the prologue of Révolte Logique, with the working body, a body that was spatially constrained and never abandoned its goal to reach further territories, defending the necessity and the grace of a gesture that is deprived of any utility. A masculine modernity to be resolutely reconsidered and questioned.
In the shade of Brasilian author Clarice Lispector, perhaps this second part aims to evoke another mode of writing, and attempts anew to shift and reject the normative oppositions of Western society : poetry and prose, subject and object, body and spirit, female body and male body, individual body and body of the world. In Lispector’s collection of short stories, family situations and power struggles are examinedor rather almost dissectedin order to unveil disgusting and absurd details. From these daily moments, some clues seem to perspire, little by little, some evidences of an anxiety and of a physical repulsion that is almost irrepressible. The women are resistingsometimes against their own wishesthe narrowly-defined roles imposed upon them; their bodies oppose and firmly rebel.
She was about to smile. So that she might dispel the anxious expectancy on his face, which always came mixed with the childish victory of having arrived in time to find his boring, good-hearted and diligent wife. She was about to smile so that once more he might know that there would no longer be any danger in his arriving too late. She was about to smile in order to teach him gently to confide in her. It had been useless to advise them never to touch on the subjet: they did not speak about it but they had created a language of facial expressions whereby fear and confidence were communicated, and questions and answers were silently telegraphed. She was about to smile. She was taking her time but meant to smile. Calmly and sweetly she said: — It came back, Armando. It came back."
— Clarice Lispector, “Imitation of the Rose”, in Family Ties, 1960.
The body allows to create an emancipated discourse, rejecting the necessity to set an irrevocable or strict gaze. In constant movement, this body establishes its position in regards to the surrounding objects, and in relation to a social context that is increasingly wider and more intangible.
When evoking a body that is freed from traditional oppositions, the character of Pier Paolo Pasolini comes immediately to mind. His figure was underlying Rosalind Nashashibi’s film, Carlo’s Vision which we were showing in June, and we had used it as a common thread in the text that we had written, quoting his poem Chi è io (1966). In Teorema (1968), the body of a guest in a bourgeois family inoculates the possibility of a radical inversion of values. The title of one of the chapters in the novel — the fact of designating oneself as an instrument of scandal — could then help us reconsider our bodies of spectators as means for action. We can wonder if the public of contemporary art, used to looking into meaning rather than sensations, may well have forgotten their bodies, as they dissolved into an abyssal white cube. Brian O’Doherty described this negation of the body as a truly morbid tendency: one has to have died already to be there. Indeed the presence of that odd piece of furniture, your own body, seems superfluous, an intrusion. Today, a renewed criticism towards the white cube could well go through the rehabilitation of a Pasolinian body in the exhibition, whether it is produced by the artworks or embodied by the beholder. Although we can’t claim to reach this goal, we hope that the threads we are weaving, from one exhibition to the next, in a space that never tries to appear neutral, help us keep a constant dialog between body and mind.
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