Emma Dusong — La voix libre


Installation, performance, photography, sound - music...

Emma Dusong
La voix libre

Past: January 26 → February 23, 2019

Combining works in an exhibition requires having la voie libre (the way clear), which is to say having overcome constraints, just as to be able to produce independent discourse requires having la voix libre (a free voice). By choosing this expression in the form of a portmanteau word by way of a title, Emma Dusong clearly demonstrates sensitive poetics — which infuse her entire œuvre — but also manifests a liberating and almost libertarian statement. This title-slogan could be perceived as the determination to negate rules or, at least, to free oneself from them. It is possible to trace many filters of interpretation on an artistic production, and it would seem pertinent to examine Emma Dusong’s through this particular prism, which at first glance could appear distant.

17 img 8496 et o 01 emma dusong 1 medium
Emma Dusong, Et O, 2017 Oeuvre sonore in situ à déclenchement, paroles, voix et composition Emma Dusong. Collection Maison Bernard, Courtesy Galerie Les filles du calvaire

Classe, the exhibition’s central work in terms of its aura and scale in space, plays with several levels, including that of authority. A very gentle song-mantra escape from the installation, composed of children’s school desks, repeating the following loop in an insistent way “when I think, I’ve more questions than answers.” The articulated desk lids rise and fall with a bang, abruptly interrupting the voice’s existential statement. During performances, the artist activates the work by singing, and tests the limits of its reflexes by putting her hands beneath the lid at the risk of her fingers being caught. Dusong is duty bound to be docile and to relegate her introspection to a less oppressive afterwards. Authority, here in the shape of the shutting lid, imposes obedience. It can, as it sees fit, implement mechanisms of repression and decree norms. The artist abides by an opinion ultimately barely studied in current creative work: knowledge and the desire for knowledge may be dangerous for dominant thought. They encourage emancipation and create potential opposition forces. Although the serenity emanating from the installation paradoxically contrasts with the message it sends out, Classe finally turns out to be hugely optimistic; the paths of freedom move through the pleasure of learning and of living.


The liberation of the individual and of society are also shared. In Dusong’s work, this takes the form of a soundscape. For L’observatoire, the artist declaims a series of personal questions that she has tirelessly gathered in notebooks resembling personal diaries. An existential and humorous enumeration results, reflecting disparate thoughts. Listeners are projected into an introspection not their own but which they may appropriate in multiple ways, for example, by comparing it to their own experiences and moods. Although Emma Dusong openly shares her quotidian interrogations, only a small part is nevertheless revealed to the public. The rest sleeps in notebooks, sealed at a page defined by the artist. These objects-books are full of paradoxes: they hide and show at the same time. The sound piece proceeds in the same way; the main part remains intelligible, questions are read in a distinct and simple tone, however the introduction intersects recordings of the artist’s voice in a joyful disorder, a kind of buzzing of language. This introduction seems to recall the story of the Tower of Babel, a place where a certain confusion reigned, where languages intertwined. Moreover, the tower’s construction, seen as a challenge to the divine, illustrated the supposed dangers of research and knowledge, following the fashion, in fine, of Classe. The themes tackled sometimes turn out to be grave and serious, nevertheless this catalogue of reflections produces a warm and light-hearted discourse. In fact, the artist’s studies, which may wrongfully appear solemn, are filled with a cheering optimism. The video Et O acts as an echo of the work on language developed for L’observatoire. In a timeless context, Emma Dusong sings in an enigmatic and invigorating language. In the idyllic setting of the Maison Bernard imagined by Antti Lovag, an organic architecture specialist, the composition gains in meaning as the artist moves around in the property. The song was specially composed for the site and is broadcast in situ for visitors each day at 5 pm. Here Dusong endeavours to suggest the comfort Lovag’s architectural environment evokes for her; the house with all its curves, and two large wings similar to arms, is personified. The residence, which opens out to the Mediterranean Sea, is welcoming like a mother. Dusong explains the title Et O as a programme: “Et to be together, O for the forms of the house, those of the song, of the inhalation or exhalation of a breath and for water.” This video piece from 2018 leads to more recent investigations into the notions of trust and intimacy as well as new thoughts about the relations between space and artwork.

The artist developed new studies for the exhibition at the Galerie Les filles du calvaire. She envisages artworks, venue and exhibition as a whole. She stages a cycle, an accelerated simulacre of a day, which fills artworks with temporal life and transforms the gallery into a cocoon. When L’observatoire is active, Classe remains silent and vice-versa. Moreover, the alternating luminous ambience, passing from day to night, reinforces the impression of a day within a day. Emma Dusong ventures into more complex experimentations than exhibition layout alone and is not content to limit herself merely to structuring space. Visitors find themselves caught up in a genuine choreography of works. The access to the exhibition is symptomatic of this: visitors must walk through a projection, erasing the image which then becomes a ghost. In this way we understand that the parallel and intimate world of Emma Dusong is built in evanescence.

Loïc Le Gall
  • Opening Saturday, January 26, 2019 3 PM → 8 PM
03 Le Marais Zoom in 03 Le Marais Zoom out

17, rue des Filles-du-calvaire

75003 Paris

T. 01 42 74 47 05 — F. 01 42 74 47 06


Filles du Calvaire

Opening hours

Tuesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 6:30 PM
Please note that the gallery will observe its usual hours from May 11 to May 16, then from May 18 it will open Thursday — Saturday 11 AM to 6:30 PM

The artist

  • Emma Dusong