Varda Caivano, Marie Cool Fabio Balducci — Is resistance Useless ?


Film, installation, painting

Varda Caivano, Marie Cool Fabio Balducci
Is resistance Useless ?

Past: February 2 → March 31, 2012

Capture d cran 2012 02 28 19.28.33 grid Is Resistance Useless ? à la galerie Marcelle Alix La mise en regard des œuvres de Varda Caivano avec les œuvres de Marie Cool et Fabio Balducci audacieusement orchestrée par l’expos... 2 - Bien Critique

The reader will have to negotiate with a non-exhaustive series of figures that we use as projection spaces when approaching the works of Marie Cool Fabio Balducci and Varda Caivano. The beautiful opacity of their respective work has made us wish to describe nuances. In this apparent discontinuity, our thoughts?and those of authors dear to us — meet to express the pleasure we find in these fixed and mobile images, which fight petrifaction. The abstraction at play in Varda Caivano’s paintings and drawings and that of Marie Cool’s filmed gestures at precarious objects, isn’t fake. It is an abstraction that literally falls out of language.


What position does interior life occupy today? The relationship between a repressive society and the melancholic flight from it has always been a worthwhile subject. In her book about acedia, the art historian Anne Larue explains that its origin is to be found with the solitary monks in the Egyptian deserts at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth century of the Christian era. This form of melancholia reduced to its essence was replaced by the noble melancholia of the Renaissance: the melancolia generosa, associated with the painful condition of the genius. It’s the radical acedia, this “obliquely subversive force”, found in the medieval monastic texts, which interests us, as a response to an incredible oppression. The Fathers of the Church (and in particular the bishops who contributed to establish and defend the Christian doctrine) fought against the ghost of interior life, in order to exterminate intellectual life. The monastic texts of the time display plenty of allusions to the necessity to remain in one’s cell. There are numerous examples of monks who developed-through acedia-the possibility to represent themselves in their mind, and to free their desire and their boredom of any limit. To prefer oneself to one’s nation or to the State, to be more than a simple cell in a collective body: melancholia will always be an essential force of opposition.


A fire-raiser, this is how I represent the role of Marie Cool within the duo Marie Cool Fabio Balducci to myself. Literally, a female activist. An arsonist. Of course we can evoke the delicacy and care with which Cool seizes the objects and manipulates them, but it would not be totally fair to miss the violence contained in these gestures. This repetition of gestures means: not to think, to block speech, a moment in which only action will be efficient. Against discourse and virtuosity, the artist positions herself next to the worker, the doer, the resistant. The action exists in opposition to what we would like to do with it, to the way we could appropriate it. The repetition is a closed time which imposes itself on the spectator. A sort of hostage-taking.


“Five bony branches. They tightly clasp to form a compact block, a real bone rock” (Henri Focillon, Eloge de la main, Quadrige/ Presses Universitaires de France, 1996, p. 104/105)

Eroticism — ritual

Marie Cool’s body adopts the shape of manipulated objects: thread, pencils, folded paper tissues, sheet. These very simple processes, presented as short films, belong to a system that could be defined as erotic. The body and the objects become one. This series of renewed, hypnotic gestures express a wish for continuity (the continuity that lies at the core of the erotic relationship, according to Georges Bataille), as social relations and constituted beings dissolve to form a continuous loop. Objects are used for their intrinsic properties and thus appear as mere body extensions.

Moving forward from the eroticism of the body, to that of the heart, then to sacred eroticism. Rituals help human beings prove their potential continuity and ward off their discontinuity. This closed loop-body-object-is like a mantra, which leads us up to infinity. The sacred at stake here is closer to Durkheim’s concept developed in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life than to Buddha’s. It is an expression of our society. Marie Cool then appears as a modern prophetess, trained to express the essence of our world. Through skilled worker’s gestures, she expresses a kind of contemporary, universal and essential truth.

Arte Povera

Poverty must be understood as Franciscan simplicity (Luciano Fabro)


Poetry as an expression of a desired continuity (again, Bataille’s concept of eroticism) is at play in Varda Caivano’s paintings. Rimbaud’s words ’It is the sea / Fled away with the sun’ find their equivalent in her motifs which cover up other abstract motifs. ’It has been found again. What? Eternity’. Caivano’s canvases conceal many mysteries, which only the initiates to an unknown cult can decipher. If Cool Balducci’s work resembles rituals of pagan origins, Caivano’s painting seems closer to Orphic mysteries cults, in which initiation leads to an ever-increasing perceptiveness, maybe that of Rimbaud’s “visionary” poet. “There is a sense in Caivano’s paintings of something searched for and not quite found” (Jennifer Higgie, Frieze, 2005): like an initiatory process in which the artist acts as a guide.


How can we speak about form without evoking things outside of it? Isn’t the autonomy of the artwork a despicable thing? Doesn’t it amount to talk about its “power” or about the timeless “genius” of the artist? Or do we mix up different things? In fact, some works exist that speak for themselves, that don’t need to be told, and that simultaneously carry a political thought. They are monolithic and non-narrative. It is the exact impossibility to translate them into speech that makes them the best political tools and the expression of absolute freedom: to be exactly oneself, to feel no need for self-justification, to have no wish to follow a role model. Caivano’s and Cool Balucci’s works display the same capacity to be themselves outside of any social idea of art or of the artist, and that is what brought them together in this show. It seems to me that what we want today"and what seems so difficult to us"lies exactly here: how do we live in the world while letting the absurdity of our idea of it impose on us as little as possible? How to be free and become oneself when entire nations are bound to death to such immaterial and abstruse structures as the “financial markets”? How to position oneself outside of the system in order to reconsider it or, how to “change the world” without creating a new one? Caivano’s and Cool Balducci’s closed systems constitute brand new worlds, without a program. They make radical choices that bar any wish to communicate outside of a form that imposes itself on us.


Varda Caivano (1971, Buenos Aires) works in London. A graduate of Goldsmith and The Royal College of Arts, she participated to the last British Art Show (2011). She has had different solo exhibitions: at Kunstverein Freiburg (Germany) in 2006, at Chisenhale Gallery (London).

Marie Cool Fabio Balducci work together in Paris. Their work was shown at La Maison Rouge, Paris and Attitudes, Geneva (cur. Jean-Paul Felley and Olivier Kaeser) in 2008, at The South London Gallery in 2009, at CAC Brétigny (cur. Pierre Bal-Blanc) in 2010 and at Villa Medicis, Roma (cur. Eric de Chassey) in 2011.

Very special thanks to: Émilie Catalano, Patrick Scemama, Victoria Miro gallery, London, castillo/corrales, Paris

Marcelle Alix Gallery Gallery
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4, rue Jouye-Rouve

75020 Paris

T. 09 50 04 16 80 — F. 09 55 04 16 80


Opening hours

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

Venue schedule

The artists

  • Marie Cool & Fabio Balducci
  • Varda Caivano