La tradition du dégoût, présentée par Vincent Labaume
Exhibition view
La tradition du dégoût, présentée par Vincent Labaume
Exhibition view
La tradition du dégoût, présentée par Vincent Labaume
Exhibition view
La tradition du dégoût, présentée par Vincent Labaume
Exhibition view
La tradition du dégoût, présentée par Vincent Labaume
Exhibition view
La tradition du dégoût, présentée par Vincent Labaume
Exhibition view
Welcome stranger, 2010
Véronique BOUDIER
Welcome stranger, 2010
Hollowstone from Jura, plaster, gold leafs, silicone soft-tongues, calf-skin
17.7 x 10.6 x 6.7 in
Unique artwork

La tradition du dégoût, présentée par Vincent Labaume

08.09.2012 - 13.10.2012

Main space

Download exhibition press release


what form !?

a presentational dialogue on the tradition of distaste, by vincent labaume

— … So you believe in this tradition of distaste?

— Not really… The expression is unfortunate and almost oxymoric (thereby sellable) and yet, when all is said and done, amusing on several accounts!... Although it is especially an awkward perception that comes from the way art is received, from a historically and socially determined exterior construction, and not from a movement of artistic research in itself. In any case, as far as the artists presented here are concerned, it certainly doesn’t mean distaste of tradition! These artists, each in his own field, refer to it in one way or another, indeed defer to it, in the sense that they accord a certain dignity to it in regard to the status of form they are seeking.

what form !?

a presentational dialogue on the tradition of distaste, by vincent labaume

— … So you believe in this tradition of distaste?

— Not really… The expression is unfortunate and almost oxymoric (thereby sellable) and yet, when all is said and done, amusing on several accounts!... Although it is especially an awkward perception that comes from the way art is received, from a historically and socially determined exterior construction, and not from a movement of artistic research in itself. In any case, as far as the artists presented here are concerned, it certainly doesn’t mean distaste of tradition! These artists, each in his own field, refer to it in one way or another, indeed defer to it, in the sense that they accord a certain dignity to it in regard to the status of form they are seeking.

— The tradition of Fine Arts?

— A certain tradition of Fine Arts that would like one to start from what is the most hidden: the bone, for example, in anatomy, to then go up through successive layers to the tubulous rolls of skin, like scaffolding for clothing or shroud. This primitive tradition revived by Degas and Schiele was lost with their wan modern continuers à la Bacon. The bone, meaning here the most repressed of forms, the inform reject, mixed matter, or the miry alluvium of destiny… Far from images distorted to attain a bedlam effect! It is also what is originally captured by the practice of drawing we will be sure to come across in the work of many of these artists.

— Pulp ready to be shaped… The famous old couple matter and form that the Informal Movement and Lyric Abstraction had wanted to throw in together to blend into one?

— Of all matter – not the one I prefer, as the French pop song goes, but the one that shows the most dirt, as Roland Barthes would say, is semantic matter! “Matter” is never where you’d expect it to be, but it is especially a matter of belief! “Noble” matter and “base” matter belong to another era, aristocratic and bygone! Matter, today, means you and me, the great whole that compresses us and overflows from our beings. Matter is the essential form of today’s world! So we knead it, we separate it, we contain it, we stretch it, we let it be taken, and we set it… or not. And this form veers to another form and so something happens which is the “transformed” and which deserves to be formally recognized in its exact tradition: that which is only comprehensible through the sense of taste – forming a whole with distaste… its adventurous side one could say, just enough distaste to appreciate the dividends of nectar! Children start off by having a hard time with salty tastes before they discover sweet and sour ones and finally the pleasures of bitterness.

— So it doesn’t happen through concepts?

— We are witnessing a certain depletion of approaches stemming from conceptualism and “Art as idea as idea” inherited from the artists of process and the participative action of the viewer. The concerns of matter and nature (nature considered as an objection of form to the “working” of ideas or intentions) have been revived with practices close to what was called Informal Art (or Matterist, or Lyrical Abstraction, etc.). A new exploration of tradition submitted to the unpredictability of matter and the vagaries of gesture, producing an openly experimental attitude in which the work of art is like a provisional elucidation to a movement of thought that tortures matter all the way to its making sense, even if making sense means failing, aborting, in an awkward, deconstructed way… This could be called the Categorical Informal or a certain “tradition of distaste”, if you like, that is not anti conceptual, but ante-conceptual, wandering through the traditional forms of the Fine Arts like it would through a wasteland, unkempt and therefore bearing the unknown… There is a dynamic drive today in formal deviancy.

— Have concepts become static?

— The concept in art, which is just the historic formalisation of a plastic idea, is obviously inseparable from the aesthetic form that brought it to its acme: manifest form. As a reminder, “manifest form” was elaborated from a cavity of “specific form,” upon the arrival of the American Minimalists. Dan Flavin’s neons, although they borrow the exterior form of street signs, were still assertive in their specific autonomy as a work of art; Bruce Nauman’s first neon was already on the way to a more than formal competition with the heterogeneous world of real street signs. The manifest form was born from this extensive competition against forms and functions outside of art. The following generations, as a result of such an indirect passage, were blocked in a competitive overkill that produced what we may call quotational contemporary monumentalism, in which international visual public standards come together in a certain political comfort.

— And today you’d say what form!?

— Exactly: what form!? (and I do believe it is important to maintain both the exclamation point and the question mark, signifying a sort of blustering incomprehension!). This form is neither completely separate, nor completely mimetic; it has abdicated its pretence to specific autonomy but it will not take on manifest forms as standards. Hence, by default, the recourse to the traditional frameworks of the Fine Arts anterior to the Sixties.

— Does that mean we’re going back to conventional gadgets and paintings? Or even to the “motif,” the “subject” or the “brushstroke”… who knows?

— In a way, but that kind of a revival is a false revival, contrary to what reactionary historians believe… and it’s a fact that art never follows historians and that the opposite is true, most fortunately, and you can always verify that one! The pretended “revival” is the sign of a disinherited formal recovery: form torn between its lost autonomy and its uncompetitive solitude in a world of mercantile replicas. Form is like the index to the general crisis of the value of art (or its “coefficient” as Duchamp would say) that would strive to be emancipated from its “contemporary” moment, unable to envisage the future without a new immersion in the elements of the past or, rather, in what contemporary art considers to be “outdated.”

— So is contemporary art itself outdated!?...

— As a fact, the name “contemporary art,” that has never really seemed to lead to a qualification, as well as being pleonastic (because, naturally, art has always been “contemporary”!), first corresponded, in its most conscious aims, to the intention of posing art as a practice in direct, critical tension with the topicality of forms and functions, as well as the values and political combats of the times. In spite of their enormous differences, Manzoni, Beuys, Warhol, Kosuth, Nauman, Journiac and even Smithson share this target of the contemporary as a living receptacle for their aesthetic propositions: the profound intention of changing the world, space, meaning, ways of seeing, body and life… But this “everything is art” -  considering the forces and forms in presence, one could say -, arrived, a few generations later, at the stranglehold on the plastic form of the standardized forms of merchandise. Today’s triumph of contemporary art also signs its end as an age of formal tensions.

— So then what we have here are paintings that really want to be paintings, photographs that really want to be photographs and ceramics that really want to be ceramics? Without trying to “change” anything about that?

— Just like they address themselves to a normal viewer pissing normally in a normal urinal! Although there’s no sense of fulfilment there! That distasteful henchman of aborted forms and marketable compatibilities! They would really have preferred to remain in the disjunctive ambiance of manifest forms!

— If I understand well, the contemporaneity of their forms does not depend on their critic tension with contemporary forms that are exterior to art?

— They are actually “trans-regressive”: they live only to transgress existing forms, only their intention is more essential or regressive than it is competitive; between what’s essential and what’s urgent (society, standards, ideological combats, etc.) -, these works of art have chosen their side! … And so, the way Michel Blazy switches time to infinity in his installations made from the most diverse everyday life material (industrial food and objects, cotton wool and foam, aluminium and plastic bags, and also plants and insects, snakes and mice…), configured in composite ensembles that look as much like mutant gardens as the household compost heap in which every element participates in the continuous re-composition of forms, produces an essential duration for the nature of his works. This duration refers neither to exterior social time, nor to the mental time of human consciousness. But it isn’t totally autonomous, either; if it fools this senile idea of eternity, this non-working waste of aesthetic death, it still digs its heels into the viewer’s time, who has to blow up his presence into an almost cosmic duration and try to act out himself the famous “died at work” that cinema is supposed to represent, according to Cocteau… That’s what Blazy does, with a simple Danette, when he declares: “You can buy a Danette, or any other consumer’s product, but you can also try to link the cosmos with your refrigerator if you observe these products after their expiration date.

— This exhibition brings SEVEN (without the German girl) artists from different generations, a twenty-year age gap, together. What is their common denominator?

— Although a group show is a useful way to bind an arbitrary lot that one would hope to be visionary, and confronting generations is supposed to stir up sparks… concerning cerebral torture, a communiqué for a group show, be it in pure gelatine-like praise, stands right there. We’d blandly prefer works of art to speak for themselves… But it does appear to me that the theme of waste could just be the arachnidan thread between them. We would indeed have to agree on the signification of “waste”. Before designating a person or object considered to be “out of order”, the word meant the quantity that was lost during the fabrication or usage of a product. Here we are not dealing with a position of critical distaste for the standards of industrial production that undergo a blasphemous attitude towards industrial or academic beauty, in the manner of Georges Bataille, or with an umpteenth redemptive pop avatar recycling matters and thrown out forms of our daily usages, what we have here is a will to produce an object, a form “with no remainders” or with no “waste”, and that, although the ensemble would seem void of meaning (deposed of all meaning), would remain absolutely complete in its sort (which is, if my memory is correct, Kafka’s formula for his famous little wandering bobbin with entangled thread over a star-studded trap called Odralek…). A thing that is not doomed to become waste, but that has crossed over and assumed the formal, residual, non-employed dimension of waste. A type of “lite” radically experimental materialism that could remind one of Heraclites’ antique visions of the “most beautiful arrangement resembling a heap of waste thrown together.”

— Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t one of the artists in the exhibition paint gleaming piles of rubbish?

— After a remarkable and remarked body of work and several years in the living arts (dance), Gilles Touyard is back as a painter. His painting does indeed resemble an immense aesthetic open-air rubbish dump. The traditions of romantic and impressionist landscapes and of informal “all-over”, the old problematic of the “stroke” and “optical mixtures” or the heuristic gesture producing its object, all of these are brought together, attacked by the dissolvent acid of “renouncing all projects” and a certain ecologism for the least compromised in its denunciation… But let him explain his work himself, since he was kind enough to send me a presentational text: “Painting waste is not representing waste but projecting oneself into the unformed and the repressed, it means giving up all projects, letting go, renouncing the sublime, while working on the grid of the whole as an end in itself. It means throwing brushstrokes onto the canvas with the unique goal of producing traces that resemble nothing, totally unfounded, amorphous and un-premeditated. If an identifiable form comes about nevertheless, it must be aborted; its just, correct, magnificent state is the unformed, the failure, the deleted and the scraping drowned in its agglomerate. Waste in painting is the hallucinated recycling mechanics of the non-identified, and of the faltering gesture.”

Rather strange, that desire to abort, don’t you think? Are we still in nihilism?

— To abort means stopping “life” from being the finality of form, its justification. Another effect of the damage of the manifest form in today’s world could be resumed in this ironic slogan: “Today, Fluxus means living cheaper!” Because it’s already quite something if, as Touyard rightly stated, a work of art is “the grid of the whole as an end in itself”! Abortion of the idea is also a recurring theme among these artists. For example, for Nicolas Momein, a young graduate from the Genève and Saint-Etienne School of Art and Design and who has a solid experience as a tapestry-maker behind him, the idea lies in the foetus of a material form it is revolted by. Producing sorts of design “waste” (or dethroned design) brings a significantly interminable action against his production that is already considerable: are these aborted projects or projects of abortions? Each object seems to be a by-product of a programmatic failure, as if the unconscious, affected by the subaltern functional tasks, started miming everyday objects in a traffic jam of vanities. Each one is the fruit of a simple gesture: moulding, gluing, carding, sculpting, welding, stratifying, etc., but every gesture is carried on to its downward spiral, its excessive precision, and instead of co-opting the chosen matter to the chosen idea, an intermediary form comes through the design, as if it were fuzzy, anarchic and aborted. At a time when everything has become design, Momein “fakirizes” the function like a magic fundament to the stature of a work of art!

“Fakirizes the function”!???...

— Function has not been abolished (as the old ready-mades wanted us to believe), but projects are treated as one cause of form among others, along with accidents, growth or moulds that are, with the “project”, that is, the four principal procedures of engendering form according to the Aristotelian Roger Caillois. A thinker to rediscover in the perspective of this “what form!?”, especially in his attempt to establish generalized aesthetics by tearing the beautiful from the aesthetic relationship to turn it into objective data of the world. The photographs of the young American Hannah Whitaker could be described as such, unique explorations of an objective capture of the world in which the relationship to the eye has been torn. Her “theatre of Nature” obeys a singular strategy of waste – in the sense defined above as “void of meaning and complete in its kind” – and beyond certain of her subjects that refer to waste from everyday life. In her images, not only does one not know what one is really looking at: texture of a parietal partition, peeling paint or putrefied bark, but especially, what one sees, is what one cannot really see, directly delighted by the auratic or indicial content of what is photographed. We are not questioning the sharpness, or rather it is also a cause along with the imprecise, the unfocused, the incident light and the optical saturation, etc.

— But is it still the viewer who makes the work of art, as Duchamp would say?

— Duchamp was especially thinking of the person who “finished” the work… whereas the viewer could never do so with what we have here! He could only fail to finish it, and infinitely shrink back…

— But if you keep on delaying something infinitely, how can you be “laid” - if you could please excuse that expression? … Do you see what I mean?

— I do indeed! Even if the coefficient of nit picking can never be clearly established in art!... But what is produced in Whitaker’s images is much more interesting because it goes beyond a pure and simple effect of abstraction in light and patterns. Her hollow subjects, void of any narrative storyline, persist in spite of everything and are revealed as the troubling presences of concrete, insidiously analogical figurations.

— Can “waste” be therefore capable of covering much analogical turpitude ?

— Mimosa Echard, the youngest exhibitor, has adopted the analogical principle as her principal instrument in formal trans-regression. She starts from a vocabulary of archetypal forms such as sticks, circles, arches, grottoes, etc., as well as today’s emblematic archetypal forms: comic heroes, logos, objects, fashion, etc. By a game of formal analogies, she makes them drift away one from the other, until she obtains strange, derisory bibelots that are like the aborted residues of anyone’s world – worlds in themselves!

— Can artists no longer “live in the world as poets,” as Hölderlin would say?

— For over twenty years, Véronique Boudier has kept up a surprising body of work through economy of means and constant, direct efficiency.  She started working on a minimal practice of performance, qualified as “gentilles prouesses”, consisting in materialising in images or sculptures acts implying untactful answers (such as “rubbish”!) and capable of being enacted by anyone (like letting a cake burn or touching one’s nose with the tongue), and from then on she managed to transform the pathetic expression of a sort of creative impotence, insoluble before life’s disintegration processes, into a stupefying capacity to reveal chaos in forms of a vertiginous “high” that may remind us of the stage “beyond violent rapture” described by Guy Debord in Panégyrique, delivering a “magnificent, terrible peacefulness, the true taste of the passage of time.” The very image of her emblematic film, Nuit d’un jour (2008), that shows the entire consuming of interior order turning into the décor of its own ruin: a sand castle as a “replica toy,” moulded in latex and painted pink, seems to fix the vertigo of collapse stabilised in vestige, evoking the organic vision of the volcanic magma of orgiastic vomit! Beyond simple disgust, a heart still beats with the maternal amplitude of breathing, sexual flesh!...

— In this exhibition, the artist is looked on as an outsider

— Marc Fontenelle is in fact an emerging artist at fifty! Since the beginning of the Eighties, he’s worked mostly as a loner, like a timeless postman of forms alongside the Facteur Cheval and far from the consumable current events of the past thirty years, on pieces that are most difficult to define. They are suspended between the manual apprenticeship of matter and the alchemical mastering of forces, inspired by Buckminster Fuller and Bernard Palissy, in an intuitive research of this type of “what form!?”, producing sorts of tools or “prototypes” for future objects of art, that will reconcile Human and Humus (terms that both have the same Indo-European root meaning earth), compost and grace, in a structure of the idea upheld by its own matter… About these concrete forms resulting from his research, one could say in the manner of Marx “that it is not enough for thinking to seek realization, reality has to seek thinking.” This is the price for idea and form to come together at last without a crack…

Clichy, 22nd August, 2012

Translated from the French by Emmelene Landon