dinsdag 11 augustus 2020

Grande Dame Palais

Trips and travel had been reduced to a minimum since early in the year - only the most essential there and back, if even - the borders were closed for quite a while - carefree jaunts into nowhere quite out of the question… That is why this little investigative trip was such a breath of fresh (well, hot) air: it had been a while since an excursion like this: Avoiding the main arteries we headed down due south form the border, already taking a wrong turn and semi-lost, which is exactly the way we like it… short stop at a quiet Cateau en Cambresis for a croissant and brioche, and on towards Paris along small departmental roads, stopping briefly at Guise - agreeing that this was well worth an extra trip in the future…














But the heat was on and after Laon we stayed on the N2, the old imperial road, being turned into a highway bit by bit… a pity since the agreeable meandering between shady trees and through sleepy villages has been replaced by stress-chasing on frying-pan asphalt framed by cement barriers and beating sunshine: rows of long-distance lorries that want to avoid paying Peage on the highways… in short, even the French countryside is going to the dogs…



















We try not to dwell on that and enter Paris through the gauntlet of the market stalls on the boul Clichy, heading for the quieter area around the Place de Ternes - for it is around those parts we need to be: I had been sent a radio fragment by a friend with an interview about the renovation of the ‘Grand Palais’ - Chis Dercon explained how he had discovered the artist now resident in the vast hall at a small gallery in the early nineties… Frank Scurti did a small show together with François Curlet in the ‘inexistent’ hole-in-the wall place in Antwerp some thirty years earlier… a surprising little flashback I decided I wanted to investigate further… I had come across Scurti in the magazines a couple of times but had not followed his career - nor of any other acquaintance of that time… Dercon was by now a bit of a star curator and the others were not doing badly, whereas I was still doing what I had been doing then: investigating possible leads to new insights… but with a strong nostalgic twist - going for the archival rather than the brand new… So it was also logical that I wanted to see the Grand Palais before it was closed for an overhaul… Personally, I tend to dislike today’s trend to have to pimp up all the old institutions, messing up their interiors at exorbitant prices, giving them ridiculous catchy new names and turning the cultural experience into a disneyland fantasy… (our local more than adequate art history museum is still a messy construction site and financial sink-hole many years after promised completion…)



 I wanted to see the Grand Palais without too much clutter before the renovations… I had never had the opportunity to see it properly - remembering an occasion where I looked up to the fantastic cupola only briefly while installing a sticky-letter sentence by Laurence Weiner during one of the Fiac’s - between stressing around… Here was an opportunity to see the garand old dame ‘in the flesh’ - and well worth it. Aside from a long string of (found) objects hanging from the central apse, the space was empty save for a scattering of ‘bureaux’ in a restricted area near the opulent staircase - giving it a theatrical feel: performance ongoing, arrested, considering… Scurti himself was not there and the activity space was quiet save for an assistent/invitee sweeping up some bits & pieces from the previous intervention… so it was a perfect moment to consider the space and what’s in it rather than being entertained by some artistic activity… Built at the tail end of the belle époque, it’s rather manneristic art nouveau elements are nonetheless prime examples of the industrial production of wrought-ironwork - Eifel tower and bridges nearby making the era apparent - one of the las remaining ‘crystal palaces’ - and upon entering a feeling of being transported back to a copper engraving of the vast hall with small figures scattered about - quite unique, and one had the feeling the visitors too were slightly speechless… the occasional muttering of someone who could not appreciate the moment: “they couldn’t think of what to do with the place and invited an artist who doesn’t know what to do with the space… (and that with taxpayers money no doubt)” - far from it -








Scurti’s minimal intervention of bits & bobs just right to give a presence to the vast space while leaving the space itself uncluttered and free for the light-show of alternating sun & clouds and vista’s that become apparent only after moving around a bit… there was a circuit of information panels for those that wanted to brush op on the palace’s history - form grand exhibition heyday to hospital and convalescence clinic during and after the great war… But it was the space ‘soi même’ that was on show… one could climb the cascading staircase for different vantage point of the hall as well as the intervention by Scruti: he had barricaded a part with apple-crate liners, making for a viewer-performer separation quite apt to the space - one could observe from different vantage points the goings-on (or lack of) and consider the clusters of activity-bureaus - one for woodwork, cutting panels, the other for wire and mesh studies, a beureau de chippotage and a collection of trinkets to be considered - centrally located a plinth-refurbishing area in which large pieces of décollage posters (bluebacks) were reformulated into “socles d’air” - cloudy-like patterns folded into cubical structures… and a table of exposition en cage - much like the Palais itself; caged art, arrested like colourful exotic birds for the amusement of the bourgeoisie - netting hung from the banisters denoted price ranges - the variability of value - seemingly a barometer of the current crisis - free entry with guided visits at around one euro - as opposed to the exorbitant prices demanded for regular exhibitions- this being a work i progress rather with oneself as protagonist… What will become of the grande old dame? Hopefully the renovations are in fact restorations and the many exquisite elements are saved: the terrazzo floors, the brass bannister-railings, even the irregularities of the stucco on the walls, now catching shadows of dust, should be retained - and use of modern materials avoided altogether… but yes, given today’s penchant to ‘modernise’ everything I fear it well become a figment of it’s former self with the more spectacular elements highlighted with difficult to replace hand-made craftsmanship thrown out… perhaps here the aspect of using recuperated material is intentional; though it is well within the vocabulary of the artist - it is still a statement perhaps to not replace but re-use…
















 Normally Paris is pretty good a retaining original elements, but one does not have to wander far to see the onslaught of the mass-produced plastic rubbish packaged in coveted trade-marketing names on the Champs d’Elysée to realise that there are more and more generations out there that have no feeling with basic materials but for whom ‘look’ is all… and longevity a four letter word… kinky lighting and repetitive beats whipping up an ‘experience’ rather than the calm and collected consideration of silence and emptiness… so in many ways this was a unique moment to view the cavernous Grande Palais in it’s own time, no piped music, lasershow or spectacular ‘event’ - just it’s timeless self, with the humble presence of the artist as conduit: reason for coming inside an empty hall ‘with nothing to see’…



 Of course we also took some time to enjoy Paris in a short touristy sort of way, and had a look around the Seine, Invalides, Tour Eifel, Arc de Triomphe and all that - of course the café crème and the croissants, the people watching from corner café at the market, the boulevards with early leaves - fall being precipitated by the extreme heat of global warming - another reminder of the fragility of it all… heading back out of the city through market stalls full of plastic wares from China, riding the waves of automobile haste back to the slightly less exasperated roads to the north, stopping this time at the wondrous mediaeval town of Laon and its cathedral perched high: by now the heat was such that one could easily mistake the moment as being in Aix-enProvenice rather than these northern climes… Phew…


woensdag 6 mei 2020

suspended suspension

been sitting on fragments for ever so long - not quite knowing what to do with them, - every time I thought, well this is a good one for the blog it got sidelined, and then of course it all got shoved due to the corona crisis and all that ( one might think that's a perfect moment to blog- being stuck at home - but nothing further from the truth... more to do than before even...)
so
by way of redressing - a potpourri of impressions perhaps...







the ongoing rock seed situation... more on that later

zondag 23 februari 2020

Yoan horizon

Fascinating exhibition though perhaps edgy event horizon is a matter of conjecture: how is it then that the written word enters it’s new age of oscillating letters projected on prepared pages rather than heavily smudged with ink on pulped trees… and where the pages turn other images of this story or another animate the landscape only just perceived, whittling away at what you thought was stable… no thoughts are scurrying all over all the time, why not literature?



by contrast the reductions of ball-point pen interventions in classic (penguin) paperbacked books: they become as abstract and variable in interpretation as the electronic counterpanes displayed on the other tables - and the hand painted graphics on standard Nepali licence plates, along with the typical shop sign saying just the opposite: words without meaning in that slightly festive curvature used to give a statement somewhat more flair…

























Textile too becomes tactile context woven in and out the meaning of the wooly phrase provided in different colours / wove and weft combinations of two strands together… communication that can keep you warm from the sharp mountain wind, for a while at least, while you consider the meaning of the statement at hand…
























Same with the narrative looking figures - purportedly involved in significant handlings that we are supposed to recognize or at least interpret - correctly is another matter - books become live things, creatures reinventing themselves / seemingly - but controlled by program (in this case at least… beams reading QR codes to calculate which page you’re on… still regognizable, as was Gutenberg’s wooden letter (later lead etc) at some point… but here we are at the threshold, that point of no return when the vision takes over and even the prototype becomes obsolete in the wink of an eye…

sweepstakes.
























all the associations still don’t make a coherent image, but relay the gist. 

Invisible white noise (until moray reveals it) 




unreadable black text (until light strikes it at a angle…) 



we must prepare our tools.