From March 13 to May 22, 2005, Come-Back, a group exhibition with Thomas Galler, L.A. Raeven, Sven’t Jolle, Andro Wekua, and a project room with Italo Zuffi, curated by Hilde Teerlinck.
The artistic production presented here deals again with themes such as melancholy, the construction of identity, and nostalgia, which are closely linked to memory and personal experience. Memory becomes the raw materials for the works and is involved in an ongoing process of transformation. These works are united by an underlying sentiment of solitude which finds its expression in a search for beauty and wonder or, on the contrary, in a search for the disturbing and for failed utopias. The four approaches presented in this exhibition examine this question from very different angles, but certain parallels can be established. This exhibition is an opportunity for these four artistic points of view to meet for the second time at CRAC Alsace in Altkirch.
Please I'm so bored... ...me too
Twins Angelique and Lisbeth Raeven (born in 1971) work under the name L.A. Raeven, dealing with the theme of beauty, the ideals that are associated with it and their place in our society. In their videos and performances they ceaselessly expose the structures responsible for the exacerbated cult of the body and the eating disorders which are common today. In their video piece Test-room (2003), for example, the two sisters invited several models of both sexes to a fictional casting call. The models were "parked" in the waiting room for an undetermined length of time and were provided with a buffet and alcoholic beverages. In the manner of a "sociological study", L.A. Raeven filmed the behavior of the models using a hidden camera. The initial reserve of the models was broken down by the effects of alcohol, on the initiative of the males. As the filming progresses, the camera increasingly concentrates on the faces of the various people. They express boredom and a desire for change. The emptiness of the waiting room becomes one with the empty atmosphere of the group; it becomes an ordeal while the models' most prized assets, their outward appearances, increasingly melt away with each sip of their drinks. In the same way, the video work presented in the exhibition, Sibling Rivalry (2004), makes emptiness and boredom conjugated with personal lack of satisfaction the central object of reflection. At the center of this work are two pretty twins in a hotel suite who ponder their relationship in mutual silence. This work is based on three sources. In addition to the biographies of the twins, who were confronted from an early age by the question of the construction of individual identities. Hell, a novel by Lolita Pille which deals with the frustrations of wealthy children in Paris, served as a starting point for this work. Physically, the two sisters in the film are strongly reminiscent of the Hilton heiresses, Paris and Nicki Hilton. The synchronized double projection shows the sisters sitting and drinking wine, giving an impression of boredom, while the soundtrack plays excerpts from the novel as well as texts by L.A. Raeven. The viewer becomes the observer of a quarrel between sisters in which one clearly represents the alpha animal and the other the beta. The title of the video Sibling Rivalry is borrowed from child psychology: it refers to the Rebecca syndrome, the rivalry between twins which oscillates between admiration and hatred.
A black void looks viewers straight in the eyes in the Sad Dark Eyes (2004) photographs of Thomas Galler (born in 1970). This work consists of a series of half-length portraits of women in poses which should inspire confidence in the photographer. But the outlines lost in shadow and the inky black pupils of the models give these portraits a disturbing ghostly aspect. The photographs are enlargements made from the contact sheets provided by photo processors so that customers have an index of their photographs. While Walter Benjamin speaks of the loss of the aura of the artwork in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, in Galler's work we are confronted with a double loss. The enlargement from the low-resolution contact sheet inflicts a consequent loss of quality upon the photos, while the blurriness which results induces an increase in the very same aura which Benjamin claimed was disappearing. These photographs are infused with a rare melancholy. An impression of nostalgia also emanates from the installation Stilles Material (2004). Used fireworks are placed on a platform. They awaken memories of childhood and of the immense pleasure of seeing their sparks and patterns and smelling the persistent odor of sulfur. Thomas Galler, who is mostly known for his videos which are often made using recycled imagery, reveals a similar strategy in these photographic and installation works. He works more and more with discarded items considered to be useless: contact sheets, spent fireworks, or like in some of his video works, unused film scenes. He reinvests these objects previously seen as superfluous with a history, with value.
Please remember... ...what?
In his sculptures and installations, Sven't Jolle (born in 1966) always deals with socio-political questons. His work Collection particulière (2000) (Private collection), consists of two plans. The first is a model of the Renault factories in Billancourt in the suburbs of Paris, the second is a list of the 200 richest art collectors from artnews magazine and a list of the richest people in France. One name stands out from an examination of these lists: François Pinault. The workers of the Renault factories in Billancourt made a mark on history through their resistance and tenacity, particularly against fascism before and during World War II. Renault also entered into legend with the scenes of fraternity between workers, intellectuals and artists in May 1968. But the factory installations became outdated and the factories definitively closed their doors in 1992 when manufacturing was transferred to modern facilities nearby. The art collector François Pinault spent many years negotiating with the municipality of Billancourt in an attempt to convert the former factories into an exhibition space for his personal art collection. Sven't Jolle uses his installations to raise the question of the well-known antagonism between public and private property, but also asks whether we shouldn't preserve this factory, which certainly isn't an architectural masterpiece but is of great importance to the collective memory of the French people. Does a private art collection, which can be considered to be an exaltation of one person's desire to accumulate possessions, have a place in a former "socialist" factory?
In the work of Andro Wekua (born in 1977), the viewer is confronted with a pronounced stratification in terms of both materials and content. In addition to film, Wekua also works with the media of painting, drawing, collage and sculpture, which he combines in installations which occupy whole spaces, thereby creating a subjective visual universe. Into this universe he mixes memories of his childhood in Georgia, his parents and other aspects of his experience, as well as clichés from the contemporary world, mostly from advertising, which communicate desire and will. From this set iconography, Wekua elaborates a fictional biography which is constantly renewed and reformulated. Thus, in the installation Black Sea Surfer (2004), photocopies appear of portraits which have already been employed in previous works. To the viewer these works appear as complex enigmas from which one strives to distill fragments of the real biography of the artist and replace them in a causality, a narrative thread. But this deciphering fails; the true biographical fragments do not produce a convincing mosaic. It seems rather that the traces of images which blend together and contradict each other can nevertheless be viewed as a visualization of a collective sentiment of nostalgia for things lost, the nostalgia of a common heritage.
It is in this way that this exhibition is a quest for individual identities and experiences and the nostalgia attached to them, which despite their diversity always fall back into a collective consciousness. However, at the point of this return, of this confrontation with oneself, each individual is alone.
Please come back... ... for you. For me.
—Raphael Gygax, curator at Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich
Come-Back was organised with the support of Mondriaan Fund, Pro Helvetia—Swiss Arts Council, and Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap, Brussels.