Thursday, 31 December 2009
10 Octobre - 22 Novembre 2008
The Consistence of the Visible
For this, the 10th anniversary of the Prix Ricard, it seemed important to me to complete the normal function of this exposition (a thematic presentation of emerging artists from France’s artworld) by having a critical preamble which would include ‘historical’ or confirmed artists. This inclusion poses a very simple question: what marks the boundary of an artwork? By what gesture is its terrain brought about, puts in places its limits, outlines the perimeter of its exploration?
In thinking of the concept of ‘bricolage’ with which Lévi-Strauss defined mythological thought, I thought to present this subjective story in the form of a reunion of fetisches: that is to say, objects which, despite their apparence of detail, represent a complex thought which is found suffused throughout them. Such is a hologramme.
This question, regarding the ‘plan of composition’ of an artwork, is not innocent or free, nor without repercussions from the choice of ‘young artists’ that continue it on.
In one way it underlines the importance of initial gestures and of the necessity, when making a work, of laying out a terrain and to define a specific manner of surveying this terrain. As so many artists today content themselves with the production of objects under a vague ‘theme’, more often than not borrowed from the contemporary ideological notebook, it is better not to forget that an artwork resembles a journey more than a mere tour of the local gallery quarter.
Elsewhere this question shares a surprising point in common, without doubt the only, between two key actors in French art whom this exposition would like to to pay hommage: Pierre Restany and Bernard Lamarche-Vadel. They were, for the young art critic I aspired to be at the turn of the 1990s, two unique role models. Between ‘the technological humanism’ of one, directed toward social production and the totalisation of the visible, and the subtle aristocraticism of the other, through the singular and the inexpressible, we find ourselves in the presence of two disimiliar trajectories belonging to two different generations, but united by the same independent spirit and a similar engagement in the world of the French artworld.
Restany celebrated in 1960 ‘the autonomic expression of the real’ in launching the Nouveau Realiste movement, which insisted in the radical gesture of ‘direct appropriation’, founder of all artistic practice – ‘automatic manifestaion of the sensible’ – explored in a new ‘urban nature’. Twenty-six years later, Lamarche-Vadel was to regroup twelve artists for his exposition ‘What is French Art’, by the pertinance of their ‘posture’ or their ‘process’, that is the invention of ‘ways to put in process (their) existance in the course of creating their artwork’. At first glance dissimiliar, these two propositions constituet in my eyes two levels of the same conceptual discourse.
The nine artists that I have choosen for this 10th edition of the Prix Ricard respond to this double promulgation: supporting their work on one hand with a collective sensibility and on the other with a personal composition, riding the waves emitted by the social but dissociating themselves from it by a singular point de départ. They can subscribe to the formula of Lamarche-Vadel which gives this exposition its title: ‘Therefore what we consider in the visible, the art work, must above all have the texture of an extreme doubt about the consistence of the visible.’
Monday, 7 December 2009
The New York Times. What was the biggest surprise for you, editing the collection?
Aleksander Hemon. It was less of a surprise than a reminder: how unabashedly comfortable many of the writers are to engage with literary forms that would be perceived as experimental or avant-garde here. In turn, I was reminded how deeply conservative contemporary American literature is in terms of form. And that conservative bent is a recent development, I believe. The European form flexibility is not a consequence of some snotty, elitist aesthetic but rather of the fact that there are many stories to be told and many traditions to draw from.
Q. It would be hard from this anthology to characterize a particularly “European” style of writing, to say nothing of a particularly Irish or Albanian or Norwegian style. But in your introduction, you make a compelling case for the role of Europe’s geography and history in shaping the continent’s fiction. Could you, then, venture to define what makes a story particularly “European”? What about specific national characteristics?
A. Europe is fantastically dense, varied and small by American standards. Everything is within two hours by plane. It takes as long to drive from, say, Norway to Greece as it does from Chicago to Miami. And if you were to drive from Norway to Greece, you would pass through countless different landscapes, cultures, languages, histories. Yet each of these autonomous spaces is bound together by a common uberhistory — no country or language or people managed to escape the calamities of the 20th century, for example, or the vast migrations that have been taking place since World War II, peaking in the last couple of decades. It is impossible to retain an ethnically clean space in Europe, despite periodical genocide or the exclusionary policies of European governments. What is European, then, is that cultures and literatures always see themselves in relation to other cultures and languages — sometimes in opposition, sometimes in kinship, often both at the same time. An educated European — a reader of serious fiction — is likely to speak two or more languages.