ART ON DEMAND            
all in one open system disk beerkapsels   triangles cartons pick me ups
ALL IN ONE OPEN SYSTEM DISK BEERKAPSELS   TRIANGLES CARTONS PICK-ME-UPS
             

‘Road Signs’ for the Phenomenological Highway

The Aesthetics of Relational Minimalism

in the Work of Sébastien de Ganay

 

Richard Dyer

 

Signs within signs. A mise en abyme of signification. Systems of ciphers imbricated in a continual and infinite series of reflection and inflection. In the work of Sébastien de Ganay visual and tactile modalities for the transmission of knowledge and ideas are conflated in such a way as to augment their individual primary conduits of meaning in order to produce a richly layered ‘philosophical object’ which partakes of both an aesthetic and a political dimension. This ‘philosophical object’ is encoded with different language systems, not all of which are accessible to all ‘participants’; it will become clear why I use this term as opposed to the more conventional one of ‘viewer’.

The series of triangular works (T1, T2, T3 and T4), most of which carry a word or series of words spelt out in raised Braille felt elements, refer obliquely to international road signs, a universal system of para-linguistic pictograms which are premised on notions of instant comprehensibility and logical association. Conversely, de Ganay’s ‘road signs’ for the phenomenological highway employ the tactile language of Braille which excludes the majority of ‘viewers’, who, although they may recognise it as the language of the blind, are unable to decode its meaning.

In road sign pictography triangles denote a warning. Already, on first viewing, this subliminal signifier has held our attention and alerted us to the possible content of the inscription. To a sighted, non-Braille reading viewer the content of the Braille words remains a mystery, so that the usually privileged portion of the audience, the sighted viewer, is now at a disadvantage, the tables have been turned, placing them in the usual position of a blind or partially-sighted visitor to an exhibition.

If the sighted viewer were to have the Braille read to them by a blind Braille-reader then it would be revealed that many of the words refer to abuses of human rights; forced labour camps in China and Burma and Israeli internment camps in Palestine for instance. The individual triangular units are often repeated, inverted and conflated into more complex structures. In these complex works the reference to aerial views is more explicit and the dots of Braille begin to signify as a pictographic language for denoting individuals seen from above. The works can then be interpreted as signs for actual internment camps, concentration camps and other places of enforced detention where individuals are reduced to a stateless status, that of homo sacer as explored in the writings of the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben.1 Here, individuals exist in a ‘state of exception’ outside of the normal civil liberties and political agencies.

These works are both literally and metaphorically ‘warning signs’, alerting the viewer to their hidden political content without immediately revealing it. Their aetiology of concealing their content within the structure of a non-visual language functions as a trope for our wilful ‘blindness’ to the plight of oppressed sections of society. Political oppression is buried in the veiling language of ‘democracy-speak’ and diplomatic double-dealing. Political freedom – the freedom of others –­­ is sacrificed for the expediency of international trade. De Ganay similarly employs circles which may appear on their own or in more complex ‘molecular clusters’ which are finished in a wide variety of industrial materials from car paint, with its flawless, mechanical, high-gloss surface to the soft yielding texture of felt. This notion of a systemic approach to the making of art affiliates de Ganay’s praxis with that of the industrial manufacture of utilitarian objects, but here the purpose the object fulfils is an aesthetic, political and philosophical one. It is in fact a misnomer to call this series of works triangular. Significantly, there are no acute angles here; what would normally be a ninety-degree sharp angle in each of the three corners is gently rounded, implying a continuity, an infinity, a frame without a beginning or end, with the implication that this is an open system, one that is infinitely extendable.

De Ganay’s artworks do not operate in the same manner as conventional artworks; painting, sculpture, installation. They may at first sight appear to partake of a Minimalist aesthetic but this association is illusory. Their blank shiny surfaces exist not so much to demonstrate the emptying out of content, as was the Minimalist mission, as to better fill themselves with the reflected content of the viewer, as in the large, wall-mounted yellow glass triangle and the series of glossy coloured triangles hung at eye-level. Their highly wrought industrial finish does not result from a mere fetishisation of industrially manufactured surfaces and materials; these materials are deployed because of their inherent physical properties, namely those of reflectivity.

De Ganay’s art is above all one of interactivity and participation, far from being the ‘cool’ production of minimalism as exampled by artists such as Donald Judd and Anne Truitt or the simulationist art of the 1980s, such as that of Haim Steinbeck and Sherrie Levine, his practice demonstrates a truly ‘relational aesthetic’. When the curator and writer Nicolas Bourriaud proposed the emergence of a new trend in contemporary art practice in the 1990s which privileged the role of the viewer as participant he focused particularly on the more obvious area of performance art, demonstrated by such artists as Santiago Sierra, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Philippe Parreno and Carsten Höller.2 However, de Ganay has demonstrated in this new series of work that a ‘relational aesthetic’ can also be mediated through the more conventional practices of painting, sculpture and installation.

In the artist’s floor pieces what at first appears to be a Minimalist floor sculpture, in the tradition of such artists as Carle Andre, is in fact a wholly interactive installation which is only completed upon the active participation of the spectator. When the subject begins to walk on the sculpture it becomes evident that it radically mediates their perception of its form on several different levels. As they step from one element to the next the triangles begin to move, each one being balanced on a central rounded ball; a degree of instability is created in the participant’s body such that the sculpture alters the participants spatial orientation, causing him or her to ‘dance’ across the sculpture in order to maintain their vertical orientation. On another level, the body, or fragmented parts of it, are reflected in the shiny depths of the coloured epoxy resin as the participant traverses the sculptural elements. This mirroring, or drawing in of the subject serves to integrate them with the artwork on yet another aesthetic level: the moving image of the viewer literally becomes part of the artwork, as in the mirror ‘portraits’ of Michelangelo Pistoletto.

The work is not so much an object to be looked ‘at’ as a system of which the participant becomes a significant and integral part. Although it is true that no artwork exists without the observation of a viewer, the vast majority of contemporary art production is still engaged in manufacturing objects which are merely ‘looked at’ and as such demand of the viewer the position of passive ‘observer’. De Ganay takes the formal structures of a Minimalist aesthetic and conflates them with the strategies of relational aesthetics, producing a new order of practice which could be termed ‘Relational Minimalism’.

This concept could be seen to have its roots in the Russian avant-garde as expressed in the 1910s and 1920s through the movements of Constructivism and Suprematism. The work of such artists as Kasimir Malevich and Aleksandr Rodchenko posited that the work was not complete until the viewer had physically interacted with it. Rodchenko’s Hanging Constructions (1920–1921), were activated by the physical presence of the viewer, as they hung from the ceiling the delicate works reacted to the physical movements of the viewer. Similarly in exhibitions designed by El Lissitzky abstract paintings were hung on racks so that viewers selected which works would be seen. This concern for relationality was later taken up by the Minimalist movement of the 1960s.

The first British Minimalist sculpture, titled Sculpture No 2, was made by the artist Rasheed Araeen in 1965. It was an immovable structure fashioned from simply stacked rigid steel girders. Later, however, Araeen developed a series of freely interactive units based on a diagonally reinforced open cube. These were light, being fashioned from painted wood, and the audience were encouraged to rearrange them into whatever configuration they wished, creating a continuously reconstructed and truly relational ‘public’ sculpture. De Ganay takes this Constructivist and Minimalist relational aesthetic and moves it forward by re-investing the work with a potent political content, thus irrigating a hitherto parched aesthetic strand of modernism.

The nineteenth-century notion of the artist’s ‘atelier’ with its rarefied atmosphere and romantic struggle to create unique and individual works of art, the fruits of ‘genius’, became redundant after two momentous events: the Industrial revolution and the carnage of World War I. Such was the significance of these events that Western culture was permanently altered and it became impossible for artists to continue to function in the way they had before. This cultural rupture was indexed by the emergence of Dada, a movement which clearly marked a caesura in the history of art. De Ganay’s praxis posits the ‘studio as factory’, producing different ‘lines’ of art products which partake of a strong design aesthetic. The works are ‘manufactured’ as opposed to being handcrafted artefacts. This emphasises content over form and transposes the work into a ‘user-friendly’ category, to borrow a term from Bourriaud, where it is more accessible to a general public and not only to a bourgeois sensibility with its attendant and restrictive notions of connoisseurship and cultural privilege.

De Ganay’s practice is premised on the notion of an ‘open system’, a varied menu of simple elements, cellular or atomic, building into more and more complex structures or ‘molecules’. The simple geometric elements can quickly multiply to form new artworks, available, like the utilitarian products of domestic design, in a variety of finishes and colours. This is emphasised by the reproduction of ‘technical drawings’ in this catalogue, similar to those found in furnishing catalogues. In the ‘Pick Me Up’ series groups of vertical metal pipes, finished in strong primary and tertiary colours, are lent against the gallery wall. The participant is invited to pick up the sculpture and is instantly surprised by their lightness. Expectations are confounded and assumptions nullified as the normal parameters of Minimalist sculpture and installation are subverted, the literal or assumed notice ‘do not touch’ is inverted into an invitation to not only touch the artwork but also to conceptually activate it by physically lifting it into the air.

In the ‘Beer Deckel’ series an ambiguous circular scalloped shape is intersected by a second colour or patterned surface, such as synthetic wood grain. They are finished in the hard, glossy surfaces produced by industrial car paints or synthetic resins, such as the kitchen surface liquid xanthan gum, known as Sinozan-L. A reflective surface is paradoxically both an impenetrable barrier, an excluding and self-encapsulating surface, an actual and ontological ‘skin’ and at the same time a reflective index which includes the refractive avatar of the viewer within the work. This ‘push and pull’, a more sophisticated version of the ‘push-pull’ cited by Hans Hofmann in relation to his work of the 1950s, sets up a mise en abyme of reflections of reflections of reflections embedding the participant in a recursive visual echo-chamber of subject-object-subject. We may try merely to look at the object but as soon as we do we inevitably become part of it.

In the earlier series of ‘cardboard boxes’, an object which has close associations with the body of homo sacer, is deconstructed into its original flat form. Originally a box is a two-dimensional shape which only becomes three-dimensional when it is folded and glued. In its original configuration it resembles the diagram of a hyper cube, or four dimensional cube, like a cross, or a body with arms outstretched – one square for the head, one for the chest, and two each for the arms and legs. The humble cardboard box is the ‘home’ of millions of homeless and stateless individuals around the world, its material and structure providing temporary warmth and shelter to those dispossessed of capital resources. However, now that the box is rendered in the ‘permanent’ material of steel the paradox of its simulation reinforces its signification as a metonym for the permanence of poverty in society; poverty is as enduring as stainless steel but unfortunately not as easily dissolvable as cardboard. Indeed, the inverted boxes function as surrogate bodies, scattered around the gallery floor like so many homeless refugees, their anthropomorphic resonance again reinforced by the inclusion of the reflection of the art participator within the work and our natural tendency toward pareidolia,3 or projecting anthropomorphic associations into random, inanimate structures.

There is a group of works which seem to have migrated from the walls to the floor. When the black glass ‘mirrors’ with their heavy, carved plywood frames are hung on a wall their mirrored depth and flush fit create the illusion that the sculpture actually goes through the wall, giving on to infinite deep space. This opening up of the solidity of the wall is echoed in a different way when the even longer pieces are placed on the floor, but this time it is the floor itself which appears to open up. This spatial excavation, although illusory, opens a metaphysical tunnel into an alternative universe; this effect is reinforced by the fact that due to the particular viewing angle enforced by the careful placement of the pieces the reflection of the viewer is often absent. The sculpture functions like a ‘Claude glass’,4 we see the world ‘through a glass, darkly’,5 and mentally enter into that world, like Alice going through the looking glass or Bugs Bunny adroitly throwing down his ‘portable black holes’ in order to make a swift escape.

When we look at de Ganay’s art we are in fact not looking at ‘sculpture’ and ‘painting’ per se, despite the fact that the floor pieces partake of the attributes of sculpture – form, structure, volume, colour – and the wall pieces index many of the formal signifiers of painting, such as colour, composition and two-dimensionality. If we look once more to the opened boxes, especially when they are displayed in a group, we can see them as relating more closely to the medium of film. Each new configuration of the deconstructed box is like a stop-motion still of an animated object, unfolding through space and time. This filmic reference also relates back to the Braille pieces, with their implication of an aerial panning shot moving over the labour and concentration camps below.

The artist shuns the traditional stricture of a hierarchical system of composition; in his praxis all the elements are equal and in effect interchangeable. Instead of the monumentalising device of the plinth the work is placed directly on the floor, or casually stacked against the wall. Stacking is deployed as a deliberate strategy in order to visually ‘democratise’ the work; it emphasises the ‘equality’ of all of the elements, the fact that rather than being distinct and individual works of art they are only units in a complex system which succeeds in inflecting the political into the visual and the relational into the aesthetic.

 

Richard Dyer © 2009

 

 

1           Homo sacer, Latin for ‘the sacred man’ or ‘the accursed man’, an obscure figure of Roman law: a person who is banned, may be killed by anybody but may not be sacrificed in a religious ritual. The person is excluded from all civil rights, while his/her life is deemed ‘holy’ in a negative sense. Agamben uses the term to refer to contemporary groups who are treated by the state in a similar manner; refugees, political prisoners, migrants, asylum seekers, etc. See Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Daniel Heller-Roazen, trans, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 1998.

2            Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, Les presses du réel, Paris, [1998] 2002

3            Pareidolia is the psychological phenomenon whereby a dedifferentiated sensory stimulus is perceived as signifying a known object or structure such as a face. Common examples include seeing images of faces in clouds or cut fruit or hearing words or sentences in the ‘white noise’ of static between radio stations.

4            A Claude glass was a small slightly convex mirror tinted a dark colour. It was used by artists, travellers and connoisseurs of landscape and landscape painting. The effect was to reduce and simplify the colour and tonal range of the landscape giving it a painterly quality, similar in appearance to the work of Claude Lorrain, hence its name.

5            King James V Bible, New Testament, 1 Corinthians 13:12

 

Richard Dyer is News Editor and London Correspondent for Contemporary magazine, Art Editor of Wasafiri and Assistant Editor of Third Text. His critical writing has appeared in Frieze, Flash Art, Art Review, Art Press, Third Text, The Independent, The Guardian, Time Out and many other publications. His latest publications are The Descent of Man: Wolfe von Lenkiewicz (All Visual Arts, 2009) and Clement Page: Screen Memories: Picturing Lost Time in the Watercolours of Clement Page (Kuckei + Kuckei, Berlin, 2009). He is also a published poet and fiction writer; his first poetry collection, A Western Journey, was published by Arlen House (2006).

WINNER TAKES ALL

Patrick Javault

 

Wherever it goes, whatever it says or does, it seems contemporary art will never get over pop and minimal art. These two streams blend just about everything known as contemporary style, and those that went looking elsewhere to avoid resembling them ( post-minimal, antiform, arte povera…) simply meet them in a same will to rival with reality. It is the appropriation and enlargement of trivial images in one case, or the transfer of semi-industrial production methods towards plastic creations in another. Oldenburg and Warhol’s Brillo Boxes which are the absolute models, Judd’s “Specific Objects” texts could still teach us a thing or two about the reality of art today.

With this catalogue, Sébastien de Ganay announces the birth of a new enterprise of “objets de styles “ – unless it’s a bureau of tendencies. The clear ambition of this production is to delineate a field of activity, or research zone and to explore it as fully as possible on the basis of intuitions, dazzlements, but also gropings. The entente between research and production is solid. The artist as entrepreneur and animator of the small enterprise has been a fashionable model since, at least, the opening of the Factory, with its acknowledgement that there is, from command to demand, but a sliding from patrons to marketplace. Sébastien de Ganay pushes further the mimetism of the whole enterprise by deliberately placing himself in a position of supplier, capable of offering personalized responses to the yet-to-be- indentified spectators’ wishes. The clean-swept field is large, and those who might feel confined within the white cube will have the possibility to step onto the tiles of a Zen garden – unless it is French; in which case the rich weeds manage to hide the original design. From a brand new mural hanging, straight out of the shop, shiny as a car body, to the outline of a romantic landscape buried under the vegetation, this house has decidedly chosen to refuse us nothing.

Without interrogating the genesis of this new work and because its name invites us to, one is inclined to attribute to the Open System Disks the role of plougher or a land-clearer. It is they indeed, the less marked pieces, that offer the most possible interpretations. Visually the series and the assemblies of circles encourage associations and projections. Formally, they walk us from painting to piece of furniture. Thus they promote their role as workroom for serial works. It is perhaps with these disks that the intention to satisfy demand is at its most explicit. Indeed with these circles one can produce reliefs as well as sculptures, objects or panels for mural decoration and none of these formulas can possibly represent the right solution or the most perfect success. From a most stylized Mickey Mouse head to that of a clash of marbles, including the Olympics logo – we explore all the possible combinations allowable by the circle shape. Be they stacked up in piles, these circles soon evoke chips or the reserves of an Uncle Scrooge. And yet, adding lacquer to them we reencounter the design aspect for an as yet-defined use, perhaps stools bound together for a clandestine meeting… but here our imagination takes flight. The artist’s decision remains suspended and the choice is left to the viewer. The gamble proposed by the artist demands to be reappraised, completed and tweaked.

 

Rather than selecting the product most adapted to one or several functions, one ought to imagine a creative studio in which trial and error, and their adjustment, would go through an entire development cycle, and be explored to the full extent of its concept. If indeed each piece has its autonomy, the way it inscribes itself in a production, its history so to speak, cannot be detcached from it as a simple stand-alone.

On the other hand, the “All In One”, a term borrowed from mass production, or the “Pick Me Up” produce a confusion of codes and languages, an aesthetic “Babelism” for bored designers. It’s pop art’s Emperor’s New Clothes under the guise of a total arbitrary postmodernism. The “All In One” play at confusing the grammar of styles, since the stripes of color or of mirror which cross these shapes, vaguely inspired by bottle caps, have first the effect of breaking a harmony, but also to turn the erasure, the scratch into a decorative motif. One can evoke a certain violence of the design which imposes its law over any notion of function. Would it then be appropriate to open a biographical track that would pass through the Vienna cafés and the bars of Buenos Aires ? We are struck not only by the near insignificance of these motifs, but also by the speed of their circulation. In fact, in the contemporary artistic space sweeping through the ensemble of these works, it is the transitory which seems to be the dominant characteristic. Barely do they emerge from the catalog, their nesting place, than they engage in a process of circulation and adaptability to circumstances and peoples. The story of their setting in place or in space is yet to be told.

 

Of a work which thus anticipates the expectations of its public, one would say that it is of a commercial nature, and here the intention clearly flaunts itself. At this stage one suspects something else is at work. The intention to conform to the demands and tastes of the amateur is too direct not to be embarrassing. Commercial art, like bad taste, is always that of others, those unconscious of its reality. The ‘anything goes’ one guesses behind the accumulation of the triangular pieces could also apply to their interpretation. This instability of the interpreter (me right now) is one of the challenges or constraints imposed by these works. The paradox is that this “all in one” or “for all tastes” or “everything to please “ or even “take me with you” disturbs us by its exigency. “Too demanding”, we would say. These elementary geometrical figures play a game of seduction with us, forcing us to come to a knowledge of what it is we want, an excess which turns our markers and criteria of appreciation topsy turvy. “Everything to please”, “all in one”, “for all tastes”, or even “take me with you” are all formulas which, detached from the world of distribution and transferred to the world of art, embarrass us by their very insistence. Instead of being guided or even manipulated, the viewer must assert his choices.

And what about the work of art? You will ask, a seemingly trivial question and yet more meaningful than it sounds. Why not, indeed, choose a work of art as one would a tool or a piece of furniture; and even decide its final presentation, in terms of its function, the needs or of the intellectual/emotional investment we are ready to give to these objects - ,placed on a wall or at our feet.

Another way to put us on trial or test us resides in the use of Braille in the triangles series. Are they titles, quotes, allusions or misappropriations- misdirections? For who knows or tries to decipher Chanel or Gucci logos as they gleam alongside the evocation of labor camps in Cambodia or the Middle-East. It seems that anything can be said or written on the condition that it is addressed to the non-seers among us. Besides luxury labels’ evocation of a certain aristocracy of the abstract (the title of the chosen painting, according to the mood or the day’s impression), the return to a geopolitical reality here is a means of adding the role of megaphone to the works. It is an odd mode of sharing one’s impressions or outrage. As if, in order to dispute the immediacy of the visual, it was first necessary to go through this writing’s filter, which the seeing public receives as a series of abstract motifs. The seer here becomes less of a dominant player and finds himself forced to learn Braille or else. A political art for the blind reeks a bit of cheap fortune cookie wisdom, unless it’s a definition without illusions of militant art. The Braille texts contradict the formalist aim or the confusion of codes, as if the artist were gagged by a relatively formal treatment of problems. The evocation of human drama alternating with chic logos, make looking for a clear discourse or a clear denunciation a vain effort. Political art clearly finds its limits here, and the words barely read by skillful hands or decoded by methodological minds, rush back to the sound and the fury. All in all, there’s something quite romantic in this slipping of coded messages (in the manner of a saboteur) embedded in a chain of production running full tilt. This particular Romanticism seems gnawed at by doubt.

The triangle atop a stand evokes a lectern or desk, thereby inviting us to go beyond contemplation to speak. As a motif reused for the paving of a garden or that of a stream, this triangular motif detaches itself even more from the frame of exposition and achieves its mutation into a useful object. This flagstone on the path shows itself as a type of forgetfulness as well as a reminiscence of a shape glanced at elsewhere, in an artistic frame.

What one had mistakenly identified as an image or signal turns out to be a purely structural instrument, a tool allowing for a stroll into a large artistic territory, from painting to sculpture, from the conceptual to the art of gardens. Rather than a series or a suite, it’s a repertory of objects that we evoke. The words “product range” (gamme) belong to the industrial or semi-industrial world, but also evoke the notion of apprenticeship. To do one’s apprenticeship or to produce an array,unite as notions, since it is a question of trial, discovery, and development. Of course, some liberties are taken with the words, since one cannot say that a lectern, mobile mural panels, and a stream path belong to the same product range. But in that case why not consider the existence of an array of works the better to underline the diversity of models and because their natures and their formal characteristics are distinct? What unifies this array is the exploration of the functions of the work of art to the point where the work itself bows before its usage.

 

Even if the presentation modes bring them to mind, the models for these works are neither paintings, nor sculptures, but indeed common shapes torn from the pages of a magazine or picked up at a café terrace and later developed into a perfect definition. The created object is then gotten into circulation, reflected into other works of the series, but it also perpetrates itself within stories and echoes of lived hi/stories. The autonomy of the work of art itself, which we stopped doubting long ago, offers itself up as spectacle, and seems to enjoy a form of indifference to the spectatator, despite invitations to participate, play, or to help himself. It’s a bit as if, at the Museum of the Beaux-Arts, a master’s painting was offered to the visitor at the same time as its anti-theft mechanism or its hanging mechanism and that one could no longer distinguish what must be admired. With these signs of autonomy, the work begins to grow within its context and – more greatly – within the reality of the world surrounding it. The technical quality in this case is the guarantee of the work’s non-belonging to a single aesthetic domain, having many other dimensions and qualities to claim and to make known.

The distribution of goods, or of the transitory is also what the cardboard boxes or cartons come to suggest with their aluminum paint. Inspired from the foldings or unfoldings we all know and do, and without betraying their material effect, they testify to the creativity – the invention that our most ordinary gestures reveal. The mystique of the workshop once dismantled and the problem of a fundamental work of a site or space, imposes in its stead a vision of permanent distribution of objects and goods. The works are thereby in storage and are to find transitory arrangements within given conditions. Open shapes can present themselves as containers, and these pieces also testify to the very great permeability of the registers and activity sectors. To situate oneself within design, art or crafts depends most often upon a manner of sorting out problems and defining one’s priorities. And the concepts attached to the works can appear as the functions of the forms these works are supposed to follow. By certain details such as the perfectly visible welding or the excessive dimension of a flap to fold, these objects are also images or 3D projections, the images of real cardboard boxes. Through the cardboard boxes (les Cartons) craft, a creative potential, is celebrated, at the same time as a sense of make do that allows to convert these objects without value in a trading currency or a unity of habitat. Through foldings and unfoldings, the vocabulary of built art is revisited, the semi-free, semi- constrained game of planes that spread in the direction of Carl André or rise in the direction of Artschwager, or even remind us of various different architectural models or shelters of fortune; it is a bittersweet irony to see the “cartoneros” (box dwellers) show the way to the semi-luxury products.

 

It is understood that the motifs of inspiration count less than their capacity to put into place a creative process that proceeds by steps, creating a link, joining or touching-up preoccupations that go beyond simple considerations of form. Speed is the common vector of this series, more so than exchange or distribution – speed of the passage from idea to object, from the suggestion of a form or motif to the product. In producing this catalogue of objects of all kinds and for all tastes, Sébastien de Ganay demonstrates how a rapid circuit of fabrication functions from a free, even casual approach of the form. We perceive the speed of the assembly and distribution of the circles, the speed with which one picks up a sugar packet on a café table, or with which one traces, from memory, the contour of a beer bottle cap to engage on questions of exchange and sociability.

 

No one is supposed to ignore that the context of a work does not limit itself to the site, the frame within which it exposes itself, and that there is always more than what meets the eye, that what we see is not only what we see, no matter what Frank Stella may have said one day. But perhaps this point should be reviewed in light of the catalog, which is the origin and the raison d’être of the show. To deploy a significant amount of works belonging to this series would imply either an immense space of exposition, or a form of presentation which would look more like an unpacking than a hanging. In fact, the Buenos Aires show promises to be a balance between showing and storage, promising to the visitor what he could have seen, besides what he really sees. The show is then in many ways more than that alternative, because the distinction is uncertain between the works shown, displayed or simply dropped there, and in fact the opening is based less upon the elaboration of a work, in the lineage of process art, than upon a chain or sequence of steps and operations, from technical drawing to its modes of presentation. If such emphasis placed upon the catalog over the show can surprise or even shock, it represents first and foremost a possible response to the critical situation within which the form of exposition finds itself. The multiplication of exhibts of contemporary artwork and the disappearance of frontiers within artistic worlds have resulted in the fact that, for the greatest part, our knowledge of a work is achieved today through a catalog or photographs. Besides the interminable circulation of works and their spreading over the planet, art fairs today have not only become the first centers of sales, they are not far from being the most followed international exhibitions. The present catalog is a reflection of this reformulation of exhibitions: upon demand. The work of art is merchandise/supply, but it is especially today also produced with a subtle dose of concepts, of elements of formal vocabulary and materials. Similarly, the way a quote or reference is used belies know-how or a good use of plastic codes. In this way one could say that works of art emphasize a function of uselessness, even if that function is itself regularly pondered.

By attracting the spectator’s attention to the use of Braille, one enlarges the centers of preoccupation, one sips elsewhere. It starts with a lectern which carries what could be termed an orientation table. We are here subjected to a test of our capacities, and of our desires. Behind these triangles on the wall which can be deconstructed and repositioned, one can’t help but think there must exist a more correct or adequate order for them – which would give us their key. This last piece functions strictly as a hanging machine for which the hang-able object counts as much, and maybe even less, than the act of hanging itself. It is a game apparently free, and yet slightly biased, since that fixation also functions as security and protection - protection against what one will, as the saying goes, or simply lucid acknowledgement of the limits and of the relative impact of the passage of command from artist to spectator. We then begin to comprehend that the correct or incorrect hanging is but a footnote in the story of the work. The supplier‘s catalog equally fulfills the more classical role of reference work and historical validator. Only memories and a catalog remain from the exhibition, the catalog with which this time it had all begun. The exhibition is a virtuality contained within the booklet, a way of liberating its pages and to have (inter)play between them. Seen or unseen, also apprehended and read by non-seers, the exhibition remains to be imagined, redone from the pages of the catalog. Mallarmé and Manufrance* both being guides to an approach of the contemporary.