In conversation with Aapo Nikkanen feat. Alex Bailey

be me - a collection of greentexts

be me – a collection of greentexts

The following conversation recollects the events of a semi-random evening six months ago. I had set up a meeting with Aapo Nikkanen, curious to hear more about his book project, which was still a work in progress back then. We had been talking about doing an interview for a good while already, yet the right context seemed to be missing. As we didn’t want the conversation to follow the obvious patterns of two friends having a chat, Aapo had suggested bringing in a third person, to play the role of a commentator. One day, I got a phone call from Aapo saying that a friend of his, Alex from London was in town, and would be the perfect person to do the job. The following day, I arrived to the meeting point, a carefully selected roundabout in Eastern Paris, with no set-up, just ready to press the record button on my phone. This three-hour recording, whose original version is way richer than written down here, extended to months of typing, deleting and typing. The book, be me – a collection of greentexts is ready and out there now. But first, let’s go back to the events of one sunny evening in May 2015.

be me - a collection of greentexts

Courtesy of 4chan

Sini: Hey Mark, welcome to Paris! Is it your first time here?

Alex: First of all, my name is not Mark.

Sini: Oh, sorry!

Alex: It’s quite alright, and actually it’s funny that you call me Mark. It reminds me of a story, listen to this: once when I was in a bar and actually introduced myself as Mark, and the person said: Bark? And I thought, he either misheard me, or he actually thinks my name is the outer layer of a tree. Or, it was some kind of command: Bark! Haven’t seen this guy since. But I have to say, what concerns me a lot is the premise. It has to be established and clear right from the onset. The story will work, if the premise is in its place. What was the premise for you to do this interview? Does me being part of this conversation serve a specific purpose?

Sini: On my way here, there was a lot of things going through my mind: mostly, what kind of impact will your presence have on the conversation? Then I realized that I can’t have any prearranged plan since I didn’t know the first thing about you.

Aapo: I see you as the gonzo element: of not having the boring “same questions same answers” kind of thing, written in international art English.

Sini: Why did you want to invite Alex in particular?

Aapo: I just thought he was a suitable person.

be me - a collection of greentexts

Courtesy of 4chan

Alex: And I was free and I was available: listen, pragmatism is nothing to be ashamed of! Before coming here, I was thinking about me and Aapo’s friendship, and what I came down to was basically is that I know things of a personal nature about him that he wouldn’t like me to tell. And vice versa. So there’s a sort of sensitive trust between us. I would also like to know why are we in this specific place. Do you come here often?

Aapo: I live down the street, so I pass by this place very often. When you’re in this roundabout it feels like you’re in a bubble: around it’s super busy all the time, but people come here to relax, they’re always chilling out here, drinking beer and smoking. This is a physical bubble. When everything around us is moving, there’s something very calming about it.

Sini: Do you have a hard time finding this kind of bubbles in Paris?

Aapo: I don’t think it has necessarily something to do with that. Since I got the funding for my book project, I realised I didn’t have any outside pressure on my work. However, there’s no ending to it in a proper sense: this project is not going to end up in an exhibition for instance. In this sense, I’m working in a bubble right now, without any stress – I could do this work and then just put in a drawer without ever showing it to anyone.

Alex: What kind of book proposal did you have?

Aapo: I’ve been collecting stories online since late 2010. Everything started when I found one really good one and wanted to make a work out of it, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with it – and decided to save the story for later. Then I started collecting more and more of those stories. I ended up having loads of them, and proposed to make a book based on these stories: a book which would also function as a tool of access to these stories, to make stories out of stories.

be me - a collection of greentexts

Courtesy of 4chan

Sini: Where did you collect them?

Aapo: Almost all of them come from 4chan. For most of the people it’s a terrible site, it’s seen like the dumpster of the Internet with basically one million posts a day. When facing this crazy content, what people do, is when seeing even a mildly amusing story, they take a screen shot and post it on these image boards, like the ones where people post cat pictures, flows of visual data. And this is what I follow.

Sini: So there was already a sort of preselection?

Aapo: Exactly. Every half a year I deleted half of the stories, because there was too much of them for me to handle them, and to be honest, I’ve read thousands of really shitty stories at this point. However, I think they’re very poetic in a sense: the stories have developed their own literary genre, a statement-like internet expressionism.

Sini: What about the criterion when selecting the texts?

Aapo: Yes, I’ve spent many terrible hours when selecting them, so I had to come up with certain rules. For example, since they’re anonymous – and this is the most important thing – they should be stories that we want to believe in. And obviously we can never know if they’re true or not. With the best stories you think that they cannot possibly be true – but who knows?

Sini: How about your other ongoing work, does it somehow reflect the same themes as the book? I remember you talking something about crying instagram selfies…

Aapo: One day I saw one crying selfie online and was wondering what was it about. I noticed that this was a sort of trend: people trying to win their lost love back by posting crying selfies publicly on Facebook, which inspired me to start a collection of these images. There’s the same element present as with the stories: if the pic is good enough, you want to believe it to be true. However, for me this phenomenon represents a sociological problem that hasn’t been resolved yet.

be me - a collection of greentexts

Courtesy of 4chan

Sini: Could you precise?

Aapo: Let’s say that if me and Alex would break up here, obviously it would be public in a way, since you and the people sitting at the bench over there would witness it. But it would never be a hyper public situation, since they would forget about it, and it would fade away. But when this happens online, it only takes one share and becomes a virtual act, and never disappears. This kind of posts are done by younger generation, people who have been familiar with Facebook all their lives, and it has thus become a normal act. In my view, there will be some social rules which will be generated on the Internet: this is already visible to certain extent for example with posts where people write content warning in the beginning, that people can hide or skip it. But this is only the first, awkward way of dealing with this.

Alex: Let’s say if we broke up here, those guys over there they wouldn’t necessarily come up here staring at my face, but online they wouldn’t necessarily press the hide button. What did you do with these images?

Aapo: I printed some of them on a thick plexiglass, perhaps half a size of an Ipad screen. The form resembles a little bit of a tombstone. By the way, I used to work for this company, who wanted to launch a virtual graveyard for rich people. My job was to translate all the content into Finnish, because they were aiming worldwide. So if you were rich enough, you had the option of buying yourself a virtual space and upload content there that people would remember you, and which could be unlocked by your children for instance. I don’t even know what happened to them afterwards: my guess is that the timing wasn’t right for them and they didn’t succeed.

Alex: You pick up cynical subject matters, do you? The work you do, can always go to both ways, either they can be super genial or pure cynicism.

Aapo: Not true. I’m actually doing a series of work on love as well, entitled What is love?, which started from a mixtape of hiphop lovesongs. I used to listen to a lot of hip hop in Finland, and when I moved abroad I had to leave all my vinyls there. Since I couldn’t bring them with me, I started to make huge playlists on iTunes. While listening to these hard core rappers, I realized that their best songs are often love songs, something that I find very beautiful: it gives an interesting vision to this very otherwise macho world. The same theme is also to be found in my book: amidst the homophobic, hateful and racist online stories found on 4chan, you can actually find a lot of love-related stories.

Courtesy of 4chan

Courtesy of 4chan

Greentext book
Amazon Aapo Nikkanen

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Uranium Shower – Max Hooper Schneider at High Art

Following the solo exhibition of Max Hooper Schneider at High Art, Anna Solal writes about Natural Theatre of Violent Succession.

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

Painted in black, the Parisian gallery High Art welcomes the works – mostly sculptures in movement – of L.A. based artist Max Hooper Schneider. His baroque, disastrous dioramas are presented through a slot machine, an aquarium and a mundane dishwasher – commodities that essentially serve the purpose of making our life more comfortable and entertaining. Hooper Schneider, who often uses living leeches, beluga mussels or freshwater snails in his works, highlights here the creation of tropical and swampy settings, illuminated by chaotic multicolor fluorescent lights in the spirit of Jason Rhoades.

The environment is destroyed but not dead: whereas rotten bits and parts are swarming, the vegetation is growing and diversifying. When sliding a coin inside the slot machine, one might have the chance to meet a big gesticulating cockroach, reading us the future through its crystal ball. The work Cold War Dishwasher (Uranium Glass), a washing machine with an interior as black as night, is occupied by a colony of minuscule fish, still alive, whirling around fluorescent tableware, which sheds light on them. The cylindrical form of champagne glasses and lemon squeezer reminds us of domes – of toxically radiated, dismantled architecture. This familiar object – a washing machine – ends up resembling more of a small, pathetic bunker plunged into obscurity.

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art


Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

In the masterpiece Existenz which resembles the series Z, the vision of the future paradoxically confronts a return towards the archaic and muddy past, where technological mutations lead to game boys which take the shape of cyst. In the work of Max Hooper Schneider, prehistoric and repulsive insects proliferate: woodlouse, beetles, amphibians of every sort, construct their viscous installations.

In the middle of the exhibition space, we can find a small android coming alive, with its altered, dusty and metallic body. In contrast to a work of DIS, it is not an image print of Wall-E made in Pixar and suspended in a whiteness dominated by the language found in publicities, but more like a residue resulting from an experimentation, something extracted from the sticky floor. This unproductive and forgotten machine, blinks its eyes painfully, feeling dazed of finding itself here: visibly desiring to survive, whereas further away, suspicious sky blue liquid is running in a washbasin.

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art


Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

The abstract drawings suspended from chains differ from each other, whereas the meticulous character of pastel patterns is repeated: even though those with less geometry alludes to the works of the Swiss artist-healer Emma Kunz who interests in telepathy. This interest to mix the artistic practice together with scientific one, was initiated by Art & Technology program set up by LACMA at the end of the sixties. With another work of Max Hooper Schneider, shown at the Californian fair Paramount Ranch, however not present in this exhibition, the visitors could approach a pink coffin, whose interior revealed a recreated marine environment composed of turtles, fish and crayfish. The floor of these installations is burned, inundated but fertile. Between the mutant installations of Alisa Baremboym and the pop spirit of Michele Abeles, the artist spreads the idea that in the world, which is no longer populated by humans, life goes on.

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art


Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

Courtesy of the artist and Hight Art

High Art

Density, tension and narrative – Jasper Spicero’s Centers in Pain

Centers in Pain installation view. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris

Centers in Pain installation view. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris

Brooklyn-based artist Jasper Spicero presents Centers in Pain at New Galerie in Paris. ‘Centers in Pain’ is a project that originally took place in a minimum security jail in Portland, Oregon. Following its completion in 2004, the prison was abandoned and maintenance personnel was reduced due to lack of operational funds. A 10-ton structure that crushed one of the prison corridors and that is gradually destroying the sewage system connected to the nearest water reservoir depicted a ‘center in pain’. Now used on occasions as a film set, Spicero rented the facility for four days although it remained inaccesible to the general public. The project was later translated to a website, a video work, a script and sculptural objects.

Centers in Pain installation view. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris

Centers in Pain installation view. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris


Centers in Pain, detail. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris

Centers in Pain, detail. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris

The tagline to the project “in every patient a center in pain” draws a parallelism between institutional architecture and individuals who are subjected to the power of such institutions. In the three rooms at New Galerie we encounter visible signs of passing, such as distressed clothing and furniture. At times resembling a film set, the objects are arranged to look like detention facilities or mental insitutions with the room upstairs organised as a canteen or a common area of sorts and the two rooms downstairs as sleeping quarters. The sculptural objects made up of daycare furniture, hand sewn fabric, tape recorders and digital prints and their organisation within the space, construct a singular narrative, creating one shared environment that presents institutionality as an entity that exerts the same power in all institutional contexts. Despite the fact that the work can be given a Foucauldian reading, Spicero’s research seems more interested in how one constructs the real by means of various interconnected media and evocation through organisations that function as constructed scenographies.

S.M.A.R.T. Picture frame purple, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris

S.M.A.R.T. Picture frame purple, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris

The use of different media, namely video, sculpture, scripts and other textual elements create a multi-layered networked environment that bypasses the singularity of the objects, guiding the viewer towards an immersive experience that relies heavily on spatial and temporal variables. The work exists within a doubled dynamic of activity and non-activity that is not triggered by human interaction but rather, is conditioned by other factors such as the institutional character of the space, limited accesibility and the narrative density and organisation of all the elements. Spicero manages to create a tension that one could perhaps define as active staticity, a tension created through moments of non-activity in the space and the static relationship between the sculptural objects. It is primarily a narrative technique derived from survival horror video games and that is built on spatial intervention and temporal longevity. The use of such techniques sheds light on Spicero’s main enquiry, namely, recreating a fictive universe that is dense enough to be experienced as real.

Centers in Pain installation view. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris

Centers in Pain installation view. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris

Centers In Pain video system. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris

Centers In Pain video system. Courtesy of the artist and New Galerie, Paris

The show at New Galerie functions primarily as an archivization of this project. The viewer is presented with a perfectly functioning shell that is reminscent of film set memorabilia. It does not disclose new information, but through a reorganisation of all the elements, it inscribes yet another layer to an already dense and populated narrative.

Spicero was born in 1990 in Yankton, USA. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, USA.

Centers in Pain on view at New Galerie through July 11.

Jasper Spicero Centers in Pain New Galerie

Material Dreams – Jocelyn Villemont

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Scanned from the outermost reaches of the gallery space, Jocelyn Villemont’s solo exhibition Material Dreams at Chez Valentin, seems to blur the boundaries between a private cosmology and universal imagery, studied through the appropriation of domestic gadgets and antiseptic aesthetics. In the sterile brightness of the room I find myself confronted with familiar, banal objects: the commodities on display and their texture seem simultaneously highly artificial, yet I recognise their shapes and symbols, and my dependence vis-à-vis to them.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

With a closer look, the works on display reveal to delve into the proliferation of scattered images and the exhaustion with visual stimuli, their constant renaissance and recycling. This approach is closely linked to Villemont’s method: in his creative practice he uses quick execution processes, such as transfer, sticking, flocking, printing and sketching. In the gallery space, I can hear the steady hum of a washing machine, occupying the center of the floor: this work, entitled Nightstand (2015) suggests an ongoing, definite movement in the otherwise still atmosphere, proposing a study on the (re)cycle of images. The machine is surrounded by transparent, thus accessible surfaces, yet their horizontal stretches and positioning leaves a plastic, distant feeling.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

This installation is surrounded by a continuum of limpid forms and objects, allowing to get deeper in my quest for re-establishing the original experience and connection with images. On the left side of Nightstand, a series of detergent bottles, entitled Self-branded detergent (2015), can be found. I recognise their forms and subsequently their meaning: however, they are deprived of all-encompassing branding, when their white plastic surface is decorated with something reminiscent of DIY badges.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

The gallery space is enclosed by a series entitled Sleeping disorder dating from 2015: these pillows with fresh shades form a composition that rhythms the white gallery walls. Sleeping disorder proposes flat vortex images and symbols of common care, which I’m able to decode thanks to the mental guide in my mind. While these whirlpool images stand for a movement, stretch and twist, their linearity, energy and mass are flattened on fabrics, whose texture seems somehow to absorb the images. Next to these printed vertical flows, I can find rectangular shapes with images on detergents and linguistic symbols. When I continue to move my gaze on the gallery walls, I end up observing my distorted profile: this series entitled Masticated reality (2015), made of film mirror and chewing gum on dibond, unfolds the mood of distrust related to our cognitive sight, when facing the never-ending flow of images.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Villemont’s exhibition reveals to be a study on spatial and visual encoding, where personal zone and time interweaves with black holes. The established boundaries cease to exist within the white confines of the space: what to make of all the images and their constant production? Do they fade away gradually, or rather, do they form symbolic charts in our minds, thus ending up lingering in the imaginary beyond? Plain forms and colours seem to be sufficient for us to contextualise, yet we get confused, when all of a sudden the familiar 360 degree branding is missing. Material Dreams is about discerning the symbols we think as our narrative, both in public and private consciousness.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat. Courtesy of the artist and gallery Chez Valentin, Paris.

Jocelyn Villemont is a French artist and curator, born in 1986. He lives and works in Thorigny sur Marne, and is part of the artist duo It’s Our Playground together with Camille Le Houezec.

Material Dreams on view at Chez Valentin through June 20.

Joey Villemont It’s Our Playground Chez Valentin

Dorothy Iannone: Welcome to our show

Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris.

Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris.

Welcome to our show is the title of the latest solo exhibition of Dorothy Iannone at Air de Paris. The exhibition gathers together an extensive body of work, spanning from the 1960’s until our days: this partly retrospective look allows to discover how her artistic, yet highly personal narrative has evolved throughout the decades.

Iannone is a multidisciplinary artist: her variegated activities include painting, drawing, films, sculptures and books. The loves and life of this 82-year old American artist is unfolded through her work: themes of erotic love and sexuality between women and men and the idea of an ecstatic unity are important themes for Iannone. Most of her works reveal a figure of a woman next to a man, depicted in erotic ways, yet their union is joyful and equal. An ornament-like approach is revealed in the work’s approach to bodily expressions: visual stimuli and inspiration seem to be drawn from her several trips outside Europe.

Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris.

Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris.


Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris.

Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris.

As expected, her work doesn’t propose a soft meditational approach in the gallery space: there is an edgy tingle present, it feels like the artist herself would be physically implicated in this encounter. The retrospective approach creates an interesting layer in the exhibition, allowing the visitor to move away from the immediate surroundings, and respectively, abolishing the generational reserve. It’s not too late to remember who I am is written on one her major pieces right at the entrance of the exhibition: this is a part of the work aptly entitled An Explosive Interlude (1979), which particularly delves into the beginning of an emerging relationship that she was bound to construct with Berlin, after having moved there in the 1970’s.

A self-taught painter, the work of Dorothy Iannone is assured of its own rightness. From an early work Wiggle your ass for me (1970-1971), a large-scale painting unfolding her interest in the figure of Eros, to a more recent acrylic painting Luminous (2012), the works constitute joyful figurations with spasms of joy, constantly on the move. These works unfold an altar for joy and fertility, celebrating and revolting within the white gallery walls. At first, it seems like if the artist has brought the exotic near the visitors, but at the end it reveals to be its opposite: instinctive feelings such as sexuality, are rendered exotic and celebrated.

Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris.

Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris.


Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris.

Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris.

Despite the highly self-narrative approach, Iannone also borrows elements from political climate, calling for sexual emancipation and freedom of speech. In the past, the explicitly sexual content of her work drew frequently the attention of authorities and thus faced censorship problems; such was the case of the exhibition Friends organized at Bern Kunsthalle in 1969.

Iannone’s work echoes extensively the themes of popular culture. Her recent work Lolita dating from 2009, made of gouache and acrylic paper on wood, takes a reflective yet playful way when treating the question of sexual roles and figures known through popular culture: this is the same artist who successfully sued the United States government on behalf of several of Henry Miller’s books censored in the U.S.A. to allow their importation into the country. The exhibition reveals to be more than a collection of personal experiences by leaving her works open-ended. Certainly, some of her works follow time-bound models of eroticism and emancipation, being linked to a certain historical mood. Nevertheless, the whole is an ensemble that is fluctuating and bound to evolve in our days: this narrative praxis filled with euphoria and sensorial understanding feels more than welcome these days, dominated by clinical corporate aesthetics in visual arts.

Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris.

Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris.

Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris.

Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris.

Born in Boston in 1933, Dorothy Iannone lives and works in Berlin. Her first solo show at Air de Paris She Is A Freedom Fighter was organized in 2007, and in 2009 the New Museum presented Lioness, her first one-person show in the United States. Her mixed media work I Was Thinking Of You was included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial. She has recently had major retrospectives, notably at the Camden Art Centre in London (2013), the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin (2014) and the Migros Museum in Zurich (2014). Many monographs have been devoted to her work, among them the recent «You Who Read Me With Passion Now Must Forever Be My Friends», which focuses in particular on the textual aspect of her oeuvre.

Welcome to our show on view until May 16.

Air de Paris

You will find me if you want me in the garden

Before entering the project room of the Parisian gallery Chez Valentin to see the latest group exhibition You will find me if you want me in the garden, I take a quick look at the press release. A short presentation of Epicureanism is included, a school also known as “The Garden”. The main idea behind this philosophy was to reach the state of tranquility: Epicurus himself believed that the highest good in life is pleasure (!δον) and that only the senses are true and infallible and should therefore be cared for constantly. These ideas vaguely going through my mind I enter the space, to see how the curator behind the exhibition, Domenico de Chirico, has turned this idea upside down in a playful way: through a coherent visual selection of the works, the exhibition translates and adopts the idea of a garden, or that of tranquility, pleasure and sensibility, into a logic-driven language of the 21st century.

© Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat / Courtesy of the artist and Valentin, Paris

© Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat / Courtesy of the artist and Valentin, Paris


© Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat / Courtesy of the artist and Valentin, Paris

© Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat / Courtesy of the artist and Valentin, Paris

Sleek surfaces are dominating the overall look of the space, which seems like a promise of serenity. I directly lay my eyes on a woman figure, which is occupying the center of the gallery floor: in my mind, a female figure sitting in a garden refers inevitably to the idea of fertility and sexuality. However, this work of a Danish artist Simon Dybbroe Moller, entitled Sporting #3 (2013), reveals to be a mannequin, sprayed concrete together with her baseball mats. Immediately, thanks to this figure, devoid of any expression, I begin to observe the exhibition in a different way. Placed right next to Moller’s work, The Metaphysics of the Runner (2014) is to be found: this work of Pakui Hardware, made in collaboration with Jeannine Han, consists of clothing made of synthetic fabric, reworked with acrylic. The shirt is hanging from the roof; pants are casually placed on the chair. This layout constitutes a straightforward gesture together with the title: through an almost careless composition, the work retraces not only the physical pleasure and its achievement, but also its strong union with the signification process that is created through visually attractive design.

© Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat / Courtesy of the artist and Valentin, Paris

© Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat / Courtesy of the artist and Valentin, Paris


© Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat / Courtesy of the artist and Valentin, Paris

© Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat / Courtesy of the artist and Valentin, Paris

A garden can also be understood as a space free of all anxiety: it’s a source of growth and vitality. These ideas are turned around in the work of Carson Fisk-Vittori, whose work Sponsored by Aide, An, Asiaq, Dodola, Mari, Pakhet, Saranya, Tamar, Tempestas (2015), a print on dibond, puts bluntly forward the question on the relationship between the world of consumerism and marketing on the one hand, and the quest for pleasure on the other hand. The work constitutes a repetition of images and words, which reminds us of a marketing language, that of logos and sponsorships. However, these names present actually names of goddesses of weather, against a leaf-like print, reminding us of vitality and growth, yet in an extremely glossy way.

© Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat / Courtesy of the artist and Valentin, Paris

© Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat / Courtesy of the artist and Valentin, Paris


© Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat / Courtesy of the artist and Valentin, Paris

© Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat / Courtesy of the artist and Valentin, Paris

Next to this, a work entitled Company (2012) of Ditte Gantriis is on display: an A-print and oil sticks on poly banner, continues the sheer aesthetics that is occupying the space. Here once again, through a digitally processed imagery, a publicity-driven image of a garden is at the reach of our hands. However, it is only a flat banner, whose role is to hide or reveal: the garden is only a distant idea on this white, clean surface. Right beneath it, we can find the works of Spencer Longo, entitled Mud Dynasty (Fennel and Fresh Laundry and Fennel and Flowers), both works dating from 2015. With different materials, the artist has constructed reminiscent of candles, using portable spittoons and scented wax. With a combination of these highly contrary elements, the work puts forward an idea of a hide-and-seek. A complementary layer to the exhibition is presented through the work of Alessandro Agudio: the work of this Milanese artist, Kaleenji (2012), made of resin, iron and toulipier wood, seems to find its place, with its persuading sleek surface, somewhere between design and object-fetishism. The medium here is a customized training board for climbing, which seems as a highly abstract object as such: the idea is to use meticulous objects to illustrate the appreciation that we have for them as status symbols, while their usage is left in parenthesis. This is how Agudio retraces a new kind of domestic scenery, and ends up observing the determining role of design while constructing a certain lifestyle.

© Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat / Courtesy of the artist and Valentin, Paris

© Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat / Courtesy of the artist and Valentin, Paris


© Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat / Courtesy of the artist and Valentin, Paris

© Photo : Sylvie Chan-Liat / Courtesy of the artist and Valentin, Paris

The exhibition points out the conditionality in which we find ourselves today: abstract words such well-being, performance and quality, construct in an active way an impersonal public narrative. We get easily hung up on artificial texture of things and surfaces, while commercial language has become part of our self-understanding. A garden, a pre-determined space for serenity and vitality per se, turns out to be in the exhibition indebted to corporate determined aesthetics, where additional devices are needed in the quest for pleasure. At the end, it seems it is to be found underneath sleek surfaces, with constant, yet very subtle innuendos of primary elements.

You will find me if you want me in the garden on view at Galerie Chez Valentin until May 16.

Together with: Alessandro AGUDIO, Stefania BATOEVA, Sol CALERO, Simon DYBBROE MØLLER,
Carson FISK-VITTORI, Ditte GANTRIIS, Pakui HARDWARE (in collaboration with Jeannine HAN), Daniel KELLER, Spencer LONGO, Matthew SMITH, Anna VIRNICH, Andrew NORMAN WILSON.

Julie Béna – Destiny

When visiting Julie Béna’s solo exhibition Destiny at Galerie Édouard-Manet de Gennevilliers, an absurd feeling of flatness takes over right from the beginning: the gallery has been transformed into a reminiscent of an office space, whose aesthetics is predominantly borrowed from the turn of the millennium. A carpet with geometric shapes and figures against a grey background is occupying the floor, leading the visitor to discover Béna’s introduction to corporate world, with a body of work solely conceived for the gallery space. With her exhibition Destiny, this French artist reveals to be faithful to her previous production, that is, finding inspiration from the world of theatre and popular culture, simultaneously transforming and disturbing spatial forms and codes.

This false reality, by definition a corporate one this time, starts right from the entry. As if introducing to a corporate zone, we can find a large TV screen on the wall welcoming the visitor, displaying a conversation between Miss None and Mister Peanut. An absurd exchange between the two cartoonish-like characters takes place, however, it is deprived of meaning and logic: words are pronounced and repeated, forming an attempt for a dialogue. Yet, the identities are blurred, or rather, they don’t exist.

Courtesy of Joseph Tang gallery, Paris. Exhibition “Destiny”, EMBA / Galerie Édouard Manet, Gennevilliers.


Courtesy of Joseph Tang gallery, Paris. Exhibition “Destiny”, EMBA / Galerie Édouard Manet, Gennevilliers.

A large office desk occupies the second room of the gallery: this is presumably the main office space. Its design – this seems to be the apt term to employ in this context – is dominated by the use of steel and glass. Respectively, sharpness and precision, even sterility are the dominating visual stimuli: the space reminds me of a perfect composition of an office decor taken afresh from a sales catalogue, one intended for enterprises. A perfect composition reigns in the space together with a cold and bright lighting guiding the vision: here you can’t find any coffee stains nor piles of papers waiting to be organised. Functionality and freshness could be suitable terms to use here, however, perhaps it is exactly for this reason that the space feels primarily flat and empty.

This lack of flavour with a certain clinical approach is further enhanced by the vinyl labels found on glass plates. Eyes are able to spell letters composing words, yet their selection seems somewhat arbitrary. This supplementary gesture allows us to contemplate on what is left for linguistic symbols when removed from their initial context. The same goes for the space’s interior design: what happens when material symbols and even entire spaces are removed from their original composition and then reselected, cut, copied and assembled in a new framework? This compositional style of Béna continues in the last room of the gallery: a plexiglass divides the space, whose starting point is indicated with a symbol of a hand glued on the floor. Once again the letters form the word destiny.

Courtesy of Joseph Tang gallery, Paris. Exhibition “Destiny”, EMBA / Galerie Édouard Manet, Gennevilliers.


Courtesy of Joseph Tang gallery, Paris. Exhibition “Destiny”, EMBA / Galerie Édouard Manet, Gennevilliers.

A certain internet awareness is legible in Béna’s work: her aesthetic vocabulary finds its inspiration from the world wide web, while using the components of a digital collage. Despite these multiple layers of symbols and references constructing the puzzle, much is left unsaid: entire holes and symbols of insignificance can be traced throughout the exhibition. There are parts and pieces missing, or rather, they’re unknown. The artist plays extensively with spatial and temporal conditions, disturbing and challenging them, at the same time offering the potential for multiple fictions to be invented and various roles to be fulfilled. Here, a sole collection of individual portraits is not interesting, it is the whole pattern that characters, events and spaces knotted together form – a potential definition for the word destiny, or alternatively, Destiny.

Béna’s way of treating the space is like looking at an uncharted territory and imaginary beyond, while the time span is strongly overlapping, even disappearing. The artist plays successfully with the idea of ordinary and expected, transforming these notions towards extraordinary and spectacular, and treats the question of mise-en-scène in a sculptural way. Here the strategic choice of corporate environment is particularly interesting: being by definition a parapublic space, the question on the role reserved for visitors is left unanswered. Thus, the question lingers, whether we are invited to play an active role against the corporate background, or does the set-up rely solely on posthumanist mindset.

Courtesy of Joseph Tang gallery, Paris. Exhibition “Destiny”, EMBA / Galerie Édouard Manet, Gennevilliers.

Courtesy of Joseph Tang gallery, Paris. Exhibition “Destiny”, EMBA / Galerie Édouard Manet, Gennevilliers.

Julie Béna studied fine arts the Villa Arson in Nice, France, and at the Royal Academy of Arts in Brussels, Belgium. She has exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo, Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian and Display Art Projects in Paris, Song Eun Art Space in Seoul, Korea, at Nettie Horn in London, Fonderie Darling in Montréal, and was a resident at Le Pavillon at the Palais de Tokyo in 2012-2013.

Julie Béna

Galerie Édouard-Manet