Dans Ma Cellule, Une Silhouette, 1st February – 20th April 2014, Centre d’Art Contemporain, La Ferme du Buisson, Noisiel, Paris
Maryclare Foá and myself were commissioned to create a new piece of work for this exhibition inspired by the legend of the first drawing told by Pliny the Elder. In this apocryphal tale a Corinthian maiden, whose name is not recorded, traces a line on the wall around the shadow of her lover as he is about to depart. Her father, Butades, a potter, fills the outline with clay and fires it in his kiln.
This action of Butades’s daughter, in which she attempts to freeze time and contain presence, is seen by many art historians as the foundational act of Western painting and drawing.
This exhibition curated by Lore Gablier for La Ferme du Buisson features the work of different artists who use drawing to investigate the visualisation of absence, loss and desire. Artists included are: William Anastasi / Abdelkader Benchamma / Mathieu Bonardet / Geta Brătescu / Maryclare Foá & Birgitta Hosea (Performance Drawing Collective) / Jean Genet / Dennis Oppenheim / Santiago Reyes / Till Roeskens / Carla Zaccagnini.
Here is the English translation of the text by curator Lore Gablier about the exhibition:
I have the shape of a dead man on the wall of my cell. He’s been in his grave almost five years now, yet his shadow still lingers. He was no one and nothing. All that remains of him is a handful of old rape charges and a man-shaped pencil sketch. Perhaps it’s just superstition, but I can‘t help but feel that erasing it would be like erasing the fact that he ever existed. That may not be such a bad thing, all things considered, but I won’t be the one to do it.
– Damien Echols, Life After Death
(Damien Echols was sentenced to death by the state of Arkansas in 1994 after being wrongly convicted of murder at the age of 19. He was released from prison in 2011)
Offering an exploration of drawing in its relation to gesture and the body, the exposition Dans ma cellule, une silhouette turns to the story of the daughter of the Corinthian potter Butades who, before her lover left on a long journey, “drew an outline of the shadow of his face as cast by the light of a lamp.” If this seminal act, as told by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, has come to be considered as an allegory for the origin of drawing and painting, it is, at the same time, an invitation to renew our relation with the visible.
Through her act, the young woman refers us to that which remains invisible in the visible in this instance her desire, which cannot reconcile itself in the image. What we see is, as such, always inhabited by the absence of what we cannot see, an absence that not only structures our vision, but also allows the advent of a potentiality or, as Jean-Luc Nancy explains, “the indeterminate possibility of the possible as such, a potentiality of being [pouvoir Ítre] that is not the abstract form of a being that remains to be embodied, but is rather itself a modality and a consistence of being: a being of power [Ítre de pouvoir], the reality of momentum, of birth and beginning.”
Freed from the gaze and returned to a physical act, drawing opens up a multiplicity of forms and potentialities, as the works brought together for this exhibition testify. Drawing becomes alternately the inscription of a gesture, a repeated action or constraint, a narrative support, the means of a tactile exchange, the boundary of a theatrical space. Or else, drawing hallows itself out, empties itself, by erasure, comes to life. In each case what drawing reveals is the body itself: a body that lends itself less to being active, efficient or operative, than it does to a momentum through which it releases its sensuality.
Birgitta Hosea setting up the work with the help of Anne Pietsch, Lore Gablier and the technical staff at La Ferme du Buisson.
Just as Butades’s daughter traced the outline of her lover before he left on a journey, so we (Foá & Hosea), following the same method, tracing round the shadows of our bodies cast by the electrical light onto the paper surface, attempt to hold time by fixing our shapes in place.
The multiple lines in this Traion (trace of presence in motion) also attempt to hold motion while leading into the gestured animated outlines of our digital shadows.