CHOREOGRAPHY*, is an exhibition with a series of accompanying texts and events, organised and compiled by Paul Becker. The exhibition takes as its starting point the work of the French writer/director Marguerite Duras and in particular, two of her films: India Song (1975) and Baxter, Vera Baxter (1977). In both films, as in many of the novels, a central figure, herself inert, acts as the epicentre. In one film, she lies in bed all day, never leaves her house while the rest of the characters constellate around her story. In the other, she moves ‘alone, queen like’ through various ambassadorial parties and stilted, stylised and detached entanglements with a series of beautiful young men. Both films trace the choreography of these central lacunae who delineate and encrypt desire but are themselves disconnected from any emotional life. These ‘lovers without love’ act as the critical centre point in much of Duras’ work. The space will be activated by the works of the artists and by a series of talks, readings and post facto discussion with Ghislaine Leung, Chris Fite-Wassilak, Sophie Macpherson, Natasha Soobramanien and Paul Becker.
Paul Becker is an artist and writer and his work occupies a space between these two semi-independent lines of work: some form of literary fiction and painting. His most recent work Choreography/Coreografia – a short fiction set within RW Fassbinder’s 1976 film Chinese Roulette – is published by Juan de la Cosa / John of the Thing, Mexico.
Chris Fite-Wassilak is a writer and critic, and a regular contributor to Art Monthly, Art Papers, Art Review and frieze. His short book of essays Ha-Ha Crystal is published by Copy Press.
Nadia Hebson studied at Central St. Martins and the Royal Academy Schools. Recent exhibitions and talks include We (Not I), Artists Space, NYC; Smarginature, Lydgalleriet, Bergen; So, Mauve, Vienna; MODA WK, Lokaal 01, Antwerp and Christina Ramberg, 42 Carlton Place, GI Festival, Glasgow. She recently co-convened the conference ‘Making Women’s Art Matter’ at the Paul Mellon Centre, London. Hebson is a lecturer at Newcastle University, UK.
Ghislaine Leung lives and works in London and Brussels. Recent solo projects include The Moves at Cell Project Space, London, 078746844 at WIELS, Brussels, Soft Open Shut at Studio Voltaire, London, YOUR WORDS IN MY MOUTH /MY VOICE ON YOUR TONGUE at Kunstlerhaus Stuttgart and Hollis & Money at the ICA, London. Her collection of writings Partners is forthcoming in 2017.
Sophie Macpherson lives and works in Berlin and Glasgow. She regularly collaborates with other artists, musicians and performers. A current activity is a weekly class exploring movement and language. Her video, A Series of Movements was shown at Drop City, Newcastle in 2015.
Francesco Pedraglio works with writing, performance, film and installation. Recent exhibitions include: P///AKT, Amsterdam (2017); CRAC Alsace (2017); Instituto Svizzero, Milan (2016); Kunsthalle Wien (2015). 99 Battles and 1 War (an extract) was published by Piano Nobile (CH) in 2016. His novel A man in a room spray painting a fly was published by Book Works in 2014. Together with Tania Pérez Córdova, Pedraglio runs the publishing house Juan de la Cosa / John of the Thing.
Natasha Soobramanien is a writer. She is currently working on a novel-in-installments, Diego Garcia, with Luke Williams. Her first novel, Genie and Paul (Myriad Editions, 2012), is being translated into French by Nathacha Appanah for Gallimard/Continents Noirs.
Exhibition maker and designer Sam Watson lives in Düsseldorf . Working with a collaborative and intermedia approach, he is preoccupied with the possibilities of working together with artists, often over extended periods of time. His projects span subjects related to modes of production that lead to the creation and disintegration of culture and issues around artists’ autonomy and mobility. In 2017 he will produce The Studio for Arousing Tools at MHKA, Antwerp in parallel to a new programme of commissions at Drop City, Düsseldorf.
Eleanor Wright lives and works between Düsseldorf and Newcastle. Recent exhibitions include ARCOmadrid 2017, Catcher Pressure Pusher, commissioned by CIRCA Projects; So, Mauve, Vienna; Roßstraße 68 (learning from Ella Steigleman), Drop City, Düsseldorf and artist residencies at the British School at Athens and Cove Park, Scotland. In 2017, Wright will show new work at MHKA, Antwerp alongside the launch of the artists’ publication An Athens City Reader.
Drop City is a collaborative gallery model working between Newcastle upon Tyne and Düsseldorf: www.drop-city.net
* ‘(Futura) Mon Amour’: During the length of Choreography, Arcade’s printed material will undergo a typographical adjustment. Influenced by Marguerite Duras’ use of sensuous narratives, shifts of power and her own life experiences, exhibition maker and designer Sam Watson will employ altered versions of Paul Renner’s Futura, used by the gallery in all of its communications. Like much of Duras’ writings, the subtle intervention results in a recasting, an iteration that culminates in a new and intimate reading.
imago, which, in Latin, refers not to an image, but to the the wax imprint of a face. While definitively being objects, they refer to the surface, the space of painting.
Regarded as one of the greatest early drawings by the German artist, it has been considered as a preparatory study for his self-portrait of the same year, one of the first independent works on that subject in Western tradition. It was arguably realised with a round mirror, revealed by the alteration in the proportion of the nose registering its convexity. On the right side of the head stands the detailed study of a hand, detached from the body and bigger in proportion. On the lower part of the paper, mirroring the position of the head, a pillow.
Caroline Achaintre’s work is always manifesting a state of suspension between two possibilities: playing with and undermining the medium specificity of both sculpture and painting, addressing figuration and abstraction, being at the same time seductive and violent, soft and hard.Whether employing ceramic, watercolour or textile, forms always appear to be impermanent and figuration is just temporarily there and always at risk of dissolution. In her last series figuration seems to have almost dissolved and to give in to their disposition to the informe: faces seem to emerge from the watery colours of her paintings on paper, or in the folds of the ceramic shapes; but as we grasp a figure, it explodes into an abstract composition, and matter condenses into an apparition. Our sight has to constantly adjust.
There is something strange and seductive in this study whose parts seem to form a deliberate composition, both formally and in its subject. It seems to trace a process, the materialisation of the passing of time in the studio, as it follows the wandering attention of the artist, who arguably started working on the portrait, then studied his own hand, and then sketched an object he might have had around. Caught by its form and possibilities of representation, continued on the back sheet. Yet, the spatial relation between the head, the hand and the pillow does not seem casual despite the disproportions between them: the corresponding position of head and the pillow suggests a relationship (and isn’t ultimately the mark left on a pillow a ghostly apparition of the body, the trace of an absence, a portrait in absentia?). The hand is frozen in the gesture of holding something between the fingers: is it the thistle of the painting that is taken to be based on this sketch? – or a brush, — attribute for excellence in artists’ self-portraits?
Her tufted pieces – soft sculptures or three-dimensional paintings that often combine modernist patterns with figurative imagery stemming from pop culture and ‘80s myths – are here replaced by textile sculptures, similar to her recent props or costumes, which feel closer to the watercolours and the ceramic sculptures in terms of intention and immediacy. Performance has only recently been addressed as a language in her practice and, while a performative attitude has always been an element of her oeuvre, it emerges more strongly as a specific quality in this new body of work.
Seen today, the verso is even more striking, for the pillows are represented as free forms in space, floating in the void, organised as a grid – a premonition of the strongest modernist trope – a repetition through difference. Whereas it was common to draw draperies (and Dürer himself made several such drawings and sketches) a pillow is not a surface, but an unstable volume, describing a form which is constantly subject to a potential transformation, occupying a space. An object that is manipulated, shaped, and offers itself as a cast of an absent body, or which momentarily seems to suggest a head – a face.
Among the drawings, the one that lends its title to the exhibition has different stylistic qualities from the other works on paper: it shows an upside-down hand, on which two eyes are superimposed and a curve at the height of the wrist seems to suggest a shoulder. It is a striking piece, both evoking her previous series of masks and mask-like tufted wall sculptures, and eerily the recto of the drawing by Dürer.
Caroline Achaintre’s ceramic and leather creatures – a grey-striped oval, two snake-textured horizontal shapes, one in yellowish and one in blue tones, and a rich black rectangular form – are sculptures that take volumetric form by folding and crumpling a sheet of clay, and almost seem to compose a sequence. They appear as variations on a subject, forms holding a position just temporarily, and – in the images that I am looking at – float on the wall of her studio just like Dürer’s drawn pillows on the white page. Similar to them, they suggest through folds and lumps, light and shadows, a face or an
In spite of being an exercise, Dürer’s small study is an early declaration of self-awareness. His gaze and hand extend the unvaried observation and representation of subjects and objects. Limbo seems to share the same elements of the German master’s drawing: the hand, the eye. To see, to exist, and in such unexpected proximity, makes us wonder if the nature of the works on show – in their suspended state between painting and sculpture, figuration and abstraction – could be self portraits rather than masks.
Georges Didi-Hubermann calls such encounters between images that belong to different times anachronism: the intrusion of a chronological line into another. In his view, such projections allow the work of art to inhabit a plurality of epochs; this ultimately illuminates both such images which – unaware of each other and unintentionally – call to each other.
– Cecilia Canziani
The woman says her role from memory, the man reads the text
Digital print, acrylic, gesso, board
312 x 440 cm
The woman says her role from memory, the man reads the text (detail)
Digital print, acrylic, gesso, board
312 x 440 cm
Gradual Stiffening (Mentis)
custom made rope (natural dyed cotton), glazed ceramic, birch plywood
56 x 49.5 x 24 cm