“Garçonnière” was a solo visual art exhibition held in 2015 at Elysium Gallery, Swansea, Wales, UK.
The word “Garçonnière” (bachelor flat, also called bachelor pad) was interpreted as a metaphorical device to transcribe the work of art into familiar feelings & emotions. It dealt with universal issues concerning personal memories, rites of passage, souvenirs and life experiences (like having your own place, your secret place, living on your own for the first time), privacy, loneliness, the spatial experience of a confined space, being at a threshold in your life... Those issues were entwined with references to the artistic avant-garde movement & the popular culture, cinema and photography.
The small gallery space was turned into a hypothetical domestic space, a “bachelor assemblage”. Black & white photographic prints of my old student bedsit were combined with second hand furniture, drawings & collages were casually displayed amongst books, notes and other objects such as clock, lamps, mirror, etc… A bespoke “Wheel of Fortune” was installed on a telephone table with seat. On the wheel, the visitor could read (alternatively translated in French, English & Welsh) “in one of Earth’s attics”, a text from the book “a short history of decay” by Romanian philosopher Emil M Cioran. The background image used for the text was a print of my left hand’s palm. A single bed, entirely stripped of its soft fittings was hanged vertically against a grey wall. Opposite to the bed, a bedroom side table was hosting some books and a small TV monitor showing a short black & white video loop of the artist as a young man eating a pasta dish.
“IN ONE OF THE EARTH’S ATTICS”
“I have dreamed of distant springs, of a sun shining on nothing but seafoam and the oblivion of my birth, of a sun opposed to the earth and to this disease of finding nothing anywhere but the desire to be somewhere else.
The earthly fate - who has inflicted it upon us, who has chained us to this morose matter, a petrified tear against which – born of time – our tears shatter, whereas it has fallen, immemorial, from God’s first shudder?
I have loathed the planet’s noons and midnights, I have longed for a world without weather, without hours and the fear that swells them, I have hated the sighs of mortals under the weight of ages.
Where is the moment without end and without desire, and that primal vacancy insensitive to the presentiments of disaster and of life?
I have sought for the geography of Nothingness, of unknown seas and another sun – pure of the scandal of life-bearing rays – I have sought for the rocking of a skeptical ocean in which islands and axioms are drowned, the vast liquid narcotic, tepid and sweet and tired of knowledge.
This earth – sin of the Creator! But I no longer want to expiate others’ sins. I want to be cured of my begetting in an agony outside the continents, in some fluid desert, in an impersonal shipwreck.”
Excerpt from “A Short History of Decay” (“Précis de décomposition”) by Emil Michel Cioran.
Translated from the French by R. Howard
Q&A WITH PASCAL-MICHEL DUBOIS:
CC: Why did you choose installation as a medium for art, and what types of other genre intersection can we expect to find in your work?
P.M.D: When I was an art student in the late 80’s, the concept of the so-called “site-specific installation” (or “installation in situ”) was very much the flavour of the moment in French art institutions. Painting was dead – or so they said – we were all living in a post-modern world now… Although I was aware of the situation, I wasn’t very much influenced by it and focused instead on creating minimalist type of sculptures, drawings and the odd bit of painting too. After graduation, I moved to London and this is where I got into installation art. At the beginning, it was mostly for economic reason. Indeed, having no more free access to machine tools and difficulties to find a cheap studio to rent incited me to make that choice. You could find all sort of abandoned materials & objects around, empty industrial buildings & shops were taking over by artists in the East End of London and turn into temporary exhibition spaces. It was the perfect storm really. However, I never considered myself a complete installation artist. I think that I just like to put stuff around a space in order to generate intriguing moments. There is a flickering childlike wonder embedded in this. Today, I see what I do as an ongoing process of appropriation/accumulation, collage/assemblage and dispersion in space & time. All sort of genre intersection are then possible. My series of composite digital images of trees is now opening up the possibility of a return to painting this year… paintings in an installation context, but with a twist in the tale.
CC: What does memory mean to you, and how does it interconnect with space?
P.M.D: I see memory as a particular unfinished semi- fictional narrative of the past where some tragicomic figures are dancing amongst the fog of melancholia!
I see memory as subjective souvenirs of life experience, good or bad. Memory is an attic storage space and one can often find interesting things in it to turn into art… Within the apparent unorganised display of stuff, there is this book that you started reading yesterday when you were growing up but never had the time to finish. This is about remembering and the desire to re-live, re-do again the things that we loved. It is about being so far away from your childhood. When memory (universal or personal) is processed by the “art time machine” with adding knowledge & imagination, it acquires the cathartic capacity to take you from that space in that moment, to another space, your personal refuge, fictional or real, mental or physical.
CC: You often use very intimate elements in your practice, how do you think this elevate your work?
P.M.D: This is a difficult question. For some reason, intimate elements seem to appear pretty early on in my work process. How does this elevate the work itself? I don’t really know. What I know is that the everyday life and its entire constituent always interfere with the act of art making. As Robert Filliou famously said: “art is a means of making life more interesting than art”. Perhaps by introducing bits of intimate life experience in my work – like the use of an old school photograph of mine to highlight the issue of left-handedness - I am trying to reach more people, basically, going to the next level in the game…. Can I say that?
CC: Why did you choose to add Emil Michel Cioran’s excerpt from “A Short Story of Decay”?
P.M.D: When I was so much younger than today, I discovered Cioran’s literature completely by accident in the Art school library. It fitted the mood I was in those days. I particularly enjoyed “dans une des mansarde de la Terre” (“In one of Earth’s attics”), a small text/poem found in the “Précis de décomposition” (“A short story of Decay”). I decided to make some kind of book using this text alongside a series of drawings depicting my student university room, which was my very own gloomy “mansarde” at the time. I also shot a series of black & white photographs of the room and pasted them in the book with the drawings & the text. Unfortunately, this unique handmade book was severely damaged by water some years after in a basement flood.
Time passed and the whole thing was forgotten. Then in 2015, Elysium Gallery offered me a solo show. I had the idea of the “Garçonnière” in the back of my mind for a while but something was missing… This is when I remembered that I still had the negatives of those photos of my student room, aka the “bachelor pad”. Inevitably, I felt compelled to re-introduce Cioran’s text somehow in the project. The decision I made this time was to “de-compose” the text written in French, translate it alternatively in English & Welsh and display it on an improvised wheel of fortune. Those bleak words were circulating around and around once again balancing out some of the playful aspect of the installation and by doing so, mirroring what life is about.
CC: If you could describe “Garçonnière” in five words. What would they be?
P.M.D: Another difficult question!
… Also for the fun of it here are some 5 words sentences:
“A kind of orchestral score”
“Outlandish “bachelor of art” strangeness”
“Ubiquitous sense of reinforced identity”