A conversation between artist Shannon Bool and Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre, Curator of Contemporary Art, Musée d’art de Joliette. To introduce the exhibition “Modernism and Its Discontents,” the pair will use video documentation to reflect on Bool’s amalgamation of opposing materials, techniques and concepts to invent aesthetic “cases of dissociation.” They discuss Bool’s practice in relation to the unconscious drives of Modernism in art and architecture, followed by a Q&A session. Co-presented with Daniel Faria Gallery.A conversation between artist Shannon Bool and Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre, Curator of Contemporary Art, Musée d’art de Joliette. To introduce the exhibition “Modernism and Its Discontents,” the pair will use video documentation to reflect on Bool’s amalgamation of opposing materials, techniques and concepts to invent aesthetic “cases of dissociati …
women in their apartment
women in their apartment
women in their apartment
how i came to the villa
how i came to the villa
how i came to the villa
the second room
the second room
the second room
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>> Following her studies in Visual
Arts at University of Ottawa, Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre completed
a master’s degree in Art History
at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Her interests focussed on themes of
identity and cultural issues explored
through contemporary art practices. She worked at SBC contemporary art gallery and
Darling Foundry in Montreal before getting hired
in 2017 as Curator of Contemporary
Art of the Musée d’art de Joliette.
She invited Shannon Bool to create a new body
of work that was presented at the Musée in 2018.
As the exhibition titled The Shape of Obus.
In Joliette, she organized exhibitions
with Kapwani Kiwanga, Leisure, Jin-me Yoon,
[inaudible] and Elizabeth Zvonar among others. And we are fortunate to be with today,
Shannon Bool, joining us from Berlin
where she has been living since 2001. She is Professor of Painting at
the Academy of Fine Arts in Mainz.
Her works are part of renowned museum
collections such as Kunstmuseum Bonn, Metropolitan Museum of Art New York,
National Gallery of Canada, to mention a few.
I’ve already mentioned her most recent
solo exhibitions, and she has participated
in important group exhibitions
across Europe and North America. She is represented by Daniel Faria in
Canada and Kadel Willborn in Düsseldorf.
So take it away at Shannon and Anne-Marie. >> Thank you, Sunny, for the introduction.
Hi, Shannon. It’s nice to see you from afar. [Chuckles] >> Hi, Anne-Marie, and —
>> Hi, to everyone. >> Nice to see everyone come out, and
thanks for the introduction, Sunny.
And thanks also for the wonderful work together
on the latest rendition of the exhibition.
So shall we just start with the studio? We’re going to share some video footage.
>> Exactly. Yeah. Just shared my screen where you’ll see
the video that runs through the exhibition.
So you get a sense of the spacing of the
work through Agnes Etherington galleries.
But first I wanted to talk about the
different titles for this exhibition.
The — as Sunny said, the exhibition was first
presented at the Musée d’art de Joliette in 2018
under the title The Shape of Obus. It then went to the Canadian
Cultural Centre in Paris
under another title Promiscuous
Rooms in the spring of 2019.
And then under the title House of Oblivion in
the fall 2019 at the Kunstverein Braunschweig.
And now it’s Modernism and Its Discontents
at the Agnes Derrington Art Centre. And what this highlighted is how the show
changed throughout its different iterations
with Shannon adding to the first
body of work new works each time. I think that idea was to also respond to
the different architectural components
of these different spaces where
the exhibition was presented. So that’s something that I
thought I could start up from
and address maybe this new title
Modernism and Its Discontents at the Agnes Derrington Art Centre.
>> Yeah, sure. This is the fourth show where the body of work
has grown from the Shape of Obus from Joliette
in 2018 where the work was very much focussed
on a kind of response to Le Corbusier,
a very specific project of Le
Corbusier has planned Obus, which is one of the first biggest urban
planning projects that wasn’t realized
but one of the first massive
urban planning projects. And the associated kind of unconscious material
that went with that, his erotic drawings
and other impulses that inform modernism. And in that show I was also looking a little
bit at some spaces like [inaudible] and looking
at figures like Picasso and The Harem which
is also a connection to earlier bodies of work
of mine where I was quite deep and
looking at harems for the past 10 years.
And so in this exhibition the work
has culminated and there’s a lot of different embroidery,
tapestries, photography, painting,
and it centres around this critique of modernism
or these ideas of modernism that are we’re kind
of unconscious or hadn’t been
unpacked in my opinion until now.
And this is a combination of really looking
at sexuality and images of sexuality
that were explored by painters
or artists in those times.
And how they also correspond to
the way we look at space now. And the way that we look at
this early part of modernism.
So Modernism and Its Discontents
I came across the title.
There’s a book about a Sibyl Moholy-Nagy,
who was Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s wife
and she was a very prominent figure
in the early modernists movement.
In contact with a lot of
architects and artistic voices.
And I just thought this title was so
fitting for the station of the show.
And it also corresponds, of course, to Sigmund
Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents.
And it’s really, I have a lot of maybe
alternative narratives that we’ll see
in the work, information, ideas,
associations, a lot of associations,
a lot of unconscious desires that I kind
of bring up that maybe we haven’t thought
about before when we look at modernism. >> Also the things that I thought about when
I first read your title for this [inaudible]
of the exhibition is how modernist
architecture blurs the boundaries
between private and public spaces. And that is also with theme that you, that
runs through the body of work that you’ll show
through the view that is that are
shown in [inaudible] art centre.
>> Exactly. A perfect example of that is the first
tapestry that the camera’s going to pan in on
women in their apartment
which is maybe we can start the video. So this is a tapestry a Jacquard tapestry and
it’s woven based on a collage that I’ve built
on the computer but then the
information is all woven together. It looks in photographic form like a
print of some sort but it’s interwoven.
And it’s called Women in Their Apartment which
is a reference to Delacroix and his painting
of harem or his rendering of
a harem in the 19th century. And so I was looking at building a harem
in a modernist space but I really came
to this association, this is my association
from looking at the drawings of Picasso
in his [inaudible] sketch series. So before he made his [inaudible] series of
paintings he did a very large series of sketches
where the female bodies like
slowly dissolve into cartoon like,
kind of really convoluted
characterizations of the female body.
And maybe we’ll just pause it here. So we can, yeah.
Where do you want? Yeah, so it’s clear. So what I found is I was looking
at sketches from the Femme d’Alger
and they were, one of them stuck in my head. So this is, this will show you a
little bit of my working process.
I don’t research and read and go to the library and then put things together
with a very scientific approach.
It’s very intuitive approach. And it usually comes from my own
associative field based on my interests
in certain veins of art history often. And so in this case, I had this
this Femme d’Alger sketches,
and I looked at one and it
reminded me of something. And then I realized it reminded me of this
viral photograph of Kim Kardashian’s butt
that was on the cover of paper magazine. In 2014, I think.
And so I just took the photo of Kim
Kardashian from paper magazine and lifted it
out on the computer and Photoshop. And I put it on the Picasso
sketch and it fit like a glove.
It just went click. And then I thought, okay, there’s
some lineage happening here.
There’s some lineage happening with
the body, and the body in space.
And then I needed, too, I wanted to
make a harem setting for these bodies.
And so I had been doing this work with a
lot of work looking at the private villas
that Le Corbusier designed
mostly in the 20s and 30s. And there’s this famous bath,
bathroom which is open.
It goes open from the living
room in the Villa Savoye, just outside of Paris that I visited as well.
And this is in the tapestry, it’s made
from an image of this open bathtub
which is also quite square, and
it looks it looks quite dangerous. And then there’s a chaise lounge
that you can lie in in the back.
And I collage the figures and the Kim
Kardashian butts into this space to make a kind
of meeting point for different associations
and ideas about modernism and the body.
>> You put it on play again and we’ll
see — we saw some of the weaving.
Ah no, we’re leaving it now. >> I can go back.
Voila. >> Good. Thank you. So you can see here if you come closer
to the, as we come closer to the image,
there’s also hand embroidery that will come
up in another work, which is I embroidered
in the window a very graphic pattern
of flowers which is from Roman tiles.
It’s a very graphic pattern
that I’ve used in several works. And that work is hand-embroidered.
And there’s also some hand embroidery
on the tiles and on the figures. But maybe I hope that it communicates
a little bit on the computer screen.
It’s a shame digitally to see
the work and not physically, because you can see the woven quality
of the work if you get close to it.
So I think the cinematographer, he does
focus on some of these woven moments.
We’ll see some of the woven moments also, here
you can see a close-up of the figure and you see that it’s very in the weaving itself, the
weaving takes place at 18 pixels as opposed
to a photographic image which would
be 300 pixels per centimetre inch. So it’s a very kind of dissolved visual language
where things can really be blended together.
So it’s a different language than
painting photography to work with textiles.
And also the idea of working with the
textile, which you’ll see as a vein going through the work, is that we have these ideas
about architecture, and space, and modernism,
and they’re very carved in stone. They’re very non-negotiable, static, concrete.
And I like to approach these ideas with a soft
material or a feminine material which uses
in a way, has a different way to
enter into the content of the work.
>> It’s funny that you say you
were looking at the figures first
and then you thought about this context place. Then this bathroom of Le Corbusier because
through our research and our conversation,
when we prepared the exhibition, one
thing that I found out that I didn’t know
about is how Le Corbusier was really
inspired by Picasso in his own drawings
because Le Corbusier drew a lot also. And so that connection between the figures
and the architecture then makes a lot
of sense also in that connection. >> Yeah, but that’s exactly how I came to
the Villa Savoye, was the fact that I read
how i came to the villa
about Picasso and Le Corbusier being friends. And some historians think that that
Picasso got into the harem content
through the Le Corbusier’s Algerian drawings, because they met around the time
before Picasso began his studies.
So Le Corbusier was really influential
in this modernist painting trend
of painters examining the harem
[inaudible] discussed anyways.
>> And so in this first room, there’s
the tapestry Women in Their Apartment.
And then there’s also a silk painting
that we just saw very briefly.
And then there’s this installation
or small assemblage of a photograph
with a marble table called Sugar Veins and
NC Sleeping Chamber with Casbah Extensions.
That is also about Le Corbusier. >> Yeah, exactly. This is also a kind of appetizer to the
bigger body of work in the next room.
the second room
So I can just mention maybe
quickly that the photo and then — oh, yeah, this is another Kim Kardashian
reference with the lines of cocaine.
Maybe I’ll talk about that one first. This is this is a work really about
the game of perception and materials,
and it’s based — oh we’re, hey let’s —
>> I’ll go back. It goes back. >> I’ve never done an artist talk like this.
I feel like I’m on a magic carpet or something.
[Chuckle]. >> [Inaudible] speak about the
marble table first or the photograph, so I can zoom in the right
[inaudible] of the image.
Let’s just stick with the photograph. Okay. And this is a photogram actually,
or it’s a photograph that’s made
with negative clear foil prints
that have been collaged together,
and like roughly taped together. And this is a photo of Le Corbusier’s private
bedroom and the N24 apartment in Paris
that he designed, at the same time
around the plan Obus was designed.
And this is an example also of the — I
don’t know, it’s kind of like the cave of all
of the ideas like the origin
of all of the ideas. It’s a private space and this is
one of the most modernist architects
in his private space is built. Like, it looks like an extension of the Casbah,
so the ceilings are low and
there’s a lot of curves. The shower is kind of like a pizza oven.
I mean I’ve been to the flat in Paris. It has, everything is really curved
in little nooks and crannies.
And right in the middle of
the bedroom is the bidet. >> Yeah, that we see just here.
>> Yeah. So this is this division of
private and public also plumbing and toilet,
its feature is very in the forefront
of Le Corbusier was obsessed with hygiene and bodily functions.
But this also connects to the other works
with [inaudible] that are coming up.
Anyways, so I took two of the doorways of the
room and I collaged passageways from the Casbah
and Algiers where the Obus plan was designed. So this was kind of a, it’s kind
of a vision of a private fantasy,
or it’s my fantasy of my projection. I don’t know what Le Corbusier was
thinking about when he went to bed.
But there’s a lot of really, there’s a lot
of really strange details in the photo.
Like the bed was raised so he could
see the landscape outside the window,
because the windows are higher, it’s
on the top floor of the building. >> And also the carpets that we see here that
we’ll see the pattern of that types of carpets
in tapestries that we’ll
see later in the exhibition. >> Exactly.
This is an example of the — Le Corbusier was a
big collector of Algerian and Moroccan textiles
and carpets that were serrated
into the different Paris villas.
And then this shelf here,
it’s called Sugar Veins.
And this is another connection to the
Kardashians which come as also this kind
of harem fantasy, private and public. And this is based on a story
that was in the media that I saw.
I think at the end of 2019 that
Kim Kardashian was promoting a line
of baby clothes and she was in a hotel. And then over her shoulder behind her it
looked like there were two big lines of cocaine
on a marble table and the press caught up on
it or someone Instagrammed it and Tweeted it.
And it became a huge thing. And then she came online the next day on her,
on Instagram and said no it wasn’t cocaine.
It’s the marble table. And then she showed this angle of the table
where the veins look exactly like cocaine
at the angle that she was
sitting at the day before. So for me it was this idea
of fantasy and materiality,
and how you can misread materials so easily.
So the lines that we see just over
here were your addition to the market.
>> Exactly, it’s marble powder. It’s just marble powder.
Yeah. >> And then we move to the next room
where there the room is divided in three.
There’s a first part where
there’s a big tapestry and a series
of small embroideries with this mural. The second part, I’ll just stop it here.
The second part is there’s two tapestries.
And then in the third part of the room there’s
a series of photograms called Bombshell.
So for the first part of this bigger room in
the exhibition, we focus first on this tapestry
that is called the four season that mimics
the pattern or uses the same pattern
as the marble shell that we just spoke about. And this is the view of the men’s
bathroom in the Four Season Restaurant
in the C room a building in New York
designed by Mies van der Rohe with a pool
of flowers coming out of the [inaudible].
>> Exactly. A very nicely described, Anne-Marie.
Yeah, this is , this tapestry
uses again a photograph, and the tapestry language
here again is important
because we have these very factual
non-negotiable materials of marble
and wood veneers that are in the men’s bathroom
of the Four Season’s very famous restaurant.
It was one of the last [inaudible]
restaurants in New York. And, sadly, it was sold, and dismantled,
and redecorated about two years ago.
But I I’m not sure, I think the bathroom,
the men’s bathroom might still be the same.
I think it’s under heritage. >> It’s still the same, the men’s
bathroom [chuckle] is the same. >> Is it still the same? I want to find that out.
So I had this photograph and I really
wanted to make a tapestry of it. So, again, I have this kind of instinctual way
of working where I wanted to do an intervention
with the bathroom somehow to
collide with this materiality.
But I also liked this aspect of the men’s
bathroom being the most private area of the space, the stalls.
And I wanted to put something feminine into it. And so I decided to put the
train of a woman’s ball gown
like it was stuck in the bathroom door. And so I actually, I researched — this is when
you’re an artist, and you say I researched —
actually I just looked at like
hundreds of ballgowns from the met ball,
different paparazzi events,
and tried several out.
And the one that fit the best was
from , it’s from the Met costume gala. It’s an Alexander McQueen gown from 2016, it
was worn by Bee Shaffer who’s the daughter of —
>> Anna Wintour. >> Anna Wintour’s daughter.
And I really liked the fact that it had these
hand-embroidered flowers throughout the dress and in the train.
So I had the train, I clashed
it so it was stuck in the door.
And then, I had it woven in black and white and then the flowers are
hand-embroidered into the gown.
So if we — maybe there’s a close-up
where the audience can see it.
I think the cinematographers may go in now. >> What’s interesting is also
you said earlier how you wanted
to represent modernist architecture
through a more feminine or [inaudible] materiality with the tapestry.
And here, the marble really brings an organic
field to an architecture that is very rigid
in the lines of the architecture itself. And you’re going in that
direction by adding the flowers.
So you’re highlighting that sort of contrast
between the materiality of the marble
and the lines, the very sharp
lines of the architecture. >> Yeah, exactly.
It’s kind of — I like to
play with these tensions. And I think for this one, there’s this
there’s also this other very formal maybe kind
of a game. Or attention, where the hand-embroidered flowers
are the most fake thing in the whole mix.
So the marble and the and the veneer, they’re
representing themselves or like real materials,
and the fake material, the most synthetic part which is the natural beautiful fluid
is actually the most synthetic part
with the hand embroidery. And so there’s this kind of clash between
the expectation of feminine, masculine,
and also the associated narratives of what is
this train doing stuck in the bathroom door?
You know like, it could be a
number — five different things. I’m not going to name them, but I like this this
formal game, but also this game of what happens
in the corners of the architecture,
what kind [inaudible] play out.
>> What’s disclosed, and what’s
visible and invisible, and image.
>> Exactly. >> Yeah, [inaudible]. >> Of decadence. I mean I think I’m looking also at the
decadence, and the not necessarily against it.
I’m just, you know, looking at different
things that happened with the opulence of the materials, and that will
lead us to the embroideries.
And I think that the cinematographer focussed
on the [inaudible] embroidery which is
where we can, that’s where really
the origin of this decadence.
But this is a series of embroideries that
I’ve done over the past couple of years
where I started a process of silkscreening
architectural plans onto fabric.
First, this is one of the first ones. This is from the Villa Savoye.
And then I started to make a type of blueprint where I would hand-dye silk
in a dark blue colour.
And then silkscreen — we can stop here maybe. This is this is an example of the blueprint,
type embroidery where I did a, I dyed silk
and then silk screened a plan over it. This is an architectural plan from the Italian
architect Carlo Molino from, he lived in Turin,
and he was very surrealist very
decadent, made amazing interiors.
He was obsessed also with the female body. And he had a secret life and a secret
flat that was discovered after his death.
And it had thousands of Polaroids of women in
dress or posing with furniture that he designed.
He also designed very amazing furniture.
So this is again a private villa. I think most of the embroideries I
used villas or private domestic spaces.
And then after doing the silkscreen I just
looked at different elements of the plan
that spoke to me from the point of view
of, okay, how could I am embroider this?
And then I went into the language of samplers
or when you look at, historically, embroidery —
a lot of embroidery exist on the basis
of teaching people how to embroider. So in some of the most beautiful
embroidery is samplers
where you have different stitches being learnt
as they’re going through one kind of piece.
So I worked, actually I had
a little team in my studio. We worked together, and we would
be playing off of each other,
or saying, oh let’s try this stitch. Or I might be in a different place.
And I’ll WhatsApp an idea, hey, try
and do some tic tac toe on this area.
So these works are very playful. And I guess this authority of the plan
is the most authoritative structure.
If you look at architecture especially. Or anything. And for me this is a way of kind of penetrating
this master plan with a different language.
So this is another good example. This is the Farnsworth House which
comes up in another tapestry coming up.
And I really liked especially Mies van der
Rohe plans, also the way they’re drawn,
and the way they’re drawn,
the way they’re presented. And this one really lent itself
to a very traditional sampler
of trying out different stitches. And so we have, yeah, here we have the
games of tic-tac-toe and practices.
Just different things that I found from
looking at Victorian samplers mostly.
And actually I was in Sicily and my
studio manager was working on this one
and I was working on another
one, and we were communicating on WhatsApp and trading ideas and stitches.
But for me I guess it’s a different, it’s
just a different narrative in the space.
Like I don’t presume to take
down these [inaudible].
It’s not also a huge critique
on modernism leaving out women. It’s more for me a space to play with
visual language that wasn’t played
out before but it was always there. So the story of the Farnsworth House
is very much about Edith Farnsworth
and her relationship to the architecture. And she’s the client who
commissioned Mies van der Rohe.
And this one is a bit more playful. This is a building from Adolf Loos
who’s kind of the father of modernism.
He’s a very important architect
or very important figure for me. And a very difficult figure.
He was an architect. His first projects were around 1903
and he really informed modernism
in a lot of different ways.
He was the first, he was the first architect to forbid decoration, for
example, in his buildings.
But then if you see his buildings and his flats,
they’re so specific with materials and function
that those aspects of the
buildings become decorative. And he was a very famous writer and he
wrote this famous essay Ornament And Crime,
that Ornament and Crime that every art student
I think should read or anyone who’s interested
in art should read that if you want to
learn about this period of modernism where the language was shifting away
from ornateness and ornamentation.
But he was also, Adolf Loos was very
fetishistic in his use of material.
And I made a previous work
I think like 12 years ago. And it was based on a bedroom that he designed
for his then wife, that he had a bedroom
in his first flat that he designed for his wife,
and it was covered with fur and white fabrics. So angora fur covered the floor
and went inside the mattress.
And so this is a proposal that he made for a
competition for the Chicago Tribune building.
He didn’t win the competition,
but he made this building, design for a building that’s very phallic,
and I put embroidered fireworks
for the phallic building.
And I based my, again, I based my
embroidery here not in Victorian samplers
Villa La Roche
but on Valentino’s collection
from a couple of years ago where they were doing a lot
of fireworks embroidery.
Or here’s a night vision. This is the Villa La Roche from Le Corbusier,
it’s where also the foundation
of Le Corbusier is situated. [ Inaudible ]
>> You’re doing great. [ Laughter ] >> This is the Villa La Roche.
And so I dyed the cloth really dark. I wanted it to make it look like nighttime.
And then I replicated the colours of the
windows how they would look at nighttime.
Also looking at the colours
of the walls which are painted in different colours in the Villa La Roche.
>> So you’re not just using the floor plans
that shows how the interior spaces are organized
but you’re also using sometimes
views from outside. So you’re playing with the inside outside also
in your selection of material
for the embroidery. >> Yeah, exactly.
And, or also the inside spaces,
they’re really different sometimes.
They have different angles or different views.
>> So across from this wall. We’ll see the mural.
And this is an addition that you
did to the selection of works that were shown then at the
It’s where you first did the mural. And this is the new iteration
of that mural called —
>> Five Walls? >> Exactly. Five Walls.
Can you tell us more about
the choice of colours? Because I know the colours are
very specific to this story.
>> Yeah. >> For that mural. >> Well, this is this — this mural is based,
it’s actually just based on a photograph
of a building in the Weissenhof
Settlement, you know, Stuttgart in Germany.
And this is a neighbourhood which
has — it was a fair in the 1920s.
They made a fair for modernist
architecture, and there’s small show buildings
by many really important or famous
modernist architects including Le Corbusier
and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret. They did like a twin house, a doubled
house in the Weissenhof-Siedlung.
And I went to visit it because
actually my husband made a film and filmed partly in the Villa.
And then I finally went to the
Weissenhof-Siedlung, and there’s this point
in the building where a few
spaces meet together. And because of the use of
the colour in that building,
it looks like a painting
or it becomes really flat. And so I wanted to represent that as a wall
painting, like as a painting that is in space.
So the colours are just based on
the colours that are actually there.
And Le Corbusier, he had a very
specific palette and use of colour
and in his villas, the colours
rotate and change. It’s very playful.
It has a lot to do with how the
colours correspond to each other. And so I just rendered this painting or actually
it was technician who did it for me because,
of course, I couldn’t go to
Kingston cause I’m in Berlin. And the woman who did it did a fantastic job.
So I have to credit Danielle for that. But I also there’s the addition
of a lamp on the mural.
I don’t know, maybe if we press
play we’ll see it from the side. And this is this is a type of
lamp that Le Corbusier designed.
And they’re in the Villa La Roche. I don’t know if they’re in
the Weissenhof-Siedlung. But he would make lamps using just a
single pipe with a bulb on the end of it,
and put them on the side of walls
or hanging from the ceiling. Also in the Bombshell room I have
a very extreme use of these lamps.
Here you can see it. And so this also adds another
dimensionality to the space
that the lamp has coming out
at kind of like a third eye. And it becomes more extreme
in the Bombshell rooms.
>> Yeah. That we’ll see that just after. So behind the mural there’s two tapestries, Oued
Ouchaia and also Maison Locative Ponsik that are
from 2018 that plays with the buildings
that Le Corbusier was thinking of designing
for [inaudible] when he was in Algeria and
wanted to suggest different urbanistic plans
and also architectural plans to modernize
the city in their thirties and forties.
And you’re super imposing on those
buildings in the two tapestries drawings
that look obviously made of women in Algeria. So there’s two different
examples of that that we see here.
What’s really interesting. We pointed out in the image of Le Corbusier’s
apartment that we saw in the first room,
the carpet on the floor where we can see similar
designs that fill the bodies that you decided
to use to fill the bodies in
those in those tapestries.
>> These works are really complex and these
were the first works that I made for Joliette, so this is kind of the origin of the project.
And could we go back to the first one? >> Yeah. >> Thanks.
And so they were also very
difficult works to make because I had collected these
I was looking at the Obus plan really
specifically and it’s a very problematic plan.
It’s the first plan of massive urban
planning but it was superimposed or tended
to be superimposed on Algiers to
make Algiers a European capital, and put it on the European map.
But also the idea was to just really rip
out the Casbah and make a superhighway.
And the super highway was supposed to be
curvy and Le Corbusier also in his diaries
or letters he wrote about how
the city of Algiers reminded him of a woman’s body, kind of undulating.
And one thing I learnt actually just
from watching a lecture from the 1990s
from Beatriz Colomina on
YouTube a few years ago, when I was looking at this specific project.
And she had a lecture where she was
looking at Le Corbusier’s graffiti on Eileen Grey’s E-1027 building that she
went into the origins of his graffiti.
And so in the origins of his graffiti
you go back 20 years to his own drawings
that were based on orientalist
postcards or actually hiring live models.
So he had kind of a secret drawing
practice that informed his natural cubism
and informed his paintings
that he developed years later.
And so out of these drawings, I picked — a lot
of them or most of them have pairs of women.
And the women are usually in some
kind of violent or sexual exchange
where they’re squished up against each other. They might be you know playing ball or fighting.
Or in this case I used a drawing of two women,
and this drawing is very difficult to find.
I found it on the Beatriz Colomina, her lecture.
But it’s two women engaging in [inaudible]
and I wanted to integrate the drawings
with the architecture because in the plan Obus,
there’s a lot of paired architectural drawings
where you have buildings shown
from two angles in pairs.
So it’s a similar language to the
drawings of the female bodies. And so in this case I have the drawing
exactly superimposed over this plan
and the plan is for a housing unit. So this is a very French housing unit for the
European Algiers, the Europeans in Algiers,
and in the plans it has a lot to do
with behaviour, with point of view. This is where you park the
cars, here’s a restaurant,
and you can actually see sight
lines determined within the plans. It’s more obvious in the second tapestry.
And then I superimpose the bodies of the
drawings with this interior information
of the carpets mostly from the Paris
villas and the carpets that were collected.
So I was looking at the language of Algierian
carpets, and I superimpose those on the bodies
to bring them into this domestic space
and to kind of veil them as well.
>> And you’ve also hand-embroidered some details
throughout those [inaudible] in the body.
>> Yeah, exactly. There’s details in this case I
think on the bottom figure there’s,
a lot of the coloured details
are hand-embroidered. And the second one I hand-embroidered
a lot of the sight lines
because they also aided with
the Jacquard weaving.
And because this men which is a modular
men, we see the sight lines that we —
I’m pointing at the sightlines as if
he’s looking at the figures actually.
Exactly. Yeah. So you have in this case, this is another
building for intended European use.
And in the drawings we have the modular
man which is Le Corbusier’s kind of man,
of measurement, and proportion, and form.
And the sight lines show in every
building that you can see, the ocean. So whatever unit you decide to move
into, you’ll have a view of the ocean.
And this is displayed in several
parts of this particular drawing.
So I collaged this drawing with this view
of two women and they’re kind of head to foot squished up against each other.
And then the sight lines
are going through the bodies over to the ocean, but stuck at the bodies.
>> I think we’ll see a detail.
And then we go in the third part of this
second room where the Bombshell series is shown
with the colour that comes from the
different [inaudible] of Le Corbusier. And then the lamps that you
were talking about earlier,
and those images that show
superimpositions of oriental postcards
that Le Corbusier collected
while he was in Algiers.
He drew from life figures but he
also drew from those postcards
that he collected, if I remember correctly. And then you superimposed on top of those bodies
the urban plans that he developed for Algiers.
>> Exactly. >> [Inaudible] see close up. >> So this is the work again
it’s a photographic process
where I have the different
transparencies, and I collaged them.
So it’s a contact print, it’s a
type of [inaudible] contact print.
And this was a difficult body of work because
I had some kind of association with the plans
because I had the drawings of the plan Obus. And I was looking at them for many months and I
realized they really correspond to the bodies.
And then as I was looking at working
on the tapestries and looking
through the drawing process, and Le
Corbusier’s referenced postcards —
and he actually used some
of the postcards to trace. So some of the, if you look at his paintings,
some of the figures the origins are tracings
from these postcards that he collected.
And so for this body of work
I really had to glean through because there are
several archives of these photos.
They’re also they can also be very disturbing
and it was a very Eurocentric trend.
And it’s also a Eurocentric trend that informs
Orientalism and also connects in this regard
to the language of painting Delacroix,
Picasso, this fantasy of the harem
and this fantasy of women in private space.
So what happened is I was playing with these
transparencies and then I saw, oh my goodness,
they fit exactly like this
postcard fits exactly to this plan. It was almost too — it was
just too big of a coincidence.
So I worked with, I think
there’s 18 different bombshells. I called them bombshells because the word
Obus, the plan Obus means, it means bomb.
Or [inaudible] in French translates
from the word bomb or shell. So I put bomb and shell together
to make bombshell as a,
like exploding news or beautiful woman. So there’s this play with the content of Obus.
And this corresponding the plans to
this fetishization or exotification
of the female body which I think runs
through the whole project of Obus.
It’s also the orientalist postcards
don’t show the reality of these women.
It’s a fantasy, it’s a construction,
it’s completely it’s theatre somehow.
And plans that Le Corbusier made to
modernize Algiers stayed a fantasy also.
They never got realized. So it’s also his fantasy of the
city that you combine together.
>> Exactly. Yeah. This was the first go a kind
of colonial urbanization that worked
in Shaandraar [assumed spelling] India. This one to the right is one
of the first ones I made.
And this is a postcard. This is the only image I found
where the postcard had a name,
and this woman was a famous dancer. And I found the structure
from Obus, and it kind of fit
on over her breasts like a
bra or like a bikini top.
So — — yeah, [inaudible] I wanted to pick images
that were really connected to painting
and Orientalism like example of the
[inaudible] here, we have this — this is very classic painting language.
And you can see this highway
that goes over the woman’s body. This was the highway that Le Corbusier
envision for the plan Obus that would drive,
he wanted to kind of demolish the Casbah. It would go through the Casbah, and under
the highway would be all of this housing
that was, I think it was mostly European. And then there were these superstructures
that go to the top of the figure.
[ Silence ]
Between these two body of works also
the tapestries that we studied before and the Bombshell series, it’s interesting to
see that there’s a reversal of the strategy
where the plan veils the
bodies in the photograms but in the tapestries the
bodies block the plans.
And so the power relationship between the figure
and the plan is different that the figures are
so big and the tapestry almost a takeover
the spaces that are supposed to contain them.
And here the plans somehow dress the
figures or camouflage the figures.
>> The tapestry is, in the tapestries
the figures take over the architecture. They’re almost like monsters but they
become, they become monstrous in a way.
And here there’s a synthesis where in some
of the Bombshells, the figures become,
they look robotic or they or they’re veiled,
they’re covered by the plans in a way.
But you can see this very uneasy
relationship between the bodies and the plans.
So I have to say that these
works made me uneasy. I didn’t, you know, but I thought
it was important to make sure.
And then we walked in the final section of
the exhibition where we can see a series
of soap paintings that you made in 2019,
2022 two Tolix chairs that you transformed.
And the final tapestry called the
weather that was made in 2019.
So maybe we start with the chairs that you —
>> [Chuckle] Yeah. >> — that you made for the exhibition
in Brunswick, that we were so happy
to be able to bring to [inaudible]. >> Yeah, I was so glad to see
them in the exhibition here.
Yeah, I’m really happy that it worked out. And this is the Tolix chairs are very classic,
modernist chair that became mass produced
that you can see in millions of
restaurants around the world now. But the original Tolix chairs were quite —
they were quite famous and they’re in the
Villa Savoye, for example, everywhere.
And the company that makes
the Tolix chairs now or Tolix, they even collaborated with the Villa Savoye.
So when I visited it, there were a lot of Tolix chairs throughout the space
painted in the colours of the Villa.
And so I wanted to make a version of the Tolix
chair that was more suited to this the Women
in Their Apartment tapestry or this
idea of a contorted body or a woman with a really small waist, and a Kim
Kardashian kind of voluminous bottom
because the Tolix chairs are
very, they’re just square. So I did this really intensive material
process where I took Tolix chairs.
I cut the seats off or I cut a seat off. I had it cast in a rubbery
material and stretched it out.
And then I cast this version in bronze, and
then the bronze stretch seat was re-welded
and built to the original chair structure. So they’re called expanded Tolix chairs.
And then I painted them in
these pink-y aqua colours
that I saw when I was in the Villa Savoye.
[ Inaudible ] These little paintings. You can see them a little
bit from the cinematographer.
They really, this is really an example
of work that’s better to see in person because they’re made with chiffon silk.
So, again, I’m using a very feminine
material that has no place in high art.
And they’re made using batik technique. So I paint with wax, and then I use oil paint,
textile paint, different types of paint.
And then in the end, I iron out the wax. So I don’t really know how they’re also going
to turn out until everything is ironed out.
So they’re very labour-intensive paintings. And this series of paintings, there’s one
in the very first room of the exhibition.
I have structures that are
facades of [inaudible] architecture
or architectural buildings that I
build grids over on the computer.
So in this case I have a
very reduced cross pattern
and the other ones I use a
very standard modernist grid.
And then, so these layers are
painted on this transparent silk. And then instead of being stretched on a normal
stretcher frame, it’s stretched over a mirror.
So the painting reflects in the mirror and
your body will reflect into the painting
when you see the painting in person. So maybe if we play, you can maybe see
the cinematographer moving around and see.
And this is a classic grid painting. This is called Grid Naturel.
And so here you see the photo, here you can
see how the body is going through the painting.
So that’s more of what it’s like in real life. But they’re they have a more formal language of
low material, maybe low material contortionism
that I take something very static and
very factual like the modernist grid. It’s not really a negotiable subject,
but if you paint it onto a material
like chiffon silk you can negotiate it. It becomes transparent, it collapses in
a way, it reflects in a different way.
>> And then the mirror gives it some depth. Also it becomes unfixed because it changes while
you walk in front of it and there’s that back
and forth between the layer in front
and the layer behind being reflected.
So and you see yourself also in it. Suddenly it’s no longer a work
that functions only in itself
like the modernist idea of [foreign language]. In French, we say [foreign language]. Suddenly it reflects the context also.
So it breaks that idea of the modernist
grid by [inaudible] the context.
>> Yeah. It opens it up. Exactly. It opens it up to something else.
And the structures that I’m referencing
are very strong concrete things.
And this is a very large tapestry — it’s
four metres by two, four by 270 or something.
It’s very mural-like. And this is a view from the
Farnsworth house looking outside.
And I found this image it’s a very
iconic image from the Farnsworth house,
and it has this big tree outside. And I called it the weather because for me,
this idea of the division of space and modernism
like the outside and the inside
erasing, you also have this with the five point systems
of Le Corbusier, the windows.
And the use of stall of steel from [inaudible]
enabled us to have giant windows like you’ve see
in the Neue Nationalgallery in Berlin. It’s a new structural thing. But it’s a very uncanny thing
because in my experience,
the more that humans opened
ourselves up to space and modernism the more we
realize how unnatural we are.
So I collaged this pattern which is again from
Roman tiles of flowers blooming into the tree.
But the picture itself is probably from
late fall or you know October, November.
So you have this blooming happening
totally outside of the season.
And Anne-Marie, you wrote such great stuff
about the history of the Farnsworth House
in your essay in my catalogue — the relationship between Mies van
der Rohe and Edith Farnsworth.
>> Yes. So the house got designed for Edith
Farnsworth was a doctor working in Chicago,
and the house is built a little bit
outside of Chicago, in Illinois. And she asked Mies van der Rohe to
design a house that, she was single,
so no children she was living alone and she
wanted a modernist house something avant-garde.
And when she got the house, she
realized that because it’s a glass house,
it’s completely open to the outside. And she felt as if it was a vitrine.
So she felt staged in her own house. And she had a hard time living in
the house thinking that, feeling,
experiencing that she couldn’t really do how
she wanted in the house not even placed anything
in the space without being concerned
about how it looks from outside.
And so she said that it’s supposed to be
liberating, those spaces because they’re open
and there’s not lots of walls, and
so you can circulate very easily. But at the same time it’s very constraining
how you can behave in those spaces.
And so she had a real hard time
living in the space at the end.
And they argued about the space
a lot after, about the house. So that’s really I think as a conclusion to the
exhibition showing your ideas around modernism,
it shows how that blurring of
interior and exterior spaces, and also private and public spaces.
You’re including all of your works a
narrative about pop icons, or social media,
or elements like that where
that blurring of what’s private and what’s public but gets shared.
And what’s just for oneself is
getting more and more difficult.
The line is getting more
and more difficult to fix. And this is something that I find that you, that
your work addresses through all sorts of ways
through the materiality of the work, through
the imagery of the architecture and the research
that you’ve that you address but also
through your allusion to pop icons
and popular culture in social media. >> Yeah. Thank you.
>> So that’s the final work in the
exhibition, that ends the tour,
the video tour of the space [chuckle].
>> Yeah. There’s the photo documentation. >> The colours are more accurate actually.
>> It’s really a lot about who is watching,
the point of view, where’s the point of view.
Is it from the outside? Is it from the inside?
>> Yeah, exactly. And a couple of self-paintings again, the
newest self-paintings in the exhibition.
>> So we did good. We did exactly one hour which means
there’s lots of time for questions.
If people have questions. >> Yes. Thank you both. First, I wanted to thank you for that. It’s such a wealth of really compelling,
exciting stories that are built into this work,
and that kind of come out of them
and [inaudible] you both went through in developing the projects.
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