exhibition Balkis Island
exhibition ...&, iconostases 25 i.s.
&, iconostases 25 i.s.
Part I : 10 September – 08 October 2011

Part II : 15 October – 12 November 2011

Architect Yona Friedman and artist Jean-Baptiste Decavèle continue their collaboration in their second exhibition at galerie Anne Barrault, which follows on their joint project around the fictional territory Balkis Island in 2009. The first phase of ...&, iconostases 25 i.s. comprises videos and photographs, objects and sculptures by Jean-Baptiste Decavèle arranged around Yona Friedman’s maquette Il ponte della libertà, a project for a ‘ville spatiale’ on the bridge that links the Italian cities Mestre and Venice.
Decavèle’s video Il ponte della libertà shows Yona Friedman building and taking apart his maquette. The viewer notes the swiftness and ease with which this architecture can be constructed and deconstructed—all of the elements of the maquette are neatly stored in a few cardboard boxes—but the film also provides a glimpse into the architects creative environment, filled with other maquettes, maps and murals, paper-cut outs accompanied by his ‘Simple Truths’ afffixed to the walls of his home.
The title of this exhibition...&, iconostases 25 i.s. conjoins the movement of film and photographic images to the iconostase, a mobile, adaptable and evolutive structure for the presentation of works of art, based on the iconostasis, a portable screen or wall that historically served in churches as a support for icons. Friedman has worked on his own concept of the iconostase for at least 50 years.
His is formed out of circular polyhedrons that can be linked together in what he calls a ‘space chain’ for holding art works. Decavèle’s video Iconostase 25 i.s., filmed from the heights of a cherry picker, documents Friedman circulating in and around the iconostase he built for Art Basel 41 in 2010, the first time Friedman had realized the iconostase on this scale. The video traces this unprecedented and fleeting installation from beginning to end, without any editing. Viewed from above, the metal rings of the ‘space chain’ recall the course and the lines of a drawing and the iconostase resembles a topographic map. The architect seems to be wandering through the materialization of his own architectural thinking.
This is consistent with Decavèle’s understanding of the role of documentary video here: it can in no way serve as a substitute for the realization of one of Friedman’s architectural projects, but it can signify a certain formalization of his ideas.
The walls of the gallery have been papered with cardboard, in order to play with questions of scale in the gallery, and to reflect upon possibilities for a more malleable and modular alternative to the white cube/black box for showing Decavèle’s images, like the Steroscopic Views of Balkis Island (2009), co-signed by Friedman and Decavèle. For this work, related to Decavèle’s first voyage to Balkis Island, Friedman sketched proposals for fictional but potentially realizable habitats on the stereographic images found by Decavèle. The use of stereographic plates links Balkis Island
to a specific region by recalling Decavèle’s first of several trips to the Arctic, where he travelled to research the traces of the lost Franklin expedition in 1845. The only surviving images of that expedition are daguerreotypes taken of the crew before their departure from England, with a camera on board.
Finally, Decavèle’s photomontages Iconostase superimpose dozens of images from single shot of Friedman building the iconostase. All of the images are taken from a fraction of a shot lasting between 15 seconds and 3 minutes in the video Iconostase 25 i.s. It is important to note that montage only intervenes in the photographic image, not in the videos, in order to introduce a rhythm and underline the reciprocity between continuity and discontinuity, construction and
deconstruction, a tempo and movement that is omnipresent in and shared by the work of the architect and the artist.

Vivian Sky Rehberg