LA VIE EST UN COLLAGE

curated by Philippe Ducat

11 January - 22 February 2014

This exhibition, imagined from the founding principle of thought, collage, puts together books and works of art (writers and artists). Each book exhibited is tightly related to one or a group of works. They echo in many ways, from themes to biographies, formal analogies to friendship ties, from thought to mind, etc. This is really collage work, since the starting point – the rule- was either the artist was to be associated with a writer, or a book was to be associated with a work of art. The other rule was that the books were to come exclusively from my own collection, of course.

It may sometimes seem far-fetched, but, anyway, in the exhibition, each choice is vindicated – which does not prevent it from seeming far-fetched as well…

You will find at random Erich Von Stroheim associated with Olivier Blanckart, Gertrude Stein with Agathe May, John Heartfield with Vincent Corpet, Denis Larget  with a fifteenth century anonymous author (1),Jochen Gerner with Giovanni Boccacio, Philippe Favier with Félix Valotton and Rémy de Gourmont, Ramuntcho Matta with Chris Marker, Killoffer with Reverend Father Louis-Marie Sinistrari d’Ameno, Alun Williams with Gaston de Pawlowski, Michel Gouéry with Robert Willan, Charbel-Joseph H.Boutros with John Cage, Marc Desgrandchamps with Pier Paolo Pasolini, Guillaume Pinard with Mr Bonamy, Mr Broca dand Mr Beau, Benjamin Swaim with Robert Filliou, Magdi Sednadji with Ambrose Bierce, and last, Mimosa Echard with Haruki Murakami.

Let us admit that these nonsensical associations are rather surprising, and their being vindicated cannot be but unlikely.

As Paul Valéry put it “crazy research is the mother of unforeseen discoveries”.

Philippe Ducat.

P.S.: The books in the exhibition are not ordinary ones. With autographs, envoys, first editions, with original drawings, extremely rare, each of them is definitely exceptional. 

1 Unable to find his copy of Camille Flammarion’s book (1880), Astronomie populaire, probably beyond the well named Planck’s wall, the curator decided to draw a parallel between Denis Laget’s work and a book published in 1982, but now rare, about Tarot, known as Tarot de Mantegna dating from 1425 or thereabouts.

Vincent Corpet/John Heartfield
John Heartfield’s work developed in Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung magazine, often abbreviated AIZ, (Journal Illustré des Travailleurs) between 1930 and 1936, and in his illustrated book covers, is mainly made up of collages in photomontage form. Therefore of heterogeneous elements put together to create a new homogeneous element. Vincent Corpet does the same: he has based his artistic thinking and his work on analogy and collage. Except that Corpet does not use either a scalpel or scissors. Painting and drawing only put together the exquisite cadavers that rise from his imagination. No political meaning either in Vincent Corpet’s work, contrarily to Heartfield who actually had to leave Germany in 1933, when Hitler seized power, looked for by the SA. You must admit that no malicious, ill-intentioned invaders are at Paris gates at the moment.


Accompanying books presented:

John heartfield. Leben und werk, Dresde 1962, Veb Verlag der Kunst publishers. Author: Wiedland Heartfield, signed by Wiedland Heartfield in 1964.

John Heartfield. 1891-1968, Photomontages, Paris 1974, published by Musée d’art modern de la Ville de Paris.

 

Olivier Blanckart/Erich von Stroheim
Olivier Blanckart, through his “photographic self-portraits in someone else” imagines himself as someone else. He enters the image of a famous person, whose photographic portrait is well known, with his tongue in his cheek. As for Eric von Stroheim, he has totally invented his biography. Actually, the son of a straw hat maker in Vienna, and a Jewish mother, he emigrates to the United States in 1909, and declares he is the son of a colonel in the 6th Dragoon regiment and of a lady’s companion of Elisabeth of Austria, then boasts of his quality as an ex-officer of Austro-Hungarian cavalry born of Viennese aristocracy… He will even explain that the scar on his forehead comes from a horse kick. Unlike Blanckart, Stroheim told his story without the slightest humour, and carefully hid his life before emigrating.

Accompanying books presented:

Les Feux de la Saint-Jean, Erich von Stroheim, Paris 1951, André Martel publisher. Book 1 is dedicated to Mrs Colette Budes by Erich von Stroheim on December 12th 1951, and book 2 has a drawing by Vincent Corpet, dated November 11th 1986.

 

Agathe May/Gertrude Stein
In 1937, Gertrude Stein wrote Everybody’s Autobiography. It was published in 1946 and untitled Autobiographies. In 1998, Agathe May etched a coloured series entitled Autoportrait de tout le monde, which can be translated into Everybody’s selfportrait. As you understand, Agathe May and Gertrude Stein, both make portraits – plastic for one, literary for the other- of people close or met, making up a kind of autobiography. Agathe May even personifies Death, and animals appear (a dog, a pig, a goat). They certainly symbolize some persons she has met, for, do not deny it, we all know around us a pig, a dog, or a goat...

Accompanying books presented:

Autobiographies, Gertrude Stein, Paris 1946, Editions Confluences. One copy is dedicated by Gertrude Stein, the other one is plain (original, French edition).

 

Marc Desgrandchamps/Pier Paolo Pasolini
You find, in Marc Desgrandchamps’work, the very special atmosphere, which emanates from Giotto’s as well as from Cima de Conegliano’s frescoes, or Carlo Carrà’s paintings, but also from Michelangelo Antonioni’s or Pier Paolo Pasolini’s films. Calm, serenity, poetry, in all of them. With Pasolini, the use of still shots evokes frescoes. Thanks to still shots, images can be set like in a painting, and allow a scene to become fixed in people’s minds. Pasolini’s book Dialogues en public (1980 original French edition) presented here was faulty. One side of the sheets of some of the books had not been printed. Therefore, when folded, white pages were inserted into the book. Marc Desgrandchamps has illuminated them with drawings in Italian mannerism style. In La Ricotta (1963), Pasolini visually pays tribute to Jacopo da Pontormo, the mannerist.

Accompanying books presented:

Dialogues en Public, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Paris 1980, editions du Sorbier. A faulty copy has been illuminated with 18 drawings by Marc Desgrandchamps in October 2003. The other one is complete without gaps or additions.



Jochen Gerner/Giovanni Boccacio
This time, it is not so much that Jochen Gerner’s work has to do with Boccacio’s Decameron, stricto sensu, but this 1585 edition, printed by the Giunti in Florence, was censored. As it happens, Gerner, for some years, has exhibited all kinds of censoring, covering parts of an image, and leaving others, so that it has another meaning. This artefact allows him to emphasize something that had gone unnoticed, when the original image was kept.

Conscientiously, the Giunti, the publishers of this Decamerone, point out each missing passage, with an asterisk. Alibech, the tenth story of the third day is thus considerably shortened. In page 197, there are no less than 80 asterisks…

 Accompanying book presented:

Il Decameron, Giovani Boccacio, Venice 1585, Filippo and Jacopo Giunti publishers in Florence.

 

Philippe Favier/Félix Vallotton and Rémy de Gourmont
There is no immediate link between Félix Vallotton and Philippe Favier, but rather between de Gourmont’s book illustrated by Vallotton (le Livre des masques, 1898) and Philippe Favier’s work shown here. Indeed, with Favier, under a curtain on which he has stuck a letter symbolizing a page, an illustration is hidden, the line of which is efficient and immediate. It is exactly the same thing with Le Livre des masques: under Rémy de Gourmont’s biographical pages, very efficient, nearly logotypical drawn portraits, wood engravings, are hidden.

Accompanying books presented:

Le livre des masques, Paris 1898, editions Mercure de France.  Authors: Rémy de Gourmont for the texts, and Félix Vallotton for the illustrations. Books II and I.


Ramuntcho Matta/Chris Marker
It may be useful to remember that Matta and Marker have been very close, and, beside formal links, their common state of mind is what matters. As a matter of fact, Ramuntcho Matta as Chris Marker know better than most how to explore strange fields through different, unseemly media. Marker’s life, like that of Ramuntcho Matta, is a puzzle, the answer to it being revealed at the end (and you must look for it…). Let us hope, however, that Ramuntcho Matta will allow us to discover it as late as possible.

Accompanying book presented:

Le Fond de l’air est rouge. Scènes de la troisième guerre mondiale, 1967-1977. Textes et description d’un film de Chris Marker, Paris 1978, editions François Maspéro. Copy dedicated in 2003 “From The Cat to The (Du)Cat”, enhanced with a drawing.

 

Killoffer/Le Révérend Père Louis Marie Sinistrari d’Ameno
For those who know Killoffer a little, joining a Roman catholic Reverend Father to him must seem rather odd. But this ecclesiastic with a lacanian name wrote De la Démonialité et des animaux incubes et succubes, with the following subheading: “In which it is proved that there are, on earth, reasoning creators, who are not human, who have, like man, a body and a soul, who are born and die, like man, through Our Lord Jesus-Christ, and can be saved or damned”. Killoffer has drawn a series of ghosts, which are not at all sinister, but which would illustrate Sinistrari’book perfectly well. This text, delirious, read with some distance, does justify the parallel with Killofer’s drawings. A future edition illustrated by him would be welcome…

Accompanying book presented:

De la démonialité et des animaux incubes et succubes, Paris 1882, editions Isidore Liseux. Author: Reverend Father Louis Marie Sinistrari d’Ameno. 


Alun Williams/Gaston de Pawlowsky
Between Alun Williams and Gaston de Pawlowski, a third character somewhat comes in, and acts as a link: Marcel Duchamp. The latter has always acknowleged how much he owed to Gaston de Pawlowski ‘s science-fiction novel Voyage au pays de la quatrième dimension, published in 1912. The famous Mariée in the top part of the Grand Verre would have been born after passing into the fourth dimension (an additional dimension to cubism which combines space and time). In his paintings, systematically, Alun Williams inserts a ghostly figure, which does not upset the scene or the intrinsic composition. It seems to say, all is well, guys, leave me alone. Look at this figure attentively. It does remind one of Duchamp’s La Mariée, does it not? According to Williams, it would be a paint mark met by chance in Rue Jules Verne in Paris, a shape he has decided to make anthropomorphic. An additional link with Duchamp, since this mark, he has made his, works as a ready made painted in his pictures. Williams says somewhere “… I use this mark as a shape or a figure put in the background. …I have often the feeling to bring this character back to life, which allows me to make him discover today’s world, to make him travel through time and space.” It is quite about the fourth dimension…

Accompanying book presented:

Voyage au pays de la quatrième dimension, Gaston de Pawlowski, Paris 1923, editions Eugène Fasquelle. Dedicated by Gaston de Pawlowski to “Madame Pierat en témoignage d’une respectueuse amitié, etc.”

 

Michel Gouéry/Robert Willan
Michel Gouéry’s hybrid and mutant beings, the reincarnation of Doctor Moreau, curiously look like the charts published in London in 1808 in Robert Willan’s book: On Cutaneous Diseases. They list and show rather frightening, cutaneous diseases. When Gouéry saw these lithographs for the first time, he was amazed, as he had not known them before making his monstrous characters – I swear, your Honour. On the other hand, I do not think that Robert Willan had heard of Michel Gouéry’s ceramic sculptures. He would have been bound to copy them in his book.

Accompanying book presented:

La Naissance de la dermatologie (1776-1880), Paris 1989, editions Roger Pacosta. Coloured charts taken from Robert Willan’s book published in 1808 in London: On Cutaneous Diseases.

 

Benjamin Swaim/Robert Filliou
The parallel between Benjamin Swaim’s very black paper works, because covered with Indian ink, his voodoo like sculptures, and the two detective novels translated by Robert Filliou in 1964 for Gallimard most famous Série noire,  is literal, but the quirky titles echo those Swaim usually gives to his works. Moreover, Robert Filliou would twist things, make use of them, and put them together in the shape of a “rush job” – a phrase taken from Philippe Dagen, who used it when reviewing the exhibition Fluxus in Saint Etienne museum, thank you- in order to give them quite a different meaning.

Accompanying books presented:

A 4 pattes dans les Carpates, Edward S. Aarons, and Les Magnolias sont rouges, Wyatt Bell, Paris 1964, editions Série Noire, Gallimard. Robert Filliou translated these two detective novels.

 

Mimosa Echard/Haruki Murakami
Like Murakami, Mimosa Echard scrutinizes what is invisible in the visible world, to regurgitate a puzzling, slightly beside reality, trompe-l’oeil universe. A photograph decorated with pointed shells- called coquilles de Turritelle –evokes the unicorns Murakami stages in his famous novel La Fin des temps. At a certain moment in his stories, he manages to propel reality into a parallel world which looks like that one has just left, with minute differences. Mimosa Echard ‘s universe also seems out of it.

Accompanying books presented:

La Fin des temps, Haruki Murakami, Paris 1992, éditions du Seuil, with a Japanese edition dated 2005.



Charbel Joseph H.Boutros/John Cage
The glass of water from a bottle coming from Palestine mixed by C.J.H.Boutros with the water of a bottle coming from Liban results in giving a glass of water in which it is now going to be quite difficult to establish where it comes from, or to separate them again. Some build up walls and borders in order to assert their identity; others prove reductio ad absurdum that borders are water-soluble. In his own way, John Cage had shown how absurd the idea of silence is, when he created hi quite famous musical piece 4’33’’. And pushing nonsense still further, he recorded it in 1975 in an album, on Cramps Records label in Milano.

Accompanying (An exception that proves the rule):

4’33’’, John Cage, the undated score published by editions Peters, n° 6777, with the vinyl recording  John Cage (Nova Pusican.1) on Cramps Records, 1975, Milano, in which 4’33’’ piece, played by Gianni-Emilio Simonetti appears.

 

 

Guillaume Pinard/Bonamy-Broca-Beau
Guillaume Pinard’s anatomical interpretations are unique, since he likes to create monsters, which have nothing human but what they share with us - or which have nothing animal but what they share with others. Though it is not always the case, and vice versa. L’Atlas d’anatomie descriptive, the book presented here, is meant to be a human anatomy handbook, but like any good anatomy book, it only shows monsters, as it keeps on showing all the mess which is under the skin of the human being – a cover which makes man presentable after all.

Accompanying book presented:

Atlas d’anatomie descriptive, C.Bonamy, Paul Broca, Emile Beau, Paris 1866-1872, editions G.Masson. A copy dedicated by Philippe Comar on November 19th 2008.

 

 

Magdi Sednadji/Ambrose Bierce
Ambrose Bierce wrote Le Dictionnaire du Diable from 1881 to 1906. It is the collection of nine hundred and ninety eight absurd definitions. Magdi Sednadji has created absurd, abstruse, photographic diptychs, simply because of their being side by side, thanks to an unusual way of changing the meaning and unbalancing it. Sometimes, like with Bierce, the meaning can veer onto an unforeseen direction. Bierce defines eccentricity as a “way of showing off, so easy that idiots use it to display their nonentity”, a thief as a “naïve business man “, telephony as a “devilish invention which makes some of the advantages of keeping an unpleasant person far away irrelevant “, respectability as the “ fruit of the loves of a bald head, and of a good reputation”, etc.

By the way, Bierce wrote these definitions between 1881 and 1906. “Photography: an image painted by the sun without the least artistic education.”

Accompanying book presented:

The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce, New York 1957, editions Hill and Wang. Dedicated to `Virginia and Jack Bryan in 1978 by John Bierce (???), then by V. & J. Bryan to Robert (???) in 1979.

 

 

Denis Laget/Tarot dit “De Mantegna”
Denis Lager made a series of paintings in 2001, in which, in leaden, turbulent skies, desolate landscapes reduced to ploughed or ash fields, several, forbidding suns give out anaemic beams which can hardly enter an atmosphere seeming unbreathable. You wonder what kind of specially made overalls the artist had worn to paint on the ground. And on which planet? Unless thrown into a not so far future on earth, he brought back this apocalyptic vision, which should make us stop paying rents, taxes, electricity bills, etc., since, very soon, there will be nobody to ask for them. Therefore, this copy of a print from the series of the Tarot de Mantegna, engraved around 1465, showing Phaeton who had wanted to drive his father’s chariot, the Sun. Rising too high in space, carried away by a feeling of power, he was overcome by vertigo. He lost control of his team. Jupiter struck him by lightning, and conceited Phaeton fell into the river Eridan. In this print, Phaeton’s hair, seen from the back, as he is falling, looks like his father, the sun. There seems to be two suns in the particularly devastated landscape.

Accompanying book presented:

Le Tarot de Mantegna ou Jeu du Gouvernement du monde au Quattrocento,vers 1465, Laure Beaumont-Maillet and Gisèle Lambert, Garches 1985, éditions Arnaud Seydoux.