Invited by the CAG to present a feedback talk in response to Aurélien Froment’s current exhibition titled Froebel Froebeled. What captures my attention in Aurélien Froment's practice is his interests in the shape-shifting nature of knowledge and its transmission, as well as his focus on the language of pedagogical demonstrations. I took this invitation as an opportunity to invite young artists on my platform, to re-interpret the works on display, in the light of my criticism, by creating a pastiche of the work, that is, by both embracing the language at play and do a critique of the exhibition as a whole; at once working in the manner of Froment, drawing on his ideas and gesturing against it. Here, we reactivated the exhibition space by drawing from what is there: the Froebel Gifts demonstrated on grid tables, looking for what is repressed in the vocabulary of high design and precious materials, and what is not said within this controlled set up which, after all, advertizes itself as being about the "playful" and we are here to replay Froment, on his own playground, throwing dice back into the grid, so as to challenge the discourse around taste-making, Hegel's synthesis and the artist as a poseur.
In this site-specific intervention, I am wrapping the entire wood exhibition inside pastel colours plastic containers, playing off the modular aspect of the Froebel blocks, as well as the modular aspect of this traveling exhibition (collapsible elegant tables designed in Italy), underlining the fact that too often, "Bad Art Travels Well". By wrapping pre-war utopia inside post-war utopia, I acknowledge Froment's interest in all encompassing thought systems, as well as his neo-romantic approach to encyclopedic deconstruction. However, I am questioning how is this exhibition different from a re-furbished and updated promotion of Froebel Blocks one can purchase on Internet for affordable price? Why precious hand crafted cherry wood travelling kit? And, is the Beautiful enough or does art has the responsibility to create new beauty, outside of taste? Furthermore, how to promote and justify Hegel's synthesis in such a post-post-structuralist climate? By bringing colours inside the grey environment which suggests average bourgeois taste of the day, I insist in the significance of a pop element in art as well as the importance of humour for neo-minimalism to be taken seriously.
During my talk, I use the audience present in the room as my "students", telling them what I find worth defending in art, and playing with the language of demonstrations, the language of pedagogy, in the manner of Froment, but against Froment. While I am showing the marvels of celery containers, cheese graters and salad spinners; and while my two gorgeous gay helpers are boxing the entire wooden show inside the Tupperware plastic containers, I am instructing the very roots of neo-modernism, and what it stands for, philosophically. Tout est philosophie. I am putting a neo-minimalism revival approach on trial, which is negating heterogeneity and multiplicity, therefore regressing into infatuated modernist tropes by way of repressing the complexity of post-modernism we have still yet to process. Froment's exhibition looks like nothing more than a posh Gastown / SOHO toy store. This exhibition looks like a high-end shop and it says nothing else than reframing taste with taste. While the entire show is being boxed and modulated inside my own personal rhetoric, not only I question the exhibition as poseur, but I take the opportunity to speak about homogeneity and heterogeneity in painting, by corrupting the perfect coherence of the dynasty of the artworks as well as the new dynasty I have created with my vintage Tupperware collection, only to finally corrupt the renewed uniformity with "bastard cups" I found in my research, in thrift stores, thus, throwing off balance a controlled visual language, opening it up to foreign elements, immigrants, always from the desire to break the cell, whether it is the closed system of Froebel, or the closed system of Hegel or the closed system of Tupperware; underlining the fascist groupings of our thoughts. Because everything speaks and because everything is philosophy.
Here I come up against Hegelian science of controlled understanding, by imposing a mercurial and intuitive approach to meaning-making, stretching the discourse on recurrent contemporary utopias, especially the ones rooted in modernist revival. I invite a parade of young artists, to engage in an "exercise", and produce a piece in response to my criticism of the exhibition by creating vignettes, which, along with interludes, are very much part of Froment's research in knowledge transmission and utopia. Emmett is my French translator in her signature transparent Persian bustier; a living utopia about un Canada bilingue. Sydney is designing cocktails in the manner of an Italian cooking TV show dash science class, matching the pastel colours of the vintage Tupperware while passing down her sizzurp recipes (cocktails with Dimetap and Benadryl, referring to children medicine and Froebel's Kindergarten audience). April and Dolly, always coming as their proper sassy pair, are doing a clownesque pastiche of my talk by mocking my criticism. Steven is projecting a video of IKEA Expedit shelving, the neo-modern utopia while trying to build the prototype, referring to the general IKEA look of the exhibition and its modular obsessions. Chase and Marquois, my gorgeous gay help is busy cutting lines of Ritalin, Dexadrin and Adderall, lined up on the Froebel grid tables referring to drugs given to children to increase their concentration. Emily Bach, dressed like a German 19th century folk musician is playing 19th century Romantic melodies as interludes, in between vignettes of know-how, while another helper is forming molecules with yet another Froebel toy, reconstructing the chemical structure of each drug. Finally, Jane Smoker is doing a drag queen strip-tease unfolding a multiple and modular identity. As a whole, our little circus act as colourful objects floating in space above the generic grid of the art gallery; seemingly unrelated, yet very cohesive in expressing the repressed, both addressing the best of the work presented while offering a tight critique in loose pants.
EXPEDIT IKEA shelf by Steven Audia; video still, performance and silkscreen
Aurélien Froment's Froebel wooden blocks (Pre-war utopia)
Wrapped inside Vintage Plastic Tupperware (Post-War Utopia)
PARCE QUE TOUT EST PHILOSOPHIE
Photograph by Patrick Campbell
Jello cups with flakes of Ritalin and Demerral
Photograph by Patrick Campbell
Expedia IKEA shelf and Froeble blocks, photographs and video by Steven Audia
Expedit, Video by Steven Audia
Photographed by Patrick Campbell
Photograph by Owel Ellis
Emily Bach, violonist, playing 19th century Romantic pieces acting as interludes between vignettes
Photograph by Chris Blackmore
Ritalin, Aderall and Dexedrine molecular set
Photograph by Patrick Campbell
Molecuar structure of Ritalin and Demerall, silkscreen
April and Dolly
photographed by Katrin Braga
Jane Smoker: modular identity
photograph by Owen Ellis
Marquois, Emmet and Chase cutting lines of Ritalin, Adderall and Dexadrine, aligning each one to the grid of the super-studio-esque collapsables tables.
Emmet Rose demonstrating a dance in 3 movements
The ''Artiste'' at play with bastard cups breaking uniformity of lineage:
an introduction to the concepts of contradictions and heterogeneity in painting, through a philosophical Tupperware demonstration
Froment Fromented, a Critical Pastiche
Documented by Owen Ellis