Bertrand Flanet

Some hollow crowns

03.07 - 03.08.2019

Opening - 03.07.2019, 5 - 9 pm

Some hollow crowns features recent productions and developments from the artist Bertrand Flanet. The exhibition starts with blue and blue, a footnote acting as a general introduction, invoking invisible and visible abstract narrations, close to epic tales. The work is a text on linen inspired by psychological motifs and linked to the artist’s interest in narratives. It alludes to a plot evolving for twelve hours as twelve chapters and iterations in a single day. A single chapter is introduced as part of a large scale series of twelve chapters existing as panels. The printed text recalls the narrative of a boy killing monsters in a plot crafted the vein of science-fiction. The entire twelve chapters exist also in the form of a small book, similar to a children’s book, available for review in the Lab library. By breaking with seriality and presenting a single chapter in isolation, the artist focuses our attention on the invisible paratext within the chapters one may typically omit. In that perspective, he is pursuing his interest through the text, narratives, and objects as a ghostly presence in time and space. The exhibition could be ascribed to the so-called ‘inner space fiction’, a literary label derived from J. G. Ballard’s 1962 manifesto on Inner Space, exploring a peculiar kind of science fiction where the exploration of the unconscious substitutes the interplanetary dimension. Importantly, the decision to opt for a non-mimetic narrative formula, rather than betraying Flanet’s renunciation of commitment, satisfies his need to deconstruct realistic writing, traditionally conveying patriarchal power-relations and gender-biased models.

The exhibition is thought of as an associative space, particularly through the two featured films Dungeons and Exhibitions. The film Exhibitions is presented on a projection screen in a corner of the gallery, at a human scale. In this video installation – the plot unfolds in an interior in which we pass through several corridors and rooms, the camera highlighting the different facets of the characteristics of the space, inhabited by uncanny creatures similar to cartoon characters. We witness as spectators a family scene, the artist depicts short sequences reminiscent of comic strips with speech bubbles containing each time a new abstracted utterance. Flanet voluntarily abstracts the situation to move away from any realistic features and patterns. In these two films, the artist uses software that generates video games. This vocabulary borrowed from video games allows the construction of a certain narrative based on linearity, repetition, and loop and an abstract aesthetic tainted by a feeling of alienation. It offers a way to talk abstractly about our world and the things which alienate us using coherent narration. With the two video works featured in the exhibition, the narrative space is detached from the theatricality of the text, as if the artwork generates a cyclical narrative, an escalation, promises made but never delivered. As a spectator, the exhibition invokes the familiar image of the computer screensaver remaining idle, in a waiting state. Flanet uses the first person in a virtual context. Projected onto the wall, Dungeons is also a personal chronicle of a space-time in which the artist creates specific imagery and mind-set to suggest a social critique.

red is for love, blue is for longing, yellow is for rage (blind prototype) is a 3D printed bird-house depicting London’s Grenfell tower, before the announcement of its renovation in 2012. The work is part of a series of three bird-houses originally placed in the park of the Sommerbad Humboldthain in the Wedding district in Berlin. Flanet uses the technique of 3D printing and assembly. Each house corresponds to a color: red, blue and yellow; a reference to a short story by Susan Sontag. This approach serves a certain mechanism with a heavily worked aesthetic: placed on the floor this version of the work reveals the bird-house with three entries filled by kinds of nipples or protuberances, “tumors of love, desire and rage” as the artist describes them. It is a testament to the evolution of the narrative, whose motifs explore conscious and unconscious realities, while relinquishing particular standpoints to embrace social and existential issues of which we become, once again, the privileged interpreters. Wandering through the exhibition, we come to appreciate the unease of writing about oneself. Nothing is personal in the sense that it is not uniquely one’s own – adopting this perspective, the exhibited artwork implicitly writes about others, as an individual’s emotions, pains, pleasures are never truly theirs alone. Flanet attempts to move away from the usual problems of subjectivity and microcosm by breaking through the subjective, the personal becoming general. As in life and social processes, Some hollow crowns transforms a private experience into something larger. The works focus on the deeply contradictory nature of the social positioning of oneself within society, the result of crisscrossing tensions arising from subjects within various dominating groups.

Excerpt, text by Karima Boudou
Photos by Eike Walkenhorst