West Bund Museum Project - Shanghai, China
The Voice of Things. Highlights of the Centre Pompidou Collection
July 27, 2021 - May 7, 2023more current
West Bund Museum Project - Shanghai, China
The Voice of Things. Highlights of the Centre Pompidou Collection
July 27, 2021 - May 7, 2023more current
Born in 1968 in Cosenza, Italy
Lives and works in Paris, France
Tatiana Trouvé was born in 1968 in Cosenza (Calabria, Italy) and grew up in Dakar (Senegal). She studied at Villa Arson, Nice, and then participated in Ateliers ’63, now De Ateliers, in the Netherlands. She teaches at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Trouvé’s artistic approach originated with the creation of the Bureau d’Activités Implicites, a kind of laboratory of time where activities are always to come. From this research, she created drawings, sculptures, and installations that give an experience of disorientation through the composition of worlds where the orders and laws that define our reality are disrupted; where new coexistences of the physical and the psychological, of the vegetal and the mineral, are expressed; where space and time float; and where our perceptive landmarks shift.
Tatiana Trouvé has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions, biennials, and triennials, in museums and institutions both in France and abroad. Her first solo exhibition was held at the Centre national d’art contemporain at Villa Arson in Nice in 1997, and her first retrospective, The Longest Echo, was at MAMCO, Geneva, in 2014. In 2022, a major monographic exhibition, Le grand atlas de la disorientation, was held at the Centre Pompidou, Paris.
Tatiana Trouvé is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Pernod Ricard Foundation Prize in 2002, the Marcel Duchamp Prize in 2007, the ACACIA Prize (Italy) in 2014 and the Rosa Schapire Art Prize (Germany) in 2019. She was named an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication in 2020.
Tatiana Trouvé. Le grand atlas de la désorientation, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France, curator Jean-Pierre Criqui
Tatiana Trouvé, Gagosian, Paris, France
Tatiana Trouvé. Bureau of Implicit Activities, Mamco, Geneva, Switzerland, curator Françoise Ninghetto
Tatiana Trouvé. From March to May, Gagosian, New York, NY, USA
On the Eve of Never Leaving, Gagosian, Beverly Hills, CA, USA
Tatiana Trouvé, Gagosian, Rome, Italy
One Day for Eternity, Saint Agnes Chapel, König, Berlin, Germany
The Great Atlas of Disorientation, Petach Tikva Museum of Art, Tel-Aviv, Israel, curator Hadas Mahor
Le Numerose Irregolarità, Villa Medici, Rome, Italy, curator Chiara Parisi
House of Leaves, Perrotin, Hong Kong
From Alexandrinenstrasse to the Unnamed Path, König, Berlin, Germany
The Sparkle of Absence, Red Brick Museum, Beijing, China, curator Tang Zehui
Desire Lines, Public Art Fund, Doris C. Freedman Plaza, New York, NY, USA, curator Nicholas Baume
Studies for Desire Lines, Gagosian, New York, NY, USA
I Tempi Doppi, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, Germany, curator Stefan Gronert; travelled to Museion, Bolzano-Bozen, Italy, curator Letizia Ragaglia; Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Nürnberg, Germany, curator Ellen Seifermann
The Longest Echo / L’Écho le plus long, Mamco, Geneva, Switzerland, curators Christian Bernard, Christophe Kihm
Tatiana Trouvé: Recent Works, Gagosian, Geneva, Switzerland
Somewhere, 18-12-95, An Unknown, 1981, Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin, Germany, curator Nina Pohl
I cento titoli in 36 524 giorni, The Hundred Titles In 36, 524 Days, Gagosian, Rome, Italy
Tatiana Trouvé, Gagosian, New York, NY, USA
Il grande ritratto, Kunsthaus Graz, Graz, Austria, curator Adam Budak
Tatiana Trouvé, South London Gallery, London, United Kingdom, curator Margot Heller
A Stay Between Enclosure and Space, Migros Museum, Zurich, Switzerland, curator Heike Munder
Bureau of Implicit Activities: Archives and Projects, Kunstverein Hambourg, Hambourg, Germany, curator Florian Waldvogel
4 between 2 and 3, Centre Georges-Pompidou, Paris, France, curator Jean-Pierre Bordaz
Dentisy of Time, König, Berlin, Germany
Time Snares, Perrotin, Miami, FL, USA
Double Bind, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France, curator Marc-Olivier Wahler
Tatiana Trouvé, Centre national d’art contemporain Villa Arson, Nice, France, curator Éric Mangion
Djinns, CNEAI, Chatou, France, curator Sylvie Boulanger, Pascal Yonet
Extraits d'une société confidentielle, Frac PACA, Marseille, France, curator Éric Mangion
Juste assez coupable pour être heureuse, Mamco, Geneva, Switzerland, curator Christian Bernard
Tatiana Trouvé, Kunstverein Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany, curator Dorothea Strauss
Aujourd’hui, hier, ou il y a longtemps… Capc Musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France, curator François Poisay
Polders, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France, curators Nicolas Bourriaud, Jérome Sans
Tatiana Trouvé, Le Quartier, Centre d’art contemporain de Quimper, France, curator Dominique Abensour
Tatiana Trouvé, Centre national d’art contemporain de la Villa Arson, Nice, France, curator Michel Bourel
Haunted Realism, Gagosian, London, United Kingdom
What a Wonderful World, MAXXI, Rome, Italy, curator Bartolomeo Pietromarchi
Ruins and Fragments, Gagosian, Athens, Greece
Inventaire, Mamco, Geneva, Switzerland
Ouverture, Bourse du Commerce - Fondation Pinault, Paris, France, curators Caroline Bourgeois, Martin Béthenod
Womanology. Colección José Ramón Prieto, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain
Afterness, Orford Ness, Quay Street, Woodbridge, England, curators Art Angel, James Lingwood, Michael Morris
The Voice of Things. Highlights of the Centre Pompidou Collection, West Bund Museum, Shanghai, China, curators Bernard Blistène, Pamela Sticht
Diversity United. Contemporary European Art, Flughafen Tempelhof, Berlin, Germany; traveled to New Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia
Invito 2020, Museo del Novecento, Milan, Italy
Io dico Io, Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna di Roma, Rome, Italy, curators Cristiana Collu, Paola Ugolini
Glass and Concrete: Manifestations of the Impossible, Marta Herford Museum, Herford, Germany, curators Franziska Brückmann, Friederike Fast, Anne Schloen
Le vent se lève, 10ème exposition de la collection, MAC/VAL, Vitry-sur-Seine, France
You, œuvres de la collection Lafayette Anticipations, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France, curator Anne Dressen
Katharina Grosse / Tatiana Trouvé, Gagosian, Basel, Switzerland
Fell the Sun in Your Mouth: Recent Acquisitions, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washingdon DC, USA, curators Anne Reeve and Betsy Johnson
Gigantisme - Art & Industrie, Triennial, Dunkerque, France, curators Keren Detton, Géraldine Gourbe and Grégory Lang,
Magnetic_T, New Media Gallery,Vancouver, Canada, curators Sarah Joyce, Gordon Duggan
Luogo e Segni, Punta della dogana,Venice, Italy, curators Martin Bethenod, Mouna Mekouar
Debout, Francois Pinault Collection, Rennes, France, curator Caroline Bourgeois
KANAL – Centre Pompidou à Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium, curator Nicolas Liucci-Goutnikov
BIENALSUR, 1st Contemporary Biennal of South America, Buenos Aires, Argentina
A Good Neighbour, The 15th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, Turkey, curators by Elmgreen & Dragset
Islands, Constellations and Galapagos, Yokohama Triennale, Yokohama, Japan
Dioramas, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France, curators Florence Ostende, Laurent Le Bon
Time Will Tell, Museo Experimental El Eco, Mexico, curators Thomas Boutoux, Paola Santoscoy
High Tension, Red Brick Museum, Beijing, China; Time Museum, Guangzhou, China, curator Alfred Pacquement
Primary Sculptures and Speculative Forms, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sidney, Australia
Avalanche, Elevation 1049, Gstaad, Switzerland, curators Neville Wakefield, Olympia Scarry
Sans Réserve, MAC/VAL, Ivry-sur-Seine, France, curator Alexia Fabre
L’esprit du Bauhaus, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, France, curated by Marie-Sophie Carron de la Carrière, Mathieu Mercier
Prototypology, an Index of Process and mutation, Gagosian, Roma, Italy, curator Aaron Moulton
Museum Revisited – 1996-2016, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich, Switzerland
My Abstract World, me Collectors Room, Berlin, Germany, curator Thomas Olbricht
Labor relations, From the International Contemporary Art Collection of Wrocław Contemporary Art, Wroklaw, Poland
The Lasting, L’Intervallo et la Durata, La Galeria Nazionale, Roma, Italy
Anatomie de l’automate, La Panacée, Montpellier, France, curator Paul Bernard
La vie moderne, Lyon Biennial, Lyon, France, curator Ralph Rugoff
Von Grossen und Ganzen, Die Sammlung Haus N, Teil 1, Herbert Gerisch Stiftung, Germany, Neumünster
Collezionare per un domani: nuove opere a Museion, Museion, Bolzano, Italy
Broken Spaces, Kai10 Arthena Foundation, Düsseldorf, Germany, curator Ludwig Seyfarth
Drawing Now, Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria, curator Elsy Lahner
Rolling Club, Le Plateau Région Rhône-Alpes, Lyon, France, curators Florence Ostende, Jean-Luc Moulène
Invitation au voyage, CENTRALE for Contemporary Art, Brussels, Belgium, curator Alfred Pacquement
Rastros y Vestigios, Indagaciones sobre en Presente, La Colección Isabel y Agustín Coppel, Instituto Cultural Cabañas, Guadalajara; Museo Amparo, Puebla; Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, Mexico, Mexico, curator Tatiana Cuevas
Call me on Sunday, Krinzinger Projekte, Vienna, Austria, curator Ursula Maria Probst
Fruits de la Passion, Centre Pompidou collection, Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, Kobe, Japan, curator Jonas Storsve
Permanent collection, Migros Museum, Zurich, Switzerland, curator Heike Munder
Fieldwork, Collins Park, Bass Museum of Art, Miami, FL, USA, curator Nicholas Baume
From Triple X To Birdsong (In Search of The Schizophrenic Quotient), Kayne Griffin Corcoran Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, USA, curator Marc-Olivier Wahler
KölnSkulptur #7, Skulpturenpark Köln, Cologne, Germany, curator Friedrich Meschede
Autoritratti. Iscrizioni del femminile nell'arte italiana contemporanea, MAMBo, Bologna, Italy, curator Uliana Zanetti
Homebodies, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL, USA, curators Naomi Beckwith, Marilyn and Larry Fields
A Space Called Public / Hoffentlich Öffentlich, Munich, Germany, curators Elmgreen & Dragset
Masters of Chaos, CaixaForum, Madrid, Spain, curator Jean de Loisy
Ruhestörung, Streifzüge Durch Die Welten der Collage (Disturbing the Piece, An Expedition Through the World of Collages), Museum Marta Herford, Herford; Kunstmuseum Ahlen, Ahlen, Germany
Migros Meets Museum, Museion Bolzano, Bolzano-Bozen, Italy, curators Letizia Ragaglia, Heike Munder, Judith Welter
Sculptural Matter, ACCA, Melbourne, Australia, curator Charlotte Day
Lost in LA, Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, USA, curator Marc-Olivier Wahler
New Sculpture? Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland, curator Maria Brewińska
Circus Wols, Weserburg, Bremen, Germany, curator Olaf Metzel
30 Artists/30 Spaces, Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Nuremberg, Germany, curator Ellen Seifermann
Poule !, Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, Mexico, curator Michel Blancsubé
French Window, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan, curator Fumio Nanjo
Quiet Attentions: Departure from Women, Contemporary Art Gallery, Art Tower Mito, Ibaraki, Japan, curator Mizuki Takahashi
You, your sun and shadow, Anderson Gallery, Richemond, VA, USA, curator Michael Jones McKean
Frauenzimmer, Morsbroich Museum, Leverkusen, Germany, curator Stefanie Kreuzer
Elogio del dubbio, In Praise of Doubt, Éloge du doute, Pinault Collection, Punta della Dogana, Venise, Italy, curator Caroline Bourgeois
Lustwarande’ 11, 4th edition, international sculpture exhibition, Tilburg, Holland, curator Chris Driessen
The New Decor, Hayward Gallery, London, United Kingdom, curator Ralph Rugoff
Aichi Triennale 2010, Nagoya City Art Museum, Nagoya, Japan, curator Haito Masahiko
There is always a cup of sea for man to sail, 29th São Paulo Biennale, São Paulo, Brazil, curators Moacir dos Anjos, Agnaldo Farias
Libertad Igualdad Fraternidad, La Jonja, Saragosse, Spain; travelled to Centro Atlàntico de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, curators Bernard Marcadé, Isabel Duriàn
Leichtigkeit und Enthusiasmus, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg, Germany, curator Annelie Lütgens
Elles, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France, curator Camille Morineau
Archipels, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France, curator Emma Lavigne
La Notte, La Kunstalle, Mulhouse, France, curator Lorenzo Benedetti
Le travail de rivière, Credac, Ivry-sur-Seine, France, curator Claire Le Restif
The Impossible Prison, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, United Kingdom, curator Alex Farquharson
If You Destroy the Image, You’ll Destroy the Thing Itself, Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen, Norway, curators Solveig Øvstebø, Steinar Sekkingstad
Mexico: Expected/Unexpected, Collection Agustin et Isabel Coppel, La Maison Rouge, Paris, France ; Tea Tenerife espacio de las artes, Tenerife, Spain, curator Basualdo Carlos
50 Moons of Saturn, T2 – Torino Triennale, Castello di Rivoli, Museo d'Arte Contemporaneo, Turin, Italy, curator Daniel Birnbaum
Principle Hope, Manifesta 7, Rovereto, Italy, curator Adam Budak
Chalet de Tokyo, Centro Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina, curator Marc-Olivier Wahler
Think with the Senses - Feel with the mind, 52nd Venice biennale, Arsenale, Venice, Italy, curator Robert Storr
Airs de Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France, curators Christine Macel, Daniel Birnbaum
Le Printemps de septembre : Broken Lines, Les Abattoirs, Toulouse, France, curators Jean-Marc Bustamante, Pascal Pique, Mirjam Varadinis
Notre Histoire…, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France, curators Nicolas Bourriaud, Jérôme Sans
Permanent collection, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France
Configurations/Modèles modèles, Mamco, Geneva, Switzerland, curator Christian Bernard
SingulierS - Art Contemporain en France, Guangdong Museum, Guangzhou, China, curator Thierry Raspail
Tour-détours de Babel, MAMCO, Geneva, Switzerland, curator Christian Bernard
Clandestini/Clandestines, 50th Venice Biennale, Arsenale, Venice, Italy, curator Francesco Bonami
Self-In Material Conscience, Fondazione Sandretto, Torino, Italy, curator Éric Mangion
La vie, au fond, se rit du vrai, Capc Musée d’art contemporain, Bordeaux, France
Permanent collection, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
Opening, Museo Jumex, Mexico City, Mexico
Squatters, Museu Serralves, Porto, Portugal, curators Joao Fernandes, Miguel Pérez, Vicente Totoldi
Troubler l’écho du temps, Musée d'art Contemporain, Lyon, France, curator Thierry Raspail
Villes intimes, Capc Musée d’art contemporain, Bordeaux, France, curator François Poisay
Voilà, le monde dans la tête, Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France, curator Suzanne Pagé
Hypothèses de collection, Frac PACA, Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, France, curator Éric Mangion
Les résidentes, Astérides, Marseille, France
Le Temps de l’esprit, Passau Kunstverein, Germany
Transmission, Espace des Arts, Châlons-sur-Saône, France
Shedalle, Zürich, Switzerland
Fonds Départemental d’Art Contemporain du Val de Marne (MAC VAL), Vitry-sur-Seine, France
Frac Ile-de-France, Paris, France
Frac Aquitaine, Bordeaux, France
Frac Limousin, Limoges, France
Frac Provence-Alpes-Côtes d'Azur, Marseille, France
Frac Poitou-Charentes, Angoulême, France
Collection Capc Musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux, France
FNAC Fonds national d'art contemporain (CNAP), Paris, France
Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France
Musée Régional d’Art Contemporain, Languedoc-Roussillon, Sérignan, France
Migros Museum, Zürich, Switzerland
Mamco, Geneva, Switzerland
Wroclaw Contemporary Museum, Wroclaw, Poland
Museo del Novecento, Milan, Italy
Fond Cantonal d’Art contemporain de Geneva, Switzerland
Red Brick Museum, Beijing, China
MAXXI Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI Secolo, Rome, Italy
MUSEION Museum of modern and contemporary art, Bolzano, Italy
Museo Jumex, Mexico City, Mexico
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., USA
Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas, USA
He Art Museum, Guangdong, China
By Art Matters, Hangzhou, China
CIAC Colección Isabel y Agustín Coppel, Mexico City, Mexico
DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art, Nea Ionia, Greece
FWA Fondation For Women Artists, Antwerp, Belgium
Fondation Salomon, Annecy, France
Collection Pinault - Bourse de Commerce, Paris, France
Lafayette Anticipations - Fondation d'entreprise Galeries Lafayette, Paris, France
Fondation d'entreprise Louis Vuitton, Paris, France
Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, ministère de la Culture, France
Rosa Shapire Prize
Marcel Duchamp Prize
ISCP, 6 months residency in New York, USA
Paul Ricard Prize
Ateliers 63, 2-years residency in Haarlem, Netherlands
Tatiana Trouvé, Le grand atlas de la désorientation
Texts by Jean-Pierre Criqui and Laura Hoptman, Paris, ed. Centre Pompidou
Texts by Thierry Davila and Françoise Ninghetto, Geneva, ed. MAMCO Collection
Tatiana Trouvé, Le numerose Irregolarità
Interview of the artist by Katarina Grosse, Text by Chiara Parisi, Milan, ed. Electa
Tatiana Trouvé, I tempi doppi
Texts by Stefan Gronert, Letizia Ragaglia, Barbara Hess
Interviews of the artist by Richard Shusterman, Francesca Pietropaolo, Robert Storr, ed. Snoeck, Cologne
Texts by Maria Gough, Heike Münder
Zürich, ed. Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst; Cologne, Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König
Tatiana Trouvé, Il Grande Ritratto
Texts by Peter Pakesch, Adam Budak, Dino Buzzati, Dieter Roelstraete, Pamela Lee, Francesca Pietropaolo, Maria Gough, Graz, ed. Universalmuseum Joanneum, Kunsthaus Graz
Texts by Robert Storr, Catherine Millet, Richard Shusterman, Cologne, Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König
Texts by Élie During, Jean-Pierre Bordaz, Paris, ed. 315 Centre Pompidou
Interview of the artist by Frank Lamy, Vitry-sur-Seine, ed. MAC/VAL
Tatiana Trouvé, Aujourd’hui, hier, ou il y a longtemps…
Texts by Élie During, François Poisay, Maurice Fréchuret, Bordeaux, ed. CapcMusée
Text by Gianfranco Maraniello, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, ed. Caisse des dépôts et consignations
Texts by Charles-Arthur Boyer, Joseph Mouton, Nice, ed. Villa Arson
From March to May, New York, Gagosian, 2021
Text by Tatiana Trouvé
Georges Perec, Les choses, Une histoire des années soixante, Paris, Éditions du Solstice, 2015
Djinns, interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Chatou, Cneai, 2005
"Intermondes - Interworlds"
by Elie During
In order to account for the kind of duality or “double bind” that runs through this work, we would have to imitate Alighiero Boetti’s gesture by splitting her name into two. We would have to write “Tatiana and Trouvé: Parisian artists of Calabrian origin, born in 1968”. There is Tatiana who works alone, as solitary as a “savage” (Van Gogh used to say as a “bull”), manoeuvring the metal saw and the soldering iron in her Pantin studio; and then there is Trouvé, absorbed in the dreamy anamnesis of her own artistic activity, suspended between two worlds or two dimensions. The chthonian side and the lunar side: diurnal and nocturnal, activity and passivity, the productive frenzy and the melancholy of the project. Moreover, it matters little which one of them is Tatiana or Trouvé. The twins (T&T, to make it short) work in concert. And the work testifies to this duality: for someone who knows how to look, for someone who knows how to listen, these installations and sculptures – that a distracted eye might even make us say is disaffected, deserted, muted – quiver with a muffled activity. Here, the sand invades a module that is slowly growing dim, there a tubular structure fitted to a kind of writing desk is ready to be submerged by an avalanche of demolition waste; silence reigns but at the same time everything is highly charged, everything is tense, everything lives in microscopic agitation under the glaring neon lights. Time is not suspended but infinitely slowed down. Under the chilling and even spectral appearance of the desk without a boss, these are larval lives, incommensurable with our own; an entire world of mental operations, of the virtual world in the making, seething with dynamic schemas.
This world is not particularly opaque or complicated but it is implicated, implicit (Valéry would have said “implexe”), full of innermost recesses and meanderings. The Bureau d’Activité Implicite was the Brain and the Memory of the artist. There is no need to present it in its entirety in order to continue to disseminate its effects: the polders coiled up in the corners of the exhibition space open up new dimensions, while the copper pipes connecting the rooms, reach up to the ceiling, pass through the support profiles and suggest a circulation perpendicular to the natural strolling of the “viewer”. Thus, this universe, that we well might say is withdrawn within itself and self-sufficient, incessantly spreads and contaminates the neighbouring environment under the most diverse forms: it seeks out passages (doors or aeration grids), it intrudes into worlds, into dimensions.
Intermondes - Interworlds are the other name for limbos. Here, they designate the formal equivalent of psychic spaces: spaces for waiting, latency, retentivity and reminiscence, spaces of imminence or slow transformation that operate in silence. The objects that they contain are less present than projected: even when constructed in
volume, they are always drawn. Whatever may be said, they offer very little hold on “fiction”, if we associate this word with the wanderings of the imagination or phantasms. Held in reserve, in latency, they are not asleep, they are on standby as they say about household appliances or about the Lampada Annuale by Boetti. Because lost time can be revived at any moment.
The strength of T&T relies on the manner in which she manages, beyond any “atmosphere”, to impose the obviousness of an autonomous and consistent universe that is nevertheless perfectly foreign to the usual coordinates and scales. This consistency relies, above all, on the temporality proper to the project and to artistic memory. T&T has made this web her material. Relentlessly, from one join to another, she imagines and constructs a space of concentration for her activity that is not a theatre.
Rites of Passage, Connecting Worlds. Tatiana Trouvé according to Jesi Khadivi
by Jesi Khadivi
Many of Tatiana Trouvé’s drawings, sculptures, and installations seem poised on the razor edge of elegance and restraint. Immersive, even when they hold us at a distance and don’t allow us to enter, there is something unsettling about the spaces she creates, which seem to place you in the middle of a moment that is already over. Reflections on time, space, and memory course through these works, which open interstitial perceptual zones that collapse notions of interior and exterior, the personal and the universal, reality and fiction, dreams and waking life. It’s fitting, therefore, that my own encounters with Tatiana Trouvé always seem to unfold in states of exception. When I first visited her studio in Montreuil in 2018, I had a searing pain in my throat and had to ask the simplest and most straightforward questions I could to avoid having to speak too much myself. Fast forward two years later and we meet again, this time through a screen in the midst of a global pandemic. By the time that we sat down together virtually in May 2020, the craze of disinfecting one’s groceries had passed but life certainly hadn’t resumed its normal pace. News changed daily and no sooner did an article or statement go viral, like an American ‘doctor’s’ exhortations on YouTube that we soak our tomatoes in bleach, than it was debunked. It’s within this context that I found myself clicking through dozens of high resolution files of Tatiana Trouvé’s most recent drawings while we chatted on Whereby.
While in confinement at her home in Montreuil, Trouvé created forty drawings atop the front pages of international newspapers from countries severely affected by the pandemic. She started the practice of making a drawing a day the day before the official quarantine began and ended after 40 days, even if the country was still locked down. The first one I opened showed a drawing that extends over the front pages of The New York Times and the South China Morning Post. Each paper strikes a decidedly different tone, with The New York Times reporting on the mounting anxiety leading up to the virus’ peak while the South China Morning Post dealt with questions related to COVID-19’s social impact and how to incorporate social distancing into daily life. Amongst photographs and headlines responding to two very different points on the arc of the virus’ spread, Trouvé had rendered in charcoal a secluded space of repose: an ample bed with a fluffy duvet and floor-to-ceiling drapes. There is something sinister about the comfort and elegance that this minimalist interior offers, particularly in light of the surrounding headlines. In some parts of the composition, her drawing seems to extend into the newspaper’s photographs, creating a quasi-illusionistic space, while in others photographs of hazmat-suited healthcare workers or masked youth preparing care packages create a rupture in the off-putting drawn space of Trouvé’s deserted interior.
The series has a fleeting, diaristic quality and Trouvé’s approach to each individual drawing unfolds according to an intuitive logic. Some of the works, like an abstract drawing depicting looping coils of black and white tubing that twist and curve around images from The New York Times and Le Soir, seem to respond directly to the paper’s contents, as if to gesture towards how the pandemic foregrounds our mutual biological, environmental, and political entanglement, while others, like a copy of The Guardian from 17 March or La República from 23 April, offer glimpses of Trouvé’s daily life in her studio, shared with her dog Lulu, and the works laying around there.
Trouvé’s own description of the series is relatively straight-forward. Making drawings on international newspapers, she told me, was a way to travel around the world without leaving the confines of her studio. Because she couldn’t buy the physical editions of many of these papers in Paris, she printed out the front pages of digital versions on A3 paper and made the drawings on top of them. This gesture, of course, relates to a long lineage of artists working with the news, projects that range from being staunchly political in scope like Robert Morris’ 1962 protest of Cold War politics in his Crisis (Act of War: Cuba), which submerges the front page of the New York Mirror in grey paint, to more abstract ones like Lorraine O’Grady’s enigmatic 1977 poem sourced from a year’s worth of headlines from the Sunday New York Times or Laurie Anderson’s newsprint weaving of editions of The New York Times and China Times in 1971-79. Trouvé’s recent engagement with newspapers highlights the temporality of the print format as well as its endangerment—threatened not only by the decline of print media, but also the proliferation of fake news within a “post-truth” era. With the accelerated rate of how information circulates and morphs, particularly when following the trail of an international pandemic, a printed newspaper today may risk being outdated before it even hits the newsstands. These recent drawings, therefore, form a kind of time capsule that merges the official version of a public narrative at a fixed moment in time with private, hermetic reflections drawn during roughly the same time span—resulting in a dream-like, at times nightmarish space, where different times and places coexist and are superimposed.
Myriad passages could be sketched through the three decades of Tatiana Trouvé’s practice and the thematically, aesthetically, and conceptually intertwined projects that these years have produced. Yet perhaps it’s worthwhile to linger here on the notion of passage itself, a term that I have chosen quite deliberately in relation to her work because of the unique triangulation of action, space, and affect it implies. Passage connotes an architectural element that connects two distinct spaces, as well as “the action or process of passing from one place, condition, or stage to another.”1 It also refers to rites of passage—formative events that mark the movement from one state of being to another—and the passage of time: its different registers, how we spend it, how it moves quickly or not at all, its materiality, its absence, its dynamic, elusive quality, its preciousness. Trouvé understands her sculptures as “travelers crossing space and time,”2 and indeed throughout the arc of her thirty-year career, we see a preoccupation, as I will explain in this text, with questions related to drifting, wandering, and mapping—but also their associated mental states, which articulate ways of being in the world. I will argue that this drifting, these passages that her work proposes, are not merely forms of travel and circulation, but also denote the movement between interior, mental spaces and the world beyond its bounds. In tracing these movements, Trouvé articulates a new form of space: a space of becoming, a space of latency, a space of possibility.
Born in Cosenza, Italy to an Italian mother and a French father, Trouvé spent her early childhood in Italy and adolescence in Senegal, where her father taught architecture in Dakar. After studying at Villa Arson in Nice, she spent two years in residence at Atelier 63 in the Netherlands and settled in Paris in 1995. Trouvé was awarded the Prix Ricard in 2001 and participated in the Venice Biennale in 2003. A solo exhibition at Palais de Tokyo in 2007 was followed by a site-specific installation for Robert Storr’s Think with the Senses—Feel with the Mind at the Venice Biennale that same year. 2007 also brought the prestigious Marcel Duchamp Prize, which resulted in the solo exhibition 4 between 2 and 3 at the Centre Pompidou the following year.
In 1997, Trouvé began working on her breakout work Bureau d’Activités Implicites [Bureau of Implicit Activities] (1997-2003), a series of thirteen archival, architectural ‘modules’ that chronicled her early days as an artist. She once described Bureau of Implicit Activities as a kind of brain, “a large-scale portrait of a life.” And indeed, this work, which can be considered the fundament of Trouvé’s engagement with questions of time and the archive, examines the creative process in its most expanded sense—by providing not only a space for her unrealized ideas, but also for past projects that have never seen the light of day and ancillary activities like searching for a job or preparing a grant application. The various modules of Bureau of Implicit Activities emerged from the impulse to give the ‘unproductive’ and seemingly inconsequential moments related to the creative process an architecture and, moreover, a logic. I’ve not had the opportunity to experience the work physically, but when looking at the dimly lit photographic documentation of the work’s presentation at CAPC in Bordeaux in 2003, I can imagine that wandering between these open-plan modules, which have been displayed publicly both as small constellations and in their entirety, imparts the feeling of drifting between different states of attention: there is time for thinking, time for remembering, time for daydreaming, time for waiting.
Each module seems to possess a different aesthetic mood, as if to externalize different facets of an interior world. A simple structure festooned with colorful, vertical felt stripes and large windows forms the series’ Administrative Module (1997-2003), the bottom of which is lined with the artist’s various identity cards, partly documenting her search for a job. There is something slightly ramshackle, yet festive about this construction when compared to other modules. A glimpse inside one of its windows reveals plastic-sheathed strips of paper sampled from numerous rejection letters from job and grant applications while passport-sized portraits of the artist are organized within a grid of thick rubber-bands, defaced by the addition of small metal grommets or scratches.
The curved, reflective walls of the Reminiscence Module contain an archive of sealed-off memories written on tiny slips of paper, while the archive module Secrets and Lies from 2003 resembles an ominous workshop or dystopian industrial kitchen. Black metal shelving units and water coolers flank a double-tub sink structure and shiny textured metal floor to create a semi-enclosed space. Long strands of brown twine dangle from small holes in one of the walls and skim the bottom of the exterior wall. On the interior wall, black gridded, open-plan shelves house spools of twine and three small freezer units opposite a shelving unit teeming with small, lumpen objects: secrets and lies that had been whispered into balloons, scrawled on paper, or written on tags before being cast in cement and wrapped in cellophane. My first time hearing about this work immediately sparked vivid mental images. I could clearly imagine the respiration of Trouvé’s words causing the balloon to swell with meaning and intention, only to be deflated by time, to disappear without a trace. Perhaps the lifespan of most secrets and lies are roughly the same as a latex balloon, which takes six months to four years before it biodegrades. Yet the relevance of some last much longer, taking a lifetime or even generations to process or undo. Some of them seem more significant than they really are, while others may seem so ingrained in daily patterns and understandings that they seem inconsequential, or even invisible. Memory and language, like the material of the balloon that this coupling fills, are both elastic after all.
Trouvé’s Bureau of Implicit Activities emerged on the French art scene during the heyday of “relational aesthetics” and a wave of event-based works that created platforms for ephemeral interpersonal exchange. But while the practices associated with Nicolas Bourriaud’s term focused on the dynamics of human relations and their social context, Trouvé’s work at the time took a much more hermetic approach and was more inwardly focused, instead honing in on the dynamics within an individual and the systems she encountered. Bureau of Implicit Activities chronicled a rite of passage, the early days of identifying as an artist, as well as the slippages between different identities that one experiences over the course of a life. An unwieldy archive, it not only served as a receptacle for recovered moments of different aspects of the artist’s life, moments deemed insignificant or inconsequential, but also an extension into other lives in that the Bureau functioned as a kind of narrative machine that allowed Trouvé to experiment with different roles and identities. During this period, most of Trouvé’s installations were on a scale that couldn’t be used. They invited participation, yet from a distance—demanding a form of mental travel similar to what we experience reading novels. The sealed modules of the Bureau of Implicit Activities not only called latent projects and ideas into being, but it gave form to the intangible spaces within a person. The Bureau, in the artist’s own words, is a space “at the heart of which disappearance would not only be tangible, but also produce forms almost in spite of itself, against its own grain. I organize disappearance; I archive this void.”3
“To walk is to lack a place,” writes Michel De Certeau, “it is the indefinite process of being absent and in search of a proper.”4 The pendulum swing between orientation and disorientation that De Certeau described here forms the foundation of a number of works in Trouvé’s oeuvre that relate to walking. For her 2015 work Desire Lines, a commission by New York City’s Public Art Fund, Trouvé undertook an extensive mapping project in which she traced the routes of every official pathway in Central Park, ranging from major thoroughfares to secluded walkways. She transferred the length of these routes into colored cord, each of which was then wrapped around a large wooden spool. During the course of the exhibition, pedestrians passing by Doris C. Freedman plaza in uptown New York were confronted by three large racks housing the 212 colorful spools, which resembled outsized sewing bobbins. Each bore two small brass plaques, one with the name of the path whose length the spool contains and another with a historic march, song, artwork, or piece of writing that Trouvé had associated with that route, ranging from the activism of the American civil rights and suffragette movements to the writings of Guy Debord and Baudelaire or the music of Frank Zappa. The work derives its title from the only paths that Trouvé had actually left unmapped: the desire lines, unofficial routes ground by foot traffic that take shape in spite of planned trails or paved pathways. Enrapturing and infuriating landscape architects and urban planners in equal part, desire lines often “record collective disobedience,” as Robert Moor observes, charting a refusal to follow a path as planned.5 Frédéric Gros refers to walking as “life scoured bare” and, indeed when one commits to walking for pleasure they embrace a form of slowness that allows them to merge, albeit momentarily, with their surroundings.6 Gros goes as far as to claim that walking offers an escape from identity and history, and in a way it does, as a meditative act—a space where one can get lost in their thoughts, dream, and drift. Yet walking also has a social dimension that is inextricable from questions of identity and history, particularly when we consider its political and religious significance. Walking in and of itself is not a political act, but the pilgrimage and the march are two forms of movement that show extreme depths of devotion and commitment to a cause, whether spiritual or political—and both of these forms of collective walking are means of claiming public space through the movement of the body.
As an operation deeply linked to thinking and cognition, walking appears again and again in Tatiana Trouvé’s work. A historical line could be drawn from the research of radical pedagogue Fernand Deligny and his notion of movement as a coherent system of self-expression in children deemed hors parole (outside of language) through the psycho-geographic dérives of the Situationists and to Trouvé’s own engagement with roaming. In her series Wander Lines, metal rods trace irregular lines in three dimensions. Routes and pathways that the artist associates with dates and places are inlaid in the rods, giving tangible form to past wanderings. In a related work, Les Indéfinis (2018), metal rods form a kind of zig-zag enclosure for a slim plexi-glass crate. Bronze casts of stones wrapped in twine and a precariously balanced radio provide counterweights for this seemingly unstable composition. Two high heels and a gentleman’s dress shoe flank the bottom of the structure, while one shoe perches atop the crate with its laces dangling. Shoes also appear repeatedly in Trouvé’s work, suggesting human presence, but in the absence of their owner they have a slightly macabre air like a single shoe found on a dusty path or the side of the road. Such objects found out of context generate countless questions and possible narratives. Where did the owner of said shoe disappear to? How are they making do with only one shoe? Were they harmed?
As a metaphor, the expression “walking in another person’s shoes” has long been raised to elicit empathy and understanding for the other—as if retracing someone’s path you could come to understand them. Although trite, such a metaphor, and the notion of re-walking or re-doing a path, opens up an interstitial communicative space that brings together myriad affects, sensibilities, temporalities, and affinities. Movement and its relation to sense-memory thus gives rise to meaning and form. “For me, walking is really a construction of a space,” Trouvé explains, “so is drawing, as it also delimits a space. It’s the first thing you do to make a map.”7 Walking is a productive force—a form of being that opens you fully to your surroundings. To roam is to be between two points, the sky and the earth—suspended between two worlds. Trouvé gives fleeting form to this absence, unfolding, like the walk itself, as a space of enunciation—a long poem full of shadows and ambiguities.8
Trouvé’s work with mapping reclaims disorientation as a generative space, and as such, parallels can be drawn to Rebecca Solnit’s description of losing oneself as a form of “voluptuous surrender”9—a state of immersion and presence so intense that one’s surroundings seem to fade away. Upon first glance, the rudimentary constructions of Tatiana Trouvé’s Great Atlas of Disorientation (2018) appear to be comprised of cardboard and thin planks of wood that lean together to form a rough-hewn shelter. The humble aesthetic of these makeshift constructions are accented with additions like geological timelines, phylogenetic trees, celestial maps, and migration routes. Hardcover books adorned with mandala-like paintings are draped over the tops of walls or leaned against them, slightly deformed as if the volumes were bent by the pressure of other objects that they encountered over the course of traveling. However, nothing is quite what it seems. The cardboard, a humble and ubiquitous material with a wide application of uses, turns out to be metal, and the books are not found objects adorned by the artist’s hand, but rather intentionally fabricated artifacts that merely look as if they are special relics from another time. Even questions of scale play tricks on you: the blankets and plastic bags that have appeared numerous times in other works by Trouvé, appear here in an almost comically miniature form, attached to the sides of the walls like tiny talismans. These structures form a kind of relational-architecture that tells stories through traces left by human agents. The body is always absent in these assemblages, as if someone has suddenly hauled off and left the scene, yet the objects they leave behind consistently reference the body and its needs; for care, for shelter, for warmth, or protection. Trouvé’s huts shift between different registers of space and time, collapsing history and linear time into a decrepit structure vulnerable to the elements, yet nonetheless capable of providing a radical form of care and protection. Despite their designation as a form of atlas—something typically associated with order, clarity, and direction—these works elicit a sense of spatial and temporal confusion. What exactly are we seeing here? Is this a structure from the end times or the roots of civilization—a ruin or an accomplishment?
There is a spectral porosity in the scenes that Trouvé’s works create, almost as if they propose a kind of portal where you can be in two places, or moreover, spaces at once. It’s a sort of inverse universe. You Are Here (2017), a site-specific project for Gstaad, Switzerland takes the form of five disorienting experiences installed throughout the town that can be accessed via a fictitious map. At one of the locations, a swimming pool, Trouvé undertook a collaboration with the sound artist Grace Hall, whose composition Obsidian Cloud plays underwater. The motif of the pool reappears in an installation entitled The Shaman, for the exhibition On The Eve of Never Leaving at Gagosian’s Beverly Hills location in November 2019, in which a liquid dimension serves as a gateway to another world. Water pools in a gaping depression within a cracked concrete floor while a bronze cast of an uprooted tree rests in the water, with droplets trickling from its roots. Next to the tree, a sawhorse laden with pillows and blankets rests upon another smaller pillow on a partially submerged concrete slab. Gnarled tree roots rest tenderly atop pillows and a large key ring bearing dozens of keys hangs on the side of the sawhorse as if they could unlock any number of alternative realities. Two works from Trouvé’s ongoing series The Guardian survey the scene from opposite sides of the room.10 These particular iterations of the series presented in On the Eve of Never Leaving bear witness to a blurring of the boundaries of the “natural” world and the built environment via an encounter that seems to have resulted from a mysterious disaster, testifying to a recent, developing interest in Trouvé’s practice in cross-species entanglements and the heterogeneity of space and time that such assemblages produce.
A shaman is a figure who passes between realms, uniting the terrestrial with the spirit realms; human, animal, and plant life; and different spatial and temporal dimensions. The focus on altered states of consciousness in most discussions of shamanism often misses the collective imperative of the shaman’s quest. The state of radical interiority that shamanic journeying requires is generally in the service of a common good. Hunter-gatherer shamanism, for example, was predicated on a wide range of what scholar David Lewis-Williams calls “institutionalized states of consciousness.”11 Through their access to alternative realities and convening with invisible forces, shamans would track the movement of animals, intervene in group conflicts, and chart migration paths for the community. The importance that the co-evolution of plant, animal, and mineral life has taken in Trouvé’s recent works has developed in tandem with an increased attention towards examining forms of mapping that fall outside of the bounds of “traditional” cartography, which has historically been complicit in colonialism and the consolidation of Euro-centric power relations. Perhaps the roots of Trouvé’s interest in mapping—as well as the passages between different dimensions—can be drawn, in part, from her life experience. Growing up in Senegal, Trouvé encountered stories of the supernatural djinn. Part of the Koranic notion of the al-ghaib—which refers to the invisible, the unknowable, and the unseen—these shape-shifting spirits are neither good, nor evil. According to the Koran, djinn were created by god alongside the angels and the humans, and many people believe that they co-exist among us, they are simply made of a different material. Much has been written about Trouvé’s interest in the djinn as they relate to the dreamlike, often chilling atmosphere of some of her earlier sculptures and installations. Yet I see the djinn, to which Trouvé devoted an artist book in 2007, as related to the broader questions of passage that her work tackles, particularly as it pertains to her interest in forms of mapping that derive from collaborative systems of relation—whether aboriginal dream maps, the movement patterns of children explored by Fernand Deligny, or the mental maps of the oral historian griot that Trouvé encountered during her youth in Senegal. In On the Eve of Never Leaving, Trouvé’s Guardian sculptures gesture towards travel to other realms with their transistor radios, bags, pillows, blankets, and shoes—yet they also serve as protectors of a complex form of intelligence. The passages between realms that The Shaman and The Guardian stage seem to insist upon a mutual accountability, a life in common.
One day the gentlemen in grey appeared from another dimension, well dressed and ashen-faced. Although they said very little, they were nonetheless tremendously persuasive. Time, something that previously was expended freely, thereafter became something to be hoarded and saved. Gone were the languid days spent tending the garden or conversing with a neighbor, replaced instead by the ethos of “saving time.” And the gentlemen in grey were there to help. They stored time for the people, compressing it into desiccated, compacted lotus blossoms. And at the end of the day, after their work was done, the gentlemen rolled up these dried flowers into thick cigars. Then they put on their dark glasses and began to smoke.
German novelist Michael Ende wrote about the gentlemen in grey—time thieves who number among the twentieth century’s most chilling and subtle literary villains—in his 1973 novel Momo. Despite their elegance, there is something ordinary about these men who traffic in other people’s time. They are not villains with exceptional super-powers, but more like ingenious bureaucrats who have developed elaborate systems to extract, materialize, process, store, and imbibe time. Although ostensibly a story written for children, a seething critique of the post-war German efficiency culture can be read between its lines.
What might Tatiana Trouvé’s work have in common with such a story? Like the gentleman in grey, Trouvé is a collector of time(s) and she also creates elaborate storehouses of its residue. Yet her activities as a collector of times runs counter to the self-optimization preached by the gentlemen in grey. Instead, she creates architectures and scenarios that channel reflective moments, the time spent wandering, or the passages between realms. “Time has to be thought of in terms of its imperceptible movements, either because they are too fast for us to gain a clear image of them, or because they are too slow for us to discern their movement,” Trouvé explains, “If the time in which I am interested produces neither a clear image nor a perceptible movement, it also leaves few traces and does not appear in any historical register. It does, nonetheless, have the capacity to unite what was, bringing about movements like those of an echo.”12
It seems fitting that my second encounter with Tatiana Trouvé took place during a moment when time seemed to stand still. On one hand this state of exception seemed completely ordinary—as a writer, I’m no stranger to extended periods of time at home working. Yet confinement nonetheless drastically altered my conception of time, space, and crisis in other ways. For those like myself—meaning those fortunate enough to not fall ill, lose their income, or drown under the weight of balancing unpaid care work with securing their livelihood—the COVID-19 quarantine could best be described as a collective mind fuck that fundamentally, albeit temporarily, changed our perspectives regarding the limits of our bodies and, particularly, about the safety of objects and interstitial spaces. Passages between private and public space suddenly seemed fraught with potential danger. Media reports repeatedly stressed how long the novel coronavirus was capable of living on surfaces and these estimations varied daily. Inanimate surfaces seemed to teem with life—and the perceived possibility to bring us harm. The doorknob, the cereal box at the grocery store, the pole on the bus, anything once handled without a second thought became a repository of touch, a storehouse of contagion. What was so disorienting about this time was how we shared different registers of a similar experience of confinement simultaneously around the globe. Yet tracing the different passages through Tatiana Trouvé’s work during a time when my own movement was so limited enabled another kind of movement and connection, one attuned to interiority, possibility, and dreams—drifting, between enclosure and space.
Published in August 2020.
#2 Tatiana Trouvé, “Complex Forms of Intelligence: A Conversation with Tatiana Trouvé,” Sculpture Magazine, October 30, 2019: https://sculpturemagazine.art/complex-forms-of-intelligence-a-conversation-with-tatiana-trouve/ (last accessed July 23, 2020)
#3 Tatiana Trouvé and Richard Shusterman, “Body Without a Face: A Conversation with Tatiana Trouvé and Richard Shusterman, in Tatiana Trouvé (Cologne: Buchhandlung Walter König Verlag, 2008), p.121.
#4 Michel De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984).
#5 Robert Moor, “Tracing (and Erasing) New York’s Lines of Desire,” New Yorker, 20 February 2017: https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/tracing-and-erasing-new-yorks-lines-of-desire (last accessed 15 July 2020)
#6 Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking (New York: Verso, 2014).
#7 Interview with the author, May 2020.
#8 See Michel De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life. “The long poem of walking manipulates spatial organizations, no matter how panoptic they may be: it is neither foreign to them (it can take place only within them) nor in conformity with them (it does not receive its identity from them). It creates shadows and ambiguities within them. It inserts its multitudinous references and citations into them (social models, cultural mores, personal factors). Within them it is itself the effect of successive encounters and occasions that constantly alter it and make it the other’s blazon: in other words, it is like a peddler carrying something surprising, transverse or attractive compared with the usual choice. These diverse aspects provide the basis of a rhetoric. They can even be said to define it.”
#9 Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost (New York: Penguin, 2006)
#10 The series of sculptures entitled The Guardian were inspired by the folding chairs often used by guards in museums, and Trouvé’s own experience of working as a guard at Centre Pompidou when she first arrived in France. These anthropomorphic works give a sense of the person who might sit in such a chair through the objects they leave behind, marking presence through absence, but also engaging questions of care. “I wanted to make a sculpture that takes care and is dedicated to other sculptures,” Trouvé explained to me during our conversation in May 2020.
#11 David Lewis-Williams, The Mind in the Cave (London: Thames and Hudson, 2002).
#12 Tatiana Trouvé, The Longest Echo exhibition catalogue, 2014.
"All the things I create are related to each other. I never create a separation between my sculptures and my drawings. I have always made sure that they can exchange their qualities. Sculptures can draw the spaces in which they are placed, and drawings can sculpt the spaces in which they are exhibited. The elements, the materials, the shapes can be interchanged. Together they bring about a sort of ecosystem. I am not applying a method. I rather think that dynamics run through my work, and this implies that my drawings, sculptures or installations echo one into each other.
Artists have the opportunity to invent their own way of working, but the peculiarity of this work is that it doesn’t really have a time, and it doesn’t respect any schedule. Sometimes I wonder if, when I dream, I don’t work more efficiently than when I walk around my studio to solve a new problem."
- Tatiana Trouvé
Text published in the catalogue Io dico Io - I say I. Female Artists and Self-Representation, catalogue of the exhibition, Rome, La Galleria Nazionale, 2021, p. 546-547, on the occasion of the exhibition Io dico Io - I say I. Female Artists and Self-Representation, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome, March 1 - May 23, 2021.
TATIANA TROUVÉ AND JEAN–MICHEL GENESTE IN CONVERSATION
by JEAN–MICHEL GENESTE
Jean-Michel Geneste: Your work stirs up all kinds of reactions and interactions with my own archeology practice, and with my relation to the world in general.
Tatiana Trouvé: I’m fascinated by the links you make across time.
JMG: I would first like to talk about your installations, in particular their use of natural environments or elements. For your installation at Orford Ness, on England’s southern coast, you used both existing aspects of the site, such as the landscape and buildings, and your own interventions. The materials you incorporate often have anachronistic connotations, by which I mean there is a very unexpected and striking way of combining different materials.
I see this dissonance throughout your work. In your Guardian series, for example, you have taken chairs with presences that signify absence—personal objects that appear to have belonged to somebody and suggest a status or an action, or the imprint of a body on a cushion, implying movement. What’s more, you set those ephemeral elements in solid materials: bronze, copper, marble, or semiprecious sculpted materials. It reminds me, in a way, of classical sculpture. The last time I was in Rome, I saw Bernini’s Blessed Ludovica Albertoni, whose mattress and cushions evoke those of Sleeping Hermaphrodite, in the Louvre. The softness of the cushions and the mattress on which she is lying is the same softness you attain with materials such as multicolored quartz. Those contrasts create a tension, stimulating our imaginations in an unexpected way.
TT: I can understand why you’re interested in that series. As it happens, the other day I was looking at Si loin, si près [So far, so close], a book you wrote three years ago. There is a beautiful illustration featuring needles, and you explain your practice very well with the expression “looking for a needle in a haystack.” When you find a needle, you can deduce that prehistoric humans knew how to sew, but there are no signs of clothing. These are the voids you seek, voids that have, so to speak, their own traces. You spend your time restitching elements together, unearthing presences.
JMG: You’re absolutely right. But with me, it’s on an intellectual level, whereas your work deals with matter.
TT: I think both are always related. To me, form is sedimented content. When I put a bag and a book together with a jacket, and all three are transformed into ancient materials, they tell a story that is at once very close and far removed from humankind.
JMG: You reuse solid materials, which last much longer than ideas—
TT: I think the objects are actually inseparable from ideas; they carry ideas because each material contains a world of its own. When I see a rock, I see how the world was sedimented; the way we see bronze is related to our culture. So, all the materials I use are also laden with ideas and their history.
JMG: You don’t represent the human figure but instead depict ideas, thoughts, and intellectual, artistic, sensitive, and human situations. How did this decision to avoid human representation come to you?
TT: That’s a great question, and it’s one I ask myself often. I think I don’t actually avoid representing human figures; rather, maybe they’re at the heart of my work precisely because I don’t represent them. To understand someone means understanding how he or she interacts with other people, with the rest of the universe, with other species ... But to make a portrait of somebody means doing something else; you’re no longer actually representing a person. What I do is to provide clues for us to imagine a person’s life, their relation to the world they inhabit, the range of possibilities available to them. Human figures are present in my work in that way, whether I’m creating huts or guardians or even installations.
JMG: What you’re saying is tangible in your work, and it also applies to prehistoric art: in cave art, there are no humans, but in the situations depicted there is a human presence; the paintings have clearly been designed by humans, who by selecting rhythms, positions, and shapes have established a context we can see and feel 30,000 years later. What immediately appealed to me in works like the Guardians, is the essential role of the materials. I feel a certain tension between your highly technical use of material on the one hand, and on the other, the way you use these techniques in psychological, social, artistic, and imaginary realms, which often even affects the unconscious.
TT: Yes, that’s true, I had never thought of the fact that I use elements that are extremely archaic and that I employ very ancient skills, like stone sculpting and bronze smelting. There is a paradox: I use these very ancient materials and techniques to talk about very contemporary subjects, sometimes related to biology, anthropology, world history, and so on—subjects that, when placed on such an ancient scale, can seem merely factual. But I like using these ancient skills to understand the world around us. Often, the books accompanying the Guardians concern biology, anthropology, history, feminism, politics; they are some of the tools that enable us to understand a very open-ended world.
JMG: How did this language of transformed archaic materials and skills come to you? Was it an intentional invention or something that you gradually developed?
TT: It’s hard to say, but I think that from the very beginning, at art school, I began to have a relationship with form and this quickly led to materials. It happened in a very spontaneous and intuitive way; I was compelled more than anything else. I haven’t made a single painting in my whole life, I’ve always made drawings and sculptures.
JMG: I think of one of your most recent exhibitions with Gagosian, which featured graphite-heavy drawings, where you used a special technique to draw on newspapers and dailies. The materials were ephemeral, but you used a technique particularly adapted to them. And I got the impression that there was something intuitive at heart.
TT: I think my first gesture was intuitive, because it all started with the 2020 lockdown, the first global lockdown in history, and more specifically with the front page of the French newspaper Libération, which said “The Day Before” in reference to the disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow. We didn’t know what was happening, we only knew that we were going to be confined to our homes, and the first thing I thought was: “If that was the day before, what is going to be the day after?” So, like everyone else, I started following all that was going on using newspapers and dailies. The series quickly grew day after day, becoming a sort of pattern: I would read about how the pandemic was developing and would then draw on newspapers’ front pages, like a private journal. It was an interesting situation, because while newspapers were facing a steep decline in their physical sales, they were receiving widespread attention on social networks. It precipitated the end of print media in favor of digital media. So, I was drawing on something both obsolete and absolutely contemporary. I think it was a testimony to that strange period brought about by covid.
JMG: Yes, the way you expressed an urgent situation in a world undergoing a great convulsion that brings forth new perspectives was extremely powerful. And at the same time, the way you worked with an ephemeral material with a daily alacrity was in tune both with the era and with something deeply human within us. Even with the gray color palette of the materials you chose—graphite and newsprint—there was a vibrancy in those daily pages. Like the way paper is blown by the wind, we wonder whether those traces will last. On the subject of traces, I saw that you read books by people who have written about anthropological traces, on biology and the behavior of primates, and you chose a number of books that deal with anthropological and ultimately human questions. Your choice of subjects strikes me because you cannot be an archeologist without working on clues and traces. One author you cited, Giorgio Agamben, has written wonderful texts about the role of clues in the emergence and construction of human knowledge and even, in a certain way, of humankind. You confer a deep significance to traces by giving them a form, sculpting them using durable materials. It makes me want to ask you: although traces are short-lived, you make works destined to have a great longevity. How do you imagine your works’ future? What will become of The Guardians in forty years?
TT: I think of time on such a small scale compared to the scale of prehistory. A moment ago you mentioned Agamben, but there is also Carlo Ginzburg, the Italian historian who wrote about micro-clues—about how we can reconstruct history using clues, despite missing elements. What’s missing becomes fiction because certain rules stipulate that there are things we can only imagine. I believe that my Guardians will always be imagined. They will be looked at differently, to be sure, and they will be looked at like people who have aged, living in worlds that have aged. I like to think that everything ages when you look closely at it—even bronze gets sick, develops cancer, little by little, and stone never stops oxidizing and altering.
Similarly, we won’t see all those books, stories, and worlds that the Guardians are trying to defend, preserve, or display in the same way—they’ll be seen according to other discoveries, to things that will have disappeared and others that will have appeared. I like to imagine that although the objects are factual and are the traces of humble lives, the material quality of stone and bronze will elevate them. The materials I use are materials we always want to touch because by touching them, we burnish them and alter them. They will always be strongly bound to us. I also believe that our fascination with materials and stones, whether we believe it or not, is linked to the beneficial or maleficent effect that they can have on human beings. We will always be incredibly fascinated by materials with which we have interacted since the dawn of time.
JMG: You mentioned Carlo Ginzburg, an anthropologist and historian who has guided me in my work and who has influenced our whole discipline. I’m especially interested in the list of books you’ve chosen to be included in the Guardians, sculpted in marble. It is such a magnificent idea: that words and speech, ephemeral as they are, be set in multicolored marble. This symbolism alone is incredibly poetic, but you also channel their specific content. They touch upon all the different areas of human conquest. They are advances in knowledge, in the understanding of animals and the world as a whole. How did you make the selection?
TT: I choose from personal interest. They’re all subjects I’m profoundly interested in. If I had not been an artist, maybe I would have been a biologist or an anthropologist. I love learning about other systems, non-human life, about their world, how they see ours and how we see theirs, the ways we can live together. Here’s a very simple example: as a human, when I see a tree, I see the fruit, or the wood that can bring me heat, but if a bird sees a tree it sees a place where it can build a nest, or the branch it can land on. Even though we see the same things, we see them very differently, they send us radically different messages. I’m interested in all the people who try to understand these worlds. The universe we live in is so fascinating, it defines us as much as we define things around us. That forms part of my interests, but I love stories and fiction as well. And some of the books in the Guardians are not actually books, such as Deligny’s Grande Cordée. There are all these wonderful worlds I’m trying to save before everything disappears—or rather, these are the people who study these worlds and try to understand them before everything falls into oblivion. Maybe that’s also what my Guardians are trying to protect.
JMG: Your work is part of a series of movements and discussions spanning disciplines and arts, from literature to philosophy, that question humankind’s relationship with other beings. Very early on, humans understood that their existence depended on their ability to coexist. Today, we have completely forgotten that. You can picture a kind a pyramid where we might be the last to appear in the series of complex beings, but the rest of the pyramid has kept us alive—and now we are undermining it. It’s an idea that many philosophers have studied, such as Baptiste Morizot, who writes particularly well about the subject, and is also an activist. Coexistence is jeopardized by a great paradox: humans’ major issue is that they have to coexist with one another. Day after day, we see that this is the most difficult thing, more difficult than coexisting with other living beings.
TT: I think that if we do not sort out our way of coexisting with non-humans, we will never be able to coexist with each other. We carry on harming each other because we allow people to do terrible things to other forms of life. If this is acceptable, then it makes it easier to think another human is worth less than we are. Substantial work needs to be done.
JMG: Yes, and there is a great movement taking place at the moment that is rallying all forms of thought and intellectual and spiritual activity. We can see how it brings people together, but we also see how results are interpreted in a political way, how politics appropriates ecology, and for what? I see that you chose fundamental works about our relationship to the environment and to ecology. It’s very important to quote source texts and not political attitudes or decisions, which are often completely inadequate. That’s why I highly appreciate your having quoted Bookchin and Thoreau, for instance. It is important to return to the roots of those ideas. We might ask ourselves, what do those authors have to do with our own times?
TT: They’re foundational. They were not caught in political speculation. Thoreau did fundamental work.
JMG: Yes, they are original, in the sense that they were the first; they were handling pure, untouched ideas.
TT: It wasn’t greenwashing, that’s for sure!
JMG: We have talked about a great many things. In relation to my concerns about the origins of representation, your work maintains a balance between its material aspect and the implicit spiritual significance. And it accomplishes this with such rigor that I find it vital and exemplary, especially when considering your choice of contemporary methods. What appeals to me in a contemporary artist is how he or she renews methods, not necessarily forms. But you renew everything, with a profoundly moving open-mindedness and generosity. Each time I speak with you, I learn things about method. I find methods more convincing than speeches.
Kathryn ANDREWS, Sophie CALLE, Leslie HEWITT, Bharti KHER, Alicja KWADE, B. Ingrid OLSON, Cornelia PARKER, Gala PORRAS-KIM, Tatiana TROUVE
June 21, 2017 - August 18, 2017
130 Orchard Street
March 20, 2017 - May 17, 2017
50 CONNAUGHT ROAD CENTRAL, 17TH FLOOR - HONG KONG
House of Leaves
Chiho AOSHIMA, Sophie CALLE, Johan CRETEN, Bernard FRIZE, GELITIN, Bharti KHER, KOLKOZ, Klara KRISTALOVA, Martin OPPEL, Jean-Michel OTHONIEL, Paola PIVI, Aya TAKANO, Tatiana TROUVÉ, Piotr UKLANSKI, Chris VASELL, Xavier VEILHAN, Peter ZIMMERMANN
March 14, 2009 - May 16, 2009
76 RUE DE TURENNE 75003 PARIS
December 4, 2007 - January 26, 2008