"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 Thus, this universe, that we well might say is withdrawn within itself and self-sufficient, incessantly spreads and contaminates the neighbouring environment under the most diverse forms: it seeks out passages (doors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.
"Interview with Tatiana Trouvé"
by Hans Ulrich Obrist
HUO: To begin, I think it would be interesting to speak about the scale of your book. I should point out that we are doing this interview for your book, which for you is not a book like any other but rather in a way the book. It’s a bit like an “atlas” and when I visited your studio last week and you showed me the material that was going to serve as the basis for your book, I could see that it comes as a true synthesis, a recapitulation of all your work. There are early drawings, often shown for the first time, but also drawings done especially for the publication, productions that are in a way “immanent” in the book. It’s what one could call an artist’s book, and I wanted to ask you how this project came about. How did you go from the idea of books about you, of which there are many, to the idea of a book by you?
TT: Originally this project sprang from the urge to find a space for drawings that didn’t have one, that weren’t destined for anything, or that existed only in my Bureau d’Activités Implicites [Office of Implicit Activities]. But, there again, they were still invisible because they were stored in the Archives. So I would put them to other uses. I’d recopy them, for instance, in order to get back to the original site of a thought. Thought for me is an extremely plastic thing, something that takes shape as it is articulated. When they offered me the chance to show at the CNEAI, and above all to do the book, I wanted to invent a space for the drawings. I began by using old drawings, then I did others, specially for the book. I began with the idea of doing a book for children, a fairytale. In fact, the title refers to my own childhood …
HUO: And what is the title?
TT: Djinns [Jinn].
HUO: Yes, I thought there was a direct link with your childhood spent in Dakar. That’s it, isn’t it?
TT: Right, the book is a homage to that period of my life. At that moment lots of things fell into place that I used later in my work. The first of these, which really left its stamp on me when I lived in Africa, was the importance of jinn. These are kinds of ghosts or, shall we say, spirits or entities that live in houses alongside humans. We can be in contact with them, but only through the intercession of dogs, which are the only creatures able to detect them. That presence, or rather, that belief in the presence of spirits or ghosts was so important that I found myself imagining the opposite, that perhaps my family and I were the ghosts and that we were living in a parallel dimension where the jinn were the true inhabitants of a new continent. Many years later, I came to think that for me fiction was nothing more than a doubling of things. Ultimately, I think that artists, each time they do an artwork, are repeating the same operation: they double the thing they’re talking about. I became aware of that especially when reading Calvino and above all a short story by Dino Buzzati called “The Great Portrait”. That’s a very important text for me. It tells the story of a man who loses his wife, whom he’s madly in love with and whose loss he doesn’t accept. So he recreates her. He creates her brain, her feelings, but in the form of a modular architecture that spreads out on the scale of an immense city. The character of this short story displaces the idea of the portrait because he gives a double of the image of his wife in the shape of a city. That’s what I mean when I mention this idea of duplication. And I think that’s also what I meant to do when I did the series of “ghosts”, those black drawings that are placed in the middle of the book. There the forms appear through a kind of doubling, plays of transparency with other dark shades, etc. I like to imagine that by doubling black, which swallows up everything and doesn’t allow us to see, by recreating other layers, other spaces can appear. That’s when the space of fiction develops.
HUO: I find it very interesting that in the things you were saying about your book you spoke straight away about Calvino, since I wanted to ask you a little later a question about Calvino and the theme of the invisible… But you’ve given me the chance to question you about the way your work connects with literature. Today there’s a lot of talk about the ties between art and science, art and music, art and architecture (and notably, in connection with your own work, it’s very much a question of the relationship between art and architecture), but I think, even if there’s less a tendency to stress that now than in the past, that the relationship with literature is something that is just as fundamental for the avant-garde. So I would like to know a little more about the way you see your relationship with literature and writers.
TT: Clearly literature has shaped me and determined what I am. A large part of my work comes from there. I spent many years, for example, writing titles meant for works that never saw the light of day. The titles, for me, were part of a literary space. They weren’t simply names.
HUO: And do publications of those works exist?
TT: The titles are published in Le module des titres [The Titles Module]. As I said, those titles opened the space of possibility, such that you can imagine or construct a piece by reading them. There’s obviously a connection with Borges and Calvino in that idea of the possible book, the projection in a space where the limits of fiction and reality are uncertain. I think the Bureau d’Activités Implicites springs from a project that is basically literary. The basis is very autobiographical. I had just arrived in Paris and I was beginning to look for work, as many young artists do who arrive in large cities and can’t just settle in straight away. I wondered whether not showing my work, not producing anything, still made me an artist. Is an artist someone with a certain status, someone who lives through a social representation, or is having ideas and projects enough to make you an artist? I then began to imagine that my life, what was happening to me, the little jobs, the galleries, could be seen as a piece of fiction. That was the starting point of my work, from which I could construct my entire oeuvre. The Bureau d’Activités Implicites was born.
HUO: But how exactly did all that take shape, not only the project but also its precise form, that space or structure? When did you define it as an “office”?
TT: For several years I accumulated titles, drawings, projects. When I found myself facing hard times in Paris, the job applications were beginning to reach a critical mass. I thought the time had come to build a shell or structure in which that world could become visible. Since I couldn’t do that in writing, which really wasn’t my medium at all, I was going to build it. I think that in that sense I am a sculptor.
HUO: So what was at stake was the invention of a space?
TT: Yes, but a space that couldn’t exist in a written form. I made “modules”, which are nothing more than empty shells that nevertheless allow me to reveal or suggest the existence of a mental space. The first modules speak of certain fragments of my life. And subsequently, since my life had changed, other concerns took shape, other spaces were added…
HUO: And was Perec important to you? There are lots of things in your work that bring him to mind. There are lists, the “sorts of spaces”, spaces that conceal others, spaces within spaces, etc.
TT: Perec is one of the important authors for me. The combinations, the combinations of spaces in his work I found really fascinating.
HUO: Perhaps before coming back to the book and its different aspects it might be interesting, to give a clearer idea of your activity, if we went a bit into detail about the different modules. I’ve seen lots of different modules appear. There’s obviously the heart and reminiscences module, which occupies a central position and constitutes a kind of reference point in your universe. After that, there are the waiting modules, but also the slip-of-the-tongue modules, which I’m a little less familiar with… So there are all sorts of modules and I’d like you to talk about this system of different modules that seem to revolve around that central reminiscences module.
TT: The Module à réminiscences is a kind of antenna of my office. What regulates the modules is the idea of time and the work of memory in that it enables us to measure time and give it existence. I wanted the “Reminiscences Module” to deal with memory in a compact, physical way. Its exterior is a kind of mirror which can reflect the configuration of my office, and the interior, the body, is made up of strata that are laid one over the other according to the other modules. The internal shell, over time, will come back to its centre and become altogether impenetrable. When all’s said and done it’s a rather dark view of memory since it can’t be visited. Around this centre the other modules are organised, not that that organisation isn’t governed by laws that are quite precise. Each module is unique, save for the Modules d’attente, the latest ones, which are sound-emission points in my office. In our lives we spend perhaps 30 to 40 percent of our time waiting, and I’m talking about waiting in its straightforward sense: waiting for someone somewhere, waiting in a queue, in a supermarket or an airport. That time is always considered useless and fruitless, unproductive…
HUO: But it’s not only the time we spend waiting for the bus or the underground, but also a whole collection of “microscopic” waits, like for example the several seconds’ delay before a computer connects to the Internet.
HUO: There is a multitude of those micro-waits that add up and what seems very interesting to me is that in a way your work manages to free those moments. At a certain point in the 1990s there was that idea developed by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Pierre Huyghe, Philippe Parreno and others of an “Association of Freed Time”, and I’ve always thought that there was something like that in your work, and that in a certain way you free those micro temporalities.
TT: Perhaps I want to free time by recovering it. But I don’t see waiting as unfruitful. On the contrary, it’s a moment in which the subject can be constituted. When we’re waiting for things, we’re simultaneously in the present and outside the present. So I recorded those moments each time they occurred.
HUO: It’s a recording but not in the photographic sense of the term. Rather you’re looking to capture a space. It’s a three-dimensional recording.
TT: The tape recordings that I’ve produced as part of that aren’t interesting in themselves. On the other hand, you can rework them in such a way that you recreate a certain time. I asked musicians to use them while imposing the following constraint: never bring an instrument in, work only with the sounds. They were, however, allowed to cut them up, stretch them out, mix them. That work generated the music for my office. I wanted it to be immersed in that time.
HUO: So that’s another aspect of your office. We could say that your office has a kind of soundtrack.
TT: A soundtrack that is a kind of ‘Muzak’, background music.
HUO: But I was wondering, besides the literary references that we mentioned briefly, if you acknowledge other influences, but in this case specifically in the world of art. With that idea of creating a fictional space, for example, did Marcel Broodthaers’ work on the Département des Aigles influence you? Did that approach of inventing institutions have any importance for you? In fact, even if the question is a bit simplistic and naïve, I want to ask you, who are your heroes in the world of art?
TT: [Laughs]. I’ve had several but there’s one whom I think I’ve remained faithful to, and that’s Alighiero e Boetti.
HUO: That gives us a point in common then…
TT: [Laughs]. In fact Boetti conceived of his entire oeuvre as “Alighiero e Boetti’. He divided himself in order to unite himself, imagined his identical double as somebody he could take by the hand to construct things. As I see it, that doesn’t correspond to a simplistic vision of schizophrenia, quite the opposite. Let me come back to fiction. If he could create a double of himself, a body of work could take shape. His work has always appealed to me because it’s shot through with one single idea. Even in his early collages, the world of the seeing and the non-seeing… Always that idea of having a left hand that can draw because it’s awkward… The second very important aspect in Boetti’s work is the dimension of the gift, that you have to carry on or pursue, another part of the story that viewer can complete. Two pieces were capital for me, Lampada Annuale, that light that we know is going to light up at one moment or another without knowing which… You go off haunted by that idea. For me the strongest pieces are those that manage to immerse us in a kind of tale. The second work by Boetti I’m thinking of is that transparent glass pane placed against the wall, in a way left to its fate. There’s nothing to see, nothing to hide. Always that double at work…
HUO: I’ve always thought that Boetti was one of my most important “teachers”. I was very often in his studio between ’87 and ’89 when I was a student and I’d go to see him in Rome. And I’ve always thought that Boetti had invented something that was like the “office” and which made him a sort of European Warhol. I mean Boetti seems to me to have constituted a European alternative to what Warhol was able to do across the Atlantic. Warhol was the Factory but Boetti was something else still. He had already understood globalisation and had foreseen its homogenising effects. He wanted to create the concept of an internationalism that preserves the differences. And even if oddly enough he didn’t have any pupils, I think that every person who came into contact with him or his work was transformed by his system. I’m thinking of that beautiful expression of his, ‘Mettere al mondo il mondo…’
TT: Boetti is one of those artists who create a body of work whose greatness is to generate other bodies of work in its wake. You can be his descendant. Unlike Warhol, he wasn’t at all in media coverage and mechanical reproducibility; his works were not only unique but radically non-reproducible. He didn’t allow himself the possibility of working out the variations on an idea over and over. He was a goldmine of ideas. And maybe Boetti’s work also contains the germ of the idea of an office and a structure that proliferates…
HUO: It’s likewise very interesting that we’re speaking about Boetti as part of a conversation about your book since Boetti wrote The Thousand Longest Rivers in the World, between order and disorder. He worked on that idea that a system that produces order also produces disorder. And yet the book you’re producing is a kind of comprehensive tome that brings together lots of things and therefore has to confront that very question of giving shape to chaos. It would be interesting to talk about that theme of order and disorder. On the one hand, there is a common thread running throughout while, on the other, I think for all that there is no one single system of reading, no single way of following the thread.
TT: There is a thread in fact. I was speaking just now of children’s books. A tale is constructed in the relationship between the drawings. But that tale is fragmentary. It’s determined by its milieu, from which the narrative can play out in both directions.
HUO: So it’s up to readers to choose their path?
TT: Absolutely, readers can go back or continue on.
HUO: And could you say a little more about those ghosts because it’s a crucial moment in the book. If I understand correctly, that stage consists of recycling or reusing the dark elements in the design and introducing an oscillation between two dimensions and three dimensions. It’s not a pop-up but almost because we get something that is three-dimensional.
TT: It was important for me, with the dark, in which the vision cannot crystallize, to generate a space by giving it a double. When I talk about doubling, I’m referring to transparencies that enable that space to take on a depth and a dimension. Those drawings are nothing more than broad uniform swatches of pigment, different black hues and transparent varnishes. I wanted to show that starting from a vision that is nocturnal or fragmentary or abstract, a universe can spring up and a space take shape.
HUO: I’d like you to speak about the notion of memory. The conception of this that is put forward is essentially static, what is imposed is a certain image of it as a fixed content that is removed from change and time, a kind of frozen memory. Yet if we look at what the neurosciences say about the subject, if we think, for example, about people like Wolf Singer or Ernst Poeppel, whom I’ve interviewed, we realize that memory is a dynamic cerebral process, that it’s not something static. And I think that in your work we find ourselves in a memory that is not only dynamic but also varied. On the other hand, you also talk about dark memory.
TT: Memory is not at all precise. It’s chaotic and as such very lively. The process of reminiscence or recollection allows us to change things and create new ones, new projects. I did a very simply experiment that anybody can do and which consists of memorizing someone’s face a first time, a second time, and then a third time. If each time you have to draw the face, you obtain very different portraits. Memory works with clues that enable us to reconstruct things. Those clues are taken from present reality. They are more or less exaggerated and distorted. They bring what’s absent towards the present and modify it as a result. I used that power of the memory for the polders. Many of the polders depend on those processes of recollection.
HUO: How would you define the term polder?
TT: The term contains the idea of a space that has been striven for, a completely artificial space. The polder is set up where nothing ought to take place. The proposed experiment consists of removing yourself from the present space and projecting yourself into the past and a certain imagination. I wanted my polders to work like outgrowths, to serve as the beginnings of a mental space, like architectural grafts that are mental colonies.
HUO: There’s a ‘magnetic’ side, no? It functions a bit like a magnet, you magnetise the space, you recharge the space… You don’t add any buildings, and you don’t have, strictly speaking, an architectural project, yet all the same there is clearly a reflection on architecture. You explore what’s going on in the “interiority” of buildings.
TT: Yes, most of the time, they’re skeletons. I think they have within themselves the thrust of a design, that idea of the project, that formulation of something that is coming into being. I’m interested in what makes gives architecture its life, its central nervous system or soul. I have used canalisation pipes a lot in the most recent polders. The architecture has become a space for electricity, heating and water: it’s what gives it life. Yet these elements are always hidden or camouflaged behind walls. In fact, I’ve created spaces that are x-rays of architecture, which materialise what the eye cannot delimit or define. Mark Z. Danielewski’s story, The House of Leaves, has played an important role for me. You enter and live in a house that proves to be much larger and to contain many more rooms than there appear to be at first glance. Likewise it gives rise to many stories. Everything is understood in terms of space and the space works like a brain that is endlessly modified and altered, in transformation and change…
HUO: I was wondering as well what your relationship to the project and its realisation was? Leafing through your book, one can’t say that you’re in the tradition of utopian architectural designs. And even if occasionally there are things that could recall certain designs by Archigram, it wouldn’t be correct to say that you are proposing unrealisable utopias since the approach to production involved here is, on the contrary, grounded in reality. These are indeed spaces that you create; you don’t just project. Yet at the same time, whilst many of these designs are designs for constructed spaces, there are others that are designs for spaces that have never been constructed, and still others that you are going to construct perhaps, or then again you may not. So there is a kind of pendulum effect or entanglement of the real and the projected, the actual and the possible. How do you see this relationship between the constructed and the unconstructed? The unrealised project and the realised project?
TT: That reminds me of a something Gombrowicz said: “I obstinately choose not to choose, choose to drift and carry on”. In this book a deliberate choice is made not to choose, not to give just the one possible reading. Nevertheless I don’t want to fall into randomness. The random has to be constructed. That’s what I’m working on at the moment. Things that seem readable appear to us, lead us to the threshold before perception, the nonvisible. In fact, I would very much like this book to construct a kind of progression, as if one opened a door giving access to a room, then from there access to another, and I would like this journey to be psychological first and foremost.
HUO: Your journey, but also the journey of the person reading the book, the person who goes through the book.
TT: In between. Between what we can see and what we think we perceive. This is why the idea of the ghost is so important.
HUO: We might imagine a sort of combat to find out who the real protagonists are… it’s not so obvious.
TT: I would really like to manage to create a dimension in which that definition would be endlessly disrupted and called into question. A bit like those photographs of the dead from the turn of the last century. There was a tradition that consisted of photographing the dead. One day I saw a photograph that really shook me up. It represented two young children, twins, dressed in sailor suits, seated on a bench and holding each other by the hand. Their features were relaxed and they seemed to be sleeping. In reality they were simply dead. I found that image really quite disturbing. This was the representation of a purely ghostly order of things. For me, those children had become ghosts and they had been represented as such. Neither sleepers nor corpses, but something else. The image of grieving, simply that.
HUO: To come back to this object that is the book, there was something that struck me last time, when I came to the studio, something that recurs often in your drawings, which are these kinds of flexible structures, a bit like stripes. Often they are black stripes which go beyond the limits of the design, and of course they are redolent of bookmarks. You spoke to me about the role played by these elements.
TT: They will punctuate the book. Bookmarks are there to help get back to the main ideas in the text, and these big marks help readers to get back to the guiding ideas in my thought. I decided to put in all these markers in order to develop the possibility of an itinerary, but also so as to continue the design outside the page. I would really like it if this book could be constantly reorganising itself, if there were several ways of being inside it, going from one space to another, at different moments, because the things one wants to do have changed.
HUO: At bottom, this book is also a kind of polder…
HUO: It will not represent a polder, it will be a polder. But I also wanted to ask you if you write. Are there texts that you have written? Do you write?
TT: I have written a lot. It was a very methodical activity. I would describe what was going on in each module and how to use them. Apart from that, and apart from the books of titles I mentioned a moment ago, I don’t write stories, or scripts.
HUO: Maybe we also need to find a title for this conversation.
TT: True. [Laughs] But that would take some time.
HUO: What would be really nice is if we dedicated this conversation to the memory of Alighiero e Boetti…
TT: Yes, that’s a very nice idea.
HUO: Boetti also had a way with titles. But do you yourself have any favourite titles? Could you talk to me about some of your titles?
TT:Great Stretches of Weakness, Portable Home without Wheels, A Stranger, Making Curious Movements and Strange Faces in the Void, A Death Far From Over, A Name That Erases Another, The Big Chill Inside, Desire Flat But In Perspective, Today, Yesterday Or A Long Time Ago; Somewhere On The 18-12-95 A Stranger; A Window With Broad Horizons; A Champion Of Insoluble Answers; A Solitude Padded With Creations, Obstinately Choosing Not To Choose, Choosing To Drift And Continue On; Going To Hell For Going On Swearing; The Longest Echo; Him All Fire And Flame, Her All Wood And Straw; The Strongest Northern Winds; Studies For Studying; Perhaps You Could, If You Agreed, It Seems To Me That Maybe; Always The Impossible, As Stupid As The Real; Hollywood Doesn’t Want Me; A Possibility Indicated And Exiled On The Edges; Mutism Echoing; Performance That Consists In Giving Up My Place To My Shadow; Criminal Investigation Department; What Happened? Why Did It Happen? How Was It Possible?; A Suitcase Packing And Unpacking; Great Fatigue From The Exhausting Effort to Charm; Located In The Void, She Dreams Of Being The Original Version; The Event That Illuminates Its Own Past; My Whatever Years; Extracts From A Confidential Society; Since My Sojourn Between Sewing And Space, I Have Never Had Any Visits And Nobody Is Waiting For Me Outside Or In; etc.
HUO: Now I would like to ask you the question that I ask in every interview, about projects that have never been carried out. Do you have any projects that you haven’t been able to carry out and that were particularly important to you, or do you have any projects you particularly want to do? Projects that are too big to be carried out?
TT: That’s a rather particular question because I think that my work is not “realised”. I produce forms that are sufficiently open for one to think that they’re never finished. So I have the feeling I am fairly faithful to the idea of the project.
HUO: We haven’t talked about travel.
TT: For me, travelling is a productive element when it comes to the work. I have travelled and worked in a little of different places, but the journey has to come to an end so that I can start producing in my studio. At that point I revisit everything, a bit like Xavier de Maistre in Voyage autour de ma chambre, where the narrator goes on a purely mental journey. What came into being with these journeys was the idea of recreations, of bringing several different places and moments in my life together in a single one.
HUO: With this theme of the journey we are in the middle of the book…
HUO: In the middle of things but at the centre of nothing.
 Georges Perec (1936-1942), author and member, like Calvino, of Oulip (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle).
"The Longest Echo"
by Tatiana Trouvé
For a long time, I was hesitant to finish anything I would undertake. Thus, for a long time, I thought I was a scattered kind of person. Yet scattered things don’t hold up very well over time. In the end, accumulated elements, systems of classification, projects, intentions, and titles are all articulated and find a common meaning: for me, this was the Bureau of Implicit Activities. To get there, you have to wait, but also to think of time not as a process of evolution, with something that begins and ends, nor even as a cycle, but rather as a linear projection and a stratification of events: a Monday is a Monday, a Tuesday is a Monday, a Wednesday is a Monday. 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. 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 destined to be separate and to separate what was destined to be united. In this sense, it brings about movements like those of an echo.
Therefore, I have started to sculpt echoes, as it were. I’m rather fond of the idea that things appear from the moment they are deformed, in the play between what is identical and different, between repetition, alteration, and renewal—like the movement my voice makes in its journey in front of the mountain’s belly, which allows me to measure the architecture of the mountain. I hear my voice at the same time as I produce it, but what is the distance I am measuring? What is the distance separating me from my voice or the distance separating me from the mountain? It is probably both, since I am simultaneously separated from my voice and from the mountain. This separation now constitutes its own unique matter—the echo—which is thus the form of divided architecture.
Although I have sometimes used a sound apparatus in my work,3 this remains rare and has never served as a way to give concrete form to the acoustic phenomena of echoes. Indeed, in a visual or sculptural sense, the concept of divided architecture has found a more fitting home in my sculptures and installations.
For example, these echoes have sometimes taken the form of little elevators presented with their doors ajar and their ceiling lit up, as if they had just opened or were going to close. In reality, it is important to keep in mind that these doors close very slowly—so slowly, in fact, that from one exhibition to another, we do not see the change. The show would have to last for a decade to measure the progression of their closing. Here, a division into three types of time takes place in one piece of architecture: the time it takes to visit the exhibition, the duration of the exhibition itself, and the movement of the elevator, which has been suspended. And to these three kinds of time, we could even add another: the time of our memory. It is the layering of these different times in one place that gives the work its unity.
In an even more direct way, I have brought these layers of time into play in the same place by burying an exhibition under sand, or at least submitting the duration of an exhibition to an uninterrupted and regular process of burial. Black sand was running uninterruptedly through the walls, day and night, filling the room of an exhibition by emptying another one that remained invisible and whose dimensions, when considered in this context, might seem unlimited. Where is this running sand at my feet coming from? Will its flow ever be interrupted? And if so, when? When the exhibition closes? Does it flow all night long while I’m asleep? When did all this start? When should I have noticed? Should I be expecting an event? Will that event happen after I have left? Has it already happened? Will it ever happen?
If reality only assumes form in our memories, and if the present is only the past passing, then works of art, too, are constituted from the moment they leave our field of vision. The time we will have taken to contemplate them is preparation for the time we will need to return to them, to grasp them, and finally, to interpret and deform them—and, through these different moments, to formulate the questions they ask us.
The work I do on space in my installations is determined by creating physical laws different from those that cross through and constitute our reality. I imagine magnetic sectors or singular atmospheric densities, speeds that could, in turn, sculpt forms, sometimes contradicting the laws of gravity by sucking matter and objects up to the ceiling, deforming or compressing them, but also by fixing them in movements of falling or equilibrium.
When I am not building installations, I draw. Most often I draw spaces where the borders between what is shown of a piece of architecture and what actually constitutes it remain indeterminate. That has given way to a series I have named Intranquility. In these drawings, interiors and exteriors, reflections and mirrors, overexposures or erasures are juxtaposed and dwell together within the same space. With these drawings, I was not attempting to make the representation of a real space tangible, but to give body to what produces a place in our minds. I’ve done this by allowing what viewers project onto any given place to settle, by creating intervals or voids that are capable of prodding mental projections.
Very recently, I returned to these drawings, in somewhat the same way you go back to a site years later. Other drawings came from this, in black pencil on black paper, where silhouettes are effaced and disappear into a space that absorbs their contours, where the notions of interior and exterior are more indistinct than ever and appear in tentative accord with the distance and place that are being observed—reflections of pencil and pencil lead allow contours objects, and eventually a place to be glimpsed, furtively.
These slippages of time into space, their manifestations on visual planes, their sculptural forms, their points of correspondence with direct experience, with consciousness, with the memory of events, determine, I think, the contours of a sculptural territory that I have explored for some time now.
"SOMEWHERE A PLACE"
by Robert Storr
By now we know memories are made. They do not just happen. There is no process of absorption and metabolic transformation that fills our minds with the reserves of sense data that order our thoughts and disorder our dreams. No natural mental equivalent of photosynthesis exists whereby light is transformed into storable energy for future reference or use. The verbs and locutions we use when we speak about memory tell the tale of active construction within the brain’s many mansions.
To memorize is a deliberate act, usually performed against the resistance of primal drives that seeks only to exert their power over palpable things or to spend themselves in states of elated, purposeless self-assertion. Which is why school children called upon to recite poetry in class have such a difficult time of it. Nevertheless in a country like France, where this is still done beyond the age of nursery rhymes, a stuttering teenage student who engages in the sadomasochistic ritual of publicly failing to remember—or at least failing to properly perform his or her humiliating subjugation to the teacher’s authority through a forced subjugation to someone else’s text rendered in halting, inarticulate bursts—after returning to the fold of fellow students, may well be found in a bar outside school speaking the same lines with lexical precision and passion.
“To commit to memory” is a stronger expression of the same phenomenon, since all commitments summon the will’s overridingly deliberate character as a counterforce to human nature’s persistent whimsicality. At this point, spontaneous desire is disciplined by intentions presaging greater but deferred gratification. The difference between these two aspects of the will and their coincident or at least sequential operations explains why the student I referred to earlier seems to have been remembering and forgetting at the same time, or at least within the interval between facing a demand from outside his or her psyche and responding to a craving emanating from within it, oscillating between relative obliviousness or approximate recollection and vivid, all-consuming recall.
But, aesthetically speaking, we are still in the domain of preexisting realities or artifacts—words we hear on a staircase, through walls or on stage, on television or the radio; words we struggle to keep fresh in our ear in order that they may flow easily to our lips when we wish to hear them again or tell someone else about them; things seen on the street, on the page or on screens that we attempt to photograph with our mind’s eye. “I am a camera,” Christopher Isherwood’s doppelganger declared in The Berlin Stories (1946). However, we know full well that our eye filters out 99 percent of everything in our field of vision, with the aim of fashioning a Gestalt from the remaining one percent, a nugget subsequently regarded as having somehow crystallized all that was inherently “memorable”. Making allowance for the social, cultural and psychological preferences of the person whose ear, eye and grey matter are making these “recordings”, this suggests that we are all born with a retrospective Identikit, crammed with something akin to the readymades and assisted readymades that compose Marcel Duchamp’s portable Boîte-en-valise, as if everyman and everywoman awoke to themselves and the world with such a portable archive-museum at hand, just waiting to be filled.
I choose a Duchampian analogy for consciousness in order to correct both the objective pretense of Isherwood’s realism and conversely the Surrealist assumption that revelation feeds on remembrance like a man or woman in a restaurant dipping a spoon into cerebral soup in search of especially succulent subconscious morsels. More to the point is Duchamp’s invention of cervellités, or thought-objects, that prime the pump of memory even as they test the limits of logic. This concept is the predicate for a much wider range of practices in which truth to experience or mnemonic accuracy matters less—if it matters at all—than the jarring recognition of things and situations that are in fact wholly unfamiliar or radically estranged. Nevertheless, these thought-objects prompt emotions and activate the mechanisms of recovery in ways that mimic actual remembering, a quality of alertness to immediate sensation and of searching introspection that might, for want of better words, be called the “memory effect”.
This is the zone Tatiana Trouvé inhabits. It is where she works and welcomes all comers, and these, roughly speaking, are the basic problematics of her multi-media, multi-dimensional and frequently multi-chambered enterprise. As in all situational art, Trouvé’s installations make the person who explores them as much a protagonist of that situation as the artist who invents them and occupies them while they are being articulated—even though many spaces within her installations are, by design, shut off from physical access, while many of the others only permit partial visual access, so that the artist alone really experiences the whole environment. (About the drawings more later, but for now one may say that they too are “occupied” prior to being made available to the viewer.) And so the process of discovery, of following clues, of navigating a labyrinth from which the Minotaur has been evacuated, falls to individual members of the public. And on that score it is worth stressing that a woman—not a later-day Daedalus—is the architect of these mazes; that ordinary women and men—rather than a heroic modern Theseus—are the ones who penetrate these mysteries; and that Picasso is nowhere in sight.
Indeed, there is almost a forensic aspect to the process, as if the spectator were gathering evidence of things that had happened before his or her arrival. Moreover, with straps, chains, locks and various fasteners being prominent features of the setting along with bars and cages, there is a pronounced though never exaggerated element of the ominous in the installations as well, as if the furniture of bureaucratic, scientific or industrial reality had been roused from a state of passive hostility towards the human need for warmth and comfort to one of actively sinister waiting. Waiting, that is, for someone—anyone—to enter and eventually surrender to the regime of confinement and restraint implicit in such details and in the structure of the site overall. But Trouvé’s formal discretion prevents these attributes and the atmosphere they engender from becoming one-dimensionally spooky or threatening. Instead of imposing themselves on the viewer with the inevitability of a fright-film narrative, they uncannily suggest scenarios, which are ultimately impossible to pin down or even anticipate more than a few steps ahead of where one is standing at any given point. What hides behind the locked cabinet door under which light shines? Where do these electrical wires originate or end up? What is being stored in the packages on the floor, what music emanated from those speakers, what work went on here amidst these loose scraps of material? Did everyone who was here leave in a hurry? Did they drift away? Did they simply not show up as they have always done before? Other than oneself and perhaps a scattering of other spectators, where is everybody?
The forms of the questions and even some of their specifics will seem like déjà vu to those who follow installation art in general, and especially to those who have carefully studied what Ilya Kabakov has called “Total Installation”. That genre within the genre of situational art so dramatically immerses the spectator in the illusion of having been transported to another place entirely than the one left behind at the installation’s doorstep—without for all that ever wholly losing sight of the fact that one is caught up in a periodically self-betraying illusion for which unexpected glimpses at the theatricality of the set-up or back into the world one has just left are jarringly essential dimensions of an overall alienation from the real and a partial assimilation to its simulacrum—that he or she adapts to the new surroundings as if taking up temporary residence in a sublet or looking for a safe haven to curl up in when stranded in a strange yet vaguely familiar city.
To that extent, memory is embedded in the very habits of adaptation as much as in the particulars that the spectator might recall from their own existence. But what of those particulars? In Kabakov’s case they are a combination of two strands of Soviet life, the sketchy outlines of a never-realized Utopia and the squalidness of that Utopia constructed on the cheap, with both aspects being manifestly anachronistic. Trouvé’s spaces prompt dual associations as well. To my mind the first is the chill futurism of Jean-Luc Godard’s Dystopian Alphaville; the second is the sublime banality of the bureau paysage, the commercial laboratory and the light manufacturing and warehouse districts previously mentioned but grounded in the actuality of such places as they currently exist in Paris, not least the interstitial urban area where Trouvé has her studio. Kabakov commemorates a tomorrow that never happened and an everyday for every man and woman that seemed to go on forever. In sharp and equally disorienting contrast, Trouvé encapsulates today remembered tonight or earlier in the evening, remembered in the long dark night of the soul that is 3:00 am, which is to say “the day after” before it dawns and when one doubts that it will dawn—the metaphor, of course, is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, stripped of his jittery Jazz Age effervescence by cold-sweat exhaustion of the spirit. And in the spatial and temporal nether regions where Trouvé stages her viewer-animated non-events it is virtually impossible to imagine that a day has so few as 24 hours, or a year so few as 365 days. Thus, at the artist’s prompting assistance, memory plays tricks on us. Not by telescoping the remote historical or emotional past or the desired or feared future into time present, but by dilating that present and suspending it in a twilight realm where near immediacy and partial recognition compel that viewer to fill in the gaps with his or her own recollections and projections. In other words, Trouvé catches us coming and going, looking over our shoulders and around corners, with the “memory effect” being the trigger she pulls—or rather the wire of the booby trap our movement trips—releasing muffled explosions of feeling, longing, disquiet, anxiety over loosing one’s way coupled with a still deeper desire to just “get lost”. The latter half of this psycho-situational ying-yang is a basic trope of “contemporaneity”—Chet Baker named one version of that dialectic by turning it into the invitation “let’s get lost” and then vocally drenched that plea in erotic lassitude. It is a counter image of the quotidian dutifulness and orderliness, an emblem of the craving for escape, either from the maze or deeper into it. Cinematic correlations include the terrains vagues of Italy’s postwar Neorealism and of a good deal of current science fiction worldwide, though in the former the city’s edge is a demilitarized zone between the class wars of a beleaguered peasantry and urban workers and the unemployed, while in more recent films a step off the sidewalk or onto a road leading out of town may be an irrevocable detour into wilderness and tribal regression. Trouvé’s terrain vagues are interior rather than exterior. With their freestanding sculptural elements—knotted conduit, blackened metal forms, rocks and more—dispersed across a generally neutral but enveloping background, Trouvé’s compositons are at times reminiscent of Yves Tanguy’s surreal vistas folded into enclosed, squared-off structures rather than out into convoluted landscapes. As with Tanguy, the eye navigates from one strange landmark to the next, simultaneously gaining and losing one’s bearings at each point of reference. But as with previous comparisons, invoking Tanguy’s name and work is not intended to signal influence or aesthetic sympathy to any precise degree, but only to assist with filling in heretofore unclaimed locations on the map of the collective imagination’s Terrae incognitae. And in such places the difference between inside and outside, closed and open, is relative, as those who have descended into caverns or walked the length of office building corridors, factory cellars and storage depots can attest. Such places beg for a new chapter in Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space (1957), a chapter that, absent Bachelard’s posthumous inscription, Trouvé’s installations go a long way to adumbrating. By and large the spaces found in Trouvé’s drawings are of a different order, and the recent proliferation of such graphic works write a fresh chapter in the story of her imaginative endeavour. With the most significant group to date being titled Intranquillity, what is instantly striking is that they are domestic scenes, fragmentary images of modernist houses on the verge of coming unstuck or, in some cases, past that point already. In them the furniture is less generic and more stylish than in most of Trouvé’s previous installations, although some have been transformed into installation after having been sketched as works on paper. Indeed, they appear to be composites made up of bits and pieces gleaned from architecture and interior design magazines and catalogues, although—with the exception of bands of color and strips of copper tape—they are not collages but pencil renderings of things found in such sources. And given that perspective is suggested by patterned backgrounds, isolated architectural units, a row or windows, cabinetry—and the angle from which we see a standing lamp, a table or bed frame on the floor—but otherwise left to the imagination, the flatness of these composites pressurizes everything contained in them like butterflies and moths pinned to a mount, or specimens trapped between glass slides. (In this they also evoke the early open-and-shut Pop montage paintings of Richard Hamilton.) Again a forensic aspect emerges and a “scene of the crime” curiosity creeps in. But we are not in film noir mode. In fact, but for the rich graphite that describes select details, strong contrasts of light and dark are suppressed in favour of modular hues and tones, and a mysterious hybrid of crisp delineation and ambient blandness conspires to intrigue us. The disquiet with which these paper installations are imbued—and whether or not they are realized in three dimensions they somehow manage to implicate and annex the viewer in two dimensions—is that of quietude pushed to an unnerving extreme, of the same suspended animation of Trouvé’s environments unrelieved by the animate presence of the spectator—though we are nonetheless provoked to insinuate ourselves into these dislocated yet hyperstatic rooms. The only piece of the puzzle that moves visually are the copper filaments that run through some of them, catching light that flickers as if in a dull mirror, when that viewer changes position in front of the image. For if it is true as Western tradition has it that all that representational art holds up a mirror to reality, then in the final analysis what kind of reality has Trouvé chosen to reflect back into the viewer’s eye and consciousness, and what characterizes the several types of mirrors she uses? The easy way out of answering this essentially poetic question would be to align her with current trends and discourses. As to the former, her penchant for slightly dated but generally streamlined or at least austere styles partakes of a wider revival of interest in the postwar modernist décor, while her theoretical affiliations seem to remain at arms length due to a quite reasonable leeriness of becoming a technician of ideological systems as distinct from an artisan of untested possibilities. Thus in an interview with Richard Shusterman she demurs when offered the choice Ludwig Wittgenstein advocated of belonging to no school of thought and being a citizen of no community of ideas, by asserting that for her the crucial thing was to belong to no one community in particular, and to submit to no law in order to gain citizenship of whichever communities one might otherwise willingly associate with.1 And so in an art context much given to programmatic production and strenuous position-taking and polemic, Trouvé stands out as both clear-headedly intuitive and pragmatic. Notwithstanding such seemingly down-to-earth attitudes, the allegiances Trouvé does declare are with fiction writers who trafficked in fantasy of various sorts, chief among them Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, Georges Perec and Dino Buzzati, all of whom in their own way have explored the poetic license accorded to those who dream waking dreams and all of whom have fine-tooled the art of physical, conceptual, perceptual, emotional and spiritual displacement to exquisite aesthetic tolerances. On leaving one of Trouvé’s installations or turning one’s gaze away from one of her drawing, the reasons for that affinity are obvious. For we quickly find that that temporary experience of displacement—equally exquisite, equally disconcerting and imaginatively liberating despite its iconography of confinement—is indispensable preparation for at long last awakening to the unnatural, unfamiliar surroundings we are accustomed to thinking of as the ordinary. The necessity and history of doing this is as old as the first images that recast our world in the image of another much like it but fundamentally estranged from it. The challenge is to do this afresh, to charge the uncanny with untapped energy, to give its conductive polarities—the memory effect and the alienation effect—new facets in contact with the new dimensions of modernity. If I have alluded to only a few such precedents it is to spare the reader—and the artist—the burden of clearing away the vast accumulation of alternative realities in order to reach Trouvé’s own. Indeed, one has only to cross its threshold to know where one is and isn’t—and to become so alert to both that every sensory organ, of which the mind is the most alert of all, shivers.
"TATIANA TROUVÉ’S BACHELOR MACHINES"
by Catherine Millet
While scrolling on my computer screen through all the images I was given to prepare this text, my index finger suddenly raises off the mouse: my gaze remains fixed on the photo of a work from 2007 that I have never seen in reality—if, that is, you are ever truly in reality when viewing an exhibition by Tatiana Trouvé. Several large sheets, three black and one white, with haphazard outlines, are hanging limply over a long bar. One or more “windows,” all relatively square in shape, have been cut into the sheets, allowing us to see the underlying sheet at the point of their intersection. My attention is drawn to this work, because the sheets remind me of the layer of “Milky Way flesh” that can be found in the uppermost panel of Marcel Duchamp’s The Large Glass—that uncertain form in which one finds the three square “draft pistons.” Upon closer inspection, however, I realize this is not entirely correct. Another work by Trouvé that is executed according to the same principle also includes colored sheets, one gray and one white, with a black sheet cut in such a way that only a few shreds of it are left at its center. After a few inquiries, I realize that these are, in fact, sheets of leather hanging over a wooden bar. Trouvé was obviously not thinking of The Large Glass when she began working with these skins, but she is very receptive to the comparison when I ask her about it.
This encourages me to follow my own intuition, all the more so since the thought of The Large Glass prompts me to take another look at Michel Carrouges’s book on The Bachelor Machines. In its very first pages, I already find the following comment: “When we read, our imagination is set in motion through an automatic impulse that furnishes us with an unpremeditated interpretation of the text that excites it. Why do we allow these images to be born and die without paying direct attention to them? This is dreamlike behavior of a very particular kind, whose analysis would no doubt bring many revelations.” But would it not be possible for the author’s comment to apply just as well to the consideration of a landscape or a work of art? This is how Carrouges justifies a project inspired by the spontaneous juxtaposition of Kafka’s In the Penal Colony with Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. I, in turn, decide to pursue the analogy between Duchamp and Trouvé, carried away by something so obvious that I felt it could not be avoided: taken as a whole, Trouvé’s work belongs to the prestigious genealogy of bachelor machines.
The most pertinent interpretation of The Bride, or The Large Glass as it is usually called, comes from Jean Clair. Clair emphasized Duchamp’s interest in geometrical speculation, especially with respect to the fourth dimension. The premise of the fourth dimension is that, just as shadows and images are projections of three-dimensional models into two dimensions, our three-dimensional reality is the projection of a four-dimensional universe. According to Clair, Duchamp attempted to transcribe this universe into figures he carefully placed in perspective on a transparent medium—a medium, in other words, that is subject to more than one point of view. Trouvé is also interested in the passage from one space into another. Several times over the course of my visit to her studio, she insists on the fact that her sculpture (“I’m actually a sculptor,” she says) comes from drawing—and returns to it, one should add.
More or less in the manner of drawings for interior design, her works on paper establish extremely pronounced perspectives (views of a bedroom? a living room? a studio? a gallery?) that are emphasized by the line of a plinth or a metallic structure, and look out on a distant natural world: a path through a park, or a fragment of a more wild landscape. Yet this perspective, which gives the viewer the illusion of entering a vast space and being able to walk around in it, corresponds to sculptures, which, even if they are situated in three-dimensions, occupy a space that the visitor is not entirely sure he shares. Faced with the sculptures, the visitor is almost as awkwardly positioned as if he were standing in front of a wall, or a screen, or some kind of obstacle. Sometimes the visitor is stuck in a physical sense: although he might like to get closer to a group of intriguing objects, or else to understand the accident that brought about the pile of black sand he sees, a glass window keeps him irremediably removed from it. Nothing is more frustrating than standing in front of that window, and the visitor will no doubt prefer to back up and enjoy the strange still-life he can nonetheless contemplate through the pane, as though he were in front of a painting. In fact, the sight of this apparatus through the glass partition’s metal-set frame is not entirely unrelated to the “scene” represented in The Large Glass, for it is within this frame that objects (a piece of furniture, bedsprings, a rock) look familiar until a detail, or else a somewhat overly schematic configuration (the rock is in chains and the piece of furniture bizarrely placed), charges them with mystery, all the while giving us the feeling that there must be certain, yet distant, relationships between them.
In interviews, the artist has mentioned her childhood in Senegal and how much she has been influenced by the widespread belief there in Djinns: spirits and ghosts that live alongside humans but are invisible, in a parallel world. Trouvé explains, “I started imagining that perhaps we, not they, were the ghosts.” The perspective is reversed: if we can imagine that the three-dimensional world in which we live is perhaps nothing but the projection of another world in four dimensions, can we not also reason the other way around? Is it possible that this three-dimensional world is nothing more than the representation of a world in two dimensions (which it often actually is, whenever one goes from an architectural study on paper to an actual building)? And could we not then argue that, in this transfer, our imagination, so easily solicited by the drawing’s two-dimensional space, can only thrive in three-dimensional space if it forgets the body that burdens it, going so far as to transform the body into a kind of ghost? Now that she is an adult, Trouvé no longer believes in Djinns, but she has made sure that she remains capable of assuring the coexistence of two parallel worlds while traveling, as an artist, from one to the other: “In the end, I think that artists, every time they do a piece, always do the same thing: they provide a double of that about which they are speaking.”
Trouvé’s drawings and sculptures also have several other contradictory effects. Her recent drawings on black paper divide space into different planes thanks to the varied use of certain media (pencil lead, collage with leaves of lead and tin); in spite of its opacity, the black surface catches our gaze and holds onto it even while the eye wanders from one plane to another. The body then also starts to move and vary its point of view, thus altering the way the light hits the planes, too, making them disappear and reappear. Other drawings, this time on a white background, similarly grab our attention because of the subtly suggested overlapping of planes. For example, in what looks like a bedroom, we can see a kind of armoire, which seems exaggeratedly long, perhaps because it is extended by its reflection in a mirror. The other objects reflected in this “mirror” are nonetheless seen either from an identical, and not inversed, angle (the ball and its shadow, the rope falling to the ground), or at an angle perpendicular to the orientation of the object in the foreground (the bed)! Add to this image a bar that has been placed in front of the armoire but somehow continues behind it, as though the armoire were transparent and had been placed in front of another mirror. The space of these drawings, once we have entered it, is of infinite complexity, and yet our eyes adjust to it all the more readily since our imagination is provoked. On the other hand, if we were to find ourselves in a space constructed in this manner—if such a thing were even possible—we would be paralyzed, or at least stunned, thinking only of how we might escape! These drawings are populated by objects whose aesthetics are reminiscent of the 60s, which is perhaps why they recall other memories, such as the Interiors arranged by the very Duchampian artist Richard Hamilton in incompatible perspectives, with doorways opening onto other more or less coherent spaces where it would be entirely impossible to stand if one were to try to construct life-sized versions of them in real space.
As we know, Hamilton also created objects in three-dimensions, or environments. Some of these, like Exhibit I and Exhibit II, are abstract compositions with lines and monochrome planes arranged in space, showing the mark of the graphic designer Hamilton also was. Similarly, I note that Trouvé’s sculptures are themselves increasingly graphic: metallic bars drawn in space; sheaths of leather are laced in a way that gives them the uncertain, frayed appearance of a painted or drawn line, while other sheaths, vertical or assembled, are set at the border of planes like hatch-marks in a drawing; or else a billiard stick whose base is probably filled with lead seems to stand obliquely, and miraculously, in space, like a line struck across the white space of a sheet of paper. There is nonetheless one major difference between Hamilton’s environments and Trouvé’s constructions: Hamilton’s spaces are constructed in such as way that the visitor may enter and walk around within them. The visitor’s pleasure comes from finding his way around and progressively understanding the spatial divisions (like the ones in the installation version of Lobby). In Trouvé’s sculptures, however, finding the “thread” (the metal bar, the chain, the cable) that links them together, far from allowing us to appropriate the logic of the group, only gets us increasingly lost. There is a way out of the paths Hamilton proposes, but there is no escape from the mental labyrinths of Trouvé’s exhibitions. The race is lost before it starts, and the object of our visual desire is at an ever-receding distance. It is something our body will never be able to translate.
Trouvé frequently places us in this terrible predicament. For example, she often creates an “inadequate” relationship of scale between the visitor and the objects presented in her exhibition. Objects too small for the visitor to be able to use, or to even imagine using, still look like seats, tables, or screens, or else machines or instruments for body-building. At the same time, they are too big to be considered easy-to-use toys. Doors are set into the walls of a museum gallery and left ajar, providing a glimpse of strongly lit spaces that make them all the more attractive. Yet these doors, on the same scale as the objects, don’t allow us through towards the light, unless you happen to come from Lilliput.
Although Trouvé has recently brought her objects up to a scale much closer to that of the human body, she has also invented new and ingenious devices to ensure that the visitor finds himself drawn towards a hallway he cannot enter or, as I have described above, facing a glass barrier that blocks all passage. This causes the visitor to stare all the more intently at what Trouvé has prevented him from approaching physically. Has the mirror in that inaccessible space he sees in front of him been placed there to help in some way? Of course not! The mirror reflects objects that are not the ones he sees between the mirror and himself, and it is impossible to determine their location. He can stretch his neck or bend over and try to see through an opening situated at the bottom of the exterior barrier, but the forbidden scene remains a mystery. Duchamp comes to mind once again. As in Duchamp’s Given: 1 The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas, Trouvé’s recent sculptures excite our gaze but leave us at the door. One might say that they reduce us to supposition and speculation, but “reduce” is not exactly the right word, since the speculative imagination always leads us further than our bodies ever could.
At this stage of my reflection, my first intuition is confirmed: Tatiana Trouvé’s sculptures are indeed bachelor machines. One sees this in their basically “industrial” aesthetics (even when they are made by the artist herself or artisans she commissions)—by which I mean their coldness and what one might think is their functionality. They are often juxtaposed and sometimes linked together as if they really were destined to produce something, but in a closed circuit, or at least without demanding any intervention on our part and, to the contrary, imposing their autonomy. Nonetheless, as further proof of my hypothesis, I would invite the reader to remember the artist’s older works (let’s turn on the time machine), the ones that brought her recognition in the late 1990s. It all started with what she called the Bureau d’Activités Implicites [Bureau of Implicit Activities], or B.I.A. Conceived of as a way to conserve the already abundant archives of her still young life, this “bureau” turned out to be well-adapted to the task of transforming unfinished processes and failures (rejection letters in reply to her requests for employment; titles of abandoned works) into creative projects. It provided the crucible where the negative could be transformed into the positive. As the artist herself notes, “Forgetting has a creative charge. If I recall a party with guests and I describe it as I remember it, and then I repeat the same exercise a day later, I’ll remember the party and the description I gave of it. However, if I continue the experiment, my first memory will gradually begin to merge with the various subsequent representations I’ve made of it, making facts that really happened appear as a kind of genre painting. This protocol implies that newness is one of the possible horizons of forgetting.”The Modules where the archives can be consulted came from the B.I.A., but they are also, in and of themselves, sculptural objects, small structures such as billboards, stands, and cages, closed in on themselves but which can generally be entered by the visitor. Then came the Polders, which, as their name indicates, are new territories torn from the void, from waiting, from inactivity, and which took on the reduced scale described above, capable of conserving the sediment of fantastic elaborations. Trouvé’s bachelor machines are power switches for the imagination and, in their own way, join the tradition of pataphysics, the “science of imaginary solutions” that Alfred Jarry invented while elaborating, in his novels, fantastic bachelor machines and rather hair-raising mechanisms. Of course, we can also draw other connections. For example, does the very name of the Bureau of Implicit Activities not bring to mind the Agentur für geistige Gastarbeit, or “Agency for Spiritual Migrant Work,” founded by Harald Szeeman, one of Alfred Jarry’s main readers and, as it so happens, curator along with Jean Clair of the 1975 exhibition called Bachelor Machines? When asked about what she reads, Trouvé cites, among others, Georges Perec and especially Italo Calvino, both members of OuLiPo, the Workshop of Potential Literature [Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle], which itself is closely tied to Jarry’s Collège de Pataphysique.
While chatting with the artist, I draw her attention to the fact that her objects, unlike traditional sculptures or what are called “installations,” do not allow the visitor to believe a seamless understanding of them is even possible. We do not necessarily feel the desire to touch them; walking around them is also of little help; and entering one of these objects does not allow us to master its space. But Trouvé intervenes categorically: “In front of my sculptures, the body is simply of no use.” I readily agree. However, is this assertion not contradicted by those steel bars in the studio, wrapped as they are in a leather sheath and with lacing that allows their smooth surface to appear—just as gaiters give us a brief glimpse of a woman’s legs? Do these not appeal to our notions of sensuality? Have I not been able to identify horse saddles and bicycle seats in other projects? Oh, and as to the bicycle seat: is that not a characteristic element of bachelor machines? And what about all those metal and leather objects—those weights you might imagine being used to train a hypothetical athlete? Once they have been associated with the iron beds and those heavy chains, it is not difficult to conceive of them being used by someone adept in sadomasochism. Finally, we cannot neglect to mention those doors left ajar, and those corners into which we cannot walk. Is it not true that they are apt to awaken our voyeuristic impulses?
Such is the paradox of bachelor machines, which exclude our body or, more precisely, instrumentalize it to underscore the degree to which eroticism is a mental affair. Perhaps if that bed were of a more hospitable size its leather blanket would be pleasantly supple under the weight of our body. Perhaps we would rediscover our childhood reflexes if we could hang from those bars and jump into that saddle. Perhaps we would like to pick up those objects we see behind that door or that pane of glass, if only we could cross through them and understand, in the first place, where they really are. Perhaps. But it is impossible for us to know—a situation that affords our imagination all the more pleasure since it can continue to lose itself in the thousands of possibilities these appropriations would allow.
I like the idea that Trouvé, who refers to herself a sculptor, undoes the viewer’s physical implication, steals the art of sculpture away from touch to offer it entirely to vision, and asks it to produce illusions—much as Duchamp did, in fact, by introducing the real and eminently prosaic object into art, which did not stop him from being a great illusion monger, passionate about the optical sciences. Trouvé’s work would certainly trouble 18th-century authors who, if they were to come back to life, would have to revise their dichotomy between painting and sculpture. How would Diderot or Herder interpret a sculpture that, leaving behind its (approximate) claims to truth, invites us dream—the realm of painting? Contrary to what we might think, this division is not obsolete, but if it has been so resistant, it is through a reversal of judgment. Throughout the 20th century, we have had a tendency to be suspicious of art forms that were overly illusionist. We have privileged art that claimed to be anchored in reality. But it would be a mistake today to continue to believe that art has to share our space. We have indeed had fun, and we have expanded our field of knowledge in the company of artists who have invited us to share in their studio work, their parties, their dinners, their convictions, their lives. But by frequenting them too intimately, our pleasure has been spent. Today, the art amateur is a lover who knows his mistress’s body all too well and turns around to look from afar at the unknown woman on the street whose curves he seeks under her dress. Vision is what awakens desire. Just guess where the bride is hidden in the traps Tatiana Trouvé has devised for our gaze.
“BODY WITHOUT A FACE”
by A conversation between Tatiana Trouvé and Richard Shusterman
RICHARD SHUSTERMAN: We met each other only very recently, in December 2007, and in no time at all, you suggested I be your interlocutor in an interview for an important book about your work. Your proposal enticed me, but it also surprised me by its spontaneity, which expressed a boldly impulsive mind, open to chance and risk. Your art, however, displays an extremely methodical spirit, full of deliberation. Your oeuvre seems to be governed by strict organization. For example, for 10 years (since 1997), your work has been structured around one central project, the Bureau of Implicit Activities, which includes several Modules. The terms “bureau” and “modules” evoke that spirit of extremely deliberate organization. What role do risk, chance, and impulse play in your creative work and in your artistic process?
TATIANA TROUVÉ: I feel the construction of a work demands that we remain exposed to any chance occurrence the work itself opens up for us, but also to the risk that the work might fail, succeed, or be wrong. Over and beyond that obvious aspect, which is the very essence of art, my B.I.A. was born as a project, both melancholy and bold, to give form to a feeling of disappearance or inexistence. The bold move was to build a space at whose heart that 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. What I invent is a kind of time that escapes our chronological measurements. By naming this work Bureau and grouping activities into different Modules, I was perhaps simply allowing myself to spend 10 years on it, and to help those years pass by.
RICHARD SHUSTERMAN: Does your apparent desire in B.I.A. for method—for organizing and classifying all kinds of implicit and forgettable elements in life—represent a critique of the bureaucratic compartmentalization of contemporary life, of its mechanical, exaggerated, arbitrary, and essentially false order? Is it perhaps even a reductio ad absurdum of the bureaucratic will that dominates our world? Or is your desire for order rather a way to compensate for the unclassifiable flow of experience? After all, experience can never be grasped entirely, and often it is not even conscious enough to be described and classified. I’m not necessarily talking about the Freudian unconscious. Even the flow of ordinary consciousness contains small, hardly perceptible, nameless moments of transition between those ideas that we can clearly recognize and can name and classify.
TATIANA TROUVÉ: There was both a desire to respond to a bureaucratic system using a logic proper to that system, and a desire to transform that response into an aesthetic experience. In 1995, when I decided to live in Paris as an artist, I started by looking for a job that would allow me to rent a studio or an apartment. The search for a job became its own full-time job. Rejection letters started to fill my mailbox. All of them started with “Madame, Mademoiselle, Monsieur, we regret to inform you,” etc. I found it amazing that a rejection could all of sudden transform me into a man, a woman, and a young woman. This gave me the idea of writing cover letters and signing them with a specially designed stamp: “Madame, Mademoiselle, Monsieur, Tatiana Trouvé.” In B.I.A., I kept many of these rejection letters, carefully ridding them of all content. That boiled down to keeping that typical turn of phrase: “Madame, Mademoiselle, Monsieur, we regret to inform you . . .” Entire lists of regrets—regrets that, by accumulating, ended up negating whatever they were expressing. This was also the starting point for my decision to invent résumés, not by listing everything that I had already done in my life, but by listing everything I would never do. This “never” is absolutely irremediable, unlike many titles one takes on and subsequently has to prove. It’s to my great regret, but I know I will never be a veterinarian. So I think the two aspects you’ve highlighted here have always crisscrossed through B.I.A., because those responses to my situation in life had both social and aesthetic effects on me, because the response was fully and personally binding in my daily life, and because it involved a reflexive dimension. The Modules in the B.I.A. actually won out over other kinds of activity in which the daily dimensions of experience, like waiting, were directly implicated, with all that waiting also demands on the psychological level. How does the time we spend waiting construct us, what does it construct, and what elements of that time and that construction are we able to grasp? That’s when I started working with sound recordings linked to my own experience of waiting, before constructing two Modules to be broadcast and an annex in which my archives could be consulted, and before finally beginning to collaborate with musicians who I asked to rework the available material and produce music for waiting.
RICHARD SHUSTERMAN: The notion of the archive seems to be a central element of your art, as does memory, which provides a guiding thread. One of your goals is to save ordinary experiences from oblivion, along with events, documents, and objects that might otherwise be regarded as worthless remnants from the flow of experience. Perhaps this artistic logic can be justified not only with respect to aesthetic interest, but also in terms of what it allows us to gain psychologically and cognitively: enriching our experience, making our consciousness fuller, our memories more extensive. But doesn’t forgetting also have a psychological and cognitive value? And if it’s possible to speak of an archive that isn’t fully conscious, I also wonder what your relationship is to dreams and what role they play in your artistic process?
TATIANA TROUVÉ: My archives are somewhat peculiar and have developed on two different levels. On the one hand, they show that I’m not content with simply saving ordinary, everyday experiences—the flotsam and jetsam of our lives. The key is to conserve what is produced by some of these experiences: feelings, for example, whether related to glorious experiences involving success, or else painful ones associated with failure. On the other hand, my archives have developed as a way to conserve what produces the invisible movement where intuition can intervene, where an idea is formulated, before it assumes concrete form in a work, if at all. To my mind, that movement is powerful and essential. That’s why I used to say things out loud—things I called “Secrets” and “Lies”—speaking the words into balloons, which I then cemented or froze and conserved in my archives.
In B.I.A., I place great importance on forgetting, and I place just as much importance, in my life, on dreams, even if they don’t necessarily intersect with my work. The unconscious element in dreams obviously helps me understand certain things about myself, without my feeling the desire to draw any magical formula from them, at least not in the surrealist and mechanical sense of the term. In contrast, I play much more readily with forgetting, primarily because I value its power to almost secretly organize and direct our existence. If I forget something, my mind does so because I’m then better able to remember something else; if I remember something, it’s in order to be better able to forget the other thing: forgetting makes choices and affects selections in such a way that we could describe remembering and forgetting as two sides of the same coin. For me, forgetting has a creative charge. If I recall a party with guests and I describe it as I remember it, and then I repeat the same exercise a day later, I’ll remember the party and the description I gave of it. However, if I continue the experiment, my first memory will gradually begin to merge with the various subsequent representations I’ve made of it, making facts that really happened appear as a kind of genre painting. This protocol implies that newness is one of the possible horizons of forgetting. In B.I.A., this operation is introduced in the Sand Cell. It’s a little sand construction with a desk and chair. When you enter it, you find sand lying on the table, and there’s a leather apron you have to put on to prevent the sand from falling to the ground. Everything you do inside this cell literally becomes a language, or discourse, of sand—inscribed without ever becoming permanent.
RICHARD SHUSTERMAN: Both in your interviews and in texts dealing with your work, you’ve often mentioned your interest in literature. B.I.A., which you describe as the general matrix for your artistic creation, is itself described in terms of a project that has an underlying literary character. You also mention certain literary influences: Calvino, Borges, Perec, and others. However, I’ve never encountered any reference to philosophers. As a “professional philosopher,” I’d be curious to know more about your relationship to philosophy.
TATIANA TROUVÉ: That’s true. I described the B.I.A. as a matrix that has allowed me to produce multiple systems of creation and reflection. However, I didn’t wish to assert that this matrix could reproduce, in its entirety, a project of a literary nature, but rather that, at several points, it might cross paths with elements and procedures identifiable in certain literary works. With these literary references, I was alluding to certain intersections with other artistic universes I think are particularly important. I’ve often taken the example of Dino Buzzati’s Il Grande ritratto (1960), or else of Perec’s Les Choses (1965). I also was delighted to discover Bela Tarr’s films and Lynne Cohen’s photography since they provided consolation for my universe. If both writers and philosophers have sometimes written about my work, it’s yet again, I think, because of affinities most often discovered by surprise or through chance encounters. Talking and discussing things can lead to the desire to pursue a more elaborate conversation, and when the chance arises, I like to seize the opportunity. My relationship to philosophy is tied to these encounters and their ramifications.
RICHARD SHUSTERMAN: You sometimes speak of your artistic work of archives, representation, and doubling in terms of “fiction.” In the philosophical tradition of the West, there’s a strong tendency to define art as being contrasted to real life—contrasting the represented image to the thing itself, and verisimilitude to the truth. This opposition between art and life, like that between aesthetics and praxis, does not feature prominently in other cultures, for example in Asia or Africa. Couldn’t one see your efforts to document real experiences—archiving real documents and sound recordings of real events—as a kind of epistemological labor? Does it express, in other words, a search for truth, an “art of living,” in the sense of an artistic expression of the classical philosophical imperative to “know thyself”? I’m asking you this because your oeuvre and your artistic focus are often defined in close relationship to life, to your life. How would you situate your artistic project with respect to projects of caring both for the self and for the world? To put the question more bluntly, and in more commonplace terms, what are the ethical, social, and political implications of your artistic project?
TATIANA TROUVÉ: I don’t think my work belongs to the realm of fiction, even if, especially in the past, it does sometimes appeal to it. And although I gladly concur with your second suggestion, about knowledge of the self, I would speak of it without opposing it to forms of fiction. As far as I’m concerned, this relationship is expressed by a self-doubling that I have deliberately provoked. When I speak of doubling, I refer to the existence of two twin sisters—two Tatiana Trouvé’s who take one another by the hand, encourage each other, and keep each other balanced enough to get things done together: one allows herself to follow her train of thought, while the other gets down to physical tasks; one gives in to the necessity of being quiet, while the other is convinced of the necessity of getting things done. At first, I brought about the separation in order to unify and organize my work: in a way, I had to be both the engineer and construction worker for the project I was undertaking. It went beyond the B.I.A. because this form of organization afforded me a lot of liberty in my activities. But this doubling never placed a living Tatiana on one side and an artist Tatiana on the other. No, the two are very much alive, and they are both artists who share the same world. I’d like to mention here that this doubling is an absolutely conscious strategy that has nothing to do with schizophrenia, as some people have sometimes hastily suggested. I therefore do not consider art to be on the one side and life on the other. For me, the two are essentially linked. But I don’t think this relationship between art and life can be reduced to an “art of living,” understood as the fusion of art and life. In the past, my work has sometimes been interpreted as an “art of survival,” even if I have never proposed any methods nor given instruction to anyone in it. This art did not have the role of a manifesto. However, because elements stemming directly from social life were brought up, perhaps those who viewed my work were able to share my experience, perhaps they were affected or moved by them, and perhaps that was important for me. Although this doesn’t give a social function to my art, it doesn’t take any social dimension away from it either. Now that my works no longer offer direct links to the social, the implication is perhaps not quite the same. Actually, I don’t think there is any more fiction to my current sculptures than there are love stories in abstract painting. But does that mean they’re entirely separate from the social? I work with different forms of expression, and I use different experiences from my life. I’ve always concentrated on the spatial and temporal coordinates of those experiences as a way to create intermediate dimensions where these can be played out otherwise. My work’s aesthetic and political commitment can probably be found within that field of research, which defines ways of world-making and ways of being in the world.
RICHARD SHUSTERMAN: You told me you redesigned your studio so that you could really live there to stay close to your works day and night. Do you have trouble separating yourself from your works, sending them to exhibitions, galleries, and collectors? The concept of project, which seems to be very important for your work, is essentially orientated towards the future. As indicated by its etymology, “project” means throwing forward. What relation do you have to your past works once they are completed and sold? Do you think of them as finished products or rather as elements or stages of a continuous project—temporary means for an ever-deferred and infinite end?
TATIANA TROUVÉ: I remodeled my studio so I could live and work there because, in a very concrete way, it allows me to stay concentrated without interruption over periods that are related to different projects. On the other hand, I have no trouble separating myself from my work. Quite the contrary, I think that once things have been completed, they detach themselves from us of their own accord. The ideas and the media in which they are embodied are made to circulate, and I certainly hope that the people who own my work don’t stop sharing it. If form is the sediment of content, then it only reaches its fullest sense in the experience it affords. The material separation therefore in no way brings about a rupture or disappearance. Works are enriched by our memory of them, whether of a form, a material, or an intuition. Sometimes we follow up on these memories and sometimes we don’t. I don’t keep works at home or in my studio, because it’s important for me after an exhibition to return to an empty space that allows me to open up a new field of possibilities.
RICHARD SHUSTERMAN: You’ve mentioned that the body is very important in your art. Yet representations of the body seem entirely absent from it, even if a body is sometimes suggested in an indirect way (for example, in the exhibition Time Snares, at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Miami, by a pair of shoes that can be seen behind a panel that doesn’t quite reach the floor) or in a more analogical way (for example, again in Time Snares, through metal bars on which pieces of leather are corseted or merely hung, suggesting bodies, as in bones and flesh). Yet again, in B.I.A. and the Polders, the human body is essentially implied through the presence of mechanisms, projects, and archives that suggest an embodied subject who has to use his or her body to act, even for the most implicit activities. Elsewhere, you say that the B.I.A. is “comparable to a body” because of the fact that it is “modified by its growth and alterations.” But I imagine that the role of the body in your work goes far beyond this model of growth and transformation. The body is the point that defines the subject’s space; the body is also the basic medium for appreciating time and duration—the beating of the heart, the rhythm of breath. The body is also, of course, the archive of past time, and not only in the form of “muscle memory.” Does body consciousness or, more precisely, your body consciousness play a role in the way you explore space, time, and memory—elements that are clearly important in your artistic work?
TATIANA TROUVÉ: All the hypotheses you’ve suggested strike me as important, and even very interesting, because they touch on my central concerns. They would, I think, provide enough material for an entirely separate interview. I’ll limit myself to responding briefly to several of the points you’ve brought up. The B.I.A. is an architectural ensemble consisting of Modules on the scale of the human body. When it was exhibited, the viewer found him- or herself in the position of an intruder visiting a work site that had been abandoned by its user or users. Except for the Modules devoted to waiting, none of them were open to the viewer. The viewer is therefore the passive witness to an operative, but absent, body. The visitor is not a third wheel since he or she occupies the privileged place of the voyeur. But his or her body is not directly engaged.
The Polders are reduced spaces. They’re too big to be architectural models, but too small to be usable. They put visitors out of step in relation to the environment they’re entering. It’s as if the scale of the objects were absorbed by the architecture that houses them, as if the forms of the objects had been absorbed by the material that composes them. The doors are sunk into the walls, and objects are frozen while apparently in the midst of falling, as if the emptiness of these spaces, their alterations and densities, created a recessed body. I could reverse your proposal that “the body is the point that defines the subject’s space.” In my work, where there is effectively no representation of the subject, space constructs the body of a potential subject. I remember reading a story told by a dwarf about how he lived. He explained why he had decided to take on the manners and dress of a tourist. He talked about a relationship to space and architecture, affirming that tourists are visitors to a world to which they do not belong, through which they pass only to disappear, and from which they bring souvenirs back home. This dwarf had therefore constructed his life by taking note of a relationship to a space and a world in which the proportions of objects kept him from having an active life: in this world, it was no longer worth living except as a tourist. This could be a metaphor for the experience I’m offering the viewer.
RICHARD SHUSTERMAN: You sometimes seek to express and create aesthetic experiences that are troublesome in some way, experiences of disquiet (or “intranquillité,” to refer to one of your titles). Your central image of the bureau is far from signifying a space of pleasure or an architecture designed for beauty: it’s neither a beach nor a palace. But even if one finds an ascetic aspect in your work, this does not exclude the fact that there is also room for the beautiful and the pleasurable—because there is no real conceptual contradiction between asceticism and aestheticism, between discipline and pleasure. What is your relation to pleasure and the beautiful in art?
TATIANA TROUVÉ: If the B.I.A. provided the “central image” for all of my work, I think it has evolved. It has been in existence for 10 years now and engendered different Modules in which certain activities were developed. The Polders were part of one of my three “archives,” and at that point it was a matter of reconstructing places in which I’d lived or something had happened: they were reconstructions of space and memory in the form of models. There was something very strange about them, no doubt because of the approximate way that memory interprets situations and places. That exercise subsequently engendered and developed increasingly large productions that my archives were soon no longer able to contain. The Polders ended up leaving the Modules and started to colonize the ensemble of the B.I.A. to such an extent that they ended up burying it and proliferating in exhibitions. Currently, even I no longer know if, when I do an installation, it’s still a Polder. It is certainly true, though, that I have not realized a B.I.A. Module since 2003. In a way, it ended up disappearing into what it had produced. That disappearance is an expression of beauty: for me, the beautiful comes from the association of a form with a concept. We could say that the B.I.A.’s beauty is expressed in its very disappearance, which is also its completion. I also think of that poem by Baudelaire, who falls in love with a passerby that he sees only for a moment or two, since his desire for her is associated with the melancholic feeling of her irrevocable loss. Pleasure, here, cannot be dissociated from the ephemeral. I don’t think beauty is strictly a matter of form, whether it be the form of beaches, coconut trees, or hospitals.
RICHARD SHUSTERMAN: To understand works of art, but also to sell them, there’s a recurring tendency to identify artists with movements or specific artistic groups, or with national fields and traditions. What do you, whose experience is so international and transcultural, think of the artist’s passport? You were born in Italy of an Italian mother and a French father, you lived in Dakar, in Africa, between the ages of eight and 15, and you studied art in France and Holland before returning to France to work. You don’t seem especially eager to be labeled as a “French artist,” and you say quite explicitly that “these identifications or geographic or cultural identities do not apply to what I put into place, just as I don’t think that they are the motivation for my personal experiences.” Your words remind me of Wittgenstein’s remark: “A philosopher is not a citizen of any community of ideas. That is what makes him a philosopher.” In your opinion, does the artist have to renounce all communities of thought, all cultural identifications to preserve his or her creative freedom?
TATIANA TROUVÉ: I don’t think an artist has to renounce all communities of thought and cultural identifications, but I also don’t think he has to see himself as a part of any particular one of them, or to submit to their laws and become a “citizen” of them, as Wittgenstein suggests in that beautiful quotation. Many of my contemporaries work with the idea of strict communitarian, cultural, ethnic, or sexual belonging. The identification of art with communities of thought or culture is one way that art works, and it has been at the center of artistic production for some time. Indeed, it has long since become a legitimate element of the art world, and it responds to the demand for new objects of desire. I fully agree with Wittgenstein’s remark, but doesn’t that already inscribe me in a new community?
RICHARD SHUSTERMAN: Like philosophers, artists are supposed to improve in their work through the maturity of age. How do you see your future artistic development? Do you already have plans for the work to come after your current projects? Are there subjects, media, or cultures that you would particularly like to explore and incorporate into your artistic oeuvre?
TATIANA TROUVÉ: Your comment is correct, but it’s unfortunately not always the case in fact. Some artists lose their creativity with age; their sources of inspiration or reflection die out and their work loses all its interest. No plan, however strong, will be able to alter that mystery. I hope it won’t happen to me: wrinkles don’t scare me, but that certainly does. For years now, I have allowed myself to be guided by my work and my intuitions. I become interested in certain media and subjects once they find themselves justified by the content, thought, or idea of a piece. But here again, it’s by looking back that I can more or less imagine where my work is likely to lead me. I believe more and more that the fields in which my sculpture and installations come together are opened by links between abstraction and architecture, between experiences of space and of the body. I’d like to do sculptures of echoes, falling, emptiness, depressurization, magnetism…