Hélène Carbonnel, cluelesS, Fang Dong, Frieder Haller, Rafael Moreno
Curated by Marion Vasseur Raluy
Les Bains-Douches, Alençon
28.04 – 07.07 2023
One day, a father dies. The only message he leaves behind is a letter in a chest of drawers. Despite the search carried out by his children, the letter is never found. Instead, the chest of drawers remains inexplicably empty. It continues to exist, down through the years. It becomes, without anyone realizing it, the object of a kind of knowledge that is never revealed, the object of the secret. From one generation to the next, the object’s original story vanishes yet never ceases to be with us. Thus in our existence there are objects that stick and remain attached to our lives. There are symbolic objects that are infused by society (family jewels, dinnerware, a silver spoon, an article of clothing, handbags). There are objects that proclaim one’s status, there are objects that conceal their stories. There are objects soiled by their uses and by the abuses they made possible. These objects stick in our hearts and to our hands, occasionally dirtying or impeding us.
The show Sticky objects offers viewers a look back over the history of objects and their close relationship to our emotions by exploring their appearance in the visual arts. Based in particular on Sara Ahmed’s essay Happy Object the show focuses on the emotions that objects are loaded with, disgust, attraction, joy, sorrow, and so on. In her essay, the English sociologist demonstrates how certain objects are assigned an emotion (happiness or sadness), taking the example of the personal accomplishment of marriage symbolized by a wedding ring. Ahmed tries to deconstruct the normative representation of happiness. The question of affects has been a full-fledged subject of sociology for several years now, and like Frédéric Lordon, Ahmed interrogates emotions’ place in society. In Lordon’s work, affects are steered by capitalist society to correspond to economic demands, sadness encouraging consumption and depression encouraging inaction. These injunctions led me to question the emotional burden of objects circulating in art. Objects run through uses, they become works of art, frozen in the space of the exhibition. They then come back, sometimes forever, sometimes fleetingly, sticky objects. Without ever belonging to us, they haunt us and seem to have spoken to us about something we continue to hear. Would art objects have a magical faculty for resisting the emotional injunctions addressed to them by occasioning the appearance of unexpected emotions?
In Sticky Objects, the elements making up the show mainly come from the esthetic vocabulary that’s peculiar to the living arts. Puppets, decorative objects, and scale models fill Les Bains-Douches. This invitation to make the connection with the living arts is a sly nod to the figure of Piero Heliczer, a constant presence in the art center. CluelesS, Fang Dong, and Rafael Moreno use objects to produce sculptures that become small designer objects and objects for the theater set. Hélène Carbonnel deconstructs the kinds of talk that are heard, only to retain the errors and stuttered bits, as if to bring out what is left unsaid, what needs to be truly heard. Finally, Frieder Haller, with his new film, takes us to a world of symbolic characters in a cut-out setting who are looking to escape their diabolical nature.
The objects produced by the artists speak out, break free, get down to work. They seek other ways to exist than what memory and heritage permit. If objects are indeed sticky, by being placed together perhaps another symphony may be heard, and their sticky nature can become a strange and new skin from which we can transform ourselves.
Marion Vasseur Raluy
Photographer: Romain Darnaud