Matthieu Clainchard, Nicolas Milhé
curated by Nadja Geer
One Minute Space, Athens
17.03. – 08.04.2023
When I invited Nicolas Milhé and Matthieu Clainchard to have a show in OMS they told me that whatever they are going to build into the space, the material should be reused material from the street. Luckily Athens is well known for its richness when it comes to discarded items. The radical negation of material value that is manifested through the cycle of consumption and rejection is both counterintuitive and surprising.
The idea to upcycling came together with our idea to build a gallery inside a gallery in OMS, a scaffold that can hold art works but also can be regarded as a sculptural object in itself; a site-specific large-scale sculpture – a type of architectural object; an art bar.
Bar has a lot of meanings: On the one hand it is a counter in a pub, restaurant, or cafe across which drinks or refreshments are served, on the other it means a long rigid piece of wood, metal, or similar material, typically used for constructions as a fastening device. In my mind was always as well the idea of the bar as the form of the transversal.
The last ten days we spent together it was all about construction, and about having fun creating something together. It also involved a lot of transporting material from the streets or from one space to the other. OMS has recently opened its basement to the public, and it was there that Matthieu and Nicolas found the chipboard with the white plastic veneer that they utilized for the outer wall of the pavilion – workers have been using it as the cover for shelves for storage.
We have been discussing a lot the notion of the pavilion as maybe the most emblematic architectural form for representing art by nationality. The concept behind Pavillon in One Minute Space transcends the politics of evaluation and national identity to create an alternative. And because both artists work with the dispositive, we also thought about if it is possible to subvert the exercise of power within the social body. Georgio Agamben wrote that it is urgent to promote the profanation of the dispositives in order to bring to light the ungovernable, which is at the same time the beginning and the vanishing point of all politics. I see a connection here in the way Nicolas works with assemblage and symbols in his Neo Conceptualism. I was especially delighted when he told me that he would be able to bring “Rosa Luxemburg” (2014) over, a middle-sized bronze, one out of eight as he told me, that he produced after he won the Prix MAIF. I immediately feel in love with this sculpture; I was stunned by the procedure of re-modeling, producing the figurine with the help of a random girl, a friend of his. The ghost of Rosa Luxemburg still haunts the Left and I thought it was amazing that an artist brings her and the Internationale back to life by situating her outside the usual topographies to create new spaces of transition.
“As both a political declaration in the public space and the reappropriation of this public space by politics, the work of Nicolas Milhé is an invaluable bulwark against the convention that parch democracy, the form of private appropriation which carve it up, the enslaving effect of money, and the disenchantment too, the democratic fatigue which affects all citizens.”
This “democratic fatigue” that Olivier Christin mentions here in regard to Nicolas’ work formed the basis of the narrative that Nicolas and Matthieu brought on the table when we start discussing the exhibition. Our inaugural question was what “engaging with politics and questioning our current post-utopian
condition” could mean. Are we really living in a post-utopian condition and the question that would follow would be – what is a utopian condition? Eden?
For me personally it was clear that all this kind of discussions circle around the question: What is left? Or where is left? The question of the position of the left in the contemporary global political field. Post-Socialism after 1989, the loss of an alternative, as it was often put, lead maybe to this form of leftist depression that Mark Fisher described best in his “Capitalist Realism” – this disappointment especially in the cultural left when all their visions of a better future that they integrated into their artistic production in the 1960’s never worked out. As Fisher describes it rightly: None of these utopian ideas artists, writers, film makers and pop musicians envisioned became reality. The better future is still to come – or might never come at all.
It is a pleasure for me that Matthieu managed to bring “Covers, UBIK 5&6/10” (2022) to Athens, an under-glass painting of a book cover of the science fiction author Philip K. Dick. The cover of the book shows a stunning design and as Matthieu told me – and I really never thought about it before – that record covers often have a second life as art works. Peter Blake might be the name to drop here, but also book covers live quite a life in the shadow of the content. Giving this side issue a new stage could be seen as part of Matthieu’s artistic methodology next to an amazing eye for detail. The best idea of Postmodernism – dehierachize! – finds its echo in his approach of expanding horizons to such an extent that one cannot help but close the chasm – the chasm between high art and pop, trivial and artistically valuable. The quotation most of us know that Matthieu Clainchard stitched on Aldi plastic bags takes on a new drama in view of the current world situation. “A History Repeating” (2022), forms for me another transversal across nations, times and politics, shedding a new light on to “Chronopolitics”, the impact of time perspectives on the dynamic of change, the theme of OMS in 2023.
The double meaning of bar – as a social place, a host and a place to consume and a transversal division, dividing and bringing together anew what was cut up by conventions, is an interesting model to present art. The Pavillon Bar in OMS be will be open every Friday night in the next four weeks.
Thank you Eric Stephany, Florent Frizet, Lola Poustis, Eleonore Brochain, Jules Cartier and Bruno d’Hubert – you were an amazing help.
 Georgio Agamben: Was ist ein Dispositiv? Diaphanes, Zürich-Berlin. 2008, S. 40f.
 Olivier Christin, Government of The Many, in: V, Edition Samy Abraham, Le Presses Du reel, Dijon 2017, p. 44.
Images by Thanassis Gatos