STARTUP 2 - Page 78

artist, play a primordial role in all of the actions she undertakes (inventorying, arranging, wearing, traveling). When de Groot places the object in a setting or alongside other objects from museum collections, they give sustenance to the narrative propositions through their “(hi)story” and influence the forms that it produces, which evoke the body, the face, bonds, family relations, an altar on which a burial offering is placed, store shelves, processions and the crowd.

To the extent to which the objects’ stories contribute, on the material and conceptual levels, to the elaboration of Le Poids des objets, I believe it is essential to view the textual elements of the project not as the explanatory extension of the object but rather as materials in their own right, at bottom constituting, because of its collaboration, a proposition distinguished from other investigations into material culture by its work with found objects.(10) As in the installation War Objects (2000-6) by the Lebanese artist Lamia Joreige, the collected objects are surrounded by testimony which places individual experience and the writing of history in tension through the gathering of artefacts to be interpreted.(11) By emphasizing the lived relation with an object, de Groot enquires into what makes history and confers on seemingly ordinary artefacts the role of witness, by virtue of the stories they bring out.

The Summit Meetings: from the Object-witness to the Object-protagonist

At the heart of this work we also find a fiction of the encounter, one rooted in the idea of an object’s “identity.” This idea is reinforced throughout the project by a personification which culminates in the space of Rencontres au sommet. Here de Groot takes up the connections that she establishes between objects from the angle of filiation, genealogy and resemblance. In Portrait de famille (2011), she photographed the objects selected from the collection of the Musée de la civilisation. Beginning with the film La Réserve (2012), then more assertively in Rencontres au sommet (2014-16), they gradually pass from the status of witness to that of protagonist. The objects come to life like the protagonists of a story through their being joined with the body of the artist in performances in which she dresses up in them – in the installation Le Manteau (The Coat, 2012) and in the videos of Rencontres au sommet, in which they create a shadow theatre reminiscent of the metamorphoses of the body seen in the exhibition En exercice.(12) In the end, then, Raphaëlle de Groot’s work imparts a corporeal quality to her materials, which are transfigured by their encounter with their fellow objects.

Rencontres au sommet thus shows, side by side, objects from the artist’s collection, objects from museum collections and works produced for the project Le Poids des objets. Given the same status, all these elements profit from a reinterpretation made possible by their encounter in the same space. The pictorial space of the series of drawings Les Minutes (2014) takes up this idea by presenting in an undifferentiated manner several images of objects and reproductions of textual elements. The series of drawings becomes a register of the various states of encounter between images of the objects (Les Minutes A) on the one hand and some of the information available about them (Les Minutes B) on the other, according to the various ways these elements may share something.(13) Rencontres au sommet thus transforms the space of the exhibition into an arena for the encounter of objects which redefine each other, like identities confronted with otherness. By giving new play to the relations between the objects in the exhibition space, by making them produce new images and by placing them in relations that have been stripped of their hierarchies, the exhibition invites us to conceive new social and historical interpretations of them. redefine each other, like identities confronted with otherness. By giving new play to the relations between the objects in the exhibition space, by making them produce new images and by placing them in relations that have been stripped of their hierarchies, the exhibition invites us to conceive new social and historical interpretations of them.

Forms of the Invisible

As a whole, the project Le Poids des objets is also paradigmatic of how a protean body of work is constituted and takes into account several moments of the creative process behind it. Thus the scope of the project, its unfolding in time and its multitude of distinct phases involve both a shift to new settings for the creation and presentation of work (residency, studio, exhibition) and the establishment of new investigative methods designed to make works within the project and prevent us from taking everything in with a single glance. The re-use or circulation of the same objects from one stage to the next, and even the disappearance of some of them, as if swallowed up by more powerful and more resolute sculptural forms which de Groot will then re-incorporate into the “objects” of her collection, present a constant obstacle to the idea of totality, in addition to weakening the status of the work of art. “Even in its resistance to being a work, to making a work,” Louis Déry wrote as early as 2006, “this oeuvre that unfolds between process and documentation, between what resides in the intangible and what is embodied in living material, dispossesses us of an expedient that, however arbitrary, generally offers the appreciable illusion of certifying the status of an artistic undertaking as an artwork.”(14) This resistance to the uniqueness of a work of art or, rather, this effort to maintain the presence of the irresolute despite the production of “forms,” exists in the work of Raphaëlle de Groot in a more radical manner than elsewhere. The protean nature of Le Poids des objets thus echoes the plurality of voices generated by collaboration while at the same time bearing the complexity, irreducibility and invisible nature of our relations with objects.(15) By making connections with a wide variety of artefacts which reference just as many experiences and stories, she proceeds in the same way as in her projects based on encounters, in which she brings out the irreducibility of the figure of the Other. She produces an encounter which takes into account the singularity of these stories at the same time as it makes perceptible the knots into which recurring experiences flow, making possible their sharing, their “being in common.”iii