Comma : Lepidopteran –butterfly – of the citrus species whose back and wings are orangy brown with numerous white dots underneath its hindwings. But also obsolete name of the traditional ‘colon’ which used to be placed between two equal spaces…
Therefore it will be through punctuation that I will approach the works of Audry Liseron-Monfils, punctuation signs are present in his plastic works (cf. « Corp-us 04.02 ») but also in his attitude towards the world as a man who organizes his discourse. Drawings, installations of almost ready-made artefacts, performances : the vocabulary is basic and simple and already well integrated into the history of Art – the word performance was used for the first time by the Futurists at a night-show in Naples in 1914. So where do this curiosity and this questioning come from every time we are confronted to his « works in the making », dixit the artist ? such as « Scapes flows drawings » or « What’s night’s up to ? ». The breathing introduced in a text by punctuation signs is similar to that of a marathon runner : what matters is the way you manage your efforts over the distance, (physical efforts for one and reading efforts for the other) with a single motive : what you are going through, not simply crossing the finishing line…
I practise what is called active manoeuvres (attempted behavioural invasions of the environment by the artist and extending artefacts) which are part of performing art. What interests me in performing is not the physical performance (cf. Corp-us « My Favourite Swimming Pool ». Above all, it allows to blur the frontiers by mixing mediums and media. Performing brings me back to the concept of systems or sets, which I’m particularly keen on. Therefore, when I make drawings, what I really care about is the time I spend doing them and the way they relate to each other, rather than what they represent. From a conceptual point of view, my practise is structured on two complementary axis : control and experimentation. This bipolarity is also present in my plastic means of expression, with occasional displays of formal works together with Performance Art.
My performances can take place in public, but there’s no set rule and it’s not an aim in itself. The « show » side doesn’t belong in my plans, and sometimes, the performance has ended before the visitors turn up, they can only see the traces of it, the left overs. If I stretch my concept to its limits, may be I’ll have to replace the performance itself with 3D modelling (as is already the case with « Tip it over ») since only gestures, time and meaning can hold my attention.
Emil Michel Cioran wrote : « Creation was the first act of sabotage ». I keep on fighting easiness, especially in terms of know-how – because I’m looking for the reverse shot of seduction. Yes, you could mean sabotage, may be by knowing that the word refers to the idea of ruin, but also of clogs (sabots in French) and this relates to the « foot wearing a boot » at the Artists’ Residency in Kër Thiossane, shown at the 2010 Afropixel Festival.
I use methodologies that I drag out of their context to experiment with them in a different situation. The result could perhaps look very stiff and definitive if it didn’t trigger my intuition in its turn. It is what situationists would call a diversion or a rerouting. As an individual and moreover as an artist, I offer this idea of vigilance to the world : let’s refuse unchanging representations. This desire of clear vision, the idea of feeling responsible for the way we look at our environment, the danger of being manipulated, all can be found in my project Corp-us « Bright Light of the Dark Eyes » made during my residency at Bandits-Mages. My « see & criticize » act is also drawn from the news and from the history of art. When I drew the bronze rabbit’s head from the collection of Yves Saint-Laurent « My auction YSL-B », it was perfectly represented. Then I erased part of it and pasted what was left of it on the drawing : my aim was to reveal the contents of the image by erasing it. Therefore I build paradox into my works, it is very stimulating food for thought because it enables to push conceptual tools to their limits. This idea of paradox is also present in the title « Corp-us, My Favorite Swimming Pool » which is not located in a swimming pool but in the street.
When I introduce improvisation into my performances, it is to put a stop to what would otherwise be final. It is reassuring to see that, although being part of a system or a logic (either imposed or self-imposed), I can challenge them, divert them or stop them. Paradoxically, we could say that improvisation becomes the ultimate stage of control… The world is an iceberg : 90% of its volume is unseen. As an artist I try to reveal all this latency. This idea of latency can be found in the phrase « latency period » which describes the delay between an action and the trigger of a reaction, as in a volcano. In « What’s night’s up to » I walk around the ridge of a volcano, at night – because the night reveals an imaginative world.
Space supports expression. It can be bright as well as dark, or finite, well defined or infinite. But the space limits do not abolish the space they contain. I think this is where the thematic of fiction plays a role, rather than in its relation to time – as our first hunch could be. Fiction has this grace, this ability to offer us truth instead of simple pieces of information. It is a kind of poetry of the real world. The absence of light favours this poetry by deleting us or by erasing – since I erase – the visual aspect of our environment : it generates tales and myths and sends us back to our self. For example, when we gather around a candle, we unconciously create social binds which are much stronger than when the room is lit by a bulb. The electric bulb stretches the binds and at the same time it allows a freedom of movement. When the man in « What’s night’s up to ? » pulls out his torch, he exerts his freedom, he literally grabs his life and takes the door. He sets out on a trip towards the unknown, but isn’t that the real meaning of our lives ? Like Michaux, who uses movement as a privileged means of self-examination, I translate myself into rythm, territories by means of physical or psychological movement and this is where the fold comes up…
Walking is unfolding the mountain… The folds are around us and serve us. Books are paper folds, the painting may have originally been a polyptych, fundamentally a surface and a fold. Just like the sequence of day and night, folds lead to covering and unveiling. Unfolding is not the opposite of folding but its continuity and it can be infinite. This fold appears in some of my drawings, I call it « rend-pli » (return the fold).
When I practise performance art, I amputate myself. I either crawl or I make myself invisible, there’s always something missing in the sense of what one can expect from a human being. Therefore I can find myself rather powerless in the face of the other people, whom I enable, at a given time, to exert their power over me. In a certain way, I question their free will, although my aim is not to put myself in danger. To make up for the handicaps I impose on myself, I use prosthetic devices, a system of objects which put me afloat, which set me back in the « human competition ». This relation to ergonomics and daily routines can be compared to that of a designer who thinks about objects that are connected to historical, cultural and sociological contexts. Up to now, I paid attention to the materials I used in my creations. The result is composite. I mix materials of different natures, I place them side by side but I don’t use hybridization (concept of interbreeding). Each material still lives its own life, even if it is used within a system. It doesn’t mix. The way I use objects is similar to Zinna’s description : every object works like a dual interface :
– a subject interface, which structures the relations between the user and the object (cabin in « Cour d’air » in 1997, corrugated panelled volume in Corp-us 0402.)
– an object interface, which organizes the relations between the object and its « objectual » environment. (the modified agricultural tool used for the 1996 « du Rural au Local » exhibition in Montflanquin or the matress made for the play entitled « Frozen » in 1997.) Therefore I create « new objects », not in the sense of technological breakthroughs, but more in that of gestures and relations.
I can relate to the idea of knowledge. It infers the notion of truth and justification, so it appeals to reason but it must be a springboard which helps us to express ourselves. It is that expression that I’m trying to find to reach the unveiling of the human being and reach behind the surface. Spinoza used the notion of expression to do without the traditional concept of creation et push further away the thinking subject. I have also noticed that when we speak of knowledge, the phrase « we know » transforms us into receivers. When we address the concept of expression, the phrase « we express ourselves » converts us into transmitters. This transmitter-receiver concept can be found in my Installation art, in which I use a sound or a recording broadcast from one place, which can be listened to in a different location. The sound travels through space « under ground » and resurfaces. I don’t try to build a sound space in itself : most of the time it consists in visitors’ comments. This sound trace is the proposition of an alternative path to the one followed by the visitors. They find themselves in a sort of urban audio-naturalism which tries to establish a poly-sensoriality. (Cf. Corp-us 04.02). This sound is the organon of the near-far – to quote Michel Deguy in his « Spleen de Paris » : the ear works like a zoom.
For me, the pitfal of Performance art would be to use narration. I admit I use the effect of curiosity, which is a tool of narrative tension (for example when I rub my body against the pavement in the streets of Manhattan.) It’s Hitchcock’s « whodunit ». Only, by giving a quick answer to the questioning, I don’t let the passers-by grow a feeling of impatience. Setting the scene in present time is another means of avoiding narration. Every narration is a « diegesis » (tale) in the way that it can only reach an illusion of « mimesis » (imitation) by making the story real and alive (cf G. Genette). A narration pre-supposes a narrator. However I could be considered as acting-narrating through gestures, efforts, breathing and crawling if I didn’t set my performance in the present moment. But what about video recordings of these performances ? Aren’t they narrations ? Yes, may be, because my aim is in a way to establish or keep a contact with potential readers. It’s a question I should get into more closely because communication is part of narrative logic.
Of course time management is important, be it in exhibits (time of reflection, time of manufacture, time of exhibition) or during the performance. Time doesn’t exist outside us, it’s a construction of human brains. Animals and plants live in the present. When I transform myself in a sub slug in « Corp-us, My Favourite Swimming Pool », I change tenses. I put the stress on the fact that we are living among heterogeneous times. In that instance, time is an element which is as meaningful as the suit or the metallic mask I wear. I would even reckon it is an apriorism because it precedes all sensitive data. It organizes all man-made experiences.
Action (performance) and manufacture (objects on exhibit) are two notions which are intimately intertwined. Manufactured objects are the products of human activities and they overlive them, whereas actions are fugitive. What brings them together is their relation to the fleetingness of human existence. Furthermore, time’s spatial counterpart is the temple (same etymology), it so happens that I recently took an interest in this type of building. I’m working on a project which could mix « templum », crabs and drawings… In the Caribbean islands, time is historical, linear but off-balance. The conscience of the past is so much distended that it overwhelms the present which aborts itself. The future being the collection of presents to come, it seems very difficult for me to contemplate it. Caribbeans are craving for their lost time.
Verticality and horizontality are fundamentally human concepts. The dramatic tension of existence is born from the opposition of these two directions. Henri Maldiney – unassuming thinker of philosophy, art and psychiatry, postulates walking (horizontality) as a step after step trip towards the future. It’s a journey and self-realization comes under the definition of « experii » in Latin and « erfahren » in German, a word which is also connected to the idea of experience. Verticality encompasses the temporal meaning of transformation and self-realization through metamorphosis. On one side you can find an epic mode and on the other one, a tragic mode. As I walk on a stretch of land, I can preview the distances, this supposes I walk away from the past, and I give myself a possibility to go backwards, to retreat, to hide or to go astray. Going upwards is not only a way into the future, but also an effort to conquer it. And should you go astray, the consequences are considerably more serious in the course of this « escalade » because a fall, vertigo and non-return are among the possible risks. So when I opt for horizontality or when I do a performance with objects that are better known for their verticality, not only do I refuse to fall, but I abolish this fundamental spatial scheme of man’s self-realization through metamorphosis.
If a single aspect of my works had to be retained, it wouldn’t be the body in action but more likely the human being. For example, walking as well as any work of art, are actually no more than a means of making yourself available to others. They create the relationship which always generates an underlying « potential of love », an exchange of energy and warmth. Recently I realized that humour was now emerging from my works. Humour implies the notion of culture. It is ambiguous because others may consider it as a mockery or an insult. Therefore it can include or exclude. It refuses heroism and accepts the elusive aspect of finiteness. Humoristic « traits » bring us back to the everyday nature of everyday life, to the « sensus communis ». But it can also make fantastic things look familiar. « Humour sends us back to the real world by making it surreal. We go back to the things themselves while at the same time we are far away from them. In that sense, humour provides us with an oblique phenomenology of everyday life, of what is banal. » Simon Critchley.
Author’s notes : If I try to analyse the creative process which brings to life the works presented here, I seem to be facing a classical artist, at least at first sight : Audry uses a context, which is his frame (like the frame of a painting) and injects a clever mixture of improvisation and method into it. Only the tools and the media actually change : here the shoes replace the brush, the pavement is the canvas. In the end, the commitment is the same : it’s that of an artist who tries to change the course of certain things… But I believe that amazement, that feeling which triggers the philosophical attitude we experience in front of these works, doesn’t belong in his conceptual reasoning – which by the way is rather interesting – but in what I’d call the « nepantla » (in-between space), Nahual concept that I divert from its Mexican context. Originally, the nepantla indicates psychological, spiritual and material spots of potential transformation (spatial and temporal punctuation). What happens between the initial artistic concept and the final plastic creation – the nepantla – is at the same time an introductory space, a potential boundary or an interface, according to the selected point of view. By extension, those who master this skill, the « in-betweeners », are bridges, they act as watchkeepers because they have the ability to move across a multi-cultural society. The painful dimension of this trend may be a kind of withdrawal, if not of solitude which Audry Liseron-Monfils takes advantage of to reconnect, to pull himself together again through his work.
« And on the drawing board ? »
« Maybe just silence ».