Suzanne Lafont: How Things Think: an Online Feature

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  • For her solo show at Erna Hecey Gallery, Suzanne Lafont has selected images from a multitude of body of works, dating back from the 90s. The artist has reactivated the meaning of these works and rearranged them in space to create a new situation, the exhibition. She has chosen the theatrical model as the framework for the exhibition, presented in four distinct acts, on display until 14 August 2021. For Lafont, "A situation is dependent on the interplay of elements." Her photographic practice has developed through associations: the artwork, or the exhibition, or the book is an arrangement of fragmented elements, usually temporary. Her arbitrary juxtaposition of elements and the nature of the assembled objects recall post-Cubist collages or papiers collés.

  • ACT 1

    Erna Hécey Gallery presents a show in four acts.

    The first act is set in an enclosed space with no opening on the outside. Someone is trying in vain to open up a deck chair. Several useful objects fill the space. A female bystander in turn watches over the room and shuts herself away from it by covering her ears with her hands. Several colored squares complete the arrangement. These latter elements reveal complementary information that identify them as ghost-sets where the actors never showed up. 

  • In the gallery walls, ordinary things - work gloves, food cans, cooking utensils, chairs - camp out on a stage where they take on a gestural function and express intention over the general situation. Hence the exhibition's title, How Things Think. This active community of objects confers onto images the ability to talk. A tilting head, a recalcitrant deck chair, a vinyl disk on a revolving turntable, colored-light fields with the names of absent actors as subtitles all become verbal gestures. It's as though the viewer were assisting a show of language without words.

  • Act 2

    This space, adjoining the room in which Act 1 unfolds, is a narrow corridor that opens onto a row of doors and windows overlooking an imposing bridge to the east, and the US Embassy to the west. Orchestrated like a music-hall revue, a theater troupe perform in front of the city. The performers, who did answer the call this time, stand out against the nuanced background of the first act.

  • Suzanne-Lafont_Situation-Comedy_Erna-Hecey_How-Things-Think_2021
    Situation Comedy, 2015, Carré d'Art - Musée d'art contemporain de Nîmes, France
  • ACT 3

  • Act 3 is intermittent and takes place in a windowless room. When the act comes to an end, the room lights up. A poster indicates the upcoming screening times. When the act resumes, the room is plunged into darkness. The scene then brings together the botanist Linné, his dog - both asleep - and numerous plants. The neighboring US Embassy recalls man’s first steps on the Moon. In the dog’s dream, he brings the plants along to explore the Moon’s surface. The journey materializes through film.

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  • Act 4

    Recalcitrant objects, inconsistent characters, plants and animal dreams, extraterrestrial journeys in chromo… the first three acts anticipate a sequence that uses language to handle images addressing a multitude of possibilities. In Act 4, statements such as ‘the sun rises’, ‘Goethe is late’, or ‘Arthur Cravan, the boxer’ organize seemingly fragmented acts. Under the title Strips, these short sequences can be accessed via the gallery’s online Viewing Room.

     

    Lafont’s use of language gains in density and becomes a driving force in Strips, where words call upon images, animating them, and become images themselves. The mental trajectory first goes from the word to the thing. From these assembled things, the mind then returns to language – generally through a basic sentence. Just like a nursery rhyme, a reading manual for children or a riddle, Strips pertain to the anthropological field. They capture our need for language, onto which is etched what Bertold Brecht’s terms “human social life”, and where the political is rooted.

     

  • In 2013, Jonathan Crary published an essay entitled 24/7. Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. In 1997, for Documenta X, Lafont presented a project that portrayed a society of migrants, some performing insignificant tasks and others lying motionless, absorbed in dreams and deep sleep. She saw in the mental activity triggered by inactivity a response to the dogged ‘sleep’ mode that reigns over social media, manages information circuits, and regulates societies of control. 

     

    Crary’s plea for the figure of the dreamer at the end of his essay will most likely have prompted Lafont to pursue her artistic practice of free associations, arrangement of disjointed fragments, and play on words. A continuation, in sum, of her practice of collage.

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    Trauerspiel, 1997, 110 x 91 cm, Documenta X, Underground pedestrian walkway, 2015, Carré d'Art - Musée d'art contemporain de Nîmes, France
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    Index, 2008, Erna Hecey Brussels

  • Suzanne-Lafont_artist-portrait_2021_Erna-HEcey

    Suzanne Lafont (b. in Nîmes in 1949, lives in Brussels and Paris) is well known for her conceptual work on images and narrative compositions of theatrical scenes. She turned to the visual arts following literary and philosophical studies, questioning the cultural processes of image construction. Her more recent works delve into the fictional aspect of images and explore the ludic potential of illusion. She participated in documenta IX (1992) and documenta X (1997), and had solo exhibitions at Carré d’Art, Musée d’art Contemporain, Nîmes, France (2015), Mudam Musée d’art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg (2011), Pinacotheca do Estado, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2004), Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, France (1994), MoMA, Museum of Modern Art New York, NY (1992), to name a few. 

     

    Her work is included in many important public collections such as the Art Institute of Chicago, Whitney Museum; Museum of Modern Art (MoMA); The Jewish Museum; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Art Institute of Chicago; Centre Pompidou Paris; Museion, Museum of Contemporary Art of Bolzano; Sammlung Verbund Collection, Vienna, amongst others.