BY Mark Prince in Reviews | 18 MAR 14

Tatiana Trouve

BY Mark Prince in Reviews | 18 MAR 14

Tatiana Trouvé, ‘SOMEWHERE, 18-12-95 – AN UNKNOWN – 1981’, 2014, installation view

There is a type of sculpture, made by artists including Rachel Whiteread, Gregor Schneider and Tatiana Trouvé, which stems from Bruce Nauman’s casts of the space under a chair as much as from Marcel Duchamp’s readymades. It is the inverse of the found object: the trace, space or fragment it has left behind or been reduced to. But while Whiteread or Schneider attempt to stir up the pathos of a lost past by highlighting the marks that the past has left on an object, Trouvé is more of an artificer. She assembles sculptures that tend to be made rather than readymade into skeletal intimations of functional interiors. A causal metaphor cedes to a fictional mise-en-scène, invoking an environment to which it claims only partial referential access.

And yet, Trouvé has said, ‘I don’t think my work belongs in the realm of fiction.’ What she might mean is that the impression her sculptures leave, of having decayed or become depleted in the transition from real object to art object, is a loss of function as well as recognizability. Her installation at the Schinkel Pavillon was constructed around a five-metre-long plasterboard wall, ending in a narrow ‘T’. It might have been temporary exhibition architecture, or a fragment of minimalist sculpture, suggesting both a real object’s function and an art object’s negation of function.

The pavilion is an octagonal room with windows filling seven of its facets. The installation’s title, The Guardian (2014), proposed a vantage over the surrounding cityscape, one side of which, during the exhibition, was a vast building site. Backed against the wall, what appeared to be an office chair of upholstered vinyl was the symbolic seat of a witness to this process of urban regeneration. This, along with the other objects ‘dressing’ the wall, could be interpreted as signs of pragmatism, materialism, everyday quiddity: the chair, three mattresses, three carrier bags hanging from nails, and a copper rod. But all of them, except the rod and one of the bags, were trompe l’oeil bronze or concrete casts of real objects. Two of the bags – one black, one orange – formed a dichotomy between real and artificial: the black one was cast, the orange one real; but its lower half had been dipped in black paint as though partially transformed into sculpture.

If these objects reflected the pragmatic process going on outside the windows, they did so disingenuously – their actual artifice undermined their utilitarian appearance. The concrete mattress casts, delicately registering the texture of fabric, recalled Whiteread’s work; but the fictional scenario with which Trouvé frames Whiteread’s empirical trope makes the reference to her work implicitly critical, dismissing the pathos of the causal imprint as a sentimental illusion.
Once the apparently real had been outed as artifice, this dynamic seemed to radiate outward from the installation’s vantage point, both spacially and temporally, to cast doubt on the existence of the absent real objects which were cast to produce the sculptures. Might they not be figments if the sculptures testifying to their existence have been identified as part of a fiction? Reaching further outwards, the massive entropy of the view was made to seem a static image of itself. Trouvé’s intervention conferred the glaze of the spectacle onto the mounds of excavated earth. The installation was relatively unobtrusive within the space, occupying only a few square metres, but it was able to absorb the pavilion’s baroque interior into its own force field, like the gaze of its title’s ‘guardian’. The marble floor might be merely marble-effect; and the grey curtains – of the same grey as the mattress casts – might equally be made of concrete. Masquerading under the licence of empirical representation, illusion was all-consuming.

The single element revealing the installation’s artifice was the copper rod. It rose from the floor to penetrate the wall at a diagonal, exiting at the same height but angled back towards the floor. Like a magician’s wand, its ends were painted black, so the rod seemed to glow as it approached the wall to prepare it for the ‘through the looking glass’ refraction it must undergo as it passed through. The entire installation weighed several tonnes (so heavy there was
concern about the floor’s stability at the exhibition opening), but it seemed to pivot weightlessly around the rod, as though only this minimalistic pin were puncturing its fictions, returning it to level ground and present tense.

Mark Prince is an artist and writer living in Berlin.