BY Sophie Berrebi in Reviews | 06 JUN 98
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Issue 41

Véronique Boudier

BY Sophie Berrebi in Reviews | 06 JUN 98

Some exhibitions leave you with a bitter aftertaste: they are utterly disagreeable to experience but at the same time, impossible to forget. Boudier's show is one of these: it begins with a tacky installation made from everyday objects, supporting a flimsy discourse, and ends - almost by mistake - suggesting a hauntingly powerful statement about femininity, creation and the dreaming unconscious.

In the first room, translucent, amber-coloured forms made of cast gelatine are scattered on the floor and left to mould, diffusing a sickly smell. Neon tubes are dispersed amidst this mess, evoking a kind of low-brow pastiche of Robert Morris' 1968 Untitled (Threadwaste). But far from Morris's sophisticated mise-en-scene of Antiform, Boudier's tubes are simply thrown here and there as if to highlight the aftermath of a banana-flavoured Jell-O battle.

In the following room, plastic blisters formerly used as moulds for the gelatine forms are stapled together, creating a huge ovoid shape, which hangs from above, seemingly clutching the bumps and pipes running across the ceiling. Here again, one hesitates between smiling at an Eva Hesse re-hash, and shrugging one's shoulders at the clumsy balloon. Near this cocoon is a large image the size of a cinema screen showing a figure standing amidst a desolate snowy landscape, holding an old-fashioned scent bottle as if it were a trophy, and conscientiously spraying perfume into the cold air. This silkscreen print is part of a series of performances called 'Que des gestes inutiles' in which Boudier stages and then records useless actions, which also include covering a full-frontal nude photo of herself with a beach towel. Boudier's 'useless gestures' cross Gide's acte gratuit with Dadaism, and it is less in the idea than in the very image that we find a clue as to the real theme of the exhibition.

The hand spraying the perfume is like an index: it directs one towards the thousands of dots that compose the silkscreen image and become visible when one gets closer to it. Moving back and forth in front of this image, one experiences the shift from the constructed form to its dissolution into dots, and one suddenly becomes aware that this shifting is the very subject of the exhibition.

As the gelatine powder has been dissolved, given shape and then left to mould and disappear, the plastic blisters, having lost the object that was once their raison d'être, clumsily try to become another form. In this way, the artist shifts between shapeless sensations and intuitions, and the final art object. This parallel between the process of artistic creation and the passage of form to formlessness becomes clear in the last work of the show. It is a large blurred photograph displayed on the floor and resting against a wall, which shows a young woman cuddled up in her bed, surrounded by books of high literature placed on a bedside table. As if in a mirror image, actual books are displayed on the gallery floor by the picture. An indistinct video is superimposed onto the photo. It shows the artist pressed against a piece of plastic, which she attempts to push away in order to create room for herself, amidst the piles of books, or perhaps amidst her own dreams.

It is as if the process of creation lay between these two elements: the dream or the workings of the unconscious, and the book or the artwork. Between the two is a shift from formlessness to form, which resembles the tide's ebb and flow. Indeed, Boudier's gelatine - a substance that she often uses - is comparable to Virginia Woolf's evocation of water. The waves reactivate sensations and memories and force them away from the shore, so that they can become a work of art. Even through the gruesome display of crude materials Boudier manages to suggest, as physically as Woolf's sentences recall flowing water, the movement between dream and creation.