Memphis is pleased to present the exhibition “Porteurs et Peintures”, the first solo show in Austria by French artist Béatrice Balcou. In performances, sculptures and installations, Béatrice Balcou creates situations offering innovative exhibition rituals that invite us to contemplate our understanding of time and how we look at things – in particular works of art. Homing in on attentiveness to the materiality of the artwork and the behaviour of the viewer, she investigates our relationship to the value and the role of art today. In her works, encounters between institutions, artists and audiences materialize, characterized by qualities such as slowness, attention and concentration – qualities that are at odds with today's speed and spectacle-obsessed reality. Soberly and with great precision, the artist stages the circulation of gazes and images in the co-presence with the artwork.
As hinted at in the title, the exhibition “Porteurs et Peintures” brings together works from two series, “Recent Paintings” and the “Porteurs”, which have a common concern: they highlight rather hidden aspects that take part in the life of an art work. Reminiscent of relay batons, the glass objects “Porteurs” (produced at CIRVA, Marseille) literally are carriers. Enclosed within them are remnants of artistic material that were collected from other artists both by specialized restorers and by Balcou herself. By encapsulating and presenting these remains like secular relics, “Porteurs” testify to the diverse processes of caring for works of art, specifically the patient and meticulous work of technicians, restorers, or conservators who are responsible for the preservation of art works. Beyond that, the artist recently started to add a performative dimension by experimenting with manipulations of the work, e.g. taking the objects along for walks in public space with friends and colleagues or leaving them with neighbors for a day and a night. During her stay in Linz, Béatrice Balcou conducted several of these “experiments” together with local artists. She recorded the experiences she had during all these encounters in the form of short, lyrical texts, similar to Japanese haikus, which are part of the exhibition.
Similar to the “Porteurs”, the title of the second series of works in the exhibition, “Recent Paintings”, does not give the slightest indication of the work’s complexity. The project focusses on the restoration of reproductions of drawings and paintings on pages taken from monographic art books which suffered water and time damage. With the help of two paper conservation students from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels de La Cambre, Mathilde Bezon and Camille Jalu, these reproductions of works, e.g. by Agnes Martin, Claude Rutault, William Turner or Bas Jan Ader, were carefully restored with enormous ingenuity. In some works these interventions are invisible, in others they are actually highlighted. The series “Recent Paintings” thus points to the multi-layered effects of conservation work, which changes, expands and transforms works of art over the course of their lives and thereby creates “new material entities” (John Gayer). The work raises a whole catalog of interesting questions, such as why one should restore a copy at all or to what extent strong conservation interventions sometimes question the authorship of a work.
Accompanying the exhibition, the art theorist, critic and curator Dr. Klaus Speidel wrote two texts that are available in the exhibition and can be downloaded here:
Béatrice Balcou (*1976, France) lives and works in Brussels. Her work has been the subject of several solo and group shows, most recent include: Musée d'art de Joliette (Québec, CA), M Museum (Leuven, BE), Beige (Brussels, BE), La Ferme du Buisson contemporary art center (Noisiel, FR) Exile (Berlin, DE), Casino forum d’art contemporain (Luxembourg, LU), A tale of a tub (Rotterdam, NL), Rozentraat (Amsterdam, NL), Jeu de Paume (Paris, FR), Fondation CAB (Brussels, BE), Villa Kujoyama (Kyoto, JP), Salle Principale (Paris, FR), FRAC Ile-de-France (Paris, FR), FRAC Franche-Comté (Besançon, FR), FRAC Bretagne (Rennes, FR), FRAC Corse (Corte, FR), FRAC Champagne-Ardennes (Reims, FR), kunthalle (Recklinghausen, DE), Société (Brussels, BE), galerie Jaqueline Martins (Brussels, BE), Palais de Tokyo (Paris, FR), WIELS (Brussels, BE) and Centre Pompidou (Paris, FR). Her work is held in the collections of the CNAP (Paris, FR), Centre Pompidou (Paris, FR), CIRVA (Marseille, FR), Cera-M Museum (Leuven, BE), Fondation CAB (Brussels, BE), Kunsthalle Recklinghausen (DE) and numerous FRACs (FR).