It has been quite a busy couple of weeks, and as not-so-promised I tried to write here more often, but I didn’t. Again, no real excuses to that, and actually I have been writing a review which I ended up not publishing for some reason (it will probably be published at some point anyway, as a late after-show review).
Today I am here to talk about the latest exhibition at KARST: Fabienne Audeoud’s ‘No to crucifixions’. It opened on the 10th of February, with an evening performance and will shut its doors on the 11th of March.
Unfortunately, I was not present for the opening, but I can tell you about the show.
Before I start, I have to say that I am constantly amazed by how KARST’s space can take any shape imaginable. It feels like this space has a magical ability to transform itself depending on the show it is hosting. It can be huge like it was for The Earth is Our Radio or appear smaller with an underground-like feeling like in F*** Newton…
This time the gallery appears large, open and crowded. Not in an anxiety-provoking manner, but in a way making the visitor feel greeted into the show by a bunch of well-dressed (inanimate) mannequins.
In the space where these statue-like figures welcome you, many things are happening. Mannequins, not only, but also colours, clothes, textures, styles, accessories, faces on see-through canvasses, paintings and bottles of perfume.
On the mannequins, different outfits and styles are pictured which, as various as they might be, refer to a certain socio-economic background, to a stereotype of conservative and – often- religious upper-class; but as you progress through the space and walk between these styled figures, some silhouettes show details which either exaggerate or directly contrast with the portrait drawn here. Overflown jewellery, paint stains, ripped clothes and statements such as “self realisation”, “recognition”, “intime de la honte” express detachment from this uniformity required by this stereotypical background.
One of the statements is found almost everywhere and is also used as the exhibition’s title: “No to crucifixions”. As well as writing it on canvasses or clothes, Audeoud hangs it on chains, as a pendant, in the same way crucifixes are often worn. Similarly to Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, Audeoud reminds us with her necklaces that crucifixes represent, in fact, an act of torture. It is also a way to step away from this violence symbolised by the crucifix, without necessarily rejecting religious faith and beliefs.
References to Christianity and religion in general are important elements of the exhibition: they appear through symbols on paintings, through the soundtrack saying “amen” repetitively, through the religious vocabulary on the perfume bottles. The idea of the icon is also explored here, with the ‘fashion icon’ represented by the stylised mannequins, clothes, accessories and perfume. However, as strong as these references are, there is a clear intention to break from the rules and the violence sometimes related to religion.
Going back to this idea of the fashion icon, in ‘No to crucifixions’, femininity and fashion are also significant elements; fashion being more of a tool to transmit a message and draw a portrait, when the femininity reflected in the show feels like an affirmation of Audeoud as an emancipated person. No to crucifixions, but yes to Fabienne.
The work indeed feels very personal and attached to Audeoud’s own story, emancipation, background and struggles. It almost leaves a doubt about whether the teeth on the see-through canvasses are hers. Are they?
Celebration and fun are also present within a context which can appear so serious. Bright colours, first, but also a smiling face, a dancing figure and an encouraging “wonderful you” are painted on the canvasses on the side walls.
On the wall at the end of the gallery, a shelf is covered with cheap bottles of perfume. Their arrangement tells a story about gender roles, males, females, sexuality or even puritanism. It is interesting how this piece, ‘Perfume for the poor’(2017) resonates with a particular background: these aligned items are very common in the small shops in corridors of the Parisian metro. The idea of the mimicked luxury, the pretended extravagance visible with the perfume bottles also resonates with the entire exhibition and the fact that being part of a very conservative group (whether religious or not) is often about pretending.
‘No to crucifixions’ is a big show, and there is a lot to look at, but the story told is consistent. Fabienne Audeoud in collaboration with KARST, managed to offer us an exhibition serious and light at the same time, with the right proportions of celebration and reflection. Games are played with perfume bottles and funny (as well as a bit creepy) looking faces, but the show also pushes us towards reflecting about religion, individuality and humanity; bringing us back into the reality and sometimes violence of the world we live in and showing us that emancipation and self-realisation are possible (although difficult) even in a “less than good society”.
KARST is open every week from Wednesday to Saturday from 11am to 5pm
‘No to Crucifixion’ will be open until the 11th of March 2011.