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Episode 15

PATRICK CARPENTIER
CONVERSATION WITH A BIRD

Opening Friday, February 20, 2015, 5-9 pm
Exhibition open on Saturday, February 21, 2-6 pm and performance at 4 pm



Untitled, book, microphone, stand, dimensions variable, 2015


You can't approach Patrick Carpentier's work frontally and his practice can't be easily summed up. Cinema, stage design and literature, photography and sculpture are all mediums he has progressively mixed together in a highly studied approach to installation. The density of his propositions is inversely proportional to their formal minimalism, and one is tempted to draw up a list of references, stories and experiences – sometimes very intimate – reinforcing the invisible thread of a discreet conceptual intention. Except things are more complex, crafty and uncontrollable. Everything seems as if, instead of an intention – a deliberately eloquent, oppositional and structuring one – Patrick Carpentier seeks to generate a state. A state that has done away with situations, refusing by its very neutrality a fate of calculation and speculation.

The artist's two major influences are Carl André and Morandi. André for sculpture as space, with no axis, imposing no particular point of view and, stated perhaps too hastily, Morandi for his monochromatic palette. Dehierachization, a taste for emptiness and horizontality form an ethos whose esthetic characteristics ("it always ends up beautiful," he says almost regretfully) are the consequences of a long period of polishing and reduction that neutralizes the violence, sometimes so gentle, that reality constantly imposes upon us.

The current work draws on a collection of photographs of places meant for play. Skate parks, jungle gyms and slides are so many deserted architectural forms, caught in a state of emptiness. At dawn or dusk, dew drops form on tubular posts and peeling paint. The atmosphere is sad and beautiful, melancholy and almost tragic. But these images, far from rolling out the usual clichés (fragility of existence, lost innocence…) evoke a deafening and hyper-normative force. The playground first and foremost denotes a frontier, the space-time of a delineated release. It is consubstantial with surveillance and control, that of the body and of the mind. These images are the starting point of a process of cutting-off and imprisoning that moves these spaces towards a graphic and plastic reconfiguration. If the contours of the marble plaques placed on the ground are those of game modules, their solid, blind surfaces abolish by abstraction any suggestion of their origin. Decontextualization and reexamination: the architecture is stripped of its evocative charge. Once this zero degree has been attained, what is left on the ground is a smooth and suspensive remainder, liberated of any direction, bearing or anecdote. Far from any form of esthetic formalism, it is rather a veritable spreading of wings to take flight.

And this is where the critical machine can vacillate, but what do we want from art if not – at the very least – to unfold subjectivity and liberate itself from culture to – at best – rearrange it a little? The Brancusi affair (opposing the artist and US customs, who refused to grant his sculptures the status of "artwork" favoring the less glorious distinction of construction materials) is emblematic of symbolic struggles opposing artists and the normative enterprise of common sense. In this exhibition, Patrick Carpentier associates an extract from the Bird in Space lawsuit with a page of dictionary that exhaustively lists Latinate bird names. The ironic association of these two archives opens the question of meaning and modern regimes of qualification. One could amuse oneself infinitely extending networks of meaning linking Brancusi's flight to that of a swing or endlessly questioning the reproduction of play-spaces in construction materials, whose nature itself is ambivalent (the choice of marble is hardly innocent). Except Patrick Carpentier's practice is not purely conceptual or critical, and if art history reinforces the work it isn't the veritable concern. The third text presented, by Le Corbusier, is an invitation to "take possession of the space," which is to say of the possible. On this note, in Patrick Carpentier's studio there is a work that's almost impossible to show, broken away from pedestals and walls, infra-thin and ingeniously taboo. A metallic rod no thicker than a match and no longer than 20 centimeters. On a first viewing, nothing. We won't be spoiling any secret by revealing that the work is made out of jewels inherited by the artist from his mother. Melted, stretched, fired again, amalgamated and blackened, only the surfaces at the two extremities bear witness to the brilliance of the gold that constitutes the sculpture. The minimal expression of a life, but also of a cultural model (filiation and transmission), here stripped of its weight. Neutral and perfectly intense, Timeline suggests a state of insane lightness, of liberty won from on high.

Essay by Benoit Dusart
Translated by Benjamin Crotty


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Patrick Carpentier (Brussels, 1966) trained to body expression and stage direction by Jacques Lecoq method, he quickly switches to scenography, lighting and video for the musical industry. He worked with many musicians as John Parish (2013), Cocoon, Bertrand Belin (2006) or l'Ensemble Musiques Nouvelles (2001). His movies Walden (2009), Les 9 mardis (2005) ou God is a dog (2004) have been screened in several international film festivals (Seattle film festival, Visions du Réel, La Cinémathèque Française ) of wich the Berlinale where Combat (Forum 2006) was awarded by a special prize of the jury.
Since 2010 his works finds a plastic outcome in sculpture and photography with exhibitions presented by JAP (2010, 2011) la biennale d'Arts Visuels de Liège (2012), le Ciap à Hasselt (2012) and a solo exhibition for Rossi Contemporary (2013). He remains engaged in the performance field with Le Monologue d'Andrès (2013).
In 2015 he takes part to the residency program at Wiels.


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