Laure Prouvost – MOT International, London – 2012 – Review

In Laure Provost’s The Wanderer Sequence 5, a mirror suspended over the entrance of the exhibition immediately inverts the viewer’s perspective. Rounding the corner of this narrow, institutionally grey and dim entrance corridor, you are confronted by a series of crudely drawn faces illuminated by portable reading lamps. They cast shadows of a cigarette, a book, breasts and finger pointing into the centre of the drawing.

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The spatial inversion and doubling continues with a desk, telephone, desk fan, magazine, a corporate potted plant and a coat stand with “Gregor’s Coat and shoes”. All of the objects have been crudely attached to the ceiling. All of this is arranged into an office whose walls, originating at the ceiling, float half a meter from the ground. Bits of mirrors on the ceiling/’floor’ reveal “fuck it” scrawled across hidden magazines on top of the desks. Yet more mirrors, are attached to the walls of the ‘office’, angled at 45º to reveal paintings and drawings which are placed well out of ordinary view. In a large found shelving unit high up, are the words “CITIZEN, OR, GOD, MEN, ARE, TRUELY, STUCK”. Across the remaining end wall is Provost’s video based on the artist Rory Macbeth’s work The Wanderer — a translation of a Franz Kafka novella from German to English done without being able to speak German or use of a dictionary. Like everything else, it is projected upside down it is central to the installation both in terms of its narrative and thematic rationale of reflection and inversion.

As the viewer is positioned and implicated in an undefined space between these object and their ever-present representational doubling, the up-ended office resolves to be a concrete spatial basis for the exhibition – albeit never becoming any less unsettling. But, with this you are eventually drawn into the video’s plot. The characters, dressed in military uniforms, crash around a recognisably institutional, old media building, questioning – in vain – mannequins merely filling the roles of office workers, doctors and a badly stuffed patient. Likewise the characters seem to be only able to shout incomprehensibly at each other, getting nowhere as they search the set for some unknown clue.  For a brief moment of what seems like logic in the action they attempt, with broken communication devices, to track down an external character. A shift to digital fidelity image introduces this lone man in an African barbers. But this offers little clarity as he himself is bound in confusion waking up amongst upholstery foam, a police officer and a judge. He is roused by an iPhone that he only realises is there when it starts ringing. Even though the iPhone instant message interface appears throughout the film’s military scene it brings no order to what’s going on as the narrative cycles back on itself.

Back in the space, Mo-ped wing mirrors that have been attached to sticks and propped against the wall of the gallery begin to make some structural sense of the chaotic narrative. They also appear in the film, used by the main characters to reveal the same paintings that are reflected on the ceiling of the gallery under (or on top of) desks in the film. These become the most noticeable and direct linkage between the world of the film and decidedly uncanny one of the viewer.  The quasi expanded–cinema props and institutional setting are reminiscent of Omer Fast’s Nostalgia, but here function more in the spatio-illusory configuration of the exhibition: a reflexivity between screen and space from which it is projected. This is played out in the relationship between the video and the installation or the more sculptural allusion to handheld screens in the drawings. Similarly in one of the many imposition of clearly digital everyday footage intersecting the film’s main plot, the video shows a cursor over a hand searching a map in a body-screen coalescence. Provost delves deeper further into the symbology of the interface: the default apple mac desktop screen flashes and recedes through and amongst the continued, disjointed, barking of the ‘military’ protagonists ends up being wound tightly with references to our own illusory and strategically reflective uses of image.

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In this familiar yet uncertain terrain plotted out for us by Porvost our objective material world is inverted and only made readable by apparatuses of reflection. The viewer inhabits this materiality as well as being implicated in the representational games these objects are made to play. Whilst each shaddow drawing pulls out an aspect of the overall narrative traversing the video and installation this facial illumination and Plato-style shadow seems inseparable from the edgeless reality of the touchy-screeny image-environment that will be all too familiar to anyone who owns and sees their world though a smart phone/tablet. The show straddles Macbeth’s deliberately illusive, confusing and bizarre narrative – a translated without actual translation —and a skilful deployment and reflection of ‘poor’ materials. As each piece of furniture, narrative and word is doubled and reflected back between representation and actuality their material crapiness is both actual and symbolic, real and reflected, indistinct and concrete. Their material presence is inflected: appearing more as shadows or inversions.  In doing so the reflections morph with the familiar digital and more concrete references in the film (circling together as mythical images of the C21st everyday), and so the shadows are translated back into the world, inverted and show themselves to be the aesthetics of the surface we call reality.

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