Love, a word that makes us blush. So we translate it into ‘Wicked!’ or into actions.
At the MAC VAL, in Vitry-sur-Seine, I invite all visitors to be careful with this word so delicate that we vulgarise it or do not speak it.
Here, it is yours and for you, for all of you, but especially for the minorities, for those left behind, for the abandoned, for the sidelined, for the originals. It accompanies your steps and everything you see from me is made with it. I am trying to tell you that you are unique, original and never interchangeable, you are singular creatures to be loved and I invite you to start with yourself. Take this chance to settle down, to feel through the breath of your lives, through the struggles but also through the laughter, through a sigh, a soothing. I offer you spaces in the museum, a lull in a benevolent place, to feel good, to do sport, to find yourself. The museum is indeed a place that is made for this, not only for connoisseurs or professionals, but for all those who want to experience, to feel.
Ode to love for all!
The artist Gaëlle Choisne introduces life into the rooms of the museum; she welcomes the bodies of visitors as the very subject of the project and implements the principle of hospitality which is so precious to MAC VAL, in order to consider it and take care of it.
Invited to take over the museum, Gaëlle Choisne is proposing a total project that fits in with her exploration of Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments. Entitled ‘Temple of Love’, over the last few years this project has been mapped in several different venues.
This new instantiation at MAC VAL, Atopos, is articulated in the heart of the space of the exhibition ‘À mains nues’, facing the other works. Using furniture and sculptural devices, it offers the public forms of reception, inviting them to participate and listen to artistic interventions programmed by the artist: philosopher, artist, musician, anthropologist, masseur... about twenty interventions will take place in these installations, which can be activated over the year. Gaëlle Choisne accompanies the works in the collection with life, with what is the very essence of humanity: philosophy, thought, contact, the thirst to become, germination, life.
Here again his project is placed under the sign of love and relationships with others, an experience for living love as a response underscored by politics, sociality and solidarity. An ecosystem at the service of the living.
Alexia Fabre, MAC VAL curator, January 2022
By working with and mixing myths, legends, Creole cultures and subcultures, Choisne’s work raises the question: what is it to know? The pell-mell mixing and counterfeiting of the vernacular, the popular, the scientific and the personal is an act of reappropriation, a power grab that reveals and distances the systems by which knowledge and beings are characterized. Through displacement and contamination, the artist builds a perverse taxonomy that plays on the Western obsession with archiving and classifying things. This ambition, which claims and takes for itself the heritage of colonial histories, the effects of capitalism on life, but also folklore, mercantile exoticism, imperialist survivals and industrial productions of all kinds (cultural goods, commodities), implicitly articulates the question of the body as a space of resistance and submission to these phenomena.
Often suggested́ more than present, the body intrudes into Choisne’s work, it seems, from all sides.
The porositý of the materials, their treated, worked surfaces, the permissivenesś that is expressed in the works, is indeed that of the corporealitý that seeps through the objects or images. The hanging, always raw, sometimes violent, reminds us of the fragilitý of bodies in the face of the cultural and social phenomena that sweep over them. Finally, it is the viewer’s gaze, which the installation guides and reveals, that activates these devices by incessantly reminding them of their choice, their position, their power and their guilt́.
Thomas Conchou is a curator, co-founder of the curatorial collective Le Syndicat Magnifique and general coordinator for Societies.
Each iteration of ‘Temple of Love’ places relationships at the centre.
In this respect, the re-installation of Textus (2018), a work from the first ‘Temple of Love’, in ‘Temple of Love – Atopos’, tells us about the relationship questions that the artist is reflecting on and aiming to institute from and within the exhibition space. Textus is a fabric installation, an assemblage of elastic fabrics in beige and hot pink chaotically stretched and sewn. At each presentation, the artist slips critical books into the work. Textus can thus be seen as an invitation to read together and to form an assembly of readers. The plastic qualities of the work evoke the body and the skin. This dimension gives the assembly an organic and tactile dimension. Like a massage table, whose cushion is covered with a reflexology map that charts the organs of the human body, Textus is what feminist theorist bell hooks would have called a ‘site of healing’ through contact.
Mixing contact and study, Textus will no doubt remind some of Fred Moten and Sefano Harney’s The Undercommons. Considering the ‘monstrous proximity’ that historically reigned on the tween decks of the triangular trade, the authors are rethinking contact and touch based on the violence exerted on captives’ bodies. They emphasise the transformative potential of touch, which they call ‘hapticality’ – or love!
Hapticality, the touch of the undercommons, the interiority of sentiment, the feel that what is to come is here. Hapticality, the capacity to feel though others, for others to feel through you, for you to feel them feeling you, this feel of the shipped (1) [...]
Gaëlle Choisne is an artist who places relationships at the centre of her art. She shows how the spectres of colonial history (dis)organise our world and condition the intimate and political links we form with humans, objects or the environment. The discursive material of her work is supported by affective and experimental gestures that allow the reversal of hierarchies of knowledge and artistic practices. She examines the poetic and political dimension of love in order to better question what fulfils and liberates subjects. Against stasis and passivity, Choisne celebrates free movement and contact with the other, the manipulation of objects. This is work that sketches out for the spectators and the artists it welcomes a new poetic and aesthetic grammar of the relationship and freedom in motion that they can try out.
(1)Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, ‘Hapticality, or Love’, The Undercommons – Fugitive Planning and Black Study, Paris: Brook, 2022.
Excerpt from the exhibition catalogue ‘À mains nues’
Caroline Honorien is an art historian, critic and independent editor. She is a member of the curatorial collective Keur, a place for the dissemination of artistic work, and is also on the editorial board of The Funambulist magazine.