In the office-like building of MMK 3, a space adjacent to the main Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt, Laure Prouvost transforms the interior into a darkened enclave of dirty carpet, spilt liquids and hazy orange lighting. The installation brings together a collection of the artist’s film works from the last six years, making the exhibition Prouvost’s first major solo show in Germany. Viewing Prouvost’s individual works as a collection imposes a sense of recurring narratives and themes for the viewer. For instance, each video seems to contain the phrase “deeper, deep down” that points to the films’ general concern with penetrating unknown worlds and escaping from the everyday. These lines of flight peel away the layers of the known to go ‘down’ and ‘deeper’ into a hidden world of flashing colours and visceral imagery accompanied by whispered voice overs that play with the affect of textural associations.
The selection of films is installed in combination with a series of sculptural assemblages that seem to have been taken directly from the imagery of the flickering screens. A motorbike blaring French hip hop from its speakers outside a fire exit door could have been taken out of the film ‘Lick in the Past’ (2015). Tropical pot plants and orange heaters mirror the imagery of ‘Into All That is Here’ (2015). A makeshift travel bureau at the gallery entrance echoes the promise of sunsets and white sand found in ‘How to Make Money Religiously’ (2014). The lure of holiday sun is muddied by a thick viscus fluid that seeps over the bureau’s desktop and trails down framed posters scrawled with marker pen.
Moving over a stained carpet to the soundtrack of echoing hip hop, visitors entering the space are made to scale a pyramid structure of steps before descending down, ‘deep down’ into the low orange lighting of the main exhibition hall. The space feels stained, muggy and tired. The slime-like fluid of the travel bureau seeps across the floor with its soft pink hue. I am hesitant about stepping into the installation as sticky looking fluid seeps around piles of used phones, earth and general detritus. Thankfully the liquid is solid, a resin set across the floor. From the back of the space I watch a succession of visitors experience the same hesitation in the seemingly haphazard arrangement of resting screens and seeping fluid. The uncertainty adds to the overall effect of Prouvost’s work. This is another world, or rather it is our world stained, oddly seductive and uncertain.
We are guided through the exhibition by the succession of film works playing in turn. Carefully treading between the screens the artists whispering voice lures us into images that flash with sunsets, cars, beaches and flowers, whilst the films self-consciously acknowledge their own seductive force. In ‘How to Make Money Religiously’ we are told “All of this is for you”. Yet it is a seduction marked by the dirty haze of orange lighting and resin shimmering across the gallery floor. The contrast between the physical environment and those of the video screens only serves to heighten the suggestion that what is on the screens is a fantasy, albeit one that echoes with facets of our everyday, it is a fiction that beckons us to enter ‘deeper’.
At times the film’s fragments of text and image spill out into the physical exhibition space. In ‘It, Heat, Hit’ (2010) Prouvost’s whispering voice tells us that “the images are so hot they are going to melt”. ‘Lick in the Past’ seduces us with the phrase ‘burnt plastic and smoke’ as we watch a dead squid seep its inky fluid across the white screen. Both films find an echo in the spilt resin that seeps across the floor and seems to physically unite them.
The installation at MMK3 is the second and central chapter of a three-part survey of the work of Prouvost in different European venues. A trilogy that began at the end of June with the labyrinthine installation “Dropped here and then, to live, leave it all behind” at Le Consortium, Dijon and will culminate with “and she will say: hi her, ailleurs to higher grounds” in the Kunstmuseum Luzern at the end of October. Although the three venues present differing works, the trilogy of exhibitions share a common threat or narrative that Prouvost playfully weaves between each site. If at MMK3 we are ‘going down’, following Prouvost into a seedy and seductive world, we might be looking forward to find our way back up, and indeed, as the title of the forthcoming installation at Kunstmuseum Luzern suggests, only to go elsewhere to ‘higher grounds’.