review by Samantha Cox
Laure Prouvost’s first exhibition at MOT International explores established themes within her work, notably the limitations of language and slippage of meaning, while at the same time undertaking a sharpened enquiry into the relation between video art and other mediums loosely structured through narrative. Through a series of installations set within interleaving plywood boards scenes are created, whereby video art, the written word, painted canvas and audio art are placed into an interplay to narrate the fictional character Jenny’s search for Gregor. This work is a product of a yearlong project in which Prouvost has created a short film of the artist Rory Macbeth’s ‘The Wanderer’ which in turn was a translation of Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis.’
On entering the gallery through a heavy bolted door the majority of the show is obstructed through a false wall which divides the small space, which is formed of a shop and the main gallery. A woman’s voice permeates through to the shop, ‘Gregor, Gregor… spilling beer on the walls.’ Filtering behind this are a number of softer voices; together these create a dissonant cartography of sound. After passing a small, subtle figurative orange canvas titled ‘The Orange Painting,’ 2011 on the left, the main intimate gallery space opens up. This main work titled ‘Before, before,’ 2011 comprises of eight installations placed in an oval circle and lit by green fluorescent industrial lighting. On a stand in the middle of the floor a large audio speaker and a series of other audio and visual equipment leads are purposefully unravelled messily across areas of the floor. Each installation is set into a stage of its own using three interleaving industrial boards, with many of the objects and pieces which create each installation placed on makeshift pedestals and mounted upon the interior sides of these boards.
‘The first of these installations creates a puzzling assemblage. An empty Stella can and Molton Brown hand lotion dispenser are central to the ‘set’; behind these is a frame containing a broken mirror; to the right is a letter addressed to Gregor from Jenny, though through the fractured glass it is almost indecipherable apart from the words ‘secret’ and ‘between friends.’ The audio speakers directly behind repeat ‘these three objects fly across the room, spin around you’ like a mantra. The viewer is placed into a disorientation of meaning - nothing is clear or comprehensive but fractured like the glass and spinning of the character Jenny within the background. To the right of this installation a video work on an old large Sony Television captures two fingers submerged in a glass of golden bubbling fluid which are set in movement to music as if dancing. We are reminded of Prouvost’s characteristic inter-splicing of everyday words within narrative which obstruct our usual methods of perception.
Following the circle around, the spinning experienced by Jenny can be seen through the experience of a heap of empty Fosters cans, one of which is placed on piano wheels. Next to the cans an intricate tactile assemblage featuring an upright rolled carpet encompasses the fabrics of domestic life and the external world through unopened junk mail, a blanket, installation foam normally found between cavity walls and child like scribbles, a bulb and glossy magazine image entitled ‘banqueting hall.’ Opposite is an octopus, again placed on a pedestal, which looks real, but lacks smell. It has ink sprayed across it and upon the plywood wall behind it. The wetness spoken of within the audio and the mention of spillages momentarily ties together with the installation but is then abandoned through the juxtaposition of a video of a cat on grass prodding a dead bird. Finally, the viewer is put at ease; the largest of the sets entitled ‘Story board 1,’ 2001 highlights the narrative element which structures this work. The sets are roughly referred to within a series of A4 sheets which detail each scene within Jenny’s search for Gregor. The increasing disorientation of Jenny within her search, confusion of time, place and context are set within a series of rooms which form these installations.
‘Prouvost’s exploration of the translation of works between different producers, languages and mediums is implicit to this show. Spilling out, these tactile installations create mini worlds which defy the limitations of video and expand linguistic exploration of perception and meaning.