CELLAR DOOR, a series of works by the young French artist Loris Gréaud, which spans several years, will culminate in a glowing finale at the Kunsthalle Wien with the artist’s first solo show in Austria. Sonic Youth’s legendary guitarist Lee Ranaldo has substantially contributed to the new works presented in the exhibition. CELLAR DOOR is a contemporary fairy tale involving various interwoven and nevertheless self-contained elements: an architectural studio project, an opera, the film One Thousand Ways To Enter (2008’2011), and the sculpture The Book of Captions (2011). The critical understanding of the studio concept takes a central position within Gréaud’s oeuvre: the studio is a roomfilling installation, microcosm and macrocosm all in one - an expansively structured, rhizomatically rampant obsession and projection surface for thoughts and words that continuously reinvents itself. CELLAR DOOR stands for a collaborative and experimental form of production as well as for a dynamic process of art appreciation.
At first sight, Gréaud’s working method may strike us as analytical, cool, and detached. But appearances are deceptive. For both his approach as an artist and the appreciation of his work are motivated by intuitive decisions and guided by sensory experience. This is why his works present themselves as enchantingly enigmatic and difficult to grasp. Gréaud may be seen to exist in the tradition of the ‘artist experimenters’ of the 1960s like Robert Rauschenberg and the group Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) or the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel (GRAV) around François Morellet and Julio Le Parc, and yet he is clearly committed to the idea of a ‘gesamtkunstwerk’ in the sense of Kurt Schwitters and his MERZbau (1920’1936) or Gregor Schneider’s Haus u r (1985’2007), an approach encompassing searching, experimenting, failing, and fading away as integral parts of the attempt to define the ideal studio space.
Gréaud’s work ‘One Thousand Ways To Enter’ (2008’2011) shows billows of smoke under water filmed by the artist. The footage was subjected to the analysis procedure of Rorschach mirror images along the lines of Gestalt psychology in post-production. Gréaud’s studio metaphor features prominently here, too: there are thousands of ways to access a studio, and this overwhelming abundance of possibilities is symbolized by the penetrating morphology of smoke. In addition, the mirror has provided a symbol of anticipation and omnipresence since antiquity. As for the soundtrack of One Thousand Ways To Enter, Gréaud asked the musician Lee Ranaldo to mentally interpret a guitar solo in a fully soundproof space at the IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique) in Paris, where Ranaldo’s slightest movements occurring through the process of thinking the most beautiful imaginable piece of music would be recorded with the highest equipment standards. The recipient is confronted with himself in a Freudian unconscious desire, extending image and sound to a subjective mental projection space and completing them in his mind by endowing them with meaning.
The Great Book of Captions (2011), the second of three CELLAR DOOR works specifically developed for this exposition, is a sculptural piece comprising the captions of previous CELLAR DOOR presentations in the Palais de Tokyo (Paris), the ICA (London), the Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen (Switzerland), and La Conservera (Murcia, Spain). Each caption appears only as long as it would hypothetically take the observer to read it - the resultant pulsating illumination with its synaesthetic suggestive power to be understood as a reference to an ‘archaeology of the future’ (Fredric Jameson). In a conversation with the curator, the artist commented on the conclusion of works in general and of CELLAR DOOR in particular: ‘. . . the score, the text of the libretto, the plans of the studio, and its real manifestation are now merging into one single object and were always meant to be this way, even though not as a physical manifestation, but definitely as ideal equivalents.’