Pierre Bismuth review by Marie d Elbee
The viewer enters, glances at the vinyl title on the wall, passes the reception and heads towards a second identical reception centred in the middle of the gallery, in which sits a woman tapping on her computer. He reaches out for an artist’s monograph on one of the shelves while keeping an eye open for the artist’s work.
A look behind the façade of the second reception, and suddenly everything becomes clear. This is the Bismuth installation; a scale replica of the reception, set on a stage.
If the installation viewed from the front can be mistaken for a real reception, the back intentionally reveals the structure of the set. One panel displays the wooden framework holding the front façade upright, while the other is covered by a purposefully flat black and white image of workstations, thus reinforcing the theatrical effect.
The viewer is left to wonder which behaviour to adopt, oscillating between the idea of being in some sort of relational aesthetic artwork in which they are expected to interact, and the possibility that they may be unlawfully disturbing it by manipulating the magazines or talking to the ‘receptionist’.
Bismuth’s idea is not to mimic strictly but to theatrically reproduce a part of reality. This willingly induces deception as the gallery is presenting nothing more than a pre-existing element. Bringing out this non-event, Bismuth expresses his desire for nothing to happen. He advocates taking a step back and considering things in their current state instead of constantly striving forward and chasing novelty.
On another level, this permanent artwork is meant to remain as such, frozen in time. It historicises the reception of the gallery. If it is now a copy of actuality, in the future it will become a vestige of our time bearing September 2010’s publications.
Bismuth intends to break the usual codes of representation and to encourage reflection by distancing the illusion of representation. He tackles the gallery space directly with a mise-en-abyme of real and staged, true and fictionalised reality. These disturbing processes generate an impression of detachment and estrangement, leading the viewer to interrogate the true nature of things; what is a real reception if not another stage set’
Through the narration and thus dramatisation of this fragment of reality, and the juxtaposition of original and staged, Bismuth aims to interrupt the pre-established interpretations of everyday images and objects, inviting the ‘passive’ viewer to take a renewed look at his surroundings.