Roman Vasseur: Designs Towards a Meeting Place for Future Events of Universal Truth at Cubitt Gallery.
Review by Rachel Guthrie
Roman Vasseur does not describe his exhibition at Cubitt Gallery (Islington), as an installation of works, but a temporary interior architecture, which is a distinction that characterises his emphasis on the place of performance within the broader arts as can be seen in ‘Designs Towards a Meeting Place for Future Events of Universal Truth’. Like architecture, this space is to be lived in, used and circulated about. It’s a meeting place - Vasseur tells in the title - as much as an exhibition, the latter of which is commonly felt to be an asocial setting.
The title brings to light the varied intentions and subject matters of the exhibition, which are more of a collection of significant phrases assembled (like one would a montage) than a manifesto. There is a sense that Vasseur is trying to achieve many things, or at least, explore many broken thoughts through these pieces of works. It is - like the title - disjointed. Hence, he states, that these designs are moving towards, but have not reached this truth which to be found in the future.
However loftily and idealistically he speaks of the concept of a universal truth, the creation of a manifesto is what Roman seems to wish to avoid. He poses political material as a fiction. It is like a scribble written on fabric, that when the two meet, the ink spreads and the meaning is lost as the text becomes less comprehensible. (This the artwork he mounts to a table in one corner.) These are only ideals. They are not practically withstanding ideas. They are a fiction, like a novel sketched out in an author’s notepad, Vasseur says.
The key ideas - alluded to in the title - are that of: function-led design - [a skill that can be employed in building], a space that is defined by its purpose as a place in which people meet, and the creation of forward-looking (futuristic) art, which is delivered as a performance (an event). In the culmination of these aspects, the vision comes across as somewhat utopian. For example for Vasseur, the exhibition as a meeting place or an interior architecture translates as a space between the office, salon and gallery. And it is no coincidence then that he should place one of his exhibited works in the gallery’s office, and that he should be part of the Cubitt organisation which aims to unite art, education and community.
This kind of space is where, Vasseur suggests, ideas in the form of artworks, are given authority. In fact many of the concerns of this exhibition came out of a conversation the artist held with set designer Christopher Gibbs, who as a dilettante pursues beautiful via the exploration of thought. The exhibiting space is therefore a theatre of thought. Influenced by his contact with Gibbs, Vasseur hangs his 2D black and white patterned pieces as though they are curtains or stage props, not traditional artworks, enhancing the idea that the exhibition space is a performance space.
In addition there are two screens that play filmed performance works, which - placed at opposite ends of the gallery - act as a non-temporal mirror; the two videos starting times are staggered, promoting a fuller sense of time. These two films either symbolise past and present, or - more likely - present and future, as the curator writes that the fragments of rituals in the exhibition (here dancing figures), form a background of accelerated archaeology.
The films have some of the same geometric sense as the two wall paintings, but are softened by the organic impression of both the individual and community of figures in motion. These dancers - their contours clung to by elastic suits - work collaboratively to draw before the audience’s eye patterns and sculptural forms, and are to my eyes the most convincing proof of the artist’s desire to design forward-looking meeting places and achieve insight into universal truth.