Critics’ Picks

Dominique Blais, Untitled (35-39), 2012–13,  PMMA mirror boxes, flight cases, video. Installation view.

Dominique Blais, Untitled (35-39), 2012–13, PMMA mirror boxes, flight cases, video. Installation view.

Clichy

Dominique Blais

Pavillon Vendôme
7 rue du Landy
February 22–May 12, 2013

Dominique Blais’s two-part work Untitled (35-39), 2012–13, features a sculpture and a video that pay homage to Jean Prouvé, Eugène Beaudouin, Marcel Lods, and Vladimir Bodiansky’s extraordinary legacy from 1935 to 1939 in Clichy, a northwestern Paris suburb. Here they designed and built the Maison du Peuple, the People’s House, the first prefabricated building in France. Lauded for its modularity and sliding partitions, the maison became a national heritage site in 1983 but these days is sorely in need of restoration. To create this work, a response to the maison’s decline, Blais first constructed a scale model of the building with mirrored PMMA blocks, which evoke the modernist metal and glass materials of the Clichy house.

He then made a video, in which the sculpture sits on a stack of travel trunks that emphasize the highly adaptable capacity of the maison. Blais was granted special permission to film on the first floor, the celebrated “salle polyvalente,” a functionally flexible room that was previously used as a cinema and for various events but is now inaccessible to the public. Made in collaboration with Julien Discrit, the video presents sweeping tracking shots that highlight the great versatility of the building, as well as close-ups of the sculpture that capture the disused surroundings mirrored on its surface.

The maison has a ground-level glass-walled room that spans practically the entire length of the building and is regularly utilized for exhibitions. There is where the site-specific project is currently installed, visible from the street only, preferably at night since the video is projected on a wall inside. The sculpture is deposited on palettes, which appear to be the same ones that were used in Blais’s 2011 solo exhibition in an ex-industrial building called the Transpalette in Bourges—an exhibition curated, as this one was, by Jérôme Cotinet-Alphaize. Tautology is often at the heart of Blais’s work, and here it perfectly allows for the hammering of a plea to newly perceive and experience—and save!—this particular place.