Critics’ Picks

Le refuge des amis de Truffaut (The New York Shelter), 2008, Admiral TV, book page, burned lemon ink, and books, 34 x 18 x 19".

New York

Eve K. Tremblay

BUIA Gallery
541 West 23rd Street
January 10–February 14, 2008

At the entrance to Buia Gallery, Quebec-born, Berlin-based artist Eve K. Tremblay has posted a fan letter to Ray Bradbury outlining an experiment inspired by his classic dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953). Staging “a real life sort of mise-en-abîme,” Tremblay aims to commit the book to memory. During the opening, the artist enacted a performance in which, among other poses, she lay on the floor on her back with the novel under her head (echoing both the trademark psychoanalytic position and a scene in which Fahrenheit’s protagonist sleeps with a book under his pillow) and recited several pages from memory—corrected often by a friend following along in Tremblay’s heavily annotated copy.

Tremblay’s mise en abyme, which also consists of objects, photographs, and videos, is by turns earnest and cheeky. Like a good sci-fi writer, she plays up the camp while embracing romantic idealism. Along the gallery’s back wall, serving as props and as seating for playful video vignettes demonstrating book memorization in various locales, are three white molded-plastic chairs, which in 1966, when François Truffaut made his mod adaptation of Bradbury’s book, would have signaled the future. In contrast, the majority of Tremblay’s work is idyllic. Lining the walls are photographs depicting Tremblay’s “book people”—named after Bradbury’s intellectual underground, whose members hid in the margins keeping books, which were prohibited, alive—among trees absorbed in the outlaw pleasure of reading. In other photographs, the forbidden books are splayed suggestively on branches and boulders.

Tremblay has set up an engaging experiment that may be just getting started. Through her ongoing performance of memorization, she struggles with the desire to at once possess and become a collection of simultaneously tangible and immaterial words and ideas, and to make private machinations visible—something we can perhaps all relate to in this era of information overload.