Critics’ Picks

Laurent Montaron, Lavarsi le mani, 2020, basin, jug, bar of lemon soap, soap dish, dry towel, dimensions variable.

Laurent Montaron, Lavarsi le mani, 2020, basin, jug, bar of lemon soap, soap dish, dry towel, dimensions variable.

Lisbon

Laurent Montaron

MONITOR Lisbon
Rua D. João V, 17A Campo de Ourique
September 17–November 7, 2020

French artist Laurent Montaron’s debut exhibition in Lisbon maps a threshold between nature and technology where belief systems and superstitions interfere with electronics. In installations, photographs, and a film that feel elusively inflected by the pandemic, various and complex overlapping fields of epistemological inquiry are explored with childlike curiosity. Grounded (all works 2020)—a wall-mounted fencing foil tethered to the checkerboard floor by a dangling cord—draws a parallel between electrical wiring and “earthing,” a therapy that encourages connection to the earth’s electrical field by, say, walking barefoot on the grass. Elsewhere on the floor, oddly facing the wall, an old Hantarex television plays Crystal Radio, a roughly minute-long Super 16-mm film that depicts a wireless crystal radio receiver from the early days of radio. Galena, its main mineral component, is today commonly used in batteries, but it is also associated with alchemical transformations.

Inconspicuously perched inside a window frame is Live, a small Sony tape recorder that records in a loop as to continuously overwrite itself. Montaron alludes to the pandemic-flourishing surveillance state while offering us the relief of a reconnoitering device unwilling to retain information. The virus is also registered near the entrance, where viewers find Lavarsi le mani (To Wash Hands): a pitcher of water, a basin, and lemon soap. Arranged on small wooden boxes, the objects are meant to facilitate a Montessorian children’s ritual. In restoring wonder to the mundane, the work announces the show’s intentions of grounding invisible knowledge systems firmly in emotional, lived experience.