Critics’ Picks

View of “Temps étrangers,” 2012. Background: Sylvain Rousseau, 
Le Grand Cacatoès blanc (The Large White Cockatoo), 2009,
 plaster, wood,
 music by Sébastien Pruvost, dimensions variable. Foreground: Sylvain Rousseau,
 Laziness is more, 2012,
 wood, dimensions variable.


Saint-Ouen

Temps étrangers

Mains d’Œuvres
1, rue Charles Garnier
September 7 - September 30

Is the artist a worker just like any other? Can artists’ laboring hours be measured? The thirteen curators from the Cartel de Kunst collective selected twelve contributors for this exhibition, and all expose the naïveté, absurdity, and complexity of such questions. Although the show’s subject matter is nothing new, it feels original here, thanks to the freshness of the work on view and the way the pieces activate a historical space: At the beginning of the twentieth century, Mains d’Œuvres was a recreation center for workers at the Valéo factory, and in 2001 it was converted into a venue for artists’ residencies and exhibitions.

Many of the pieces—as well as the performances—invite visitors and those working in the building to participate. Matteo Attruia’s work is particularly challenging in this regard: In For Sale, 2012, he sells portions of his own time, which he materializes through engraved circular metal plates in frames, while bystanders and visitors can observe the progressive filling up of the space’s bay window with little strokes made with a white felt-tip pen that symbolize the days of his life, from his birth until the end of the exhibition (Moi 25.07.1973 – 30.09.2012). Some works explore and reinterpret iconographic language and products from the “world of work,” while others ridicule the codes for measuring productivity, as in Julien Berthier’s L’Horloge d’une vie de travail 2 (The Life-Work Clock 2), 2008, in which he addresses with biting humor French labor legislation. A similar approach is found in Martin Le Chevallier’s 11h 29’ et 15’’, 2012, an installation made of diagrams that show the “non-artistic,” “artistic, with low output,” “creative,” and “creative peaks” of artist Julien Prévieux. The artist’s idleness is also notably honored in Sylvain Rousseau’s musical and ironic tribute to laziness: In Le Grand Cacatoès blanc (The Large White Cockatoo), 2009, a gigantic bird made with meticulous care from plaster and chiseled wooden feathers is perched on a speaker that plays sambalike music composed by Sébastien Pruvost from the recording of a trivial and “not-profit making” activity: the brushing of his teeth. The visitor is invited to sit on an adjacent and hastily assembled armchair (Laziness is More, 2012) and to enjoy the scene in a most unproductive and uncomfortable way.

Translated from French by Jane Brodie.