Critics’ Picks

Laure Provost, Swallow, 2013, HD video, color, sound, 2 minutes 6 seconds.

Laure Provost, Swallow, 2013, HD video, color, sound, 2 minutes 6 seconds.


“When our eyes touch”

Maison Louis Carré
2 Chemin du Saint-Sacrement
May 19–August 1, 2021

“When our eyes touch,” Jacques Derrida mused, “the question will always be whether they are stroking or striking each other.” This quote supplies the title for the first in a series of exhibitions curated by Satu Herrala and Hans Rosenström titled “A I S T I T,” meaning “senses” in their native Finnish. Needless to say, the Covid pandemic, which began shortly after this project was in motion, has thoroughly upended our relationship with this primary sense.

Inside Louis Carré’s former residence, built by Alvar Aalto in 1959 on a hillside property in a bucolic village not far from Paris, visitors are embraced in a calm shaped by careful attention to light and ease of movement. Conceived to present Carré’s collection of Picassos and works by Fernand Léger, the space abounds with white walls and high ceilings. Hanging triumphantly in the living room, Kapwani Kiwanga’s sequined and tasseled silk Nations: Cap Français 20, 21, 22, and 23 June 1793, 2020, recalls a decisive battle of Haiti’s revolution. Embellished silks in colors of the Caribbean sunrise invite touch as rebel soldiers hold their hands up high as if to grasp freedom.

Through touch, there is transmission: of viruses, sure, but also of knowledge and love. Laure Prouvost’s Swallow, 2013, projected in a bedroom, where the video playfully reflects on a damask bedspread, speaks to the intimacy of dreams and friendship in the artist’s dependable language of humor and flash cuts. Likewise, for Five Senses for One Death, A Poem in Seven Pieces, 2021, Simone Fattal transcribes a poem Etel Adnan wrote fifty years ago with black paint on seven pieces of porous lava stone.

In English, as well as in Finnish—and French for that matter—the verb touch speaks both to physical contact and the heartstrings plucked by the intangible. Rosenström’s sound installation A House Divided, 2015–18, written in collaboration with hypnotherapist Charles Montagu, intones: “The voice, born inside me, now spreads out across the room. . . With each word . . . we sink ever further.” As with Adnan’s poem slowly seeping into the red volcanic stone, words, like fingers outstretched, reach for an answer.