Paris

Véronique Joumard

Galerie Anne de Villepoix

Véronique Joumard focuses her attention on energy, electricity, and light, using all the appliances and hardware associated with this domestic universe: heating-resistors, light bulbs, neon tubes, electric wires, extension cords, and switches. What interests her is immaterial flux, that is, the way in which currents and energy (even spiritual energy in the form of drives and impulses) move through our daily environment.

Joumard’s first exhibition is little more than a clever reprise of the first years of her studies—a sampling of the artist’s principal pieces, demonstrating the range of media utilized: photo, video, white neon lights, electric wires hung right on the wall, paper, paint, and a photograph of neurons taken with an electronic microscope. What is striking here, but also leaves one a bit distraught, is not so much her stubborn fixation on the world of electricity, but rather the cold, technical aspect of the language she uses—in short, her emphasis on the material accoutrements of the circulation of electricity. This focus has nothing to do with the purity and seductive simplicity of Minimal art. Joumard’s work has no esthetic or stylistic effect; a light bulb is a light bulb and nothing more. The ground-wires and extension cords trail along the floor; one circuit consists of an exposed wire that runs across the wall. The "good fairy-electricity has lost her aura. Nothing remains but the functionality of binary logic—the syntax of the on/off switch. Either positive or negative, alternating current leaves no room for nuance.

This binary logic informs the pulse of Joumard’s works. TV pulse is a videotape of an electric light bulb, alternately on or off. Off: we see the bulb. On: we see only a white circle surrounded by darkness, demonstrating the blinding effect of electricity. Another, more successful, piece is composed of two photographic monochromes, showing a wall and a switch, first in artificial light, then in daylight.

The most troubling, but perhaps also the most interesting, aspect of this exhibition is the invisible presence of danger. One of the neon bulbs is connected to electric wires by two metallic plates. The live current circulates through the wires: you can touch either of the metal supports, but not both at one time. This worrisome fact is a reminder that these images are not necessarily just shots of light (the passage of time) but risks (a game of the suspension of time). This is without question the most interesting aspect of the work.

One wonders how far Joumard will be able to go with this electronic metaphor. Beyond its day-to-day utility, the banal gesture that consists of flicking a switch becomes a symbol like that of the creation of Adam as seen in the Sistine Chapel, signaled by the contact of the two index fingers. Beyond the flux of electricity (electrons), there is the passage of impulses (information). From light to intelligence: it is here that Joumard’s work shows potential.

Olivier Zahm

Translated from the French by Diana C. Stoll.