Bruno Peinado

It was the world turned upside down: In the entrance of the Palais de Tokyo, Daniel Buren had replaced his signature 3.39-inch stripes with colorful pop circles; through the looking glass, Bruno Peinado, a rising figure on the French scene, created a raucous and voracious exhibition around a huge open book . . . which, of course, was striped! Beyond an amused wink at his exhibition neighbor, Peinado was thinking, above all, of the gallery of ancestors that opens every volume of Tintin—except in Peinado’s version the family portraits have been carefully removed, leaving the barely visible traces of discarded paintings in their place. Appropriating Hergé’s tortuous account of his hero’s origins, the artist asserts that “the entire history of humanity is perturbed by this question of genealogy. For me it was a matter of symbolically undoing filiation and thus heritage.”

This is a strange position to take for an artist whose creative impetus has been a culture of use and recycling——an “Artiste Sémionaute” in the sense Nicolas Bourriaud defined in his book Postproduction (2001). Peinado, like a contemporary version of the great explorers, conjures up itineraries, meandering through an increasingly unreadable sociocultural field. Peinado the half-breed sees himself as the voice of a geography without territory. At the Palais de Tokyo, he developed a sprawling and saturated universe from which all hierarchy had been banished. From suspended sculptures that hijack the slogans of a sloppy pop culture and stylize them into something only half recognizable to logo-bearing carpets, by way of a disco-ball cement mixer and a Fiat on cinder blocks, seemingly the whole of contemporary culture had been plowed through and could be seen here. In a great vital breath, the space had been entirely filled, including walls covered in great flat washes of lively color. An immense scaffolding, looking something like a housing project bristling with ventilators, parabolic antennae, and megaphones, covered the last wall of the mezzanine.

The exhibition–as–construction project was one way for the artist to revivify the worn-out conventions of the museum visit; another was to present the show in two alternating phases: Most of the time static—“on pause,” Peinado explains, “like all these exhibitions that require high technology and regularly break down”—it was reactivated every twenty minutes by the powerful blast of fans. The suspended objects suddenly became Calderesque mobiles being tossed around, while the cement mixer slowly stirred an invisible material. “I put information and data back in circulation, but always with a slight twist,” the artist reminds us; he systematically produces a subtle displacement of meaning that the viewer is invited to decode. To begin with, his gargantuan house of cards (Good Stuff, 2003), inspired by the one created by American designers Ray and Charles Eames in 1952, assembles various images, photos, and papers collected during a trip to New York: “With this piece, there is the idea of a corpus, a collection, indeed, a pillaging, a picturesque colonialism, basically,” the artist explains. Is he some kind of pictorial bulimic, this Peinado? Like Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant with his high-pitched laugh, he responds with a quip: “I just wanted to turn the trend upside down: Once, rich people were fat; today their interiors are Zen, and they essentially eat carrots.”

Claire Moulène

Translated from French by Jeanine Herman.