Tatiana Trouvé

“I became an employee of the BAI,” says Tatiana Trouvé, a Paris-based artist of Italian origin. “I work for it, and I am constantly preoccupied with managing what happens within it.” The formula sums up the deliriously methodical, ongoing project she embarked on in 1997: to create an imaginary company whose point of departure would be entirely of her own activities and that would at the same time escape any form of control. Thus, the BAI, or Bureau d’Activités Implicites (Bureau of Implicit Activities) was born. After finishing her studies in Nice, and despite answering masses of help-wanted ads, Trouvé failed to enter the working world. Rather than accept this as a defeat, she decided to transform it into a productive situation by using her numerous rejection letters from potential employers as the raw materials for the first “module” of her bureau, Le Module Administratif. Composed today of a dozen such modules, this evolving ensemble is a laboratory in which each action is in the process of development. Functioning as a matrix, the BAI also generates things that qualify as metaphorical objects—like the Fantômes, 1999, empty bags made from Scotch tape, or Lapsus (Slips of the Tongue), 2000, which are presented in the form of classified ads.

A side project, Polders, begun in 2000, has the goal of occupying space in order to feed off it as a parasite. Trouvé’s Polders take the form of microarchitectures that reinvest the unexploited corners of the gallery. Initially they look like small arrays of scaffolding or platforms overrun by various materials including, in the case of the three examples at Frac PACA, walkers, canned goods, a battery, faucets, and even a hairdresser’s chair. All the objects share an irreproachable sculptural beauty, making use of plastic, metal, resin, or rubber, but have in fact lost their function: The walkers no longer serve to support a body because they are holding each other up, the faucets no longer conduct water, and so on. The viewer is left unable to define this environment made up of easily identifiable forms.

Then there’s the problem of scale: All the objects incorporated into the Polders are exactly half their normal size. There’s nothing childish about them, so for whom could these strangely familiar objects have been intended? Putting the viewer’s body in an awkward position, these uninhabitable arrangements nevertheless find an echo in the sonorous mise-en-espace that Trouvé conceived with the help of the composer Lucien Bertolina. “I constructed the ‘inhabitants’ of these pieces; I liked the idea of a blind person guiding us through the space while we were the ones who couldn’t see it,” the artist explains. Collected on-site, the sounds that haunt the space are never identifiable and function as a narrative without images. Trouvé’s work is founded on a history of imaginative projection; she leaves it up to the visitor to navigate between a sort of architecture and its sonic counterpart, between the real and its double—and to create a fiction as vertiginous as one of Kafka’s novels.

Claire Moulène

Translated from French by Jeanine Herman.