Loris Gréaud

In Loris Gréaud’s work, what is on display is only ever the tip of the iceberg. Likewise, the artist is merely the figurehead for a gigantic production system involving collaborations with architect-designers (with two of whom the artist has founded a production company, DGZ Research), graphic artists, geo-biologists, and sound designers. “I’m like a conductor,” Gréaud said in a recent interview. “My original ideas go through a machine that negotiates them, distorts them, and distends them,” allowing him to be “both emitter and receiver” of his own works—an analysis confirmed by his recent exhibition “Cellar Door” at the Palais de Tokyo. Transforming the entirety of the space into a gigantic organism remote-controlled by an engineer in a central tower, the exhibition was “on” from 2 PM to 8 PM and in “standby” mode from noon to 2 PM and from 8 PM to midnight. (Palais de Tokyo is closed from midnight to noon.) Among the participants in the spectacle were a composer, musicians, and a sound engineer, as well as paintball enthusiasts who played in an enormous iron cage that echoed Kurt Schwitters’s Merzbau—the paint comes in “Klein blue” and black. “I wrote the exhibition like a musical score,” the artist remarked, “so that it would not be the simple result of working procedures, but above all a time in which possibilities crystallize, in which forms can emerge.”

“Access to the exhibition is gained via its libretto,” Gréaud commented, and indeed, everything follows the broad outlines of a musical tale. “Once upon a door the future came before. There is no past and no last in this story, which lasted shorter than its glory, and yet has never been told.” So begins the opera in “almost one act” composed by Thomas Roussel with a libretto by Raimundas Malasauskas and Aaron Schuster. The exhibition could be read as a vast, total art installation, almost a landscape, lunar and ghostly, haunted by a forest of charred trees, its spectacle interrupted by, among other things, an impressive network of fluorescent neon tubes, the false ceiling made from a mold taken from a cast of the results of an underground fireworks explosion, and the reinstallation of Gréaud’s 2005 show at Le Plateau in Paris, which in turn referred to a mysterious intervention in an apartment on Île de la Cité.

It should be said that the striking boldness of the twenty-nine-year-old Gréaud reveals itself, above all, in his mastery of his work’s conditions of presentation. At the risk of finding himself caught in his own trap, Gréaud conceives of each of his exhibitions as the outline of a fragmentary film in which all its modes of exposure (teasers, trailers, commentaries, and so on) make up the work itself. That may be the case with “Cellar Door,” where Gréaud’s gigantic marketing operation threatens to overwhelm the blockbuster exhibition. He even sold flavorless candies under the brand name Celador (with the tagline “a taste of illusion”), an echo of the current exhibition’s title. Since the beginning of his career, Gréaud has shown hyperrealist paintings of his own works—another element in his strategy of communication. With older paintings such as Les Résidents 2, 2005, he was still making fun of viewers and art critics by sparingly distilling a few drops of enigmatic information on the contents and scope of his offerings. This is a way of extending—that is, of never completing—the work, so that each exhibition ends up by engendering some new development. Nothing is lost; everything is transformed.

Claire Moulène

Translated from French by Jeanine Herman.