View of “Emmanuelle Lainé,” 2011. From left: Untitled, 2010; Untitled, 2010.

View of “Emmanuelle Lainé,” 2011. From left: Untitled, 2010; Untitled, 2010.

Emmanuelle Lainé


View of “Emmanuelle Lainé,” 2011. From left: Untitled, 2010; Untitled, 2010.

The French artist Emmanuelle Lainé, born in 1973, has previously given us bio- or even anthropomorphic drawings and roughly finished sculptures made out of materials ranging from concrete, plaster, and resin to grease, chocolate powder, and glue: bachelor machines and bondage gear that flirt with the history of science and of art (one of her recent pieces, LO, 2009, a case lined with mdf, was inspired by Picasso’s sleeping nudes) and favor an anachronistic approach. “I am not a modern,” the artist told me. “I don’t believe in ruptures but in a continuous history.”

In her recent show “Effet cocktail,” Lainé no longer seemed to be concerned about distinguishing her studio from the exhibition space, bringing six photographic views of the studio directly onto the walls of the Triple V gallery, a recent transplant from Dijon to Paris’s thirteenth arrondissement. “Here the studio is understood both as a contingent place, the space in which I work on the outskirts of Paris, and as a generic image hanging in my brain,” the artist explained. Pasted up life-size, these photomurals invite us to imagine and fictionalize the artist at work, revealing what seems to be a sculpture in gestation (or on the verge of failure?), surrounded by the multiple sources of inspiration that generated it. Hers is a sprawling iconography (animal bones, Jean-Martin Charcot’s studies of hysterics, sketches of the brain stem) that spreads out over the wall down to the floor; she considers it a horizontal “cartography” of her own brain. “At first, I thought I would intervene in these images, draw on top of them,” the artist said. “As I had never done that before, I wasn’t convinced about photography’s distancing power. And then in the end, the images appeared.”

In reality, Lainé pushed the process of decompartmentalization even further by entrusting André Morin, the quasi-official photographer of contemporary art exhibitions in France, with the task of realizing her images. “What’s funny,” she said, smiling, “is that since Morin is also the gallery’s photographer, he came the night before the opening to photograph his own images with a view camera!” Nevertheless, beyond this game of aesthetic snakes and ladders, Lainé remains, despite appearances, the one pulling the strings; sometimes composing her images like still lifes, and at other times studying the neglected logic of her sculptures, which she insists are not “locked objects” to which she could ever supply a key. In the months ahead, having turned the gallery into a double of her studio, Lainé envisions renting a private apartment to use as the space of both production and display for her new sculpture—yet another way to keep opening up the boundaries of her expansive, ecstatic approach to art.

Claire Moulène

Translated from French by Molly Stevens.