View of “Joëlle de La Casinière,” 2013.

View of “Joëlle de La Casinière,” 2013.

Joëlle de La Casinière

View of “Joëlle de La Casinière,” 2013.

For Joëlle de La Casinière’s first exhibition in the French capital since the early 1980s, thirty-five “tablotins”—the nomadic artist’s term for her small-scale image-and-text-infused single-sheet collages that make up the pages of her “impossible book”—were accompanied by works for radio and television that she produced with the collective she co-founded in 1972, Montfaucon Research Center. According to the artist, each tablotin provides a “cacophony of information,” defying narrative. Over the past forty years, de La Casinière has produced more than four hundred of them, filling each with drawings and writing in French, English, and Spanish, inscribed in colored pencil and fine-tipped pen. Although composed from ephemera (shiny candy wrappers, postcards, advertisements, newspaper clippings) gathered from the artist’s travels and daily life, her tablotins do not function as journal or diary entries. Instead, she sees them as “poems, that’s all really.” Likewise, the works for radio and television rely heavily on text; their scripts were inspired in part by postwar philosopher Marshall McLuhan’s theories on the impact of broadcast media on contemporary society.

De La Casinière was born in colonial Casablanca, Morocco, and raised in France; the river barge on which she has lived and traveled since 1992 is currently anchored in Belgium. In her midtwenties, she sold all of her work and personal possessions and set off for South America, traversing the continent and eventually returning to Europe by way of Montreal and New York. Much of the material and content of her early “poems” comes from these voyages.

For this exhibition, poems from five suites were hung in orderly alignment and grouped into chapter-like sequences separated by breaths of wall space. The colorful, reflective tablotins of Série Metal, 1986, realized with engraved aluminum and metallic chocolate wrappers, introduced the visual language of the collage poems as well as the brilliant glare of her television works. Likewise, eight works from Série Grimoire, 1981, referenced the artist’s works for TV by appropriating the bulbous rectangular frame of early tube sets. Four compositions from Série L’Hom, 1976, echoed the male voices and talking heads of her collective’s radio and video productions; each tablotin in this suite is dedicated to a man the artist admires.

De La Casinière realized her Série Antépénultiemes in 2008, intending that they would be her last tablotins, but in the production of this suite, she developed a more complex style that features stronger, more graphic political language. Directly referring to Guantánamo and Auschwitz, phrases such as THEY TRY TO KILL THEMSELVES AND REFUSE TO EAT AND SERIOUS BLEEDING OCCURS WITH DEEP CUTS AND SEVERED BLOOD VESSELS slash across the pages of these works. Her very first tablotins from the Série Bleu, 1975, although made using clippings from South American newspapers, did not yet directly engage with political events, demonstrating instead a primary concern with visual and linguistic rhythms.

The video Le Bruit de l’image (The Noise of the Image), 1983, and the radio piece Televessel, 1984, both feature Jacques Lederlin’s electronic music and Michel Bonnemaison and de La Casinière’s McLuhan-inspired verses. Like the collage poems, these complex productions escape narrative tendencies. And like each carefully crafted spread of her graphic manuscript Absolument nécessaire (1973)—which, championed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus as a “truly nomadic book,” was available to read in facsimile in the gallery—the contents of de La Casinière’s tablotins and electronic media works seem to float and swirl, unmoored.

Lillian Davies