Dorian Gaudin, Pierre and Renée (detail), 2014, resin, motor, wood, ceramic tiles, steak, 13 3/4 x 35 1/2 x 7".

Dorian Gaudin, Pierre and Renée (detail), 2014, resin, motor, wood, ceramic tiles, steak, 13 3/4 x 35 1/2 x 7".

Neil Beloufa and Dorian Gaudin

Dorian Gaudin, Pierre and Renée (detail), 2014, resin, motor, wood, ceramic tiles, steak, 13 3/4 x 35 1/2 x 7".

Reveling in the near-Duchampian turn of its title (which could be translated as either “Behind, After the Falls” or “Behind, After the Remnants”), “Derrière, Après Les Chutes” transformed Clearing’s town-house interior into an assembly line of bachelor machines, with a collection of contraptions by Dorian Gaudin and Neïl Beloufa. While Duchamp’s bachelors grind under the weight of stunted desire, these contemporary devices strive toward a more perfect pointlessness—operating, perhaps, but not producing.

The first floor featured a suite of sculptures by Gaudin, centering around Untitled, 2014, in which a sheet of plywood is manipulated by a set of cables attached to a motor. At times the applied pressure hardly registers; at others, the wood torques wildly, slapping against its support the moment the cables relax. For Pierre and Renée, 2014—a piece named for Gaudin’s grandparents—the artist slathered a steak with magenta pigment, then encased it in resin. This crude comma is made to spin slowly on an axis beside a white-tiled shelf that is installed in two sections, with a slight gap in between. With each rotation, the “tail” pushes the spring-loaded first part of the shelf so that it meets its second, stationary twin, momentarily forming a continuous line before the steak cycles on and the first shelf snaps back into place. Another dubious tribute, this time to the artist’s girlfriend, After Eli, 2014, presents a vase, already broken and repaired with resin, teetering at a tilt off its table, as if about to break again. Untitled, 2012–14, is a monstrous contraption that attempts to build a wall from wooden blocks, which are slate gray and strung up on wires like Minimalist marionettes. Guided by an internal algorithm, gears tug at the blocks, causing them to collide and scrape against one another, only to clatter to the floor upon release. For this installation, the device remained unplugged, standing instead as a silent totem, a tower of spools and tubes and wires whose intercourse could only be imagined, leaving one to wonder what it would mean for this kind of machine to “work.”

Upstairs, Beloufa riffed on this play on functionality and futility with three wall-mounted sculptures, whose steel-framed MDF surfaces are built up around active electrical outlets used to power devices within the space. The rest of the floor was given to Documents are flat VI, 2014, the sixth and most recent configuration of a series begun in 2010. The installation features a video monitor embedded in a labyrinth of wooden platforms—viewing architecture reassembled from previous exhibitions. The video tells the story of terrorists’ purported occupation of a luxury villa in Algiers. The witnesses, a collection of neighbors and housemaids, deliver contradictory testimony with their backs to the camera: One claims the intruders lived like kings within their found castle, while another insists the men only ever entered the garden. The villa itself is presented as a series of false surfaces, a set plastered with paper printouts of couch cushions and kitchen cabinets, suggesting (but not necessarily showing) the original interior. The artist attached plastic sandwich bags of painted plaster flakes and stubbed cigarette butts, the alleged remnants of the terrorists’ presence, but the testimony of these relics remains as unsubstantiated as that of the living witnesses.

For this iteration of the work, Beloufa has added three GPS devices, which periodically, when I visited the show, punctuated the space with the taciturn admission “Recalculating.” The announcement could just as readily apply to the artist, who, by systematically rejecting hierarchies of “knowledge production,” refuses any resolution (or, in this case, a “correct” route). Beloufa has, in effect, become his own bachelor machine, but he leaves no bride to strip bare.

Kate Sutton