View of “Jean-Pascal Flavien,” 2017. From left: ballardian four, 2015–17; entangled chairs, 2017. Photo: Andrea Rossetti.

View of “Jean-Pascal Flavien,” 2017. From left: ballardian four, 2015–17; entangled chairs, 2017. Photo: Andrea Rossetti.

Jean-Pascal Flavien

View of “Jean-Pascal Flavien,” 2017. From left: ballardian four, 2015–17; entangled chairs, 2017. Photo: Andrea Rossetti.

The first impression one got from Jean-Pascal Flavien’s exhibition “Ballardian House” was of having entered an artificial reality that was a mirror image of our own. The large-scale ballardian four, 2015–17, for instance, with its cleanly traced forms and precise economy of space, at first appeared to be a house, but its function is more sculptural than architectural. By incorporating textual elements—short passages from the work of the British writer J. G. Ballard—into the piece, Flavien opened up yet another space to the imagination. Put generally, Flavien paraphrased and abstracted the idea of having a home and condensed it into various poetic metaphors of people being at home in their imaginations.

Sporting a bright-blue painted facade and large windows with pink frames, ballardian four was integrated into a setting that included beige sand and medium-size stones covering the gallery floor and medium-size stones arranged across it—an abstract, vaguely desertlike landscape. The house itself consists of two separate, almost identical sections connected at an obtuse angle, so that each part appears as a mirror image of the other. Mirroring is a theme that Flavien repeated throughout the exhibition. Thus, his entangled chairs, 2017, consists of two red-lacquered chairs, which here were placed outside the house sculpture, next to its entrance. They stood there like two pieces of garden furniture shoved together by chance. But the chairs are welded to one another, and thereby reiterated the theme of doubling established by the house. The placement of the stones in the sand, which at first sight seemed random, also played with the motif of mirror imaging. This was a small, almost casual gesture, but one that spoke to Flavien’s method of displacing meanings and generating similarities and resonances from broken symmetries.

The house itself is also doubled and divided within itself: To begin with, only one of the building’s halves is accessible; the other functions as a closed vitrine, and the space within can only be seen from the outside. Opposite each other on the building’s two longer sides are two square windows; this is another symmetry that seems to interrupt the building’s narrow, almost tubular shape, rendering the interior more visible. The accessible part, entered by a ramp, is minimally furnished, implying that it might be habitable. The inaccessible, vitrine-like part of the house, by contrast, hosts a large stone, similar to the ones that were scattered around outside. The result reflects a transposition of interior and exterior, of natural space and the artificial zone of domesticity, which here gained in sensuous immediacy: The reflective quality of the panes of glass might have made one briefly uncertain as to whether the stone was a reflection or actually inside.

The furnishings in the stylized living area are reduced to the most rudimentary: a kind of camp bed, a translucent yellow curtain, and a lamp (cul-de-sac, 2017) designed by the artist and made using a 3-D printer. Other modern conveniences have been consigned to the realm of language: replaced by words (shower), replaced by words (toilet), and replaced by words (sink), all 2017, incorporate short quotations from Ballard’s writings, each addressing the object in question, such as, in the first case, WHITE TEETH, LIPS DRAWN IN A SLEEPING SMILE, THE SHOWER RAN IN THE BATHROOM, A SOFT SPATTER LIKE DISTANT RAIN. Flavien had the texts stencil-cut in PVC foil and polypropylene plastic using a font resembling handwriting and hung them in place of the things themselves, thereby creating imaginary objects of a kind by evoking literary image. In this exhibition, everything was both an object and an image of itself, released from its own essence and dissolved into the poetry of space.

Jens Asthoff

Translated from German by Nathaniel McBride.