Noisiel, France

Alex Cecchetti, Erotic Cabinet, 2017, sixty-nine mixed-media drawings, oak, glass, 49 1/4 x 59 x 27 1/2".

Alex Cecchetti, Erotic Cabinet, 2017, sixty-nine mixed-media drawings, oak, glass, 49 1/4 x 59 x 27 1/2".

Alex Cecchetti

Centre d’Art Contemporain de la Ferme du Buisson

Alex Cecchetti, Erotic Cabinet, 2017, sixty-nine mixed-media drawings, oak, glass, 49 1/4 x 59 x 27 1/2".

An ending is a boundary, a limit. But do all stories end? Alex Cecchetti’s exhibition “Tamam Shud,” part of a larger project including a novel and performances, takes its name from the story of a man found dead on a beach in southern Australia seventy years ago. The body was never identified, and his pocket contained only a scrap of paper that read, “Tamám shud,” an Old Persian phrase meaning, “It is the end.” It may have been torn from the last page of the Rubáiyát of the twelfth-century poet Omar Khayyám. That’s the story Cecchetti tells. He also tells the tale that he himself has died.

The artist organized this exhibition as a series of discrete spaces, each dedicated to a different activity. In Reading Room, 2017, he provided seating inspired by the modernist designs of Enzo Mari. Amid the jumble of books on the blue-carpeted floor, the artist was seen to read from a volume by Bill Knott, an American poet who published the announcement of his own death almost fifty years in advance. Overhead, for Music Window, 2017, electronic devices attached to skylights digitally transformed the scarce sunshine of the gray French winter into sounds reminiscent of drops of water in a puddle. Dinner Room, 2017, featured a table and chairs embellished with relief patterns for a set of woodcut prints of tarot cards, titled Le chevalier (The Knight), 2017. Here, up-and-coming chef Chloé Charles served a tasting dinner every evening from a menu inspired by Cecchetti’s poems. River Stones, 2017—smooth stones placed on floor-bound copper panels—expanded across the Dance Room, 2017. And if the visitor glided her hand along the length of the artist’s Arabesques, 2016–17—three modified walnut-and-oak banisters running along the periphery of the room—as instructed, she was forced into a series of balletic postures. Made in collaboration with Natan Kryszk, a composer endowed with synesthesia, 500,000 Azaleas, 2017, filled Music Room, 2017, with bright, organic forms in oil on paper and a score for piano. Each measure of the sheet music, perched on a white upright, translated one of the room’s twenty-four works on paper into alternately warm and dissonant chords.

In an interview with curator and La Ferme du Buisson director Julie Pellegrin, Cecchetti explained, “I tell a story, and each person finds the distance that’s sufficient for them.” But with Erotic Cabinet, 2017, his strategy was different. Here he orchestrated an uncomfortable proximity, asking the viewer to touch each of the work’s sixty-nine graphic drawings as she swung open the cabinet’s folding glass panels. The pale-pink walls of the Erotic Cabinet room only served to further emphasize the intimacy of the work. The final image, deep inside the cabinet, seemingly immortalized the imagined visitor leaning bare-bottomed into the work. Cecchetti spoke of his current “process of developing a kind of scenario big enough for all my stories to live in.” With Erotic Cabinet, the dangers of reducing this narrative space are clear. His storytelling, a kind of choreography, extends not just to objects, but to his viewers, his listeners who “spontaneously form a circle around me.”

Lillian Davies