The exhibition “Night Visions” approaches darkness as both an extreme perceptual experience and a symbolic territory through forms that attempt to give visible expression to night without resorting to direct representation.
Darkness is firstly considered as an ambivalent perceptual state which the artists, eschewing literal transcription, have opted for approaching tangentially or by implication. The exhibition opens with a black pastel drawing suggestive both of tentative handprints and a solar eclipse: in his account of a moment spent in a specific place, Spencer Finch asks us to share his experience of the cave at Lascaux. Further on, in front of a window, a line of glasses containing water tinted with varying quantities of grey ink makes play with the near-invisible difference between imitation and naturally-cast shadows.
Paradoxically, light plays an important part in this exhibition. On the floor, an installation by Jason Dodge – an accumulation of bulbs, neon tubes, candles and related objects – makes oblique reference to the darkness inside a house stripped of its sources of illumination. Based on the displacing and tweaking of found objects, Dodge’s work is marked by an economy of means that accentuates its evocative power. A plaque on the wall points out that one of the visitors is just back from the South Pole, a zone sunk in darkness during the exhibition period. At another point an everyday cardboard box serves as a plinth for a stuffed owl, inside which rubies have been hidden. As a sign of a passage from death to life, the work reverses the mechanics of vision, as if this nocturnal creature can still see, within.
Partaking in this dialectical approach in which darkness and light coexist, Dominique Blais’s installation – produced during his residency at Noisy-le-Sec – is a chandelier whose light has been replaced by sound. In its interplay of correlations between the invisible and the inaudible, the sculpture emits in the halflight residual noises recorded during downtime in La Galerie. Like a ghostly aural imprint of the building, this soundtrack echoes the artist’s second work Distorsions spectrales (Spectral Distortions), concealed in the cellar.
Situated at the threshold of perception, the works on show use the word “visions” in its dual sense. The result of projections of the unconscious – reminiscences, dreams, hallucinations – their shapes can even be seen as visions reviving a Romantic, Symbolist vocabulary.
In Anne-Laure Sacriste’s paintings on wood, light seems to have been absorbed and damped down by the support, as cut-ups of some fantastic landscape surface out of the opacity of an immense black panel. Moving on, the visitor comes upon a kind of afterimage: another, smaller painting that returns to this same haunting spot.
Opposite, an elusively-contoured installation by Sophie Bueno-Boutellier and Niels Trannois sets out to make tangible the hallucinations of a black widow spider. Painting, drawing, thread and various found objects project a complex network of apparitions triggered by the creature’s altered perceptions. On the boundary between two worlds, another construction by Sophie Bueno-Boutellier sketches the outline of a screen that simultaneously invites the visitor to make the move through the looking-glass, and sets up a resonance with Perfect Mood, a third abstract work by the same artist, in the opposite room.
Lastly, the three sculptures by Francesco Gennari that punctuate the exhibition call up night not only as a sensory experience, but also as a cosmic and even metaphysical approach to the world, as in La Terra gira le spalle al sole (The Earth Turns Its Back to the Sun) and its fragile egg yolk lying on black marble. With the formal paring-down characteristic of Gennari, another work plunges a worm into the pitch darkness of the wooden Mausoleo per un verme (Mausoleum for a Worm). In Ascensione, which resorts to the same interiority, four snail shells support a sheet of glass whose initial transparency has given way to a disquieting darkness.
“Night Visions” advocates a rereading of certain contemporary practices tending towards abstraction – from Minimalism to Arte Povera – in the light of Romanticism and Symbolism. This is not just a thematic exhibition, however. The issue here is to grant darkness new status in our approach to art, to stand out for the complexity of the art work by asserting its hidden meaning, even when this meaning is irrational. In contrast with the Enlightenment, these “Night Visions” look to a world made of ambiguity, open to doubt and endowed with a meaning whose elucidation remains definitively beyond our reach.
Translated by John Tittensor
around the exhibition
From 6:30 to 8:00 pm
“Appointments with Art”:
Talks on contemporary art (13/03, 17/04, 15/05) and photography (20/03, 24/04), by Connaissance de l’art contemporain, at the auditorium of the Roger Gouhier Media Library, Noisy-le-Sec.
From 6:00 to 9:00 pm
Opening of exhibition echoing “Night Visions”: works by Jean-Marc Bustamante, David Claerbout, Lynne Cohen, Loris Gréaud, Thomas Ruff, Anri Sala, Patrick Tosani, Xavier Zimmermann from the Frac Île-de-France collection, at the Secondary School Théodore Monod, Noisy-le-Sec.
From 7:00 to 8:30 pm
Workshops: “A Time for Art” – Cycle 3: “Night Visions”, interpretation of the works in three sessions, including a visit to the Gustave Moreau Museum, in Paris.
From 5:45 to 12:15 pm
“Night of the Night”, programme of films about night: meet at La Galerie, then screenings at the Trianon Cinema.
From 2:00 to 7:00 pm
“Night Day”: A programme focusing on night and darkness: an itinerary with sound, a tour in the dark, readings of contemporary texts, a discussion with Dominique Blais.
From 6:00 to 7:30 pm
Discussion about the works with Baldine Saint Girons, teacher of philosophy of art and aesthetics at the University of Paris 10, Nanterre and author of Les Marges de la nuit, pour une autre histoire de la peinture (Les Éditions de l’Amateur, 2006).
“A Little Night Music”
An itinerary with sound of the exhibition proposed by Jean-Philippe Dejussieu, director of the Noisy-le-Sec Municipal Academy of Music and Dance.